Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Hot dogs and candy floss

Swimwear, 1m x 1m Batik on Silk © Lois Blackburn

Yesterday was my first session on the new 'Project Object', run by Blackpool Council Arts Service. It's great to be part of this, a first for the arts service who are commissioning artist/designers to design products to
 sell in the Grundy Art Gallery Shop and Tourist Information Centre and giving members of the public an opportunity to become 'apprentices' through regular workshops with the artists. Throughout the project we will be uterlising the wealth of visual historical resources in the Borough. 

Prior to the session I spoke to Tony Sharkey from the Local History Library, about the collection, and what he could show and talk to us about. His knowledge seemed endless, it was a joy speaking with him (and hearing him talk) I would recommend anyone with a passion for Blackpools History to make an appointment to go speak to him, his genuine passion for the subject shone through.

In a sense the brief is to make a contemporary interpretation of Blackpool in its 'hey day'. For Tony that time was the 1930s. It was a time you came to Blackpool for your 'health', when many of the visitors would have been escaping the 'grim up North' dirty, drab mill towns for a few days of Blackpools sands, fresh air, and up to the minute attractions. The 1920s and 30s was an era when Blackpool was ahead of its time in the way it sold itself, a time when the world looked towards it. In the 1950s, Disney offered its images of Mickey Mouse and the like to Blackpool copyright free, an indication of how important the resort was regarded. 

My group of apprentices for the workshop come with a broad range of expectations and experiences of taking part in visual arts. Some have been drawing and making for years, some are new and nervous- some somewhere in-between. All seemed to reveal in the libraries collection and enthusiastically joined in conversation and reminiscences. I encouraged the group to start to select images that jumped out at them, and to look for connections in things that appeal... For instance the era (1930s, 1970s...) or design style (art deco, geometric, contemporary..) or subject matter (donkeys, trams, seascape..) Connections that the group selected about included: the circus and sideshows, the 'hard sell', Gypsy's and Travellers, the Illuminations and souvenirs.

Gypsy Rose Lee (detail) Batik on ©  Lois Blackburn

Everyone took up the challenge of interpreting a chosen image, mostly with drawings, these they are taking home with the option of creating a 'repeat pattern' with. Next week we're going to have a go at interpreting some of their choices using some wax resist techniques.

All the fun of the fair.

Hawaiian Shirts, 1m x 1m batik on silk © Lois Blackburn 

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