Category: Exhibitions visited

When i was at the Ideal Home Exhibition in March this year i came across a stand run by a company called ‘Designs by Viva’ (their work can be viewed on their website  ( and i was really blown away by the impact of their work as they used the brightest, most vivid fabrics ever, and used them to decoupage onto lots of different things – from furniture, to telephones, lampshades – and even T Pots!!! (the lady on the stand told me that they had to use a special heat resitant sealer on the T Pot that allowed the tea pot to be used for hot tea, and not just decoration.

The ‘retro’ telephones were great as well, and it really inspired me to create some fabrics that are really bright and wacky, and then collect some old furniture to cover. Here are some of the examples of fabrics that they had used, and the inventive ways they had used them.

Image of a fabric decoupaged chair by 'designs by viva' from their website

Funky telephone by' designs by viva'

Making the most of old towel rails - by 'designs by viva'

I entered the above competition at the Ideal homes exhibition, and went down to London to see who had won, and also to hear Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen speak.


LLB talked to us about wallpaper, which was very interesting. He told us that up until just recently pattern was classed as a bit of a dirty word, and he also joked by saying that unitl about 3 years he was also classed the same as he had been classed as being responsible for the demise of the wallpaper age. His response to this was that wallpaper stopped being fashionable when it stopped being patterned!

LLB said that  using wallpaper  is “an interesting symbol that we are starting to reclaim our homes for ourselves” and that using wallpaper is a key illustration that we are “falling in love with our living rooms again”.By this he means that we make a real commitment when we choose to put up wallpaper, and that we are also making a statement about our personality as well.

LLB said that in the past wallpaper was always connected with being ‘posh’ and was connected with being wealthy. It was about opulence, but now we take it for granted, and we use it to re create that appearance – like our superiors. It is a moment of “design democracy”

He then called up the managing director of WALLPAPERED.COM whose grandfather was one of the original makers of wallpapers (Gilbert Scott) – Robert Hoare, and he came to talk about what his company was now doing with wallpaper design.

WALLPAPERED.COM  is a ‘design community’ that involves designers from all over the world, and allows designers to showcase their designs.The designer is given an online shop so that they can sell their wallpapers and the paper is printed off by demand.There are no set up fees either

Robert also explained how wallpaper design is changing and that it is now possible for you to send them the measurements of a specific wall and they will print the design to fit exactly with it  precut so that it arrives ready to hang, This also allows for ‘themed walls’ which can be of a family photograph etc – there are no limits!


SALLY (sorry but i only remember the surname of a couple of them )–‘Contemporary Victoriana’


LLB Comments – he liked it because he thought it was very commercial, and had romantic colours, he thought it had the potential to be a very successful pattern.

EVE – ‘Poppy the Chicken’



He thought it was a very ‘surreal’ design and thought it would work well on other materials, particularly fabric.




LLB COMMENTS – he thought the design was ‘fascinating, but not a repeat’!!!! I had to say that I totally agreed and wondered how the hell she had got this into the competition when it stated it needed to be a repeat pattern in order to be reproduced as wallpaper – this in my opinion made the whole competition a farse!!




The winner of the ‘Ideal home wallpaper design 2012’ was LOLLIE DUNBAR – who had produced a design that LLB called’ hearts and rabbits’.


LLB said that he like the design as it was a very modern pattern, but also traditional, which made it very contemporary. He said that the design reminded him of the work of Cf voysey, who was an architect but also used images that were very similar in his other work – trees and rabbits etc – however Lollie said her inspiration came from Hollyoaks……

He said that because the image was so clean and graphic it didn’t need to necessarily be printed digitally but could also be reproduced in may other ways.

LLB said that sometimes designs are overwrought and over thought, but not this one!

Whenever i am at an exhibition i will always be drawn over to the area where there is a statue or some other sculpted piece, but am not usually as interested in the more surreal sculptures – until i came across Martin Shaws sculpture at Oldham Gallery in February of this year.

