Guest blog by Sarah Longfield, all about our new project.
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Arts Award is a series of qualifications for children and young people accredited by Trinity College London. Heritage is very much seen as part of the arts world and young people can focus on any traditional craft or more broadly heritage based creative roles, such as curating as part of their Arts Award Portfolio.
To date, there have not been many heritage organisations in Scotland taking up Arts Award. However, at the Museum Association Conference at the SEC last Autumn, we were blown away by the amount of interest in the awards and by the open friendliness of all the creative learning professionals we encountered.
So, we decided the best way to promote Arts Award’s potential in the heritage sector was to put our money where our mouth is and go out there and deliver a fabulous project. We found Jackie at Scran who was enthusiastic about working in collaboration and also hooked up with Fiona from Scotland’s Urban Past. From there we talked with lots of partners in Stirling, including The Stirling Smith Museum & Art Gallery, The Engine Shed, St.Modan’s High School, Stirling Castle, Forth Valley College, Culture Stirling and the project started to take shape.
At the beginning of this month, we heard we had got a grant from Heritage Lottery’s Young Roots fund so we’re now getting ready to launch!
So what is the project?
To start with, a group of around fifteen 15-25 year olds will come together to use the heritage of Stirling as inspiration and resource for a Silver Arts Award.
Silver Arts Award encourages young people to develop their artistic practice (any art form), delve further into the world of the arts in the locality and to work together on a leadership project.
The group will have the opportunity to work with a range of artists and heritage experts including the outreach team at Scotland’s Urban Past and take part in a traditional arts workshop at the Engine Shed.
Then, next April, the group’s leadership project will be to devise a creative virtual and/or physical heritage trail for other young people. This trail will involve arts activity, discovering artists and some way for those taking part to share what they have created/discovered. All young people who have completed the trail will receive a Discover Arts Award.
The young people will chart their progress in a digital Arts Award portfolio, culminating in achieving the Silver (equivalent to level 5 on the SCQF). More details on the awards can be found at www.artsaward.co.uk or for Scottish specific case studies: www.seethinkmake.co.uk
Images © National Library of Scotland & University of St Andrews Library Collections | Licensor Scran
John Duncan was born in Dundee in 1866, and began his career at the Art School at the age of 11. He went to London and Germany and spent four years as Professor of Fine Art in America. It has been said of some of Duncan’s work that it is “transportation from the land of fairy fancy“.
Duncan was one of the most eclectic and idiosyncratic Scottish artists associated with the Celtic Revival movement which encompassed both visual arts and literature during the 1890s and in Edinburgh derived its guiding inspiration from the philosophy and aesthetics of Sir Patrick Geddes. Duncan believed that art would and should play a part in shaping national identity.
Steeped in the study of early Italian fresco painting, Duncan familiarised himself with experimental techniques of tempera then widely practised by his own contemporaries among the mural painters of France. He amalgamated the flattened linear forms of the Renaissance and the modern tradition with the spirals and interlaces of Celtic design to create a distinctive style which was deliberately dreamlike and otherworldly.
Although known for his painting & illustration he is also responsible for the Witches Well at the Esplanade, Edinburgh Castle. This ornately designed bronze well was made in 1896 and erected in 1912, following a suggestion by Patrick Geddes. It commemorates the witches and warlocks who were burned at the stake on the Castle Hill from 1479 to 1722. It is believed that no fewer than 300 were dragged up to the spot, tied to a stake, and burnt.
The plaque inscription reads: ” This fountain, designed by John Duncan, RSA is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and the serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes, while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and wisdom. The foxglove spray further emphasise the dual purpose of common objects.”
He died in Edinburgh in 1945.
Image © National Galleries of Scotland, Mike Small, Estate of John Duncan, Historic Environment Scotland | Licensor Scran
Following on from our engagement work discovering Jolomo, there was whole-school learning through the visual arts in both Dunbarney & Abernethy Primary Schools – it could be said there was a hive of artistic activity. So, let’s have a look at some distinctly Scottish outcomes.
