Tag: art

ABC Art Trail: A festival of creativity

One of the highlights of the year is back!

That’s right, on the first weekend of June, the ABC Art Trail will be winding its way again around the roads, streets and avenues of Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell and this year it is even bigger than before.

If you have ever attended the two day festival of creativity then you will no doubt remember what a buzz it creates. If you haven’t, then grab a pen and write ‘ABC Art Trail’ on the 1st and 2nd of June on your calendar, or type it in your phone if you don’t have one of December’s featured photographer Lamar’s beautiful calendars hung up in the office like we do.

The Beestonian team both trailed and wrote about the whole weekend producing a raving review in July’s bumper issue last year. There was so much to see, and this year will be no exception. Expanded to include even more venues and more creatives it is ‘a wonderful opportunity to see some private studios that are rarely open to the public.’ With a mixed media collection of paint, print, textiles, jewellery, ceramics  and glass there is something to appeal to everyone’s tastes and budget.

When I met with Karen Atwood last year, who is one of the artists and organisers of the event, I was instantly struck by her passion in promoting the work of others in the trail. This pervades throughout the weekend as you visit each venue, some in home studios and other housed in local businesses. Artist supporting other artists and sharing their talents with those in the community is a wonderful thing to be part of. It is also brilliant to see how many local businesses have offered their support via sponsorship.

If it’s a weekend of creative inspiration you want then you have got it! If you are looking for a one-off gift that you might never see anywhere else, then that’s on offer too, and more than that you get a behind the scenes peek into a range of creative processes which can really make you appreciate the wealth of talented people we have residing in our local area.

You can read about last year’s ABC Art Trail by clicking on the link below:

https://beestonian.com/2018/07/27/creative-beeston-abc-arts-trail/

You can download a handy pocket-sized map of all 13 venues and 30 featured artists via the official website here:

www.abcarttrail.uk/map–flyer.html

Look out for promotional material popping up all over Beeston and follow the posts on their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/abcarttrail/

DU

Let Us Spray: Beeston’s Street Art Festival

The use of aerosol paint to spray shapes, words or figures on a wall or surface is often seen as vandalism to some, but art to others.

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Some of the country’s best spray can artists descended on Beeston recently, to colour the town in more colours than your average bag of Skittles. They didn’t arrive under the cover of darkness like Banksy appears to do, but in broad daylight and an audience watched while they created their unique works of art, with their £3.50 a can of spray paint. They were here to participate in Beeston’s first Street Art Festival, which took place around the town on the weekend of the 16th June.

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I caught up with Jeanie Barton, the driving force behind the project, who welcomed the break from gardening, to talk about the weekend and how things went. “It was brilliant. It went really well.  I’ve had lots of emails from people saying how happy the artwork has made them. The artists were happy with how things went too. Which is rewarding in itself. People are really impressed with the quality of the work created. I don’t think there’s been a single complaint about it. There was a bottleneck at the top of the twitchell by Round Hill School on the Monday, as parents and children wanted to see how their school looked now. There’s a great mix of styles. Something for everyone.”

Turning to the original plan, which was to decorate that dull part of Station Road, between Birds and B&M. I asked Jeanie about the origins of the idea and why it hasn’t taken place yet. “It started with a posting on Beeston Updated. Someone said how street art could make a town more colourful and that something should be done with that wall near Birds. Other people agreed, so I set up a separate Facebook page and people started to join and shared photos of walls from across the world that had been decorated.  This was in April last year. Broxtowe Borough Council was approached and liked the idea. They have £8000 that’s ready to be spent on art. But things went quiet, so we thought we could decorate some other bare walls around the town instead and went for sponsorship and Crowdfunding. Altogether we raised over £3000.”

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I then asked Jeanie about what’s next. “We have a few more areas to do, such as Hallams and the Victory Club. Hopefully more owners of buildings will come forward that they’d like decorating. We will also be producing a proper guide to them all later this year, with photos of the work, together with profiles of the artists. People from Cheltenham, Bristol etc have been to see the designs. Bristol has its own annual street art festival. So I don’t see why we can’t have one too.”