Martin Shaws shape shifting sculpture at Oldham Gallery


Martin explained that he wanted the sculpture to interact with the building, with its architecture, as if it was some sort of parasite. It did look like that to me,a nd also resembled a long stretch of giant sized intestines! It wasnt until i studied it that i realised that the sculpture (that was inflated with air) would change shape, as it either filed with more air, or emptied accordingly – it was as it if was breathing and writhing around the structure it was wound around. Shaw explained that the sculpture was connected to a fan and a timer, and its movement was all part of his design – to allow the audience to ‘experience’ the sculpture.

Six years ago Shaw was awarded a fellowship to a uni, where he learned how to use computer aided design, this has drastically changed his working practice as he now starts pff all of his designs on the computer, creating their ‘virtual form’, he then draws the sculpture around them. He explained that the type of software he uses is simular to what they use to design ships.

The size of the sculpture was huge! I asked him what he  intended to do with it when it was dismantled and he told me that believe it or not it would all fit into a back bin bag when deflated, and would go in a cupboard! The sculpture is made from the materials used to make parachutes, and he has a seamstress that does his sewing for him – it took her 45 hours to sew all the panels together!

Martin Shaw and his shape shifting sculpture


I asked Martin what other materials he had worked in, he told me he had used plaster and resin, but he would do ‘modelling’ rather than ‘carving’, he also uses stainless steel but only really for the structures. The thing he enjoys the most is to create sculptures that move and are interactive, where the audience feel involved  and can ‘experience’ the sculpture.

As part of the exhibition he had also created some vacuum formed wall sculptures that changed colour as you looked at them, and as you moved around them and looked from a different direction they would seem to change form and shape.

All very clever stuff, and very enjoyable to experience martin – thank you

Shape shifting wall sculptures by Martin Shaw

The lovely, and very talented children's illustrator and writer - Lynne Chapman

Due to an immense pile of work it has taken me a month to get around to writing this up!! I visited the exhibition on January 28th this year, to see the ‘picture this’ exhibition, and also because i knew that Lynne would be giving a talk about illustratinf children’s books. To save time i will just post the work i have created on this for my professional development file…..



‘Bears on the Stairs’ – Lynne talked about the fact that she needed to draw scary images for this book but was concerned as it was a ‘bedtime’ story, and so she needed to make them ‘more rounded’ – she did this by adding baseball caps etc to the bears.She talked about how she tried to not make the bear character too ‘looming’ as this would be too scary for kids. She did however make him a little bit sinister, as he sat at the top of the stairs, she gave him a toy car to sneakily play with!

Lynne mentioned that using colour was also a way of making the image less scary, and she also added pictures of the ‘family’ on the walls of the staircase , so that of the child is scared by the image they can be reassured by looking at the picture of parents etc.


As the words of the book didn’t dictate as to whether the child was a boy or a girl Lynne originally did the character as a little girl, she changed this though as she said that she realised that boys won’t read books where the main character is a girl, but little girls will read books about where the main character is a boy – and so to sell more books she changed the character to a boy.


Lynne said that she would create images where children could ‘find things’ whilst they were being read the story, and she would also invent extra characters to slip into the story, that allow the story ‘to go along’ – for example, and extra companion for the character perhaps.

In the book ‘ Bears on the stairs’ the incidental character that ran alongside the story was a cat, and the character enabled lynne to add in jokes and funny images (for example the cat pulling faces at the bear)


Lynne detailed the process of publishing by initially showing us her roughs and thumbnails, which she would eventually work up into A4 size roughs, or an A3 spread. She would then send these roughs to the publisher, who would then go through the work with a fine tooth comb, and would decide what they like and what they don’t like – usually without the illustrator being present.Lynne also mentioned that as an illustrator you usually don’t meet the author either, until yu go to the publishers party!

The publisher will then send through to the illustrator a list of things that need to be changed. She gave us an example from ‘Dragon’s Dinner’ where  Lynne had initially created 2 x single page  illustrations – one of the dragon asleep, and one of the dragon awake, and the publishers wanted her to create 1 x double page illustration of  the dragon, showing it to be half awake. She did re create this page, but still feels to this day that the dragon looks as if it is dead!

Image from 'Dragon's Dinner - illustrated by Lynne Chapman

Lynne commented on the fact that it is usual that the colour of the text in a book is always black, this is because of when it is translated – so this also impacts on the illustrations, and in the picture of the dragon in the cave, the cave couldn’t be black as then the words wouldn’t show, so it had to be purple instead. Lettering that is not black is possible, and is used in children’s books, but it costs more money to print.

