Katie Anderson

Artist based in South West Scotland; interested in people, places, materials and collaborative practice.

Tag: Metal Casting

The Stories of Our Places are Hidden in the Collections We Make

Regular, or even occasional visitors to the Dumfries Hospital may have noticed a new addition in the ward areas in the past month. I was delighted to finally see the DGRI Collection Tables installed, following their completion by fabricators at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios (thanks Dave and Martyn). If you are about visiting an ill friend or relative, or are perhaps spending some time there yourself, have a look for the socialisation spaces in each ward, as nine of these contain one of our tables. There are also bonus points for anyone who spots the two tables out at Moffat and Stranraer community hospitals.

These are one of three commissions which I have been developing over the past two years for the new hospital, and comprises of a series of 11 coffee tables (nine of which are in the DGRI), filled with individual collections, filled with objects, found and gathered, and made specifically for the project.

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One of the tables in situ amongst a collection of odd NHS furniture and thank you cards

For this project I have worked with students from HNC and HND art classes at the Dumfries College, and young artists as part of blueprint100’s open workshops at the Stove. Students and artists were invited to create an object that reflected ideas of health and wellbeing, that could be a positive message for someone to spot whilst spending time staying in the hospital, or that reflected their experiences in Dumfries and Galloway. The found objects are a mixture of natural materials gathered from around the region, old postcards and curiosities linked to places around the region. We then hosted casting sessions in the Dock Park and outside in the College grounds making their objects in pewter.

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Inspiration from the Viking Hoard found in Galloway, during workshops with DG College students

I was really touched by the thoughtful and considerate approach students and artists made towards the project, and the love and care each person put into their objects. The concept of giving a gift of a positive message, or moment of distraction to a stranger who might be spending extended time in the hospital struck a serious chord with many of those participating. The generosity and creativity of everyone involved was very humbling, and a treasured part of the project.

The furniture itself was designed by Dress for the Weather and made by the GSS team from a coloured MDF material valchromat, which takes on a lovely soft and tactile finish when the medical varnish, Steriguard is applied to it.

The lettering in the casing is all hand painted, a copperplate font at a miniscule 12mm letter height, and will be etched on my brain forever.

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What is of real significance in projects like these however, is a more complex notion of ownership and association. Often, a little ‘community engagement’ is sought at the beginning of such large projects. ‘Could you just run a workshop with some key stakeholders to involve them in the project?’ This can be a great starting point. But the notions that this is the beginning, middle and end of ‘community’ involvement undermines the investment, and care of all of those involved. Whoever the community might be, in this case from staff and daily users, to patients, family and friends, and the wider community – almost all of whom will use these public spaces at various points in their life, to offer a tokenistic approach towards involving other people is insensitive and in the longterm, entirely un-useful to artworks.

Community engagement is not an afterthought.

For me as an artist, whenever I involve others in my work, by invitation, direct collaborative working, conversations in passing, or any other form, these people are then welcome to be a part of the ‘artist’ role, they too are invited to have a share of the ownership of the work, and to share in the journey of the works life. This is of course, not a requirement, but is open as a means of us creating a more meaningful artwork collectively.

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Token inspired by the histories of Lincluden and Lochside, created by Jimmy Russell

Over 60 people contributed unique works for the DGRI collection cabinets. I hope that everyone who has contributed a piece to the collection cabinets will have the chance to seek out their own contributions within the hospital, and share their individual stories. The tables hope to be there for the foreseeable future as a record of our moment of shared collaborative practice.

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Installation in progress

Ours is a transient community. But it would be disingenuous to claim credit for anyone else within this. I’m still hoping to get some form of permanent marking to tell the stories of those involved in contributing to the project, although unfortunately I don’t have a complete list of names.

Sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to the work, without you all it wouldn’t have been the success it has become.

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Stag’s head by Isla Gracie

Special thanks to Jo Shennan, who leads the art courses at DG College. Thanks also to the blueprint100 team, and Matthew and Sophie for their support with leading the workshops, and the Stove for ongoing use of the Pedal Powered Foundry.

