It’s been blowing a gale and raining here. Yes, it certainly does rain in Spain and not just on the plain. We’ve had two days of super stormy weather. It’s that slightly weird, super wet but warm rain and the doors in the apartment are certainly getting a battering the wind. There’s lots thunder too. It will mean that it’s cooler so that’s all I’m concerned with.
The donkey is taking shape. The torso is complete and I’ve been working on the legs and arms today, well I guess they are all legs really. All the rods have been cut and I’ve been shaping the individual pieces. The rings for the frame legs are getting smaller and so that means much tougher to shape. I’ve just been using a vice and my brute strength to create shaping; it’s pretty rough and ready but does the job. Chris brought in a pipe bender for me that has worked wonders but there's still a fair amount of bashing with the big hammer after but getting there. I couldn’t resist the old double entendre on an Instagram post. Am I being childish? Definitely. Do I care? Not a jot.
I’ve been a little concerned about time and how far I’m getting but it’s now been sorted that I can get a few extra hours in the evening which makes me feel much better. So storming ahead is the way to go, certainly got the right weather for it.
The guys are also getting stuck in to their murals. Anna and Phil made a great start and it’s looking colourful and gorgeous already. Oli’s now got a massive step ladder so is now cracking on with the high bits. I haven’t been back up to take progress shots but will have a look later. We were there meeting the town Mayor and the ajuntement team yesterday . They seem happy with our progress so far and have been so accommodating, everything has been super easy. The town really has a great bunch of people in it, folk interested in what we are doing and eager to help in anyway. We’re really getting spoilt. Where's the Ferrero Rocher though??
Before we met the Mayor, we had another exciting meeting. This time with a snake. He may have come out of hibernation and been sleeping in a crevice. The house whose cables he was spotted slithering along is apparently empty which made us feel better. Even with this revelation, we were suspicious he was a poisonous adder as he had those distinctive diamonds on his back. According to a nearby local however, there are many different adders and he probably wasn’t dangerous. The dangerous ones are shorter, fatter and have flat heads. This one was quite long and skinny. He disappeared into another crack, probably to have another snooze.
So back to the evening shift shortly, after a snake snooze siesta…
The only thing missing at the moment is an ice cold mojito. Lying by the Riba Roja d'Ebre local outdoor swimming pool (in the shade) I am trying to contemplate the words for this blog entry my Rui d'Art project adventure. I have had a full day of welding already, starting at 7.30am to get the coolest part of the day. Have managed to get the tail and most of the torso together. Albert gave me a good refresher and tips throughout. He tells me he has been welding since a small boy. When all the other kids were out playing he was welding and soldering so he is a master of the art. My welds have been fairly successful. As I have only had some weeks of an evening class welding experience, I knew I probably wouldn't find it too easy at first but, as Albert says, once I've done 300 I'll be perfect. I do hope so. I'll lose some welding time to the weekend so that gives me 5 complete days to finish. However that also includes the installation. Once I get to head (the most intricate part) I'm sure I'll be storming through it.
I have been known to be impulsive on occasion, not often but sometimes. It's at times like these that I start to think, why on Earth have I decided to do a time limited big project, in a country I don't know the language, making something using a technique and materials I'm barely familiar with? But then I think it's because I love it. Making things has always been me. I've always loved learning new things too. So what if I'm not sure what I'm doing, I'll make damn sure I produce something. Something I'm proud of and learn a lot along the way. That's the thing about art and creation. Unless you're producing something that has a specific function that requires precision and expertise like a building; art is organic, changeable, it can also be functional but it doesn't need to be. So as the artist, I can produce anything I like. If it's different to what I set out do, well, that's my prerogative. So many people are good at bullshitting and selling the audience the idea that that was what they wanted all along. Me, I'm no good at bullshitting, I'll apologise for something before it's happened (very Scottish) but the working with and adapting with how a project moves is the only way to avoid insanity. I have a split in myself between perfection, precision and the aforementioned spontaneity that includes going with the flow. It definitely helps with any frustrations. In saying all this, I am planning to get the project done as I had intended. This is just my disclaimer. A must for everyone.