P1/2 – got to grips with all aspects of tartan, weaving & some Katie Morag for good measure
P4 – carefully considered and constructed a targe each to carry into battle
P5 – created treasures inspired by Mary Queen of Scots through jewellery design & feltmaking
All of this fantastic artwork was celebrated in an exhibition Inspired by Scotland, visited by family & friends over the course of several days. Pupils also performed song, dance & poetry in an expressive arts event, drawing the whole project to it’s conclusion. Finally Scran would like to congratulate the staff & pupils on a job well done!
Images © National Museums Scotland, Blairs Museum, James Gardiner | Licensor Scran
Last month we told you about Scran working with Art & Design in Perth & Kinross, well here’s some of what we got up with Primary 7, in Bridge of Earn. Armed with a mobile art studio, laden with materials the class found inspiration in the work of Jolomo.
Through a series of research tasks and group conversations the class got to grips with heaps of visual and contextual information from Scran. They expanded their visual literacy skills, extended their vocabulary with such terms as impasto and gained a new appreciation of Scottish Art.
To deepen this understanding the pupils then created their very own paintings influenced by the techniques used by Jolomo. The class had gone walk about with their cameras to capture the local landscape using photography. Their pictures were then used for each individual composition on canvas.
The pupils were able to explore using new materials such as texture medium to build up the surface of their work. Next they considered the vibrant palette and colours often used by Jolomo and mixed similarly lively hues for their own landscapes.
The culmination of the P7s’ hard work & focused learning was a whole-school exhibition Inspired by Scotland, which not only included these great paintings but all sorts of arts activity – but more about that later…
Meanwhile over in Abernethy, Primary 7 were busy exploring their locality through Jolomo as well! They got creative with their texture too, adding in mixed media & all sorts, to create impressive effects too.
This term in Perth & Kinross, two schools are working in partnership with Scran to focus on Expressive Arts. Both Abernethy Primary School & Dunbarney Primary School are taking a whole school approach to teaching Art & Design.
Before Christmas staff came together for the project brief. The challenge was to come up with common schemes of work for each year group, across both schools. Below are the topics each year group is investigating at present;
- P1/2 – all aspects of tartan & weaving
- P2/3 – Roman life & collage
- P4 – Wallace & Bruce through targe construction
- P5 – Mary Queen of Scots through jewellery & feltmaking
- P6 – Burns by drawing & painting portrait work
- P7 – Scottish Landscapes looking at Jolomo
As well as these Studying Scotland themes, classes will be identifying opportunities for IDL. Significant aspects of learning and progression pathways are being addressed throughout the teaching & learning activities which are currently underway. This area for development is set to conclude during mid February, when both schools will exhibit the pupil outcomes, inviting parents to come in to celebrate the pupils’ achievement.
Christmas greetings cards have become a regular feature of the traditional British Christmas with billions changing hands within the UK each year, but where did this tradition begin and why did it continue to thrive?
The first Christmas card is thought to have been designed by British artist John Calcott Horsley in 1840. With the invention of the telephone still over 30 years away, sending hand-written letters by mail was the primary means of communication. Faced with the tedious task of writing to all his friends and family members with Christmas greetings, a friend of Horsley, civil servant Henry Cole, conceived the idea of a printed card bearing a suitable message which could be signed and sent to one and all. Horsley embraced the idea and produced a design which was published in 1843. Cole had 1000 of the cards printed and placed on sale at the rather princely sum of 1 shilling each. Little did he realise just how popular his idea would become!
Times have changed since Henry Cole’s moment of inspired laziness: mail is no longer the mainstay of communication. The telephone network has joined up the remotest corners of the world and the cheap, paperless, instantaneous communication afforded by e-mail has threatened to make ‘snail mail’ altogether obsolete. The Christmas card, however, goes marching on, and in no small way.
We are still crazy enough about Christmas cards to cause enormous disruption to the postal system every December. This year, postboxes will be stuffed with an estimated 2 billion cards and on the busiest day the national mailbag will contain almost double its usual 84 million items. Such is the congestion that Royal Mail recommend posting second class seasonal dispatches 8 days in advance to guarantee arrival in time for the big day.
