Have been experimenting with slumping moulds using stainless steel mesh which can easily be cut with tin snips and then shaped by hand. I used thin fire paper as a release and it allowed the texture of the mesh to show though on the slumped piece which I liked.
I am over-whelmed by the words. 143 is a lot of people taking part. But I am disappointed too. I see people and think “I bet you didn’t do it. I wish you had’. I would have loved it if more people had taken part and felt that it was relevant to them. The negative words are fascinating. But sad that people chose this opportunity to have a go.
Overall the project has been a success and a good learning experience in terms of what is possible to do and how to go about it. Working with Fiona has been one of the learning highlights for me. I feel that our project has been successful in terms of meeting its aim to discover what Tiree means to the people who live here. We have a view of some of them. Some of the words are beautiful, some are sad, some are miserable, some are mean. All of them are interesting, like the people that live here.
All the word are on the blog tireewords.wordpress.com and this is where the story of Tiree in Your words will live on.
In the run up to the event I am feeling exposed. What are we doing this anyway? (Possibly wouldn’t feel like this if it was a paid gig!) I think we printed too many cards.
We held a box-making workshop on 29th October. Five folk turned out to help after a the-day-before notice on the Tiree facebay page. It was fun and many hands made light work. People enjoyed themselves so much they offered to return to paint the houses! There were options to make something a different shape or style from the house boxes but people opted to be directed and preferred to stick to the house style. Maybe as these were already part made. People enjoyed themselves so much they volunteered to return and paint the houses. They look beautiful and so do the cards. Was fun putting it all together.
All of the 3 people who came to the initial conversation came along.
We had prepared a ‘key points about the project sheet’, this included specifying that the project was the joint responsibility of Frnaces and Fiona and that Sophie and Sam were collaborating with us.
- it was decided to change the request to up to 6 words to make it easier to form a sentence
- it was decided to check the gaelic translation with two older and respected native gaelic speakers (this resulted in a re-write)
- Sam and Sophie will be responsible for working with the school. Older kids will probably be asked to text their words. Younger kids will use the forms. There are 27 secondary and 38 primary
- we talked about incentives for the form filling but decided that the 'exchange' of participating and reading others words was enough.
- we will try and keep the project's profile up by word of mouth.
- Sam suggested putting it on the VHF radio used by the fishermen
- a large print version of the instructions will be printed to go in forms for older people
- important to have a box in the coop
- need to get a dedicated sim card for the text line.
All our decisions were made! We were ready to advertise our project in the Tiree newsletter An Tirisdeach. Phew!!
We tested the card at the regular Monday Tiree Tapestry Group meeting suggested improvements were
- people noticed and liked that the cards were all different (due to the hand-stamped image on the front)
- people liked the 'every word counts' statement
- if might be difficult to limit it to just 5 words
- the logo was difficult to read - but people liked that
- extra background information about the project would be welcomed to 'authenticate' the project
- more of an explanation about how we plan to use the words would be good
- what will happen to 'negative words'?
Had a tutorial on 25th Oct with Roxane Permar who is leading the course on Art and Social Practice. We were talking about the plan for our mini-project. ‘Tiree in Your Words’ aims to collect 5 words from as many folk as we can on Tiree with the aim of discovering what people feel about Tiree. Or at least what words they come up with when asked ‘please say what Tiree means to you in five words’
Roxane is brilliant and left us feeling challenged and feeling the need to look at the project with fresh eyes. The main sense I was left with is that we are not really challenging ourselves do something different. We are using a familiar mechanism to collect information, through familiar channels using skills that we are comfortable with. Our main point of contact with people will be at arms length, through the ‘glove’ of a leaflet.
Action points for us following the meeting
- To think about how the projects is explained and to have different levels of information available – a longer article in An Tirisdeach (the fortnightly Tiree Newsletter) may help this.
- To consider the explanation of why we are doing this
- To formally test the leaflet and how we explain the project to a group of people before the leaflet is finalised. Do they find it boring, difficult, easy, too abstract, too corporate?
- To ensure that the collaboration with Sam (and Sophie) is clearly defined.
- To be vigilant in making opportunities for engagement as the project evolves.
- To consider holding events like the box making and the box opening
- To keep asking is the project meeting our aims?
- Being aware that we have chosen not to look at a social issue as such.
- To think about asking people if it is okay to display the tear off slips.
- Timescales may need to slip a little to allow us to respond to these points.
It was also good to identify what bits of the project are going well:
- Despite reservations about lack of focus and over ambition we remain excited by the project and feel that lack of focus allows a simplicity and openness that is a strength.
- Working with Fiona and getting to know each other along the way
- Thinking carefully about how the project is designed, how it may perceived and working to reach a wider audience
- Level social engagement we will achieve is unknown, but our plan includes actions for face-to-face contact and reaching people through others.
