Monday, 18 July 2011

Creative Collective and the 'Life of Art'

When the Crew left the country for the Continent in May, they were off to travel...and of course being the Crew, what should they do but find - completely by chance, Patrick Dougherty the renowned Land Artist, in Brittany engaged in one of his European projects? He was looking for people to work on the project - another of his architectural willow constructions - and so the Crew (i.e. Melina and Wayne of the Collective) got involved. Apparently he said that a ball on top of a pillar was the hardest thing to do...and then was so impressed with their ability that he just let them get on with it! It being the centrepiece of the work. He also ended up giving them a free signed copy of his expensive new art book, writing in it that he couldn't have done it without them, and promising them a corking reference should they ever need it... So in addition to studying with Serena de la Hey of M5 Willow Man giant Millennium sculpture and many others fame, they have now worked on a large project in France with Patrick Dougherty. Time surely that Melina Hubbard Design Associates (as 'Whistling Willow' used to be called) was requested to embark on another major project! In fact, just having returned from Cornwall, and having gone to see her project at Longrock again, and seeing the living willow of the tunnels and dens was growing well, I was struck again by how gifted she and they are. The whole structure is like a maze, but one you won't get lost in and really does that have that 'element of surprise and delight so essential to art' to paraphrase Michael Alexander.

   Also in Cornwall, last Saturday was Lafrowda Festival day in St. Just, the most westerly town in Britain, and Liz Tyrrell (of 'MerryMaker') another member of the Cartwheels Collective, was accompanying one of her giant carnival floats in the big parade. The town was packed, a field on the outskirts commandeered as a car park, stewards and closed roads, the whole centre pedestrianized with stalls, food, music and acrobats, and an amazingly colourful carnival parade! Including a red warrior with turning head and menacing sword, lovely peacock (put together by a local school), elephant highly decorated and ejecting water and confetti, and of course Liz's tall dancing figure, like a Brazilian carnival puppet. Deor donned the Widsith and Deor top hat, complete with roses, and helped animate the figure by taking the pole for one of its arms, and off they went, me taking video and trying to do justice to its sheer size and clever dancing movement. Liz has done some amazing things including a beautiful dual carnival float of two playing card queens in 3D, a huge Spanish style flamenco dancer, and was working on the Lafrowda float (plus community workshops) inbetween her work for the Golowan Festival involving record-breaking numbers of folks dressed up as pirates! and making giant pirates, and soon she'll be off to Cardiff, decorating festivities for the Cardiff Carnival.

    The Collective might not always work in the same place at the same time or even on the same projects, but we keep in touch and up to speed with what the others are doing, and it's delightful that they're always so impressive!
   Closer to home, on returning to HQ, there are two artists/musicians living upstairs, and (while not members of the Collective - folks usually join if they're going to after they've left/cemented things) the drummer and toymaker/wood and ceramicist asked us storytellers to dinner! Along with the painter/keyboard player/guitarist also upstairs. And a merry meal was had by all. The former we hadn't talked with a great deal, as he works opposite hours and so we often don't see him. So it was news to me when he said he'd made a huge dog figure with moveable nose and ears for the Phoenix for a Quirk Theatre production! As well as, (in his native Slovakia) having sold his wonderful toys in markets until the ridiculous hike in stall space rental drove him out of business there. Interested in the carnival float footage, we discussed moveable and mechanical art for theatre and carnivals/festivals, and he was even more gifted than we had thought! (As well as gratifyingly appreciative of Wayne's welding and other skills.) But, like the painter, what he really needed was affordable workshop/studio space... It made me very sad, when I think of the many things Liz has made and had to destroy because there's nowhere to keep them, and that the same thing happened to the giant puppet made for Quirk Theatre! And that really talented people are being hamstrung and having to work in low paid jobs not as stop gaps or top-ups (if the employer is honourable and the work decently paid, stacking shelves or cleaning are not beneath folks' dignity) but as a replacement to the arts and skills they should be doing and being paid for! And that IS a crime. Likewise the Crew talking of fruit picking work - after what they've just done? I wish I could wave a magic wand give the amazing artists I know studio and workshop space, and contacts with the those whom I KNOW must be out there who want to commission their fabulous skills! 'A life of art'? to use Burne-Jones and Morris's phrase. It's easier when you've got Kelmscott Manor at your back... Thank God for HQ, but even with it and masks and props everywhere, and earlier in the year Wayne welding in the shed and Mel weaving willow in the garden, and the many folks who have made and mixed music and sound and painted and made things here, there's still only so much it can do... An idea for a website called 'Undiscovered Genius' should perhaps be built on - where one nominates amazing folks in various disciplines who haven't had the recognition they yet deserve? Well, it's an idea anyway...

Patrick Dougherty's artist website;

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