Nest making workshop

On Saturday we delivered a workshop on how to make your own woven nest, this was to complement Julie’s work in the exhibition. Here are the photos of  Julie showing what to do and then the development of participant’s work. If you would like to make your own nest please see Jane’s previous post. If you would like to book any of us for workshops or talks then please leave a comment below with contact details. (Your details or message will not be published). Thank you to all the participants who attended we all had a wonderful time.

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Workshop success!

As part of the exhibition we were contracted to provide two workshops that took something in the exhibition as its theme.  I offered to run a family friendly drop in imaginary mapmaking workshop on Saturday 18 November, Julie is running a Christmas nest weaving workshop on 2 December, if you are interested you are not alone as it is already fully booked, however, please leave a message in the comments and we can advise you where Julie is running other workshops.

All of us are available for talks and workshops. Just ask us to contact you and leave an email in the comments, or, you can email

In the imaginary map making workshop I was, naturally, a pirate who had lost my treasure map and thankfully the children (and parents) who attended had amazing imaginations so that we all created an stunning 3D map with a monster prison, islands, dragons, shipwrecks, treasure chests, a volcano and much much more.

If you want to do this at home you’ll need to collect recycled card, e.g. biscuit and tea packets, coloured paper, masking tape, glue stick, lolly sticks, scissors and colouring pens e.g. felt tips or crayons, wallpaper lining paper and any other interesting things. I like old cotton reels, thread and wool.

Clear a space, tape some wallpaper lining paper down and draw and add the features you want to go on your map.  Ask friends to help, make things up, anything can go on your map.

Once you have finished tidy up!

If you take photographs send them to the email above and we will add them to the blog. Happy creating!

Exhibition Opens

The work was up, the refreshments bought, the nibbles at the ready, eighteen months of work and this was the day! Family and friends all arrived and then the mayor of Halifax read his script and after a tense moment whilst he struggled to cut the ribbon officially opened the exhibition.. We are all very proud of ourselves, it had been a success and all the hard work was worth it. Thank you to all who came, we had interesting conversations and good feedback.

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Installation Complete!

It has been a while since I wrote a blog post as I completed my work in August, this was to reduce stress and to manage anxiety. It worked although the day before I was worried that I had not produced enough pieces but in the end there was only room for six out of the fourteen I had made!  The Calderdale Open Exhibition is taking place at the same time which is good for footfall but not for space, added to this the gallery has unforeseen repair work in the main hall so space is even more at a premium. None of my 3D pieces can be shown nor the film so you can view it here:

As soon as the work was installed I felt a transition, like it no longer belonged to me. My relationship with it changed, like realising your child has a life outside you. I had forgotten about this process as it has been a long time since I exhibited in a gallery.  The prior year I had participated in open studios and even though my work had been put up in my studio, it had not left it.

Once a piece of work is in a gallery it becomes a cultural object, it no longer exists in your mind or in the studio. I’m curious to discover how people interact with it. It’s not about whether they think it is “good”, more a desire to understand how the work “speaks” to viewers. I have been reading a blog by Jason Horejs  who talks about how artists define “success” or what motivates them and for me it is fascination of the making process and how a piece takes on a life of its own with the audience.

It has given me the hunger for more exhibitions and to expand where my work is seen.

The museum has done a brilliant job at printing out our biographies, artist statements and putting up a banner on the wall. To see it all come together makes it all worth it.

We are already planning to approach other galleries to show the work or start a new brief. I prefer the latter and have started another blog, I have found the discipline of making work then reflecting to be valuable. Check it out here, it is only in the beginning stages so please send feedback and ideas for future posts.

Display boards and Exhibition Opening date by Karen Alderson

All my work, complete with fixings, is now mounted, wrapped in bubble wrap and stored somewhere safe. Anything more to do? You bet. All the stuff they didn’t teach me on my Fine Art degree like how to arrange work in a gallery and all the other information needed by the gallery for the viewer.

Firstly, the space. It’s small and enclosed so there’s not enough room for all the pieces.  Decisions will have to be made during installation about what will go up.  A large free standing hinged display board is needed to cover a door way.  These are expensive to buy so once I had done some research on how to make it secure I decided to make one myself.

Here’s what I did: I bought two large sheets of MDF half an inch thick, salvaged some 2X1 and other bits of wood from my shed then got my tools for the job: a chop saw,IMG_5020

a drill,


drill bits and screws


ruler, set square, pencil.


Firstly I chopped some right angled triangles and some short pieces of 2×1 wood. I drilled through the triangles onto the MDF then screwed the triangles to the bottom of the MDF. Once the triangles were in place on both sides I screwed the 2X1 to the bottom. Now the moment of truth.  Would it stand?