Two billion cards amounts to a lot of paper and a lot of spending. Many consumers are now looking for more conscientious ways to enjoy the tradition. Each year, around a quarter of shoppers will choose charity cards in the hope that good causes can benefit from their seasonal spending. However, the percentage of proceeds finding their way to good causes varies widely. Research by the Charities Advisory Trust suggests that some charity cards are just not all that charitable after all: the most miserly example they uncovered passed only 0.3% of proceeds to the named good cause. Others will aim for a more ethical celebration by boycotting Christmas cards altogether, feeling that their seasonal goodwill is better expressed by not contributing to the tonnes of paper waste generated from cards each year.
‘Tis the Season to Recycle?
Christianity back into Christmas?
Horsley’s original card had its opponents too, but for different reasons. It bore an image of a family raising their glasses to Christmas which incited fury amongst Puritans of the time. In what was still very much a Christian state the uproar was caused by the association of the evils of alcohol with the sanctity of the feast of Christmas. It is interesting to note that, while scenes of the Nativity and other connected imagery went on to become regular features in the design of Christmas cards, the genuine article was quite secular in its design.
Controversy about the presence or absence of Christianity in Christmas traditions rages in Britain to this day with many Christians bemoaning the seeming transformation of the feast from a religious event into an orgy of consumerism. Others would praise the fact that in our modern British society, one characterized by a far more diverse range of religion and cultural traditions than the Victorians would have recognised, the goodwill of Christmas is now often shared across faiths and cultures. The disagreement reaches beyond the UK too. In 2005 the president of the USA received angry feedback about the official White House Christmas card: the secular design of the card horrified some recipients (it featured two of the head of state’s pet dogs frolicking in the snow on the White House Lawn).
Question of Taste
The official White House card illustrates how the sending of Christmas cards has become protocol in the USA. The same is true in Britain: businesses are careful not forget their customers, and refuse collectors all over the country will receive cards from perfect strangers during the season. Is a Christmas card from the paperboy evidence of lasting Christmas spirit or just a hint that a tip might be in order?
A wide variety of designs have evolved to suit these myriad purposes. Horsley’s original design showed a scene of Christmas cheer. Cards like this are still popular, alongside Nativity scenes and informal cartoons. When the Christmas card was still a relatively new idea the Victorians became very fond of elaborately engineered pop-up and trick cards. Nowadays, hand-making cards is a popular hobby and parents everywhere are still best pleased with the lovingly prepared designs in glitter and glue brought home by their sticky-fingered schoolchildren.
What makes a good Christmas card? Can a piece of stationery really embody the Christmas spirit? Why not try making a Scran card to find out? Search for an image and click Create to make a greetings card in a few easy steps and see if you can make someone’s Christmas!
Images © Scottish Life Archive, The Scotsman Publications Ltd | Licensor Scran
Thursday 17th September 2015. Today was a hands-on day. In the morning we journeyed 25 minutes north east of Lefkara, to the small village of Kornos. Here we were greeted by the wonderful, women of the pottery cooperative. They provided us with a demonstration of their pot making techniques and the opportunity to make our own using the rich red terracotta clay. Coffee was served and through translation we exchanged lots of information. The unprocessed clay sat in mound by the side of the road which I found curious, so I enquired about it’s preparation, as it is heavy work. A tour of the clay mill & machinery ensued and it was explained that a local man helped with this. We looked around the store room full of fired pots in all shapes and sizes, from bee hives to cooking pots. We saw their working electric kiln. There was also an unmissable 200 year-old, brick-built, wood-fired kiln – a thing of beauty in need of restoration, which is planned. Another more dilapidated kiln sat crumbling behind the main building, seemingly beyond repair.
The shop also served as a make shift museum, displaying photographs of the potters throughout the 20th Century when it was a much larger concern, employing many more villagers and supporting more families. Today there are no young people joining the Kornos pottery or learning the skills, so it’s long term future is uncertain.