Intensive Bronze adventures

I’ve spent a while looking for the right course to spend a bit of time focusing my work work and technical approach this year. Looking to develop my own practice generally, as well as working towards completing a couple of current works in progress, I eventually spotted the Scottish Sculpture Workshop’s Intensive Bronze course – and remembered Eden Jolly, course leader and technician extraordinaire telling me how great a week it was. It really was.

I’ve done a wee bit of bronze casting before, and arrived with a long list of things to test and explore. I managed to narrow it down a little for the practicalities of a five day course..(!)

Test 1: I’ve been working on a series of woven bark and basket-styled objects – as samples  for a bigger project on a larger scale. Quick and rushed plaster mould to wax and then through the ceramic shell lost wax process.

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Complete pain to get a decent moulding of, and lost the detailing on the reverse – mostly due to the size and scale I was working at, and a bit of uneven filling during the pour which has lost some of the definition at the end points.

Test 2: I’ve been working on some clockwork pieces for a while, making cogs and pinions in ply, but thought they might be a bit more interesting moved into bronze, at least in some parts of the clockwork. These weren’t very perfect to start with even in ply, and going through an organic burn out process was pretty interesting – directly coating the ply pieces in ceramic shell material before burning out the ply pieces in their entirety.

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These needed the most finishing post casting, and are still a bit rough and ready, as they lost a little detail in the teeth during the pour but pretty lovely clunky things. Now excited to keep working on the clockwork pieces to incorporate these (and work around the shrinkage of the pinions as they have gone through this process).

Test 3: Surface pattern. I’ve done a wee bit of ceramic shell casting before, but really wanted to learn a bit more about sand casting as a potentially more accessible route for developing the Stove’s Pedal Powered Foundry for use at home and locally with new workshops. I’ve had these moulds from a series of casts of the Solway shore for a while, but lately I’ve been developing an urge to redevelop them into a beautiful piece as the original moulds never really got that far.

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Beautiful sand mould surface texture. Suitably sandy for the solway shore. (Note the odd bump to the design due to my clumsy temporary plasticine centre)

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Basically, everything is better once it has been set on fire.

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Patina’s especially.

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Sort of listening, sort of not listening about the ‘don’t use that wax, it’s too dark a colour’. Really useful stuff. Might’ve also used a bit much, but it has settled down a wee bit.

Plus, my biggest metal pour yet, here Maria and Margret pour out the unused bronze ready for casting another time in the second pour of the week.

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Major thank you to Eden and Uist for all the technical support, information and giggles, Annie at the office for being awesome and superbly helpful, and lots of love to my new casting pals for an excellent, laughter-filled week. SSW is an amazing place.

Also, I’m back in the ITSA (Table Squennis) website’s trading cards collection… (Goldy Trumpet features here) I plan to learn the rules on my next trip up North.

My attendance on the course was supported by the South of Scotland Visual Artist and Craft Maker Awards funded by Creative Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Live Borders. This is a really amazing award and fund, if you are an artist or craft maker based in Dumfries and Galloway or the Borders, you can apply for the second round of the 2017-18 scheme, the deadline for which will be in February 2018. Full details available online here

Casting in progress

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Have paired up with blueprint100 to kick some work creating a collection for the new DGRI, due to open at the end of the year. Working with several different groups across the region, I am hoping to build up a collection of curiosities; small objects and ephemera, that can create conversation and distraction within some of the spaces in the new hospital.

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blueprint100 are the first group I have worked with on this project, but hoping to connect with several others to make up all of the work required over the next couple of months. The objects are all being created using the Stove’s Pedal Powered Foundry – a unique and quirky kit that can enable small scale metal castings in a variety of metals and using a variety of processes.

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The blueprint100 sessions fell neatly into two parts, the first in the studio, the second down on the Mill Green in blazing sunshine.

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Above, Agné’s tree, and below Jimmy’s Lochside and Lincluden crest.

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Thank you to everyone who donated a piece towards the collection, and the blueprint100 team for their support. Also thanks to Sophie for being my helpful assistant throughout both workshops. More workshops and objects coming soon!