- Working with Sam, and implementing an idea that came from a conversation to get ideas!
- Considering the aspect of exchange.
- We are making progress against actions we agreed in the plan.
- Awareness of the limitations of our project due partly to time constraints and existing commitments.
Fiona and I got together on 17th of October to talk about our project plan. We decided to run with Sam’s idea, from the public art convo, for a word project and we pooled our ideas into actions and dates to make it happen! Fiona wrote it up into a plan and after a bit more emailing we had a draft we were happy with.
We discussed our personal interests.
For Frances these were:
- Involving people in making
For Fiona they were
- Involving people in making
- Mental Health
SWOT analysis for Frances
Glass as a medium
Not used to reflecting
New skills and learning
Project grows too big
It looks crap
People hate us
We didn’t discuss how we would work together, and any risks around this. For me it felt like we were flowing in terms of a shared vision and working through suggestions and decisions easily.
In hindsight, we could have spent more time talking about how our different styles may cause us stress and on thinking about how could we reach as many different people as possible.
The conversation went well. A big thanks to Sophie, Sam, Pat and Fiona for coming along. Sophie and Sam work as Youth Workers for the Tiree Trust and Pat is a voluntary Director. Fiona is a fellow student on the Art and Social Practice course. The group was positive about the idea of ‘something big made by Tiree people’. Something to visit. Something that spans the age barrier between parents and children. Something that blends old and new traditions.
We talked about the difficulties in getting people involved. Although there are 51 different community groups on Tiree! Ideas that came up:
- Knitting - a traditional art
- Hynish Teas as an ‘exhibition space’
- Mental wellness and the need to make as a protective space
- Mending as a possible theme
- An Turas for display – could we change it?
- There are lots of opportunities around the pier area – empty buildings, the pier ‘waiting room’
- The Skate Park plans incorporating a giant something…. accordion?
- A sculpture of what groups think Tiree is
- Reflecting on what Tiree means to you and the idea of asking everyone on Tiree for 5 words on ‘what Tiree means to you'
This last suggestion seemed to capture the group’s attention. Ideas for how the words could be used flowed. A book, audio, visual art?
Some of the things I planned for were included. My plan helped me remember some pics of projects to help set a context. I was pleased that I managed to keep my gob shut quite a lot and provide a space for others to speak. Allowing pauses is effective.
The glass making went smoothly. The making was with no direction on content apart from each person having a smaller piece of a bigger thing. I think this was okay given time constraints and caution of some participants. But was a bit of a cop out too. The process may have benefited from more direction, like some of the ideas discussed in the plan, to try to create a piece with ‘meaning’. Everyone learned to cut glass and overall it was a good ‘taster’ with some experimentation thrown in.
It might have been good to go outside for 2 mins before we got into the making – or to have sent them and I could have got more prepared. But mainly to give a sense of stillness before starting to make.
I am planning to hold a conversation around public art with staff and a director from Tiree Trust, so am thinking around the subject. Why does public art interest me?
- It can add to a sense of place
- It can make connections and provide creative outlets
- I would like to work with people to create something with meaning that they are proud of. (And is beautiful and maybe functional).
What do I want to get out of conversation?
- Engagement in the concept of what public art is
- Ideas for a possible community art project or issue
- Practicing skills eg listening, openness to ideas, recording, contributing clearly and succinctly, providing a framework that invites participation and provides openness and clarity.
- Get feedback on my project idea? ‘Passing Places, Conversation Spaces’
“The expertise of the artist lies in being a non-expert, a provider of frameworks on which experiences can form and sometimes be directed and channeled to generate new insights around a particular issue.”
Pablo Helguera p54 Education for Socially Engaged Art
- explain why holding meeting
- meeting is in two halves. talking and making (as an element of exchange)
- look up Roxane's Mirrie Dancers project and show as an example
- Benefits of public art
- What is needed for a good art participation project/key elements of public art
- How to establish objectives
- How do you chose who is involved
- What is the role of artist
- How to involve people who don't consider themselves to be creative (and why seek this?)
- brainstorming - ideas where this could happen on Tiree and who with?
Making glass points to communicate
- Not much time so something simple.
- Technical constraints are no single piece bigger than 2 cm square:
- Something that represents or reflects on what you bring to the Trust, what you find have gained, has it changed how you view Tiree?
- Suggest it is joint piece but can be individual elements of a triptych. If its a three they should hang together somewhere 'public'.
- Define level of imput/what you are asking them to do eg
- I would like you to be responsible for deciding the theme of the piece. I would like you to sketch for 2 mins. Then come back to me to help out with next stage.
I went along to Fiona's conversation on Saturday 5th Oct. Prior to the meeting Fiona gave us two tasks; to bring along something we would like to talk about, and something we would like to give away. The format worked. Fiona has good skills in allowing the conversation to have its own life, while gently leading us.