By the time you are reading this, hopefully there will be some good news about those grim walls on Station Road and how they are going to be transformed into something more in keeping with the artistic identity of Beeston.

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The names of the artists include Tunn, Boster, Onga and Emily Catherine, Zane, Zabou and Goya.

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Creative Beeston: ABC Arts Trail

Letter by Letter by Letter by Letter…

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Beeston has a great community, and many of its community are greatly creative. This was firmly established in the first weekend of June when eleven local artists opened up their studios and invited us all in to see for ourselves. The annual ABC Art Trail involves artists from Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell, which is how it got its name funnily, and as the name suggests it doesn’t just take place in Beeston.

I followed the trail from back to front this year in Attenborough at Rita Miller’s stunning studio on Long Lane. Her compact converted garage was so extensively filled with serene landscapes and bold still life paintings my eyes took a while to take it all in. “Why did you start at the last venue?” I hear you exclaim. Well the point is, that it doesn’t really matter where you begin or where you end, the standard and variety of work on display will impress you wherever you go.

In fact, in total there was an artist for every letter of the alphabet this year, so you were rewarded with more stunning pieces than anticipated to pore over at some venues. And of course if you do like to wander in a less haphazard way, the organisers had put together a back pocket map that you can refer to on your journey round with each location clearly numbered.

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And let’s talk about the variety! There were oil paintings, photographs, glass and silver jewellery, textile art, embroidered felted wool, ceramics, knitwear, stained glass, watercolours and sculptures as well as an opportunity to chat to Bob Child who offers a traditional bespoke framing service. It was truly an inspirational weekend and I even managed to pick up a few purchases along the way. It is worth pointing out though that not all the venues are artist’s studios.

You could enjoy examples of Susan Harley’s landscapes hanging from the red, yellow and blue frames of the gym equipment at The Lanes Primary School, alongside glittering glass and gentle watercolours. In contrast to all that kaleidoscope of colour, Sara Gaynor’s ethereal photography sat rather well in its temporary home at a Beeston Dental Practice. It’s usual to pick a day and a selection of artists to visit as there are so many, but this year a new challenge was set.

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Three Beestonians (me, Matt and our intrepid photographer Christopher) set off early on bicycles to visit each venue and collect a unique piece of artwork in the form of a letter. As if organising and publicising this impressive show of local people’s work wasn’t enough, each collective of artists at each venue had handmade a letter in a combination of their own distinctive styles. It is impossible to visit all of the venues in one day and do them justice, to make sure that you have made the most of your visit you really do need to stay a while and ponder, and not just the artwork either.

A number of our artists’ gardens were just as attractive as their artwork and we couldn’t resist a wander around some of the winding paths and buzzing flowerbeds. It struck me at one point, how community spirited these people are for opening up their studios, and in some cases their homes, to the general public to wander freely. They are sharing their sanctuaries and their personal collections with us as well as the pieces they created and put on display. The twiglets served in a hand thrown piece of pottery made by founder member Alan Birchall didn’t go unappreciated, and the plentiful refreshments welcome too after a few hours of cycling.

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Another wonderful thing about the ABC Art Trail is how welcoming the artists are. Their joy at receiving visitors was unrestrained and genuine and this made us want to linger a little longer at each venue. I met with one of the artists and organisers Karen Attwood before the event and as we discussed the work she would be exhibiting it was obvious how much of herself she was pouring into her pieces. Not only is her textile work detailed and time consuming, each piece has a personal resonance which must make it hard to let them go at times, but then sharing is what this event is all about. The artists are more than happy to talk about their inspirations and processes, it’s a celebration of creativity! It is also evident they have an appreciation of each other’s work, and although much of their work is for sale there is no pressure to buy.

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If you do happen to be seduced by a brightly coloured piece of glass or an exciting sliver of silver then be rest assured that you are getting good value for money and you are helping a living artist in your community to thrive, and that’s got to be a good thing right? The experts say that art appreciation promotes quality of life and makes you feel good. According to Professor Semir Zeki, neurobiologist at the University College of London, when you stare at great artworks, the part of your brain that is stimulated is the same as when you fall in love.

