art, Uncategorized

Birthday celebrations for a Hobbit sized tour guide

 

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March was my Birthday month, and I turned the big 30. I feel really comfortable at this age, and despite most of my work colleagues at Hobbiton being younger, I enjoy the confidence and life experience this age brings with it. Matamata, in the Waikato region of New Zealand would be my home for the next two months while working at The Shire. I have got know it’s two pubs well-that didn’t take long, and the whole work family (it really is like a family) spend most occasions in a bar named the Redoubt. The hours of the job can be pretty unsociable in as much as weekends need to be worked, but there is always someone around to have a drink with on most evenings, meaning you get to know different groups of people really well.

Luke, the friend I made in Te Aroha from the same home town as me, pretty much followed me to Matamata one day and ended up staying (that’s not as stalker-like as it sounds). He managed to find work in nearby Cambridge working on a Kiwi picking farm. It’s been really cool to spend more time with him as he is such fun, easy company to be around. We have spent days off exploring nearby landscape such as the vivid Blue Springs on the nearby Te Waihou walkway, contemplating life over a beer or two.

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We headed east on another sunny day off to explore Mount Maunganui a relaxed beach town that occupies a peninsula at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour. We climbed the mount, enjoyed spectacular views and a super pizza afterwards, not too shabby at all.

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Luckily for me my birthday fell inbetween my days off. I was treated to a lovely breakfast from the family I live with alongside many presents and cards that had arrived in the mailbox from home and school, such a sweet surprise. After a great night spent at the Redoubt pub drinking with lovely aussie tour guide Anna and some locals, myself and Luke decided to head for the Waitomo Caves the next day.

Under the green hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and underground rivers. We travelled with a company called Spellbound who specialise in smaller tours in far more remote, less tourist laden caves. I had wanted to visit the beautiful caves since planning my trip back in the UK. We explored the incredible milky way of glow worms gliding silently by boat gazing around in pure wonderment. Oh and we were both nursing a hangover that didn’t lend itself to intense adrenaline fuelled cave activities (!). It’s been great to re-ignite creative inspiration and I have made many sketches and paintings since my time in this area. There are no real conclusions to the pieces, they are just ideas I am playing around with and will feed my body of work ready for the artist residencies later in the year.

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I feel the privilege each day as I get to work each morning, not knowing who I will be meeting and ultimately sharing a once in a lifetime experience with. Of course I become more grounded when I have to contend with the few ignorant tourists and at times it can be like herding cats, but altogether, it’s worth it for the ones who love being there. There aren’t many greater natural highs than having a connection with somebody. I have made some really good relationships with people at Hobbiton. It has only been a two month period that I’ve spent here, but some how it has seemed more intensive and easy to strike lasting friendships, I really do feel so humbled. I am going to miss the laughs everyday, comparing high and low tour experiences with fellow tour guides, listening to Kate Bush, The Cure and Pearl Jam back from set with Linda- one of the coolest tour drivers: (we were lucky enough to get tickets for The Cure show in Auckland this July) and the ultimate sense of contentment when arriving at the beautiful Green Dragon Inn at the end of each tour. Oh how I wish I could drink the ale each time…

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I have met many people from around the world, including Southampton (it seems you can never escape) and had many offers of accommodation and I’ve never had so many comments about my eyes?…strange. The job role is to be on show to people all day everyday, which honestly isn’t in my nature at all, I am much more introverted and do find it tiring to be in this ‘state’ all of the time, so long as I have my down time then the balance levels itself again. I did really want to challenge myself and knew that the role would build confidence but more importantly for me I have felt part of something really special, a once in a lifetime opportunity that will always make me smile when I am reminded of my time there.

The south is calling. I only have a few days left at Hobbiton which is bittersweet, but my gaze is firmly set on that horizon and this year is about exploration after all.

Time to pack my bag.

Soundtrack: Mark Pritchard- Beautiful People,  Kate Bush – Aerial, Fairport Convention – She Moves Through The Fair

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Wanderlust-Wellington, Weta & Work

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My journey south continued onto Wellington. I had arranged more wwoofing, this time with an older lady named Cathie. Cathie was like grandma to me, we sat in the garden each day drinking tea talking about the various plants and fruit that was growing so well in the garden. Cathie had an abundance of apples, lemons, pears and peaches which I could treat myself to daily. I spent a good 4 or more hours each day tidying the garden, removing ivy and also mixing up concrete for a big slab next to the compost bin. It was rewarding to help somebody with tasks they find hard to make time for or harder to do. Cathie spent most of her days involved with community groups and such, including a fundraiser event that included watching the film The Lady in the Van in the sweetest theatre in Petone (I was DEFINITELY the youngest there). Now Cathie’s place is situated in Lower Hutt, a little way out from the city centre of Wellington. This meant for a short train ride into the main hub which was actually great as it gave the illusion of crossing the water when daydreaming out of the train window.

