Thursday, June 6, 2019

Bannockburn Retreat with COOTS Group

I have been using Instagram as my social media platform of late, I like the visual nature and speed of it. This year has involved a lot of art projects and travel which has been immensely fulfilling and exciting, so I have had little time to write up a post. 

I've just returned from teaching a workshop with the COOTS group. COOTS, what does that stand for I wondered after I was approached by the group to facilitate a workshop. One of the things about teaching different groups is it is good to make the workshop fit the needs of the participants so I like to have communications and a bit of prior knowledge. Google told me that Coots are small American water birds but that didn't help any! No indeed, the acronym stands for Central Otago Outside The Square, hence the meeting place for the retreat being in Bannockburn, a central location for people to travel to. 

Print Paste (CCG), Manutex and dye. Acrylic Paint and
Discharge Paste were all used

I gave the workshop a title/theme of Poetics of Place as this is general enough to provide a focus but allow for projects which individuals may already be working on. My focal lens was not actually needed for this group however, I was excited to discover this group were very versed in art making methodologies of brain storming, keeping visual diaries, researching, linking concept with making. For example Jenny is commenting on the Rural Urban Divide and Ali is poignantly utilising the traditional readings of quilts as a platform to present the multi layered complexities of what home means to different people and groups. 

Technically we worked with process of gelli printing as a drawing process, cyanotype and photostencil screenprinting, primarily on textiles. Quite a swag for a 4 day workshop but we took over the well appointed Bannockburn Hall, created a darkroom and tapped into our  energy reserves. 

Mono screenprint by Pam and Gelli Print drawings by Alison and Lynn

Cyanotype of trees from Robyn's house
Learning and working with three processes in a short time is not for the fainthearted. The creativity of combining the processes however was enormous , with many original and organic results emerging. I enjoy teaching when I cannot answer many questions, when the only way we can see if something will work is by trying it out. Wendy's stencils made out of transparency film got coated in paint and worked deliciously, blocking the light on her fabric cyanotypes. The combination of rust and coating previously dyed fabrics provided other levels of interference that was very successful. 

details of Wendy's textiles
Creating yardage for use in future projects was a goal for many. This fits with my approach of creating freely and editing afterwards. This goal was certainly achieved. Looking forward to seeing some of this work integrated into an upcoming exhibition the group are having at Central Stories Gallery in Alexandra. 

Ali's Home Series

A selection of Jenny's productivity
Janice worked with sheer silks, many eco dyed before over printing

Slivers of beauty from Robyn, Jeanette (know that tree?), Angela
(Stamping with  chopped up gelli plate) and Jeanette
To produce our image screens we coated 43T mesh screens with photostensitive emulsion, dried it and then exposed them under a 500 Watt Mercury Vapour UV Light. (Hanging off Gilbert's ever handy tripod) The imagery was drawn or photocopied onto transparency film and 'secured' onto the screen with a piece of 4mm glass to get good contact. Our little A4 screens fitted well under the lamp and took about a minute to expose. For the larger ones we did a one minute exposure on half and carefully slid the screen along and gave another minute on the other half. After wash out in warm water of the unhardened emulsion the screens were given a post exposure of ten minutes before use. This pop up exposure unit worked very well, I love my light as it is also useful for cyanotypes if the sunshine isn't playing ball. I got mine at and while the light is an ok price the expensive bit is the fitting. :-( 

Angela  had some thermofax screens which proved very popular

Jeanette screening on silk fabrics to achieve overlay

One evening I forced people into an activity, making flowers

Working as an artist and arts facilitator requires a lot of planning and juggling that does not bring financial security but the creative results and friendships are meaningful rewards to me. I have been asked to give an informal talk to students on the way I sustain my career and I believe a lot of this comes down to networking and the sharing nature of people involved in the arts. O
ne workshop can lead to another, in this case I have been invited back to teach a design based workshop with COOTS in the future.  The thing that really sustains my practice is the gifting of resources that comes from my network. From this workshop (ok, ok a big plus was that the group fed me lots of wonderful food, but also...) Robyn gave me some wonderful old hand drawn maps that will be used in a future class. Wendy had a connection with a place I have always wanted to photograph, so getting permission becomes a possibility. Steve, a friend from another project, has 3-d printed me a printing press so I can print almost anywhere!  When I was at art school there was a quote on the wall about how we achieve more as team together than as individuals, so true. Thank you to everyone who has supported me!