We definitely fell in love, over and over with the amazing talent and with this home-grown event that makes art accessible for all. And have you guessed what those eleven letters spelled out? ABC Art Trail of course!

DU

ABC Art Trail: Celebrating Creativity in Beeston, Attenborough and Chilwell

This weekend the ABC Art Trail takes place in venues across Beeston, Attenborough and Chilwell, showcasing the work of 26 artists who live locally.

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The ABC Arts trail is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a trail of artistic works by creative people who are all part of our community and living in Beeston, Attenborough and Chilwell.

This year there are 26 artists taking place, with their work being displayed in 11 venues. They include painters, textile artists, a potter, glass artists and jewellery designers. This is a great chance to discover new artists and see for yourself the amount of creativity that this town and surrounding area can hold.

The trail is free to take part in, and will be happening across Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd of June, starting at 11am through to 6pm on both days. They’ve got a map pinpointing all the venue locations, which can be visited in any order, so you can plan the route that works best for you. Find the map here.

They include places like independent studios, houses, local schools and shops. Specific venues taking part are Beeston Dental Practice, Red Lion Pottery and Meadow Lane Infant School.

Painting of Beeston Lock by Janet Barnes
Artwork by Janet Barnes (Canalside Art)

The participating artists will be present at each venue with examples of their work available to purchase. So as well as discovering more art, you might end up going home with some!

Our Editor-in-Chief, Matt Turpin, will be taking part in the trial and visiting each venue, where he will be collecting pieces of artwork. These pieces will be individual letters made from a variety of art forms, and once put together they will spell ‘ABC ART TRAIL’ (11 letters for the 11 venues).

Matt says: “I got a G at GCSE Art, a grade that doesn’t even exist any longer. But while I may not be the best at making art, I’ve always enjoyed others’ work. Beeston is a great place for this, a hive of creative activity right across the area. I’m hugely looking forward to visiting all the venues and meeting those talented people who make this town such a treat for art lovers.”

This event is yet another example of why Beeston and the surrounding areas are such hubs of creativity. It’s also a way for people to show their support not only for the artists themselves but for the community as a whole. We’re all about supporting local businesses, but this is a way to appreciate individuals in their creative endeavours. The ABC Art Trail itself is supported by businesses such as: The White Lion (where they have their meetings), Yarn, Charlie Foggs, Artworks and Cycle Inn, to name a few.

Rita Mitchell
Artwork by Rita Mitchell

Plenty of their work features the local area, such as paintings of well-known places, meaning that their art is truly personal, both from their perspective as artist, and the people who support them by buying their work or enquiring about commissions.

For more information, visit their website: ABC Art Trail

You can also like them on Facebook @abcarttrail, and register your attendance via their event page.

JM

 

Creative Beeston: The Remarkable Recycling Gala

The Green Scene

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Spring arrived this week with a sprinkle of vibrant yellow, and the blossoming forsythias appeared gilded in the welcome sunshine. Ah…a hint of warmth in the air, the promise of lighter evenings and Sunday walks without the need for several layers of outer garments. Spring is traditionally a time for renewed energy and colour and we are greeting it with open arms after the cruel icy blasts from previous weeks.

It was this idea of new beginnings and the recycling that occurs in nature that reminded me of a fantastic creative event that is happening this summer. A rich mix of recycled art and craft and recycling initiatives which highlights the issues surrounding waste, The Remarkable Recycling Gala is uprooting itself from where it was originally planted as part of Sherwood Art Week and hopes to spread the word to a wider audience in its fifth year.

This year there will be over twenty stalls dedicated to skillfully recycled products which range from sea glass jewellery to portraits of famous icons made entirely from recycled drinks cans

Originally held at Sherwood Community Centre, you won’t be surprised to hear that they have chosen Beeston, which already has an amazing art scene, as the perfect place to plant this annual event for 2018. Beeston also has a keen eye on environmental issues with Greening Beeston, The Canalside Heritage Centre and We Dig NG9 being just some of the active groups that come to mind.   Building on the current momentum around zero waste emphasised by BBCs Blue Planet, the event was conceptualised by Greg Hewitt and came about through his passion for environmental activism and concerns about waste and consumerism.

