Coming next to Oriel Davies

Let’s travel back in time and have a look at the 14 year old version of me. She’d just dropped Art and opted for all the Sciences for GCSE in school, and was travelling on a completely different path than the current version of me. The young me hated the thought of having to create stuff to a deadline and was petrified of not being able to create, or draw, things perfectly when she needed to. She found writing a few lines in a Science exam much more preferable option. She hated anything to do with computers and was totally technophobic. She rebelled against it all by doing Science and Maths. It was far easier to get good grades with just a pen and paper in the science lab than rely on creativity to order, or those weird new-fangled computer things.

Fast forward a billion years to today and I’m still inclined to take the lazy option given the choice. I still fear drawing to order, and the language of computers fills me with dread but I’ve learned how to work around it all. Using photography as a means of expression has given me a new outlet that just wasn’t available back when I was in school. I can finally be creative without the hours of frustration at trying to get my hands to do what my mind sees. I can use photography to enhance what I feel the need to create and I’m more confident in experimenting in other creative fields as a result.

Digital photography as a research tool is liberating too. Collecting source material as inspiration is so easy with cameras on mobile phones. Having the best cameras in your pocket and within easy reach ticks every lazy box going. The cycle of being able to see, photograph, delete, retry, and succeed is so fast and natural that it removes any slow-burning frustration the younger version of me felt about Art.

The instant gratification of knowing that what you’ve created feels good is a great boost to health and well-being too. A lot of the community courses I run have the idea of using photography as a confidence building tool at their core. I’m always thinking of digital cameras as conduits to a good feeling, rather than scary technical devices.

So when NAWR Arts and Education Network asked me to provide a professional learning opportunity aimed at Art teachers I jumped at the chance. I’ve created a package of ideas for i-Pads using PS Express which are easy to learn and even easier to implement. On June 21st I’ll be at Oriel Davies in Newtown, Powys sharing exercises I’ve developed for use in the classroom. I’ve made sure that they’re appropriate for a range of skills and abilities and can be used by anyone… especially the technophobic, atelodemiourgiopapyrophobic* younger version of me.

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*atelodemiourgiopapyrophobia is the fear of imperfect creativity on paper.

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Finders Keepers

I’ve always wondered about snails since I was small. The fascination with these spiral treasures is something which never gets old. Even now I find myself on a warm, damp night looking for snails and wondering about their habits and behaviours. The lifecycle of a snail can be studied and quantified but what of the afterlife? Do snails believe in reincarnation? What could they transform into once they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil? Is there a ghost in the shell?

I’ve reworked the insides of found snail shells and imagined what fantasies could be within. Inspiration comes from looking at other transformations in the animal world such as moths and butterflies where vivid colours emerge from an empty brown husk.

I’ve created ten sculptures and photographed them whilst on residency at The Workers Gallery in Wales. Snails spend much of their life hiding to avoid predators so I’ve installed these works in secret so that even the gallery owners have been in the dark about where each Finders Keepers sculpture can be found. Hunting and finding is the nature of the game for each snail in this imagined afterlife, just as it was for each snail when it was alive. Each found sculpture is there to be kept by the finder. I have no idea whether this will be the gallery owners themselves or visitors to the gallery over the coming weeks. My resposibility has been to assist the snail in passing from this life into their reincarnated existence. What happens now is up to whomever finds these artworks.

The photographs have a potential all of their own. I’m considering framed prints but I would want each print to be unique; just as each Finders Keepers is unique.

The Workers Gallery can be found at 99 Ynyshir Road, Ynyshir, Rhondda CF39 0EN
Opening times: Thursday to Saturday 11am – 4:30pm.
Finders Keepers snails can be found there until they’re found!

Talented Taibach

Today has been our last visit to Ysgol Hendrefelin in Taibach, Port Talbot. The aim of Consider Yourself  has been to challenge students at the school to think of different ways to express themselves whilst working closely with the local environment. Our student* was given the task of trying to outdo himself and create images better than the previous three weeks. We demanded beautiful clean ambitious images suitable for a magazine or advertising. We wanted pictures that could hold their own in reception areas in important venues. Above all, we wanted our participant to be over the moon about what he had achieved over the course.

Our beginner has already shown that he’s got a natural aptitude for photography and I hope he continues to use his new-found skills in the future. It’s been a real pleasure to work at Ysgol Hendrefelin. I really hope we can go back soon and help another talented young person to realise their creative potential.

*Small class, big ambitions!

Movement and Chance

Over at Ysgol Hendrefelin this afternoon in Port Talbot and we’ve been exploring ideas on chance photography. Using a set of rules and a dice our photographs were dictated by where our feet ended up at any particular moment. Being inventive with what you have means it ‘s a real challenge to get something good but it really does make you investigate more closely what you have around you.

Being resourceful with what you have is the name of the game. Looking for that one perfect photograph was the next task. We thought back to the early days of photography and imagined what it would be like to have only one shot left on a roll of film. How do you make that shot count? Well we found a way and the results here really speak for themselves.

Nest week who knows what we’ll find. It’s going to be really hard to top the standard of this week’s photographs.

Today’s ASDES World Premiere

ASDES have been holding their 5th Annual Autism Day at Tapestri, Swansea. It’s been a day of talks and discussions about how best to understand and support people with autism. Parents, carers, professionals, and people with diagnosis got together and shared best practice and great experiences.

We ended the day with the world premier of the film Animated ASDES. This film was the culmination of a month long project in which we worked on ways to enable our ASDES ambassadors to get their voices heard. We recorded messages to employers with ideas on how to get the best out of people with autism when they reach interview. ASDES works closely with individuals to ensure that they’re best supported when entering the workplace so it was important we got the message right.

The Animated ASDES film was received well by everyone today and it will now go on to represent the charity in the best possible way. It’s great working with such smart, funny, animated, intelligent, articulate, caring people who deserve to be listened to. This project which has been funded by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

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Let’s Dance

We’ve been working with Ysgol Hendrefelin School in Port Talbot to enhance their creativity curriculum. Students here are full of expression and individuality. The school’s approach is very much tailored to that of the individual so it’s great to be paired up with a student who knows what he likes.

After looking at a few ideas on selfies we let our participant loose with the camera to show us his moves. We discussed how the camera can make you feel strong and empower you to share your best side. Selfies are all about control over your own image, your own dreams, and your own abilities. Let’s dance…

Working with who you are

We’re working with a school in Port Talbot on Mondays for the next four weeks to improve their creative skills. Expression and creativity is a massive part of the school curriculum which helps young people develop who they are, and better explain how they see the world. Rather than imposing our ideas, or a framework for creative learning, on our participants we’re including their ideas and adaptations from the get go. We’re working with who they are and what interests them so that we can help them to take their skills into an area that suits them.

We’re very lucky that our participants are able to work with us on a one to one basis. This means that we can tailor make what they need very quickly. They have already said that their influences include Pablo Picasso, music from the 1950s and 1960s, Andy Warhol, and graffiti. These teens really have a diverse and interesting palette and it’sreally exciting for us to see what they’re creating. Some of the photographs our participants are taking will help them to enhance their GCSE portfolios. If this is week 1 I can’t wait to see what they’ll produce next week!