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Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, sits near the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait. A compact city, it encompasses a waterfront promenade, sandy beaches, a working harbour and colourful timber houses on surrounding hills. Though sunny and mild most of the year, strong winter winds through the Cook Strait give it the nickname “Windy Wellington, it certainly lived up to it’s name. I soon realised that doing my hair ready to go out was rather pointless!

After a few days of being rather hermit like at Cathie’s I ventured into Welly to soak up some of the arty goodness and culture I’d heard so much about. I spent a whole evening in the Te Pepa museum (I returned the next day and stayed most of it). There was an exhibition I was particularly interested in Gallipoli-The Scale of our war. I was interested mainly as I knew that super special effects company Weta Workshop were behind the literally larger than life models. They were really impressive and the scale was unlike anything I’d seen before, there was something uncomfortable about the size and detail and you couldn’t help but be moved by the exhibition as a whole.
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 After a late night opening at the museum I was excited to meet up with Lauren who I had met in my first few days of arriving in Auckland. It’s really cool to be able to see people again and fill in the gaps of our different experiences so far. We met in an Irish bar along with some friends Lauren had made along the way.

DSC_0243There is street art everywhere in Wellington, live bands playing along Cuba street, and the Weta Cave workshop and studios at Miramar were a real stand out experience. A humble team of exceptionally talented artists working on some of the biggest film and television series, most notable for their work on The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, District 9, Avatar and many others.

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I was in a particularly good mood by this point in the day as I had found out that after much researching and applying for jobs that I had struck gold. I was now officially a tour guide at Hobbiton!

The news was VERY sweet, the only bitter taste being that I needed to head back up north from this city I was really starting to love, I needed to make my last night in Wellington one to remember. I had arranged to have a drink with a guy I met who worked for Weta Workshop- Gandalf’s nose? Yep that’s his hand’s that created that, among many other seriously impressive pieces. We drank lovely wine and contemplated what Cheerios were on the restaurant menu (turns out they’re cheap nasty sausages, not the cereal, sorry folks). We shared a love of art, and the night was rounded off with a walk up to a stunning viewpoint of Wellington. We’ve planned to see each other again.

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It was time to leave Wellington and yet again my road trip lead me through some amazing scenery. I made a stop off at Kaitoke Regional Park, home to pristine rainforest and crystal clear rivers creating the magical elvish tranquility of this Lord of the Rings filming location, also known as Rivendell. It was certainly a beautiful site, the area was long since rid of its sets used for filming and all that marks the site is a carved arch and sign posts telling the viewer scenes that were films at certain points. This was all I needed, just a hint of what was, leaving plenty of room for imagination to kick in.P1060670

En route back up to Hobbiton I made a detour east to Napier. A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. On the morning of February 3rd 1931 a massive earthquake – 7.9 on the Richter scale – rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes. Nearly 260 lives were lost and the vast majority of buildings in the commercial centre of Napier were destroyed, either by the quake itself or the fires that followed. I spent more time in Napier than first planned mainly because I got on so well with Shontae who was letting my stay in her house for a few days. She was a really kind soul, fascinated in natural health and self healing and was busy planning her travels to Europe. We especially enjoyed eating curry and chatting! Simple things..

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Rotorua, Rotovegas, Roto.. um, nowhere?

‘Don’t drink here, traveller, from this upland flood- It’s lukewarm, full of mud

Churned by the flock-But walk a little further, go, Over the hill-top

Where the heifers are grazing, then stop

By the lone pine, and gushing from the rock

Is a spring colder than the northern snow.’ – Leonidas of Tarentum

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During my stay at Raglan I managed to arrange last minute wwoofing with a family north of Lake Rotorua. They were particularly pleased I contacted them as they were heading off for the weekend and needed a dog and cat sitter -this suited me fine. I had started to feel a little unwell and needed a couple of days to myself to plan and try and shift the sickness.

It was a straightforward drive eastward after dropping Dana off in Hamilton for her shuttle back to Auckland. I was greeted by 2 lovely dogs and a big friendly fluff-ball of a cat.P1050889.JPG Judy, the mother of the family came to welcome me and show me around their 2 acre property over a nice cup of tea. The family was Judy and Mark and sons Eben and Kim (their daughter Poppy lives in the UK).

