Sunday, 19 September 2010

Open Studio

In just two weeks at 12:00 the 10th WASPS open studios weekend will start. I am in the midst of trying to get a window completed for installation in the week before. So this year people are going to see a working studio, not a clean one. I realise that as I have participated in all of the open studio weekends, I have done 10 years of this. It continues to be fascinating meeting people with novel approaches to my work. I may have a bit of time to display a few things, but mostly it will be a working studio for the weekend. I might even get a few things done while talking with people.

Come along, if you can, to 77 Hanson Street, Glasgow G31 2HF. There is parking, a cafe, and lots of artist's studios open.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

We’ve Made it Through Our First Show!

Among other things, I am a member of a group called Parade Artists. And I am using that as an excuse to tell you all about our background and experiences at our first big retail show a fortnight ago. Parade Artists took a stand at Homes and Interiors 2010 to find new audiences and test the ability of a local collective of artists to show alongside commercial organisations.

Parade Artists is a collection of artists working in the Hanson Street, Glasgow WASPS building, and which was formed in 2007 as a development of some uncoordinated efforts in two previous years. It has a fluctuating number of members of about 15 - 20 people, but with a consistent core of 10. The members - unusually for creative collectives - work in a diversity of media which include painting, textiles, ceramics, glass, photography and mixed media.

The objective of Parade Artists is to find new avenues of marketing and selling that work for the group and the individuals within it. It is now directed by a steering group to keep continuity in decision making, after it was found that a completely democratic organisation took too long to come to consensus and frequently changed its collective mind depending on who was at the meeting. All members are entitled to attend the meetings and the minutes are public to the members.

The original objective was to hold two shows a year within the building. Parade Artists has achieved annual Christmas shows, some Spring and Summer shows which involve the community, although not every year. Experience of these shows led toward events on selling and marketing for the members, both in a self-help fashion and in formal sessions presented by outsiders. We have had help from East End Enterprise and Cultural Enterprise too. Less obvious achievements have been to bring a diverse group of artists – both in media and personality – together. It gives the ability to work to the strengths of individuals, so making the direct selling effect better for the less market oriented people, and for the less detail oriented to get help with organisation. The shows have changed from a market stall arrangement to exhibition oriented ones.

All this brought us to the decision to try presenting ourselves to a wider public - it is said that the Homes and Interiors has around 20,000 visitors over the three days of the show. This was the biggest investment decision for group ever - £1100 as a single speculative venture for a small non-profit organisation was difficult but the collective enthusiasm carried us forward. The participation fee was set at £100 and to every one's surprise eleven people signed up!

Having made this decision, we needed to make sure it worked. A number of things were set in place:
  • Developing clear areas of responsibility
  • Covering for absences
  • Developing a professional presentation - buying rather than making display
  • Keeping to budget – as predicted we spent as much on display and marketing materials as on the stand.
  • Setting deadlines and keeping to them – which we achieved.
  • Obtaining a mobile point of sale credit card machine especially for the Homes and Interiors show. One third of the sales were through credit and debit cards.
Among the decisions on areas of responsibility one was that the selection and setting up of the objects was to be done by only three people. Although this was not completely satisfactory to everyone, it was important to presenting the most work in a coherent manner and it proved to be an attraction to visitors rather than a jumble sale. Clear selling instructions with back ups were important to sorting the financial affairs, although there were still problems with recording the information. The best days for sales and contacts were Friday and Saturday. The decision to have two main sellers and another person floating about to help in busy times worked well. The collection of contact details was generally easy. We had two means of beginning the conversations – a card advertising the WASPS open studios (which ran out too quickly) and talking about the collective and the range of work on display and offering to keep people in contact with the activity of the individuals and of Parade Artists.

Set-up almost complete

Our experience at a big retail show left us with some lessons and other things to consider. Some of the elements to consider are:
  • Simple inventory lists and reference numbers with multiples having the same reference number.
  • Someone to concentrate on taking money and wrapping procedures both to relieve pressure on the sales people and to ensure consistency in recording sales.
  • Concentrate the people with greatest sales ability on the most productive days (not Sunday).
  • More awareness of the public should be engendered among all of us.
  • More training on selling from the front of rather than behind the stand is required as it really is different.
  • More careful consideration of the amount of stock taken to the show requires more focused decision-making at the selection stage.
  • A more seamless method of getting contact details is required
  • Affordable publicity material for all our activities needs to be developed and funded.
  • A higher profile for our website on the stand and in publicity materials is required.

Still Friends at the End of the Show
Our ambitions are to:
  • Continue to be presenting work directly to the buying public
  • Work toward a permanent shop
  • Begin representing artists other than members
  • Have an annual presence at a major trade show
  • Develop a robust business structure, e.g., a cooperative such as described by Creative Cooperatives -

The experiences at Homes and Interiors are a major step forward for Parade Artists. Although we have a way to go to match the display equipment standards of the commercial exhibitors, our stand attracted as much interest as the larger organisations. We need to build on the things learned and begin to pay attention to the nuts and bolts of organisational structure to continue to develop and grow.

Monday, 13 September 2010


Yes, most people will have little idea where or what this is. It is a town at the head of Loch Gilp on the West coast of Scotland. Loch Gilp is a branch off the main sea loch of Loch Fyne. These western sea lochs are similar in many ways to the more famous Norwegian fjords. The long fingers of water are surrounded by mountains - in this case, green to the tops. They have both economic - fishing, fish and shell fish farming being the main ones - and recreational - sailing, boating, fishing and walking (on the hills, not the water) - uses.