The gala has got people talking about and acting on the issues of waste and recycling in a fun and enjoyable way and those involved are delighted that Middle Street Resource Centre accepted Greg’s proposal to hold it at their creative community space. Not only does MSRC have space inside and outside to accommodate the array of craft stalls, art exhibits, creative workshops, performances and information stands, it is an inclusive centre which offers a wide range of courses and activities for the whole community which fits in well with the gala’s ethos.

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As in previous years, stallholders from Nottingham and the surrounding areas were invited to apply to sell their work at the gala, and this year there will be over twenty stalls dedicated to skillfully recycled products which range from sea glass jewellery to portraits of famous icons made entirely from recycled drinks cans. Since the beginning The Remarkable Recycling Gala has received support from more commercial local recyclers such as Paguro and Sarah Turner- Eco Art and Design – you might have seen some of Sarah’s work at Nottingham’s Light Night event earlier in the year.

Recycling is a great way to make art that doesn’t impact on our environment

A change of location has attracted newcomers to gala, which Greg is also pleased about as this not only brings fresh ideas to the event but also suggests that both aesthetic and practical recycling is on the rise. As well as inspiration from the stallholders, visitor to the gala will also be treated to exhibits from recycled sculptor Michele Reader and workshops where they can create their own recycled art or craft item, many of which are free of charge. There is always entertainment, in the form of spoken word or song and this year Greg is hoping to create a mini cinema experience! If we are lucky, they might give Beestonia The Movie an overdue airing.

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In a bid to promote ‘make do and mend’ culture that also contributes greatly to the preservation of our planet, Nottingham Fixers will be bringing along their popular Repair Café which they launched at last year’s gala and provides the opportunity for people to have items repaired rather than thrown away, thus minimising waste. Another non-profit organisation, Playworks who provide resources like the Scrapstore and whose focus it is to improve play experiences for children and young people in Nottingham will also be there on the day to promote and involve people in their valuable services.

You will be astonished by the sheer imagination and talent that goes into each carefully crafted piece on show at the gala. Simple household objects such as tin cans and jam jars are made into pretty tea lights, tax discs and old postage stamps recycled into beautiful pieces of artwork, broken skateboard wood is reclaimed to make bottle openers and old books into clocks. The finish on these individual items is often so good that it is difficult to tell what they used to be but the message is clear, recycling is a great way to make art that doesn’t impact on our environment and that art only serves to enhance our environment.

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The Remarkable Recycling Gala is a family event, with making activities aimed at children and adults, which visitors in the past have described as ‘inspiring’ and ‘enjoyable’ and that offer ‘new recycling ideas.’  The workshops use recycled or waste materials to demonstrate how versatile recycled resources can be and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It is an all-day event with all profits going to Middle Street in support of the valuable work they do for the community. There will be entertainment throughout the day and Middle Street will be providing the food and refreshments.

In a constantly evolving town like ours it’s really exciting that this event is bringing a fresh approach to the craft revolution and I am sure Beeston, with it’s abundance of green spaces and conservation areas will play the perfect host.

www.facebook.com/RemarkableRecyclingGala

www.remarkablerecyclinggala.weebly.com

DU

As Nature Intended

Debra Urbacz grabs her pencil and sketches the disrobed….

This issue’s article comes to you from the serene scene that is inhabited by Beeston Canal Heritage Centre. Steeped in nature, it is the perfect backdrop for the life drawing classes, that are currently running in the beautifully renovated studio room upstairs, within the old lock keeper’s cottages. I have been itching to get to one of these classes since they started three weeks ago and finally made it this week, and thought I would share the experience.  When I arrive, the room is quiet and gently lit by tiny spotlight stars. It is my first time at the class and I am more than a little apprehensive as it is a very long time since I had done any ‘real’ drawing. I felt a little under the spotlight.

However, it was a small friendly group that greeted me and I was introduced to a host of lifedrawsmiling faces. I already knew Janet who was running the class from the ABC Arts Trail and seeing her artwork displayed locally. She explained that this was an informal class, with a break in the middle for tea and cake. This and the relaxed atmosphere quickly put me at ease. I picked up my 6B pencil, and a sheet of the paper that was provided, ready for my first challenge.