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They established their farm in the 80’s and had built it up from nothing which was really inspiring. Although no longer housing farm animals they had an abundance of flora and a particularly well stocked veg patch. They were also trying to establish truffle growing alongside their house, which as Mark explained is a fine art and fantastically hit and miss. I found it pretty magical that a fungus can produce such a hidden valued delicacy.

A typical wwoofing day consists of 4 hours work in return for accommodation and meals. Both of which were really good! Home cooked grub and a decent nights sleep was what I truly needed. I was itching to do some work (didn’t think I’d say that) after a long time in holiday mode I really wanted to get into something practical and get some experience under my belt. It’s a win/win situation really as I can provide help for a busy family whilst I have somewhere to nest for a time.

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Amongst my tasks were weeding and tending to the vegetable plot, plaiting garlic, collecting and stacking firewood and preparation for meals. On the rainier days I was asked by Judy, who is a photo enthusiast, to scan old negatives and slides to organise her collection. Everyday was changeable and I particularly liked being outside in amongst the organically grown vegetables, with the lush smells and grubbiness there is a real job satisfaction to this kind of work. The dog Ludo and cat Tails were constant company, and I could lose myself fully into the job at hand in the warming sunlight. Talking of warming sunlight, it’s incredibly easy to get sunburnt/tanned in New Zealand due to the hole in the ozone layer. Each day is a ritual of suncream and bug spray, those relentless bugs and rose thorns have done nothing for the condition of my skin, still I’m the most tanned I’ve been in a loooooong time.DSC_0018 1

Meals were prepared predominantly from veg straight from the garden- I ate really well this week. When the daily work was done I was free to explore to many sites that were of interest nearby. My first experience of Rotorua’s beauty was in the nearby site of the Hamurana Natural Springs. With Ludo in tow we took a walk that guided us to each spring, but firstly through incredible rusty coloured redwood trees. Each spring had an unusually mysterious teal blue colour to it, and was crystal clear. So pure and endlessly interesting to watch, this really was a beautiful walk that I returned to and make sketches. Intrigued to see more woodland I also spent a day at the Whakarewarewa Forest, home to the most gorgeous redwood trees.

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After a full day of weeding (there really was an endless supply, believe me) I did the tourist thing and visited Te Puia. Te Puia is a top Rotorua attraction that boasts the world famous Pohutu Geyser, kiwi enclosure, Maori art and crafts institute and many other geothermal wonders along the way. Now, throughout the year I will wind up doing the usual tourist spots no doubt, but I also find the hidden gems through the people I meet, it’s a great balance.

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Te Puia didn’t disappoint (when I managed to finally escape the other tourists) I watched a Maori song and dance performance that was enjoyable, then spent a good few hours wandering around the chalky white and luminous green rock that housed the erupting geysers. It was alive, stunning and…smelly! a true sensory experience..

Soundtrack: Lisa Gerrard- Biking Home

 

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New Skills/Continuing Commissions

After a weekend of learning exciting new techniques I am in an interesting position where I have a few projects running simultaneously so I think an updated Blog is in order! I spent the weekend at the Creative Glass Guild in Bristol, and under the tuition of inspirational Chris Ainslie learned techniques in sandblasting and engraving on glass. I’ve always found it difficult to settle on one medium when it comes to creating art, however glass seems so versatile and such a beautiful and endless range of techniques can be utilized and I just want to learn more. Chris Ainslie’s work was familiar to me through google image search I think? Thanks Google! He has extensive knowledge of working with glass and his current work is very playful and incorporates his imaginative figurative drawing skills, teamed with sandblasting, etching, painting and gilding, exciting stuff! There were just two of us attending the course so we had pretty much one to one tuition from Chris and produced lots of work. It’s probably a good time to point out my admiration of the Creative Glass Guild, who as well as stocking everything glass related you could possibly dream up; they have reasonably priced excellent courses. This was the second course I have attended there, the first being Traditional Stained Glass Painting with Graham Dowding, another excellent weekend and great teacher.

One of the current projects I have been commissioned for is a sandblasted 6ft mirror with an image of Bacchus, Diana and child, quite an undertaking I have now realised but with Chris’s help I feel more confident with the technique so hope to complete the panel in the next few weeks (pictures to follow when finished).