But back to the pool. It's not very busy but there are a bunch of kids playing in the pool and there are some adults sunbathing and chilling. There is a mixture of Spanish/ Catalan and English voices. There is a steady amount of English ex-pats here and they all seem fairly well integrated. It will be interesting to see what the next episode of the Brexit saga holds for them.
I haven't been in the pool yet but wanting to leave the inticing cool waters until I am thoroughly drenched in sweat on this sun lounger. The sun is moving round making the edge of the shade inch closer to my ever so pale body. Sweating is part of the deal here. Rehydrating is a must so I constantly have a big bottle of water wherever I go. I sweated so much this morning the dye of my headscarf that was acting as a sweat soaker upper stained my forehead blue. I think I got it all off.
So meeting Oliver, the next artist to arrive, this evening, then dinner and the Devils. Quite a full day.
I had my first day in the metal workshop to start building my metal donkey unicorn for the Riu d'Art project in Riba Roja d'Ebre, Catalonia today. Lots of cutting and shaping…after realising I had calculated the circumference of the frame rings completely wrong. It was only when I started to bend the first one I started to think this ring is going to be massive! Yes, children: when calculating the circumference of an ellipse, always remember to use the RADIUS and NOT THE DIAMETER in a Google calculator that requires the RADIUS. What? Did you think I would be calculating it myself?? Get tae…. Circles? nae bother but have you seen the possible algebraic equations when dealing with ellipses?
Those mathematical geniuses amongst you may scoff but maths and I are not good bedfellows. I can count and add…just…but much more and my brain just gets tired and says NO! Anyway, got there in the end and so today the *rings for the trunk (that makes it sound like a tree. Not going to be a tree) have been shaped and cut. Albert, the owner of the workshop, has given me a corner and has been brilliant and incredibly helpful. His English is fairly good, fluent compared to my Spanish which is pretty non-existent and so far, everything is cushty.
I had been busy with my 2D AutoCad forming some sort of plans and dimensions, more a guidance really. They took a fair amount of time and my brain power but I’m glad I took the time as the project is more formed in my brain.
It was all theoretical but with a bit of artistic licence, I’m hoping he won’t to be too much of a wonky donkey. Will see how things look as I go along I think. The good thing about welding is, if a bit looks wrong you can always lop it off and stick another bit on. In my welded sculpture, it is anyway.
Getting the frame right is my first challenge; that’s what my plans were all about. I’m using 8 and 10mm steel rod. Easy to cut with trusty angle grinder and very pliable to bend into shape and apart from my slight mis-calculation regarding circumferences, things are looking ok so far. My plans sectioned up the different limbs, head, torso and tail. I’m going to build these sections one at a time so if there are any major gaffs in my calculations, I can see it easy enough and adjust; you always need to be adaptable in art creation. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle but you need to make the pieces too.
After a hard day’s work (today only few of hours’ admittedly but more tomorrow ;-D), I am clinging to my new lovely fan, having a cold Estrella and listening to Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam (they are well cool, love them so, check them out).
The heat is crazy here but I’m slightly acclimatising or at least coping better than I thought. I am a complete woose when it comes to being too hot or too cold and can get a bit whiney (as many of friends can testify). However, in my defence, only in extreme circumstances, like when I get so overheated my feet and ankles swell up so much it feels like the skin is going to split open or when I can’t feel my feet because of the cold and they start to go blue and I can’t fall asleep at night. Essentially, if my feet are happy so is the rest of me. When I return, I may be just as white as I left Scotland; boiler suit and welding helmet are not conducive for sunbathing, as is the fact that I’m in a big airy garage (thank the gods and little fishes, sweated buckets but no over-heating and it was 38°C today!). The local outdoor swimming pool has just opened for the summer so I think I’ll pay it a visit tomorrow after work. Not planning on sun-bathing, the shade is fine for me, quite happy to stay pale and interesting. Parasol and mojito anyone?