Yes! Next a couple of coats of paint and it’s all finished. (I want an electric screwdriver for Christmas)

Second, the film. Where will the monitor be situated? Where will the wiring go? What about the sound? Will viewers need headphones? Will the position of the monitor detract from the wall mounted pieces? Decisions, decisions.

Next, the viewer: What information is required for the labels for each piece of work and how big should these be? Different galleries have different protocols. I have already written my Artist statement and the “Group Interpretive Text” and found it really useful to clarify my practice.

And…….the posters and flyers are done!


If you can make it to the opening, and we would be really pleased if you could, there will be refreshments and nibbles.  The Calderdale Open Exhibition is taking place simultaneously so we are recommending that you get to Bankfield Museum earlier (12:30pm onwards) in order to get a parking space.

Should we have postcards or business cards? We decide on postcards. Will these be individual or collaborative? How many? How will they be displayed? Where do I get postcard holders? So many important discussions to reach agreements. I begin to research retail display merchandise, this is a whole new world and far removed from my rural studio. It’s fascinating.

Lastly, marketing and publicity:  The internet seems to be awash with “Social Media for Artists” webinars and courses that recommend I need a PLAN but given that I have drastically reduced my engagement with social media its going to be rather tentative one. Any marketing wizards out there who want to wave their magic wand at me?

Spurn Point, wildness and more repair by Karen Alderson

Having mounted all the pieces for the exhibition I rewarded myself with a short camping trip to Spurn Point, a long narrow sand spit located on the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire.  A friend said I would love it.  When asked why she replied, “There’s nothing there.” Perplexed I did an online reconnoitre prior to setting off, Grimsby looked industrial and Easington Gas Terminal was visible and in walking distance from the nature reserve.

I arrived at Bluebell Pond Camp site in driving rain, there was no camping reception but thankfully a couple, Darron and Cherry, had just arrived in their caravan and pointed to the reserved notice on pitch number 2. I put my tent up, thankful for investing in expensive waterproof clothing, I wish I had followed suit with the tent: an hour after getting all the paraphernalia in: mattress, sleeping bag, pillow, blanket, table, chair, cooker, clothes, food, I sat with a herbal tea and watched tiny tributaries run into the middle of the tent and form a large puddle. I timed it that I had to mop the water up every 15minutes before it came dangerously close to the bedroom area. I checked the forecast, this was in until midnight and it was only 6pm. There was only one thing for it: put all the bedding back in the van and hole out there.

Thankfully when I opened the van door the following morning the sky was big and blue. Where I live in the Calder valley we have hills in every direction and beautiful that it is you can only see 15 miles on a good day if you haul yourself up a steep incline. But here at Spurn Point not a hill in sight. I stood and looked at the vast blueness and out at the humber estuary, I felt like the top of my head had opened up, a master blaster meditation, “blue sky thinking”.


Spurn Point has been owned by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust since the 1960’s the previous guardian being the Ministry of Defence. There is a strict no dogs policy on the Point, not even in cars, as this is a site of special scientific interest (an SSSI).

A new visitor centre is in the process of being build which is not supported by the local residents. This would be the last time I would stay at BlueBell Pond site as the owner had been ordered to close it down and revert it to the grasslands in line with the needs of the SSSI. After 8 years of nurturing the camp site he was worried for his family’s future.

 The needs of tourism are being imposed on the locals, a community who so far have lived without much interference in this liminal place. Dumper trucks and coach parks herald bureaucracy and crowds, both anathema to those who live on the edge of society. “Keep Spurn Wild” read the boards but to no avail, the regeneration army is unstoppable. Of the few properties more than half have a for sale sign outside. These were interspersed with notices saying “Have you left enough time to get back before High Tide?” The pride and respect for the wildness and the fear of it being domesticated is palpable.

It reminded me of my trip to the Isle of Skye earlier in the year where crowds of people were heading to the faery pools, thrust there by tourist internet sites of “What to do on Skye”

There is an increasing hunger for pre packaged wildness the more our culture is driven by consumerism and urban living. The land is commodified, labelled and sold as “an experience”. People are told how to enjoy it, what to look for, where to walk, how to feel, how to think instead of trusting their own experience. Phil Smith in “On Walking” provides guidelines for how explore your locality with fresh eyes. He recommends imagining you are a detective: investigate buildings, scrutinise the skyline, observe the pavement, sniff out aromas, consider sounds, explore texture, draw what you see, create your own maps. He writes, “Our enemies …are not each other. But the homogenisation, policing and reduction of multiplicity.” See also “How to be an Explorer of the World” by Keri Smith.

I made my way straight to the beach, past Bluebell cafe, the car park & the 24 hour toilets. With the north sea to my right, on my left huge wedges of red clay were peeling away eroding the fragile coastline, this is one of the fastest changing coast lines in the UK. The sea had a slightly pink hue as it crashed against huge bits of concrete once built by the MOD, now destroyed by the tides. It felt like a war torn land.