Update on the Eastleigh Borough Council commission- I visited Prysmian again today (I’m getting to know quite a few of the workers now!) and collected the brass commission I am adding gilded panels to. It’s so exciting; the design looks beautifully sleek and very well engineered, with a nod to the ‘triforce’ on the top. It’s now time to make my mark on it and get the piece finalised, then I can finally reveal what it is we are collaborating on ;).

Lastly, at the end of August 2014 I was awarded the Making It 7×7 artist grant from Making Space, based in Havant. In a nutshell it is a grant for 7 local artists and makers to further their practice, try new techniques, plan an exhibition, and/or collaborate with the focus being on the act of ‘making’. We meet up every few months and share our progress and the final culmination of ideas will be around May 2015. This is not to say anybody is expecting a finished article, more a journey of documented artistic discovery. A part of the project for me personally is working with the local retired community which will form one element of a proposed exhibition. We are working on a collaborative painted stained glass panel that has developed from using old photographs, focussing on memory, heritage and the importance of illuminating the past. It is a BIG project, that I still need to exert more time and energy into, I am of the mind this will happen when other projects are completed, shifting my focus back on to this.

So in the meantime, drawing, experimenting and completing commissions. I am really grateful to be in the lucky position of having lots of interesting projects on the go at once and I am embracing this important time.

art, glass, studio

Contemporary Makers Fair & Winter Open Studios

Contemporary Makers Fair
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The Sorting Office Winter Open Studios
The Sorting Office Winter Open Studios

It’s November! And I’m sat at the studio on a cold and dark windy evening, listening to Philip Glass – Glassworks (how very apt you may think!) I have discovered his music within the last year, and as it turns out it is incredibly good to work to. I will be seeing him perform with his ensemble this week, which will no doubt be very inspiring and provide a bit of a breather at what seems to be an endlessly busy few weeks.

I am furiously getting ready for 2 important exhibitions in the next two weeks. The first is the Contemporary Makers Fair at Aspex Gallery in Portsmouth this weekend 15-16th November. It is such a beautiful gallery, so I jump at any chance to exhibit and sell my work there. I have moved on from last year’s festive slides and started creating chandelier installations and mobiles. Lighting has always been an area I’ve wanted to embrace and there is nothing more tempting to me than a beautifully lit room or a spotlight on a relic at a museum, it seems to engage the senses and create a special focus. Lighting is playing a key role in a community project I’m also working on called Illumination- more of this to follow towards the end of the year.

I have been playing with laser cuts and creating mirrored filigree decorations, which have similar properties to glass, in that they are delicate and reflective. So far I’ve had a good response from these and they will be for sale at the shows.

The second show is our annual Winter Open Studios event at The Sorting Office in Eastleigh- selling directly from where I work on 22nd November. This is always completely buzzing and a very productive time for me (possibly the tidiest my studio ever looks?!) We are having a VIP night on the Friday which is exciting/daunting as we will meet buyers, gallery owners etc, who knows what will come of these exciting times!

Back to work 🙂

art, glass, studio

My First Blog post! – Metiers d’Art de Lens

Hello!

So it’s my first ever blog post, I’ve managed to keep finding ways of putting it off! It may look a bit shabby but bear with me, I hope to keep this up!

 

I’m currently writing this on my first ever Eurostar experience (well it’s in scribbly note form in my sketchbook anyway).

En route to Lens

It’s all very exciting really as I’m off to Lens, France for ‘Salon International Des Metiers d’Art de Lens‘ where I will be exhibiting my work alongside 3 other ***Sorting Office residents and numerous French artists. ***The Sorting Office is a shared artist studio for 16 residents located in Eastleigh. It is actually the old Sorting Office that has been completely refurbished and has been up and running for just over a year. It is is funded by the Arts Council and RecreateEU and provides us with our own business manager and great opportunities such as this current trip abroad.

I am involved with a few ongoing art projects as well as working on day to day commissions in the studio. I will endeavour to write about these in other blog posts.

Day 2 in Lens

It’s day 2 of the Lens market and it has been an enjoyable if exhausting experience so far. It has made me realise that selling my artwork is about sharing ideas, technique and personality, all of which is tricky with a language barrier (!) I have engaged customers and made sales but it definitely feels like something is missing…

All in all a mixed experience, I am thoroughly inspired for my next selling event, I always find art markets very beneficial with regards to developing my own work, where to go next, how I want my work to be presented, and I can see and feel ‘improvement’ after each one, so they become much more than just a selling event.

▲Here’s to the next one!▲