The next step is that Lynne would send back the changes to the publisher and they would then show them to the author. Lynne commented that the publisher would possibly filter out 50% of what the author says. She would then finally do the finished art work.


Lynne uses a pink paper to draw with her pastels, she uses one that has a ‘good tooth’ so that it can easily hold all the pastel medium that she uses, and she chooses pink over white as she is not so bothered about the background paper showing through  then as pink looks better, and has less of a glare than white, pink also adds warmth where as white can be very cold.

She then traces up her images onto the pink paper using her lightbox, so that everything is in EXACTLY the same place as to what she has agreed with the publisher (of course this is an interesting point, the fact that you cannot now start making changes, but have to do what is agreed) – another reason for it being in the same place is that the gutter has to be exactly where it was so that images such as faces don’t end up going into it.

She estimated that it would take her 2 full days to work on and complete a full double page spread, and 3 months to do all the work from start to finish (but that is because she is experienced – I can see it taking me a lot longer!)

Lynne advised to NEVER draw the words ONTO the artwork because of translation (and at the end of the day publishers are very interested in ow many countries they can sell the rights of the book to).

Someone at the talk asked her how she initially got work as an illustrator, and she said that she took her portfolio round lots of publishers to show them her work, but she also took with her an article that she had done for a magazine that featured an image of ‘singing dogs’ – it just so happened that the publisher she showed it to was looking for an illustrator for a book on ‘singing cats’ and they decided there and then to give Lynne the work (amazing stuff!!)


Lynne always works bigger than A3 and then crops to A3 because it is easier for her to create on a bigger scale because of using the medium of pastels and also she has to bear in mind posting the final art work off to the printers. Although she could quite easily hand deliver the final images if the publisher was in the UK, a lot of printing is done in China as it is cheaper, and so of course this has to be posted – and images A3 and less are easier to send.

She did warn as well about writing the words ‘art work’ on the packaging as she had a friend who was an illustrator who sent her final images to China, and did this on the packaging, and it never arrived!! She had to redo all of the work – there are thoughts that maybe the work could have been stolen by someone that thought there was valuable art work inside?


Qu – How long does it take for your books to hit the shelves from start to finish?

Lynne –  it takes about 16 months to 2 years from start to finish (this makes me wonder how I am going to eat within that 2 years!!) Lynne said that because it is such a long time she often forgets how to draw the characters, and as she likes to go into the schools to promote the books she always draws them on the flipchart – so when the book is published and distributed she has to start practicing  drawing them again!!

Lynne also draws in EVERY book that she signs, which I find incredibly impressive!! – here is my signed copy!

Inside my signed book! - illustration by Lynne Chapman

Qu Do you ever show your work to children to check whether it is right, and to see if they like it?

Lynne – No, because I am really a 7 year old myself! (Love that answer!!) – however it does help for you to see what you think is funny and what children think is funny tend to be two totally different things!

An AMAZING and totally enjoyable day!! – thank you Lynne x

This is the last of my posts recording the ‘narrative futures’ talks at the symposium at FACT on thursday.All of the presentations were based on the same theme connected with the future of the narrative, This particular skype talk lead on from the presentation by  Helen Bendons  on the ‘Locating Narrative’ project in 2008 where it was possible for the audience to interact with the landscape to create a mediascape experience.

Andy Hunter is the CEO and co founder of ‘Broadcaster’  which is described as :-  ‘an app for iPhone and Android that creates intimate and immersive experiences by unlocking pictures and audio relevant to where you are. It turns your smartphone into a multimedia guide to the world, and everyone can contribute.’ It continues to say:-

‘Go exploring with Broadcastr and you’ll find memories, insights, and enriching information about eclectic and everyday places on every continent on Earth. Take a walk while stories about your surroundings stream automatically to your phone. A celebrity chef whispers in your ear as you stroll past his favorite restaurant; a renowned architect guides you through lower Manhattan; a comedian shares a hilarious personal anecdote at her favorite bar. Your movement through the world becomes your search query. Download the app. Take a walk.’ (taken from

Hunter said that they have a user community of over 20,000, and that you can walk around different areas and learn anecdotes and information about people’s experiences of the areas. He did say that you had to be within 150 feet to be able to access the information. In his talk the example he gave was being able to walk around New York listening to the events of 9 – 11, which to be quite honest i found extremely distasteful, but i am sure that it would be interesting to experience in other formats.