Also, tomorrow, two exciting things are happening; one of the other artists Oliver Hall, is arriving, so it will be nice to have some company in the apartment and there is a fire festival in the village celebrating Sant Joan. It’s an excuse for folk to dress up as devils, run about banging drums and setting off millions of fireworks into heavily crowded areas. And why not, I say? Something that would never be allowed in the UK. They like their fire, the Spaniards and Catalonians do. I’ve been advised by my friend and local legend, Josep, to wear closed-toe shoes, trousers and a straw hat. The covering up seems a very sensible thing to do but the straw hat? I’m not sure that wearing very flammable head gear is the way to go. The fact that Josep kept repeating in his email that I shouldn’t be afraid, it’s an amazing night but don’t be scared, it’s spectacular but it really isn’t frightening, it’s so much fun but don’t be worried…etc etc has now given me cause to be wary. However, I shall be intrepid and embrace the night with non-scaredycat aplomb and run with the Devils…well, maybe a delicate saunter and then stand behind the guy lighting the fireworks, wearing my boiler suit and welding mask with a bucket of water handy…just in case.
Ooh, Mariachi El Bronx just come on the tunes. Nice. Anyone for the dancin’?
So I'm currently sitting in a lovely air conditioned office working out steel rod lengths. It's roasting outside but I have sunscreen and I haven't been bitten by any bitey insects yet so all is well. No, I'm not in Scotland, I'm in Spain, Catalonia to be exact.
I've been pretty darn busy the last while, having just completed my first year doing my HND 3D Design: Model Making course at City of Glasgow College. It's been an absolute blast and I've learnt so much as well as made new friends. So what have I learned? Well, a bit too much to write everything down in a blog post but safe to say I'm much more knowledgeable about glueing, cutting, sanding, laser-cutting, vacuum forming, mould making, puppet making, door making, finish painting and AutoCad than I was before. So looking forward to next year. Here's a run down on the models I've made...
A 3:1 shell, a 7:1 cashew nut, 11:1 section of a silver dollar, a 1:1 half a chrome egg, a replica of a Glasgow doorway, a leather bound 17th Century book (new and aged versions), a hedgehog puppet and 1:11 replica (with a bit of artistic licence) of Labyrinth's Gates to the Goblin City complete with moving Humongous. Gawd, it makes me exhausted just thinking about it. We certainly packed it in. Oh and I also did a cheeky wee welding evening class and made a metal bird feeder.
I still need to get some proper photos of completed works but here's a wee gallery of images of my work that I have so far...
So why am I in Spain? And what's this about Donkey Unicorns, I hear you ask with trepidation? Well, I must be very wicked because I decided to head off to Spain only two days after I finished college to take part in an art project, Rui d'Art in Riba Roja d'Ebre, Catalonia. Wanting to continue my welding practice, I sent in a sculpture proposal to the project that facilitates the creation of public art in the village. The project is organised partly by some good friends of mine, that's how I found out about it, but I had never done anything like this before. They assured me, however, that I should give it a go. So with a half baked idea I put together a proposal. The final say came down to the local council (ajuntament) and the town mayor so I wasn't guaranteed a place but apparently they loved my idea, so here I am. Other artists involved with the project are Anna Georgiou, Phil Bird, Oliver Hall, Sarah Misselbrook and some local artists too. My idea? That's where the Donkey Unicorn comes in.
As an unashamed supporter for independence for Scotland from the UK, I knew Catalonia has a similar desire to be independent from Spain. With this obvious connection I thought there must be something to play with there. Scotland and Catalonia are both rich in traditional produce, though with very different things; Scotland with its wild salmon and whisky and Catalonia with its olives and wine, to name but a few. I've always had an interest in symbolism and that lead me to think about Scotland's national animal, the Unicorn. Yes, that's right, our national animal is a mythical, magical, horned horse. Then finding out that Catalonia's national animal was a similar equine beast, the Catalan donkey, the potential project's fate was sealed. A DONKEY UNICORN. Of course, I hadn't quite thought it through that I would be welding in 35+ celsius heat but in for a penny.... Sitting in this air conditioned office, fannying about with my design and calculating measurements on AutoCad, I can't quite imagine what it will be like. Early mornings will definitely be the key! I've been looked after so well already, I'm raring to go. The whole village is really up for it and helping in any ways required. It's going to be an adventurous and artistic two weeks.
Jennifer Kilgour is an artist and maker specialising in model making, sculpture, painting and drawing.
She also loves making other things like wee animations (trained in that and everything), small coffee tables (singular) and walking the family dog in the woods.