Katie Anderson

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

Tag: The Stove Network

The Art of Sign Writing

At the end of last year, I took part in a series of workshops that laid the foundations for the Dumfries Women’s Signwriting Squad, a fledgling team based in the town with a collective love of the hand painted word. (Follow us on instagram, here)

My interest in hand lettering and sign painting has been developing over a period of about four years; it grew from a collective ambition within the Stove Network to impact on, and start a visual communication with, the High Street.

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Taking the time, taking care and learning the basics of a beautifully sophisticated craft, allows us to change the look, and then the feel and the attitude towards our town centre space. It set’s us apart from the chains and larger businesses, allows us to act playfully, quickly, responsive to new ideas and changing seasons, and to ‘refresh’ as often as we like.

As an artist working predominantly in object based or installation practice, this element of two dimensional craft/skill fit’s into a sort of awkward space with my other work, but the physical act of making/painting has a lot of similarities, and the end goal – to interact with the space and those who pass by, live and frequent the space. This is a craft that is built on a long-learned skill set, and once you begin you only continue to realise what you do not yet know.

The more you look the more you learn.

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The first signs we made were provocations – questions, hints, instructions, demands – that broke with the generally accepted language of signs into an ‘other’ category, this is not a shop called ‘in//between’, or a cafe called ‘DOWNTURN?’, a hidden sign in plain view that instructs the reader to ‘play’ in the close, ‘blether’ outside the vacant building or ‘laugh’ by the flowerpot – these signs are outwith the rules we expect our public spaces to play by.

However, increasingly the signs I take on look less like ‘art’ signs, and more in the vein of traditional signs – signs that communicate the business, indicate to open the door, cafe menus or opening times. These might look to muddy the waters of ‘signs as art’, but form an interesting example of where the artist can begin to infiltrate the language of the town centre – next level in. By opening up the invitation to work alongside business owners, we allow the dialogue about the visual language of our town centres to grow.

Many businesses aspire towards an ethos of care, quality and distinctive identity that is easily lost amongst the faster paced design and print options available, particularly when so many businesses are working to tight budgets. By creating opportunities for artists to work directly for businesses in this way, we can look to gradually impact the town centre, in collaboration with other users in a much more homegrown and grass roots approach. In other countries across Europe, many town centres have retained an identity, a sense of independence and unique offer provided by the local businesses, that is less apparent in many parts of Scotland.

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The further I delve into the world of sign writing and lettering art, the more it becomes clear that my ambition is not to become a full bells-and-whistles sign writer: the level of skill required, the depth of knowledge of design, both digital and by hand, and the finesse of detail goes beyond my level of interest. But by introducing the hand lettered approach, I hope to create more space for the dialogue to begin.

Dumfries already has a vast collection of A-frames and temporary signs vying for space of the High Street, ranging from the beautifully considered to barely legible scribbles, and the competition for blackboard space continues – I’d definitely love to see some more hand painted signs appearing about the town.

 

Art in Public [Space]

The label public art brings out a wide range of responses from people. Large scale commemorative bronze statues of colonial figures come to mind for many, gentrification and urban development art-washing, permanence, concrete elephants, community murals and ideas set in stone. It’s still deeply unfashionable within the art community, having met lots of people who give surprised looks at any genuine interest in the subject.

There is enough cause for much of this – there is plenty of ill-conceived art dotted about the place, without care and attention this is an area that can grow anything from apathy to division, alienating people from their environments.

But enough of the negativity – public art also has the ability to allow people to impact on their surroundings, have a say in how space is used, take back control and question for who and what are public spaces designed?

I began a series of open ended conversations, with a variety of interesting people working across art in public space in a variety of ways. Common topics started to emerge: environmental art, land art, art and healthcare, climate change, playful approaches to public art, residencies, outsider art, community art, David Harding and the Glasgow School of Art’s Environmental Art course, the Artist Placement Group, the Scottish Town Artists, architecture, education, contemporary land issues, collaboration, instagram and permission.

Conversations were held in artists studios, out in the landscape, in busy coffee shops and quiet offices. Although some similarities appeared, each conversation was unique, reflecting the broad approach of artists, architects and designers to the subject. Permanence falters, but isn’t lost. The identity of the artist blurs, but doesn’t entirely vanish. The support networks to make new work happen continue to change and adapt with the current climates.

As the project developed, we continued to add more voices, in the form of open platform discussions, and an artists booth on the High Street asking Who is it For? Who Decides?

Hopefully, this is just the beginning. You can hear some of the recorded conversations online, Part One here and Part Two here. You can download our map or permanent art works in Dumfries here. And read more about the project here.

Special thank you to everyone who participated and joined in the conversation, and to all the artists who were willing to be recorded for the project. All image credits to Kirstin McEwan.

Art in Public [Space]

I’ve spent the past two months, curating/creating a new exhibition exploring art in public in all of it’s different forms. The exhibition runs for just a week in The Stove, but forms part of a month of activity, including film screenings, discussions and pop up events in the town centre.

The exhibition comprises of a sound installation, featuring extracts of conversation with seven different creative people who are approaching art in public space in very different manners, from architects to sign lettering artists, environmental artists to sculptors and discussing everything from performance, the history of public art, community art, the inspirations and challenges behind making work within a public realm.

We’ve also produced a map of permanent artworks in the town centre which you can pick up from the Stove.

Special thanks to everyone who took the time to have a conversation with me.