He is also the co founder of ‘Electric Literature’ , and commissions writers to contribute to it. He said that  he used it to promote literature, and wanted to create meaningful experiences using social media, the format being short stories.

Helen Bendon works at ‘The Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts’ at Middlesex University , her background is fine art,  film and photography, but she also has an overwhelming interest  in narrative and storytelling. She took part in the creation of   a trial project called ‘Locating Drama’ which was carried out in  St James garden ,Liverpool in the cathedral grounds in  2008,where 90 people took part.  They also worked alongside the BBC . It is an audio based drama with mobile devises, initially using PDA’s but they have also now developed it for the use of  iPhones  and for the android so can  now be used on mobile phones. They use GPS navigation systems and story maps that activate user content as they walk around.  This project entailed people walking around the gardens with headphones on, and there was no visuals at all just headphones, noises ocean sounds, snoring etc and as they  walked the noises and voices sounded but when the noises stopped, had to piece it all together.Some people found it a little disorientating, some felt like they were experiencing a ‘cut up’ and she found she wanted to form it all together to form a narrative and to make sense of it, but then she felt that that was what we tend to naturally do.

One piece of feedback which i found interesting was one man saying ‘it’s good to not have visuals as it’s all to do with the imagination’. One lady felt a real interaction with the voices and that they were talking to her directly.Helen used this project then as a case study to allow her to discuss how we would deal with narrative and interactivity.She said that in the project she wanted to focus on ‘authored content’, and the BBC were also very interested in this as well as they need to keep moving forward with their radio writers to improve the experience of their radio dramas.

In the past Helen said she  had experienced similar projects but they were very  site specific , and it would not generate huge amounts of new listeners for broadcasters . She  wanted to move away from that and become ‘translocational’. Looking at the locative potential, ie what are the narrative structures and how can we move away from them. The information used on the project was gathered from GPS , ie time date and location, and also the location related to a starting project. With the information she said it was possible for them to  infer  the speed of movement.She carreid on to explain that he   satellites used in GPS can tell is we are stationary, moving east to west and also implied orientation, and can also tell multi sessional knowledge ie how many times you have done something before and what time you have done it -Helen  thought this could be useful when telling stories, she looked at how this could be used in narrative potential – how can this information could also be useful for people like the BBC?She even went as far as to say that in the future this imformation could also be used with ‘augmented reality.’

Within the project they looked at ‘trans locational aspects’ and also ‘listener behaviour’.They created boundaries to let people know if they were walking outside of the ‘space’ where the story could be accesssed -ie boo’ed if you walked outside and applauded if you walked in – they also made things louder as you walked nearer to them.One of the main benefits in this project being that ,as Bendon says  it allows you to ‘play with narrative that isn’t straight forward’.The programme remembers what you have heard already, and the characters can even  call out to you etc.

Users of the project locating the narrative

Benton said that they did preliminary trials with writers, recorded at BBC studios, lots of editing – and that the prototype technology was developed by HP – which enabled them  to use audio, visuals and  also interact with a physical landscape – creating a ‘mediascape’

Benton describes it as a ‘non linear experience’,  the narrative progressing the more you went into the park.They used a narrator to frame the space of the park, and as people went deeper into the park they also went through different ‘curtains’ and deeper into the story.

A video of the users experiences can be viewed at :-

On thursday we also had the pleasure of listening to a talk from the enigmatic Mark Amerika, the best way to describe him is as follows :-

‘Mark Amerika is an internationally renowned “remix artist” who not only reconfigures existing cultural content into new forms of art, but also mashes up the mainstream media forms and genres that most commercial artists work in. For example, his body of remix artworks includes published cult novels, pioneering works of Internet art, digital video and surround sound museum installations, large scale video projections in public spaces, live audio-visual/VJ performance, and most recently, a series of feature-length “foreign films” shot with different image capturing devices in various locations throughout the world. One of the leading pioneers of early Internet art, Mark Amerika’s art and writing has influenced a new generation of artists using digital processes to create emerging forms of art that intersect at the boundary of visual art, live performance, cinema, and experimental literature.’ (taken from

Mark Amerika - taken from his website -

The guy appeared on the screen in a half lit environment, lit from behind, wearing dark glasses that didn’t allow you to see through to his eyes – that in itself would give ample material for an essay all about this guy, i think! However, he was amazing to listen to – maybe that was the intention…that the dark glasses would make you focus only on the narrative? who knows, but what he had to say was very beneficial.