The conversation flowed around the new bus stop. Is it useful? And the butchers closing. Thoughts on how information is transferred on Tiree and that some people feel that a distinction between incomer and local is relevant. I got to know the other participants better. My topic was 'is there a visual tradition on Tiree?' and I was intrigued by the responses: the houses, the unique light, the lack of shadows, the flatness, the 'Tiree colours', imprints of waving patterns, cupmarks and hares. But not a tradition of visual making perhaps.
At the end Fiona gave us five questions to reflect upon, and asked us to return our comments to her if we wished. The questions included 'what did you expect?'. This made me realise that I hadn't considered what to expect. Only thinking that I would enjoy it and would be stimulated. A reflection for me was that I might come across as quite forceful in the conversation that might be off putting for others. My natural tendency seems to be to be to find clarity in my thoughts by articulating them. The result may sound judgmental and fixed, so preventing others from contributing. Maybe if I had thought about my expectations for the conversation, I could have guarded against this tendency and so learned more from others. Next time!
Went off to Oban for the night to see the wonderful and moving play about the life of Angus MacPhee from Uist. Catch it if you can!
The four hours each way boat journey gave me the chance to read Pablo Helguera's Education for Socially Engaged Art. The book is very readable and I found it useful to have some clear definitions and 'dos' and 'don'ts' to think about.
This week's homework is to continue with conversation. We are to think about what it is the other participants gain from being involved. And to introduce an element of exchange. We noted in our class discussion that participants were probably already gaining from the conversations. Examples of this were:
- mental stimulation,
- an opportunity to discuss something of interest,
- hanging out with like-minded people.
I love being provided with a framework in which to act. The brief to think about a formal aspect of exchange has helped me to plan my next conversation. I will base it around public art and introduce an element of making. Which I hope the participants will feel rewarded by doing, and get something to take away. I hope the conversation will help me to develop skills in listening, openness to others ideas and contributing clearly.
The other element we will be introducing is recording. This led me to remember facilitation techniques I came across when working in environmental education 'Open Space Technology' is one I will look up. There must be lots of parallels to the techniques that we are developing in this course and disciplines such as community development, environmental education. Is there a distinction that makes the techniques we are learning unique to the art arena?
I love filling my kiln. The freshly batwashed kiln shelves are my blank canvas. Anything is possible. And then the painstaking slog begins with sporadic flashes of inspiration. Lots of bombay sapphire bottle glass this time for a couple of mirror frames for the gallery and some swirly things from the big 4mm float window glass from a Tiree house renovation.
I sing a bit with The Defenders - a fabulous noisy rock band and a Tiree institution. The current lineup has members from the original decade-old line up and two newbies, Bernie on drums and me on backing vocals. We have played 4 gigs so far this summer and the issue of 'should get paid for gigs' was raised. It was good to have the a chance for a slightly more formal chat than usual.
Homework was to hold a conversation for at least 15 mins with at least two other people. The idea is to begin to work with in the social context. Fiona got folk together to discuss the assertion "Access to art and art making is vital to sustain a compassionate, resilient and attractive community" Highlights of being involved in the process for me were:
- having a chat with others about a subject that interests me
- moments in the conversation that felt 'alive'; people were talking frankly about creativity and mental health
- the thin line between mindfulness and mindlessness and how we judge how people chose to relax/be creative
- realisation that the importance of product vs process is subjective
- sensing that the argument about Art vs Craft is a distraction
- people value public art (like the tiles in the small hall on Tiree)
- Fiona is thinking about a wind festival. Cool!
- the craft group needs space to make a mess
- A benefit of an art project in small community is that it allows space for differences and individuality to be expressed so allows appreciation of others views.
- the importance of the intention in setting up discussions like this.
I am taking a module with the University of the Highlands and Islands called Art and Social Practice. The course is based in Shetland as part of a BA in Contemporary Textiles and I am taking part with another local artist, Fiona Dix. Today is the third week. We connect with other people based in Shetland and Moray via video conference at Tiree's business centre. No worries about living on an Island if you want to do stuff!
The course provides an opportunity "to turn any situation or issue into a potential context for your work". The first meet up left me buzzing with thoughts. What makes a great socially engaged art project? There are so many variables:
- the complexity of the social issue
- the degreee of involvement
- time available for involvement
- the importance of the 'product' or art piece vs the participants experience.
- how is success defined?
If these things can be agreed and understood at the outset, whilst building in a degree of uncertainty, the chances of a successful project will increase.
Our first session was inspiring, raising all these thoughts with fascinating websites and video clips to wet our appetites along with meeting the other participants. Five in Morayshire, 8 in Shetland and us 2 on Tiree made for an action packed 90 mins.