The pottery workshop facilities were very basic, partially in the open air. As we were working it struck me, the pace at which the potter’s could complete an entire pot was hastened because of the warmer climate allowed the clay to firm up much quicker than the UK. Paired with their perfectly honed building skills, the potters could produce a complete decorated piece in under an hour, to await firing in the kiln.
I also asked about the potters’ health, if anyone suffered from chest complaints from the clay dust, which can cause silicosis, they all shook their heads. The workshop had no extraction system, which is mandatory for health & safety in the UK. Then again, the workspace was open and ventilated by nature. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my pot making skills as well as meeting these great people.
In the afternoon we returned to Lefkara clutching our unfired earthenware. It was time to apply more dexterity and attempt some Lefkara lace making. Panayiota was our patient teacher and she started us off by showing the margarite pattern. This geometric design requires precision embroidery, good eyesight for counting warp & weft threads and for a beginner, vast amounts of concentration. The instructions made perfect sense but putting it into practice was another matter. The lesson made us all appreciate Lefkaritika that wee bit more.
Imagery © J.Sangster
Wednesday 16th September 2015. Up early for our road trip we started for the coastal town of Limassol, ready for another day to find out about Cypriot culture.
Our first destination was the wonderful Mosaic Collective run by Soula Christou, a truly inspiring woman. The Collective design, create and sell contemporary mosaics across Cyprus and internationally. Their artwork is innovative and work is carried out in both two and three dimensions.
Clients commission the mosaic for domestic settings as well as commercial purposes such as hotels. Soula spoke with passion about her art and with real enthusiasm for life, leaving us all feeling upbeat as we left her studio.
The group had a brief interlude and wandered the narrow streets of old town Lemesos, where we came upon an outlet for the Cyprus Handicraft Service. Part of the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, the Service advocates the preservation of folk art as part of Cypriot cultural heritage and aims to perpetuate folk art as part of Cypriot historical and national identity. What a find! Inside we found a various traditional crafts, including of course Lefkara lace as we had encountered the previous day. However here there was evidence of design innovation, for example one potter had made plates with Lefkara lace imprinted into the surface. The result was simple yet effective, aesthetically pleasing and contemporary. The shop only stocked & sold Cypriot made craft, pricing ranged from affordable to expensive. It’s a shame it is tucked away from the main streets where it would perhaps have more footfall & custom.
We drove out of Limassol, along by Akrotiri. There is a large Royal Air Force station here, so the sky had plenty of military air traffic. Here was another inescapable dimension to Cypriot life, the British military presence.
The afternoon was spent on site, firstly visiting the ancient archaeological site of Kourion. We were able to view staggering Roman mosaics in the House of Achilles, which are protected from the elements under huge canopies. We made direct comparisons with the Mosaic Collective and appreciated the longevity of the medium and it’s ability to tell stories. The whole site was huge and included a cliff top auditorium, classical architectural details littered the area – a brilliant place. I got carried away photographing the ionic capitals in particular. As well as all the perfectly carved stone, the exposed structures of under-floor heating were made from stacked ceramic discs and blocks. Coming from a ceramics trained background, I am always drawn to such functional use of clay, not to mention the Roman drainage system & sewers. We completed our itinerary for the day at The Temple of Hylates.
Imagery © J.Sangster
You may have read about our collaborative school activity at Killermont Primary School, in Bearsden? This 6 metre long frieze is the result of P6’s hard work & creative flair.
After thinking about the work of Willie Rodger, individual figures were printed by each pupil. These silhouettes represent Bearsden commuters, dashing to and from the railway station. Next, the class cut up pictures of local housing built following the arrival of the railway in 1863 – bringing businessmen & prosperity to New Kilpatrick. Finally, the local buildings & commuters were collaged together.
The class proved to be highly successful art detectives too – at home they researched the artist Willie Rodger using Scran. They shared their findings in class the following day. Astute observations were made & we discovered plenty of visual clues hidden in the imagery.