I wasn’t quite prepared for how swiftly one minute speeds by when you are trying to replicate a human being on paper but my first sketch consisted of a shoulder and part of an arm. I persevered though, and by the time I got to my last sketch in the ‘quick fire round’ I had progressed to achieving a little bit more. The ten-minute sketches were better, although I seemed to do a lot more rubbing out than any of my companions. I was pleased to see that my hands were beginning to get into the groove again.

At the break, the conversation was free flowing and despite the fact we had just spent the last hour peering intensely at a naked person, there was no awkwardness at all. After all when you are so deeply immersed in nature, what could be more natural than the human form with all its graceful dips and curves? I was a little bit in awe of the model. Always a failure at musical statues myself, I had to ask how she kept her composure and held the poses for longer periods. “What do you think about, where does your head go?” I tentatively ask. Well dear reader, I am not sure what I was expecting but can tell you the answer was that this model amusingly distracts herself with hearty numbers from the Monty Python musical ‘Spamalot.’ Well why not!?

The second half of the class seemed to go much more quickly. I became thoroughly absorbed in producing at least one decent drawing and was surprised to find that I had not yet glanced at anyone else’s work, nor had they at mine. The lady next to me was using rainbow pastels, from a stash in a box near her feet, and I admired the effect she had created with the small strokes of colour. Happy to remaster the pencil I set to work drawing the prone figure on the floor, paying particular attention to posture and proportions. The extremities provided the most challenge for me and I must have drawn her hands five or six times! I spent the time I had left at the end practising drawing the model’s feet.

The end of the session was as easy as the beginning. As the final timer sounded, Janet informed us that it was the end and we packed away. I complimented my neighbour on her work and rolled mine up to pop in my bag ready for the cycle ride home. I was pleased with my efforts but relieved we did not have to share them with the rest of the group as I had done back in my college days. Instead, I wandered around the cosy space to take a closer look at the Beeston Snappers’ photography exhibition, a series of photographs which have captured what were the old cottages in their derelict state before renovation.

What they have achieved with those cottages has to be seen to be believed. Retaining many of the original features, the rooms feel bright and spacious. With a café and gift shop downstairs and plenty of outdoor space, the centre invites you to stay a while and bathe yourself in calm. Perhaps it is its proximity to the canal but the air of tranquillity will certainly be pulling me back for a visit.

The Life Drawing Classes are currently running on Wednesday evening for two hours from 7:30 pm. There is no need to book and it is just £8 per session with refreshments and art materials provided.  Contact Canalside Heritage Centre by email via their website www. canalsideheritagecentre.org.uk, on Facebook or by phone on 0115 922 1773 for information about all of their classes and events.

The Lock Keeper’s Cottages Exhibition features the work of four different local photographers, Sara Gaynor, Lynne Norker, Jenny Langran, Catherine Smith and is on display until the end of August.

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DU

Beeston street art

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Street Art has become one of the ‘sights to see’ in many European cities. With exciting colours and raw energy it has been transforming urban landscapes for decades.

Since Keith Haring’s successful attempt to commercialise art on the streets, tired architecture and boring buildings have been given the wow factor all over the world, some in incredibly creative ways. In 2014 Google launched an online street art gallery to preserve many iconic images, which demonstrates the extent to which its popularity has grown, and how it has come to be recognised as an artform.

You may remember reading on the cover of Issue 51 about the creative discussions that one group of Beestonians were involved in about creating something ‘bright and beautiful’ to enhance the look of our town. According to an update from Jeanie O’Shea, who is one of those driving the project forward, the group have now met with John Delaney who is the Broxtowe estate manager in charge of Beeston Square and the head of planning, Phil Horsefield. Both have been encouraging and keen to listen to their creative proposals.

The artwork will incorporate some of Beeston’s best known characters and symbols of its heritage

There also happens to be budget available for the project and local councillors are making positive noises in their direction too. Montana Colours in Hockley are using their connections to acquire submissions from UK and International Street Artists that will then need approval to secure the funding. It has been suggested that the artwork will incorporate some of Beeston’s best known characters and symbols of its heritage and that it will compliment as well as enhance the current surroundings.