Mark started off by saying that he was interested in ‘transmedia narrative’, which i thought was an excellent description of a product that is created by using many different types of media – something that i would have referred to in the past as ‘multimodal’. He said that in his ‘pre internet’ days he was influenced mainly by the avant guarde, but in 1992 he went online and his writing changes into multi media. He now works with sound, text, code and film, he said that in the end his writing became ‘more like publishing’ as it was a compilation of many different aspects. He even went as far as to say that he couldn’t write ‘without an internet connection’ as this was his ‘source material’.

He asked the question ‘what does it mean to read in an age of new media?” and in response to his own question he mentioned the term ‘riff reading’, where the reader is the co conspirator, and the post production medium’ – this to be would describe the readers involvement in the narrative, where they contribute their own understanding , which then becomes a part of its existence perhaps? It does beg the question as to whether it is not what we see, but what we perceive that is the important factor here, and that Mark Amerika seems to like to challenge our perception in order to increase our understanding.

He talks about ‘re-mixology’ and says that we are all born remixers .He also makes a good point when he says that a lot of people think that writing has to be ‘linear’ and that that is the traditional way that writing would be constructed where it would automatically move from one point to another – however he says that narrative is a multi media form where things can happen ‘simultaneously and continuously’, there doesn’t have to be the rigid structure and order  that there was before. He mentions that narrative is a ‘multi layered’ experience, that ‘manipulates our notion of time’ and because of that it can no longer be linear.

“dys- narrative” is a phrase he uses, ‘dys’ meaning to throw into confusion, as in dyslexia – the confusion of the words etc. He said that when he uses a dys-narrative it makes it more like an active memory. He posed a question of ‘is the novel dead or is it transitory?’, in reply to this question he said that he views the novel as a ‘publication format’ and refers to the website, whose format can best be described in the writing of Mark Amerika below :_

‘In addition to being a print book published by the prestigious University of Minnesota Press, remixthebook expands the concept of scholarly writing and publishing to include multimedia art forms composed for networked and mobile media environments. website is the online hub for the digital remixes of many of the theories generated in the print book and features the work of artists, creative writers and scholars for whom the practice and theory of remix art is central to their research interests. Since one of the primary aims of the project is to create a collaborative and cross-disciplinary approach to the way contemporary theory is performed, and to anticipate future forms of art and writing that challenge traditional modes of scholarly production while still taking on the philosophical issues of our time, the remixthebook project could be considered an open content platform for others to use as source material for their own art work, literary creations, 21st century multimedia theory, and/or innovative coursework.’ (taken from – by Mar Amerika)

He describes the following type of work shown in this youtube clip as ‘an art form and a literary intervention’

One of the speakers we had the pleasure of listening to and also seeing through a live Skype link was FACTs artist in residence Jeremy Bailey, who is very interested in augmented reality software.Jeremy also loves to be tele-present everywhere so you could see that he also really enjoyed the experience of talking to us and showing us his new creation ‘Interaxon’ – a thought controlled computer.

He explained that the technology is about making you more creative, and that the two most important things are 1, comfort, and 2, control – that would allow you to be creative. He demonstrated the capabilities of the ‘Interaxon’ and how he could draw on the digital screen in front of him by using his mind and thoughts to draw. He used his voice and his brain to move it, clenching his jaw to apply a point, then using the tone of his voice to move it from one area to another depending on whether or not he used high or low pitched sounds, It was interesting to see that he would struggle with it if he wasnt truly relaxed, and this must be to do with the tightness of the jaw.He has also built templates into the programme, and into the software, that represented memories linked to emotions.

