Thursday, 12 October 2017

'From Waste to Art' Symposium Baku, Azerbaijan

Sometimes it's good to get out of your comfort zone, and try something new, while experiencing different cultures and making new friends in the process.
I have just returned from a ten day trip to Azerbaijan, as part of their annual art symposium 'From Waste to Art', Azerbaijan's capital city's 'recycling' innitiative, which helps to promote and develop the concept of recycling to a wider public.
On arrival, I was greeted by a somewhat surly spokeserson from the Company, whose job it was to look after us thirty artists, mostly travelled from overseas.
Baku is a chaotic, seemingly haphazard city.
Although hats off to the company, they did manage us artists with professionalism and care.
The first day we were taken on a trip to the recycling plant, where artists were given an opportunity to collect materials to use in their projects. Then we were taken to a large warehouse in the Qala settlement, just north of Baku.
Qala is situated within the oil fieds on the outskirts of the city, and on the drive over from Baku to Qala, one could smell the faint scent of oil in the air.
The scenery around Qala is desolate, industrial on a scale I have never seen.
However saying this, there were birds, the odd wildlife in the fields, but for the most part, no life at all, not even a blade of grass.

 Motley Crew of artists
Lake of crude oil has seeped to ground's surface. 
The local people I encountered in Qala where some of the kindest people I have had fortune to meet.
And spending ten days with artists from all over the world, Azerbaijan, The Soviet Union, Ukraine, India, USA, Jordan, Turkey, Serbia, Germany and the UK, we began to feel like a family unit, all in it together.




It is a credit to all of the artists that we all finished our artworks in the few days allocated to us, culminating in a group exhibition which was held at the Musuem in Qala on our last day there.
 My work features Russian Knapweed, an invasive plant native to Azerbaijan and surrounding area.
The works will be on permanent display at the 'From Waste to Art' Museum in Qala, 
a museum dedicated to the project. 

Azerbaijan is a country of contradicitons, and of extremes. Mixing uber modern architecture with ancient archeological stone carvings. Parts of it are extremely beautiful, and parts, the parts which they don't show you in the travel brochures are extremely ugly. 
 Uber modern buildings mix with ancient walled city.
But I feel they are a nation wanting to learn, wanting to learn how to protect their country, and their enviroment, and with the will of the people, this is starting to happen with initiatives such as this project, and I hope it will continue to happen, sooner rather than later. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Grey Owl at Hastings Museum

Musings on my visit to Hastings Museum, rediscovering 'Grey Owl', and his book 'The Tree';
planting the seeds of an idea for a new work inspired by his story.





Hastings Museum is small, but that's not to say, it is not interesting, or jam packed full of random artifacts, that you would not necessarily make connections to Hastings with. There is no mention of fishing fleets, instead we find rooms dedicated to Hastings pottery, an Indian Palace commissioned by a local philanthropist, and an entire room dedicated to a person I recognised, an author of adult and children's books, who goes by the name of 'Grey Owl'. 
I recognised one of the books in the museum's collection as my own.

I bought a 1934 copy of 'The Tree' by Grey Owl in Carlisle, on the border of Scotland in 2006.
It was sitting in the 'valuable books' section in the topper most region of the book shop; books so valuable they need to de displayed behind locked glass. The unasumming cover, a thin book in comparison to the other tomes, seemed to gravitate itself towards me. 
I bought the book, and while I treasured the hand drawn illustrations, I never read the book, and thought nothing more about it. It sat on my bookshelf for the past ten years or so, until last weekend, when I came upon a copy of it in a display case in the museum. 
On making enquiries, I asked the museum staff what the connection to 'Grey Owl' was. I had assumed 'Grey Owl' to be of American Indian descent, but I discovered that he was in fact born and raised in Hastings. The museum now houses his collection of Native American artefacts, donated by his late family.
Returning to my studio, I retrieved my book once more, and found it to be a rare signed copy.

Grey Owl was a fantasist, and it wasn't until after his death, that the whole truth was uncovered. 
This strange coincidental event has now prompted me to discover more about the man, and his extrodinary life, from a school boy in the small fishing town of Hastings in Victorian England to a World reknowned conservationist and author, living the life as a First Nation in the foothills of Canada.
This is the beginning of a journey as I begin to explore his.

On being exposed as an imposter after his death in 1938, publishers ceased to publish his books, but I am discovering that his legacy still lives on... 

Friday, 15 September 2017

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Re-creation for the Nation

One of my best friends 'Mel' (on the left), who made the gorgeous garments from my 'Wild Flowers' Liberty print fabric for our daughters (below) has just opened an online shop on notonthehighstreet.com selling her collection of men's and women's scarves created from recycled wools and fabrics.
Mel has worked incredibly hard over the last few months, getting ready to open her online shop. 
Check out her homepage at
 or find her on instagram re_creation4thenation


Men's Infinity Scarf
Women's Infinity Scarf by Re-creation 4 the Nation