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It has been anticipated that the artwork will adorn the wall that extends behind ‘Birds’ and will be visible by people approaching Beeston interchange via Middle Street or Station Road.  With any luck it will cause visitors, or those passing through, to avert their eyes from the concrete and mud jungle that has been left behind since the demolition of the old bus station, whilst the ‘powers that be’ drag their heels in deciding what to do with it.

If everything goes to plan we should be looking at receiving our spray-painted masterpiece as part of a week-long festival next Spring.

Just watch that space!

DU

The Return to Handmade – Hipster Trend or Quiet Revolution?

If like me you like to buy unique presents for people at Christmas and prefer to shop locally, then you will have been more than aware of the vast number of ‘craft’ shopping opportunities that were available to us in Nottinghamshire this year. We may ask ourselves, at a time when goods are so easily mass produced all over the globe and readily transported to us in record time, why is there this steady uprise in the making and selling of handmade items? Has it become trendy to make your own or is it a result of the current economic downturn? Are we getting bored of the replicated products we see on all the shelves, in all the shops, and are instead striving for originality?  Or could it be that we are starting to value again the time and care that is spent on something that has been made from start to finish by one person’s skilful hands.

According to the UK Craft Council the consumption of craft has been on the increase for quite a number of years. Their 2010 study showed that 40% of the adults in their sample had purchased a craft object and 23% would consider buying craft. It also showed that the greatest demand was for contemporary  or ‘cutting edge’ craft with 97% of craft buyers supporting this market. It might be worth making the distinction at this point, between the different categories that handmade can be grouped into.

Craft

By definition, to ‘craft’ something is to make it with one’s own hands so this would appear to cover a wide range of objects. However, currently this seems to range from something you made impulsively out of card, with the kids on a wet Saturday afternoon, to the kind of objects d’art you might see at the acclaimed ‘Lustre’ exhibition which features at Lakeside Art Centre in November. In the Craft Council research the words ‘authenticity’, ‘quality’ ‘handmade’, ‘workmanship’ and ‘genuine’ were all attributed to the genre.

Contemporary Craft

Is the name we give to the work that is typically produced by graduates who have honed their skills academically and have created a business which involves making, marketing and selling their own pieces. We tend to look upon this as the ‘high end’ of the craft market and it would be most likely to be sold at larger handmade events, such as ‘Craft in the City’ in Waterstones, rather than the local church Christmas fair. It is this market that the Craft Council’s 2015 three year strategy supports, in their evaluation of craft trends and their impact on policy and practice.

Art

Always a tricky one this, and without getting into the ‘what is art?’ debate, we tend to attach this label to things that are made purely for their aesthetic value rather than their everyday use. Whereas craft objects tend to be created for their practical aspects and are often born out of a need for something that didn’t previously exist. Let’s take the tea cosy as a good honest utilitarian Nottingham example – you don’t want your tea to go cold whilst it’s mashin’ duck!

Creativity

So, do you need to be creative to be able to do crafts? Well, not entirely. Sometimes learning the steps to make something and being technically minded is all you need to produce a perfectly presented set of greetings cards or an origami animal. Natural creativity is generally more expressive and something that comes and goes. The creator can find themselves frustrated when an idea they had doesn’t quite work out the way they imagined it and this is often the artist’s nemesis. But without doubt, undertaking some kind of creative pursuit has been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on our well-being. It may be just about finding the one that suits you.

How creative is Beeston?

Very! There are many different groups of artists and makers networking and planning exhibitions as we speak. If you were lucky enough to visit last year’s ABC Arts Trail – twenty five artists at twelve venues – you will already be aware of the wealth of talent we have in Beeston and the surrounding areas.

In fact one Beestonian, Marysia Zipser, was so taken by the cultural and creative richness of this town she set up ACT (Art-Culture-Tourism)  in December 2013. According to her recent interview in the West Bridgford Wire, she is ‘on a mission to make Beeston the art and culture capital of the UK.’ Although she ran ACT voluntarily for the past three years, in May 2016 it became an official registered organisation.