Jeremy Bailey - 'Interaxon' - thought controlled computer

Jeremy used his skills to outline the shape of a duck, a bit like the ‘dot to dot’ process that children enjoy to do. He was a really fun and entertaining presenter and it was great to see what he could do with his mind,but you really did get the feeling that this was only in its infancy as the process was so slow, and also i did keep wondering if this was already being done somewhere else?

But an enjoyable session with Jeremy!

On thursday i had the pleasure of attending my first symposium at FACT in Liverpool. Not really knowing what a symposium was i was a little wary about what lay in store. I must admit for the first half an hour i felt totally out of my depth as i realised that the speakers seemed to have digested an academic dictionary before attending the session – and i wondered if it was also going over the heads of the other attendees?

The symposium was opened by the curator of Fact – Omar Kholeif, and incredibly well informed man, who was just a wealth of information on the ever changing role of the narrative.Omar introduced the type of questions that would be considered during the symposium as:-

*has the internet changed the way we  tell stories or give out information?

* has it altered our attention spans?

* has it made us more or less engaged?

* what role has the hyper-linked society?

* how can social media be used to its full capacity in narrative formulation?

Omar discussed whether the internet had changed the way we looked at things – with reference to art he mentioned the website  where art can be explored in a virtual environment, through the internet. My initial thought was that this saddened me a little as so much of art is experienced by actually being within its presence, but then i suppose if the art is conveyed in a digital  format then there wouldn’t be that much difference would there? However we seem to be breeding a world of solitary experiences, encouraging the use of the internet, the computer, the viewing of the digital format……..i tried to be open minded as i listened to the speakers throughout the afternoon…..

As i am very interested in the effect digital media has on our imagination and also our engagement in a narrative i was really looking forward to listening to this symposium. The list of speakers were :-

Andy Campbell – writer and media artist

Andy presented an interactive experience called ‘inanimate alice’. This is a digital experience that unfolds over multiple platforms, the series producer being Ian Harper of the Bradfield Company (  and the writer being Kate Pullinger. He says that there is no book,TV or film series attached to it, and that it is designed to be read from the screen only.He classes is as a ‘digital novel’, where technology meets literature! Originally it was purely web based but it then morphed into being used in the classrooms (on interactive whiteboards) and they have found that because of the interactive aspect of it it is actually encouraging young learners to use their literacy skills, and has also inspired people all over the world to develop their own episodes.

Inanimate Alice uses text, sound, images, games and much more. It tries to get maximum participation from its users,by including games and such like where the reader has to complete tasks as well as reading in order to progress ( i am wondering though at this stage what makes the experience that much different to a Playstation or Xbox game where most of the time participants are having to read and problem solve to progress through the game? – Have they worked out the fact that as kids are so pre occupied with gaming that they may as well include it in the reading experience or else they will not be able to compete? On first looking at inanimate alice i felt totally over stimulated with all the digital information that was being thrown at me.At one point there is a mobile phone on one side of the screen where you are supposed to be taking part in a game, whilst also reading the text at the other side and also listening to some very upbeat sounds and seeing moving colours and lights – all a bit too much for me, whether that is because i have ‘irlens’ syndrome ‘i don’t know, or whether it is to do with my age and the fact that i am not a ‘gamer’ and am not used to it i don’t know.

Here is a teacher called Sarah Brownsword who does a pretty good job at explaining what it is all about:-

You can also experience this more on the official website –

I think i am going to test this site out on my 12 year old and let him play on it and give me some feedback, as at the end of the day it is kids of his age that will probably get the most out of it.

I was concerned though about the effect on the imagination in children and whether or not we are just flooding their senses by over stimulating them. I was pleased to hear Andy say that as Alice herself is never shown in the episodes young children have actually been encouraged to draw alice and create their own. This is good, but i did wonder why they could not encourage more participation with reference to creativity – it is not all about a child’s ability to read – it is about children’s ability to also be able to create from what they read!! They did however mention that there are only 4 episodes so far and that they think that episode 5 may consist of contribution from others, so that in itself is quite creative, however as this application is aimed at all ages, i wonder if they could create one that is only geared at children and included much more scope for children to create their own characters, sounds etc?

I may post again after my sons experience!