I was asked to quote on the window aspect of the transformation of the small parish church hall into a larger community hall, while retaining the existing external features of the turn of the century building. On close inspection, a few arts noveau features can be seen, notably the ventilation cowling at the top of the building and in the etched glass on the interior swing doors - yes they have survived!

I was among the sea lochs on one sunny Saturday and decided to visit the site and Lochgilphead, never having been there before. I am glad I did, as it altered my view of the amount of work required. It is also a very pleasant part of the world.

It is not a very impressive building upon initial approach from the street. It has a community aspect to it already with the recycling bins in the front. It is a pretty standard harled wall with stone corner pieces and around the windows and mullions.

To the side of the main frontage and providing the entrance to the whole building is the porch. I provides a little less forbidding aspect to the building.

Around to the right of the building is another set of four windows. These as all the other windows are quarry glazed with what was then relatively standard tinted glass.

Closer inspection of these windows shows some significant repair work will be required. In fact, one window ought to be removed and the bottom section taken apart, re-leaded and new glass inserted where many panes are broken.

The real shock comes when you go into the lane between the Cooperative and the church.

This is the broken down part of the hall. All the windows have had their glass systematically broken, so that only shards hang from the twisted leads. The gutters are broken, the paving stones are uneven and the thick doors bolted tightly.

Even the high level window has most of its glass broken out.

The plan calls for internal secondary double glazing. With this level of vandalism, I think they need external protective glazing too.

How the owners will keep the glass in tact when renewed, is something I don't think the architects have thought about yet. Only how to keep the windows from letting in a lot of cold air. It is also clear that the mastic keeping the glass and stone water tight has failed. If you look closely at the top window facing the street, you will see a plant growing on the INSIDE of the window.

This quotation did not take so long as the Maryhill Burgh Halls application did, but excluding the drive and inspection, a day was required just to gather and organise the information into a form for the Builders. This would be a nice project to work on because of the many little difficulties it presents.

Friday, 10 September 2010

One-Day Fusing Experience

An old - but young - friend brought two of her friends for a day of working together in the studio. She had some designs in mind and had enough previous experience that I could leave her to get on while I took the other two through how to cut glass. Neither had cut any glass before coming to the studio.

They both took to it well. Within 45 minutes, I was ready to let them go with designing. By lunch time the designs were prepared and the colours selected. The period just after lunch was the time that their designs were drastically simplified as they came to grips with the nature of the glass.

The person I am going to concentrate on is not better than the other, it is just that her design went through a significant transformation. She early on decided on using strips to create a sinuous design which would be formed to be self supporting. This determination to do many repetitive cuts of strips might have tested many, but she took to the task well, with few shattered strips. She was a bit dismayed when she thought she had done enough strips, after two hours cutting only to find that she had at least half as many again to cut.

At the end of the day, we laid the strips out on the stainless steel mould with a layer of Thinfire over.

I liked the pattern of subtle coloured shadows the strips threw onto the paper below. Unfortunately, the light levels mean that the camera did not pick up so much of the colour as my eye did. Still It provides a mysterious picture when out of context.

The resulting curved strips were assembled by the student a couple of days later - yes I know, not strictly a one day class. This is where the limitations of the curves came into play. Even though the design has been modified a lot, the feel of the original comes through.

The remaining pieces and off-cuts of the strips were combined into objects intended for hanging. The rule of kiln forming is to avoid all waste.

Now to shape the main piece. This will require watching, as so much of the piece will not be supported during the early and mid stages of the drape. I will need to make sure that I am not interrupted. So is it early morning, or late night?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Maryhill Burgh Halls

Among the things that have kept me busy is the submission for a community project and design and construction of modern windows for the Maryhill Burgh Halls. You can read about its importance in 19th century Glasgow at the Maryhill Burgh Halls website.

The proposal I put forward with another artist - Brian James Waugh - was to involve the Maryhill community in the thinking about what would represent modern Maryhill, and making preliminary designs. This is a kind of public awareness programme with a high degree of hands on in terms of designing and making small portions or maquettes. The second part was to draw up the final designs for 10 windows with the same kind of detail of representation that Stephen Adam did with the original 20 windows that he designed and made for the Burgh Halls.

These windows represent a social and industrial history in their images, which can be seen on the Maryhill Burgh Halls site. These window are being conserved by Mark Bamborough at Scottish Glass Studios.

Although the preparation and submission of our proposal took the best part of a week, we did not make it beyond the long list of eight. Now for some feedback from the selectors.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Encapsulating Leaded Glass Panels, 2

It has been a while - various excuses include moving house, preparing quotes, major Homes and Interiors, Scotland retail show, general inactivity, etc.

The leaded glass that was to be encapsulated has now been done.

This shows the inner view of the completed window sash - one of three. The frame was routed out to accommodate the extra width that the double glazing took up - in this case 12mm, so another 6mm had to be taken away from the frame. It also is now 18mm thick rather than the 8 or 9mm when it was simply leaded glass. This depth had to be taken from the frame too. The original check was about 12mm deep. An extra 10mm had to be taken away to accommodate the unit. This left a shallow area for a putty fillet of only 6mm.

When it is all painted, it will look very good.