Today was the first day of the Interactive Graffiti Project at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. the ideas is that people dropping into the gallery would use my bondaweb-backed fabrics, add marks of their own, collage them and heat activate the bondaweb with an iron to hold them all together. I would then end up with something not that far removed from my own work which I could use to make another larger piece, to be sold for charity at the Remembrance day service. Only that’s not exactly how it went.
I should have known better. I was assuming that people would think along the lines I did, that they would use materials in a similar way to the samples. I thought that giving everyone the same fabrics would result in pieces that were cohesive and easily cut up to reassemble into a new whole.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Because, of course, that’s not how creativity works. Creativity means everyone does what the heck they want. And what a great thing that turned out to be. Let me give you three examples:
First up was a young woman called Natalie (who was too shy to have her photo taken). I had put printed photos of graffiti out on the table intending that they would act as inspiration to people and would provide ideas as to shapes and styles of marks or lettering. It never occurred to me that Natalie would cut them up and then ask how she was going bond them to the fabric. Um. good question. I did a quick test and it turns out that you can easily bond photo paper to fabric with Bondaweb, but the heat of the iron does some interesting things to the photo. Very interesting. Like highly exciting, new-art series inspiring, interesting. I did a quick experiment taking that a step further at the gallery and now I can’t wait to take my discovery into the next level. Ideas are brimming. So Natalie is now my hero!
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table I had a grandmother who came with her family. She made it very clear she would just watch and ‘was not arty’. I asked her exactly how arty you needed to be to ‘cut and stick?’ She laughed and at least agreed to sit at the table. Next thing I know she is cutting photos up in really interesting ways. I think she was fairly pleased with the fun she had cutting and sticking. I know for sure she was awed at her own talent when I showed her how adding a simple frame could elevate a piece from so-so into a really interesting work of art. I gave her the frame to take home but she asked me to keep it to show others for inspiration. She went out of the room actually saying out loud, “I can make art!”. That alone was worth all the time it took to prepare and drive to the gallery!
Then the third example is this exceptional young lady, Meg. The first two times I looked at her work she was slowly and methodically cutting up small pieces of fabric and progress was slow. Then, I went to help others for a while and when I turned around she had made the piece at the top of this post. I absolutely love it! I asked her why the word ‘Believe!’ and she said ‘Believe in the army.’ She had heard me talk about Remembrance Day and had managed with no preparation to create a themed piece with great vision. Her mother told me that the Remembrance day commemorations are a big thing in her family and that they always attend the service at the gallery. I loved her confidence and artistry in the splattering of paint at the end and I am in love with the copper poppy. I deliberately did not provide any red paint as I wanted to save that for a unifying colour across a final piece. Did that bother her? No Siree. Copper poppy it was then. And is the piece worse for it not being the ‘right’ colour. No. It is in fact all the better for being copper.
The original plan was that I would cut the donated collages up to re-use. But there is no way I am doing anything but adding a bit of stitching and trimming to her piece. It will then hang just as it is as it is, in her name, as part of my exhibition at the Stockport War Memorial Gallery over the Remembrance Day weekend. It is going to totally overshadow my work, but who cares?!!
I have another session of the Interactive Graffiti project on 15th October. I can’t wait to see what my participants teach me then!