On a smaller scale there are community craft groups currently running from Two Little Magpies, Beeston’s newest gift shop which houses a fantastic selection of locally produced cards, prints, textiles, jewellery and garments.  There is gallery space at Mish Mash on Chilwell’s Creative Corner as well as some of the local restaurants and tea rooms, and regular workshops at Artworks, Heidi’s Home Furnishings and The Fabric Place.

Connections are being made and friendships being forged and we are well on the way to having our own creative ‘hub’ where many of these creatives can share space and ideas and maybe make preparations for that ‘creative revolution.’

Facebook communities you can join: Creative Beeston, Sew Notts, Made in Beeston

For more information email itsinthebeehive@gmail.com

Beeston Parents

When I was four years old, I was a fantastic artist.

You could ask me to draw anything: real, imaginary, or a mix of the two, and I would just get on with it. I would use anything available that makes marks. Things like:

  • chewed-up biros – in those days they had a death cap on them that was a serious choking hazard. No strategically-placed airhole in the seventies;
  • stubby pock-marked crayons with or without the paper wrapping. It was a bonus if I could see what colour the crayon was meant to be;
  • felt tips – if they were dried up I would just lick the end;
  • broken pencil nibs. Not the pencil bit, just the broken-off bit. I did have very small hands all those years ago and could hold the 7mm length quite comfortably;
  • paint, with strange nylon brushes that always pointed out in a multitude of directions, so each line painted would come with an echo;
  • Plasticine – yes, it left greasy faint marks on the page;
  • Most shockingly, I found that matches had a lovely red bit on the end that I could draw with – not for long, and not without the pain of an important lesson on how not to use matches;
  • My Mum’s makeup – I loved lipstick.

Not only could I use an impressive range of media to make the marks, I could create my works of art almost anywhere:

  • The skirting board going up the stairs was brilliant. It went on and on, and I loved making a wiggly continuous line along it. It was a stunning landscape – mountains, valleys, hills, hummocks and some sheer cliff edges. It was enhanced by being on the diagonal, rising upwards.
  • My parents painted the living room a wonderful shade of lilac. I really loved sneaking in and making hand prints in the wet paint. My parents preserved the hand print art by hiding it behind the sofa. Not sure that they loved it as much as I did.
  • Steamed up windows – how could anybody resist drawing on those? It was extra special when there was ice too. It curved up beautifully in the corners, like a Victorian illustration, and added extra sensory crunch to my artistic creations. It was such fun to draw with my fingers in the condensation, leaving cold drips streaming from the trails I drew.
  • Paper – so many wonderful textures, colours, surfaces. I really liked to use the sugar paper at school. It was mysterious to me – we didn’t have anything like it at home. It was brightly-coloured, rough on one side and smooth as ice on the other. When I folded it the folds stood proud and didn’t dissolve back into the surface. It was even more fascinating to tear it and create rough, irregular frayed edges. I found the perfect combination of media when I was allowed to use pastels. Degas created masterpieces using just the pure pigment of pastels and his fingers. I’m off now to get some chalky, densely-pigmented pastels and some lovely, rough sugar paper. The children at nursery will love that.

But what happened? When did my unbridled joy in creating art and pictures turn into fear and embarrassment? Pablo Picasso said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

I strongly believe that when we draw for children, cut things out for them, give them colouring sheets and dotted lines, we chip away at their childish joy. The joy they feel in just drawing, painting, exploring, experimenting and creating. We are telling them that they are doing it wrong and that they cannot do it the right way. We are teaching them that a house has to be a square with a triangle for a roof and a door set smack bang in the middle of it.

To encourage our children to be creative, we have to let them be creative and create what they see, what they feel and what they can imagine. If they want to draw themselves as three times the height of your car, that’s fine. If they want to make a snowman with three eyes and two mouths – fine. Who says that snowmen have to look a certain way? If they want to put their hands in the paint and swirl all the colours together into one slurry, then slowly and systematically cover every square inch of the paper, or piece of foil, or box, with that colour, then fine.

Let them enjoy the process and learn how to make marks, how to enjoy making art and how to take pride in their work. There is plenty of time for them to conform when they are older and when they want to. Imagine if Degas had been told not to use his fingers and to stay within the lines.

Roopnam Carroll

 

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