Across the sea was an ocean wind farm & a north sea gas rig.

I turned around and walked on the sand towards the lighthouse noticing how the sea had eroded the cement road leaving an installation of joists rusted by iron bolts.


They had an Easter Island feel to them, looking out to sea, standing still, witnessing the changes.


At the end of the Point is a lighthouse, a lifeboat station (the only one in the UK that is staffed permanently), 4 houses, a building that accommodates the YWT office, a private jetty and a few odd little buildings, one being an old gun store.


On the way back I came across a hawk, it seemed quite young, I managed to get about 2 metres away from it before it took flight. If you are interested in hawk symbolism click this link:  Spurn did feel wild, the summer season had not yet begun and I appreciated having the beach to myself.

Being at Spurn has strengthened the repair process of my inner wild part, something I thought had lost. At home I began a small art quilt incorporating the theme of repair,  I’m conscious that I buy as little material as possible and to repurpose and reuse what is in my scrap store, old clothes & charity shop finds.

I began by cutting out some backing fabric and batting, choosing some scraps and pinning them to it.

I sewed the scraps together and then using sashiko stitch I quilted in vertical & horizontal directions and a circular motif. At one point I decided to add a small bit of red fabric.

To edge the piece I used more red fabric, cut it into a strip & sewed the right sides together then folded it onto the back and stitched it.



I edged the rest of the piece with some hand dyed fabric.


Recovered memories, hand quilting and found messages by Karen Alderson

Things are moving forward! We had a meeting at the museum last week and the conversation honed in on display and marketing, namely boards, labels, flyers and Mayors. The week previous I had visited Bankfield with my tape measure and looked at how the gallery attached frames to walls, the size of frames and how much space was available for my work. Whilst there I noticed the huge map I used as a starting point was on display as part of the museums current exhibition, so if you want to see this amazing artefact now, please visit the gallery.


Somehow I had got into a flap about how I would display my pieces but after some research into methods of displaying textile art  I realised I knew what to do as I had done it for open studios last year. Memory….

After the relief of recovering this memory I set to work sewing each textile piece onto black backing fabric, this took a few days sitting in the garden (Oh! The labour of a textile artist). Then each piece was carefully measured to assess the size of frame, a list was make of wood lengths, wood was ordered, wood arrived.

Next, I collected tools and materials: a drill, box of drill bits (where did I put that chuck key?), screws, phillips screwdriver, 2 G clamps, staple gun, staples, batting. Now the fun part: drilling holes and screwing the wood together. Like anything else the first one took ages but by the fifth one I was on a roll brandishing my Black and Decker like a six shooter.

I’m about half way through, however, the process was slowed down somewhat when my 15 year old staple gun finally seized up and a new one had to be ordered.


Mounted work in the studio

All this drilling, screwing and stapling is great fun and I’m still working on a hand quilted piece that references road edges.

I hand dyed some linen thread with the same colours I had used to dye the fabric and once I had machine sewed the pieces together it was back out in the garden to sit in the sun and hand quilt for hours.

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Goodness, it was awful sat there in all the peace of the afternoon listening to the bees buzzing and birds singing quietly sewing myself into a trance.

Not content with all of this I had a yen to go back to Brow Lane and revisit the fence from which I had based a lot of work. Someone had left a pair of children’s black shoes and a green curtain there.

Further up the hill I came to the place where clothes and household items had previously been dumped, these had been removed and in the lower field brown cows munched happily whilst there was an overwhelming acrid stench similar to that of an abattoir.

I’m not sure of the business in the industrial park further down but it did invoke memories of a long dead uncle who worked at Borthwick’s abattoir, now owned by Woodheads on Regent Street in Nelson and a similar smell always lingered along the valley. Further up I found a broken picture frame.


Still, something urged me back down towards Holmfield Mill.  As I stood outside taking photos I found some stone steps leading to the car park opposite.

I figured I would get better shots from there and as I reached the tarmac I saw an abandoned van with its windows smashed.

I was taken back to the day I collected my belongings from my smashed vehicle at the recovery garage, at the time a part of me had wanted to spend some time with the vehicle taking in the damage, letting the reality sink in but another part wanted to get away from it as soon as possible, the latter won. Being able to closely observe this van seemed like a second chance to really look at how the vehicle had been damaged, in particular, to be able to look inside as both side windows had been put through.


On the floor of the passenger side I found a piece of paper with a child’s scribbles and underneath a child’s toy from MacDonalds. I retrieved the paper and wondered what was going through the child’s mind as it held the ball point pen. I really like the mark making and will use this to inform further work.