Join in! Check out www.thestove.org/events for further details. #ArtInPublicSpace #ConversingBuilding
This is part of A Year of Conversation, a series of events and conversations happening across Scotland in 2019. Find out more online #AYOC2019.

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Creative Practice as a means of Problem Solving

I was recently asked to give a talk about starting out an art practice in Dumfries and Galloway, to a group of young artists – blueprint100 at the Stove. I’ve learned to avoid these experiences as I am usually far more coherent when written down than when speaking in front of an audience.. but the timing seemed good. Having just completed four major commissions in the past two years, and been living the full time artist dream for six years, I took the talk as an opportunity to reflect and gather my thoughts on the past few whirlwind years.

Since art school, I have kept to the idea that I will not focus on one material or craft, but on applying the right approach to each project as it appears. That said, I have a strong connection to process and material – although many of my projects are more ephemeral in content, I always yearn to include a method, a craft or skill, a process of making, into my work. This can be communal, collective or on my own, or all of these.

In the quest to understand my own directions, I have become increasingly focused on the idea of creative practice as a means of problem solving; that artists and creative people can apply an open approach, a methodology, a sensitivity and awareness towards challenges and difficult concepts that can open up alternative ways of thinking and tackling problems. Not that artists can solve all your problems, but can be part of a wider social dialogue to open up alternatives. What does that mean? What does it look like?

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PARKing Space. Collaborative project with The Stove Network in October 2014 including work from Mark Lyken and Emma Dove, Mutual Motion, John Wallace and Colin Tennant, Alice Francis, Open Jar Collective and many more besides!

For me it looks like a lot of different things. Each of them as much a part of my practice as the others, although some of them not traditionally seen as ‘art’. (No surprises there then!) I decided to try and map my practice. That map currently looks a bit like this:

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The web could be knitted a bit tighter, but for simplicity this will stand. Collective working runs through all of this, I talk about this a lot at other points, but for now, when I talk about my practice – I mean both collective and individual working. (And rarely is any of my work truly ‘individual’ – everything we do is built upon networks and  communities.)

The different elements of my work are now starting to fall into two predominant categories: Process and Narrative, and Curation and Gathering.

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Collaborative project with The Stove Network in September 2014 (a vintage year), featuring spoons created by Uula Jero and I, jam and charcoal workshops with Phoebe Marshall, spoon effigies, Alice Francis’ long distance ride, and the Secret Ministry amongst others.

Process and Narrative

My love of process and making is born out of a compulsion to fidget, model, construct – to figure out and learn through forming and deconstructing. Process is not just something I do alone in the studio though, process also plays a strong role in any collective or communal working – as a means to keep hands busy, to draw in, to create pause and gathering for people to share, learn and exchange over. None of this is abstracted. All process is about forming a narrative – about the places we occupy, about our current situation and environments. It draws ideas and methods from the past and present, and allows us to re-write them in the present and the future.

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Tattiefields collaborative project with The Stove Network and Lochside community in 2017.

Curation and Gathering

This is making, but on a bigger scale. Making space for, or creating place – place-making if you like – for people to gather and spend time. Creating activity and energy in a space allows us to work collectively with a much larger group of people, it opens up the invitation to interact to a wider audience and creates the space for change to happen within, and beyond. Taking the time to consider how we interact and move around spaces, considering the invitation, the entrance, the flow of people and activity. This is the part where I am most regularly asked, ‘but how is your real artwork doing?’ This is the real artwork. I create this with the same authenticity, the same drive and focus and consideration as I create all of my artworks. This is just focused on allowing the best opportunity for people to connect. This is my artistic contribution to a wider collaborative project.

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Tattiefields launch in September 2018, contributions from others at this event included art workshops with Design by Zag and James and Susheila, Spud poem by Stuart Paterson, and tattie soup from the Lochside Grub Club

As usual, nothing is fixed, and nothing is permanent. But as a means of focus and direction going forward, this brings some of the huge complexities and variations in my otherwise seemingly scattered practice together into some kind of cohesive whole. One of my big challenges at the moment is to find a way to bring some of this clarity into the outward presentation of my practice – in the form of artist statement and portfolio. It’s a bit of an immense load to try and neatly package into something that can clearly share the interests and direction of my work to potential new collaborators and communities.

Artists Talk

Coming Up…

Next Tuesday, 22nd January I will be giving an artist talk to blueprint100, an organisation led by young creative people in Dumfries, creating activity and promoting the work of other young creative types.

The event is open to everyone, but if you are over thirty, consider bringing someone under thirty with you!

It kicks off just after 5.30pm. I will be, “sharing some of her previous projects and experiences as an emerging artist based in the area, offering up questions, and suggesting different approaches as to what might be involved in ‘being an artist’.”

Full details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/753404465028484/

Tattiefields: Reflections

I’ve been out of habit of reflecting on work, due largely to having taken on a little too much the past two years or thereabouts. With Tattiefields having been finally installed and launched last month, I have finally had the opportunity to consider the project as a whole. Here are the first considerations:

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The process of leaving a work

I don’t enter into making work half-heartedly. Works have to spend long periods of time being mulled over in my mind and on paper long before they become communicable, never mind entering the physical world, and even then, they do so tentatively, and through a form of extended internal discussion around process and material.

Tattiefields began as a work for me in November 2016 – although the site and back story existed long before – and over the course of two years the work has lived with me more or less constantly, before arriving on site in September this year to begin it’s life ‘on site’. The production phase lasted near enough nine months, with various intensive periods interspersed by periods of waiting, and slow pace.

By comparison, the installation was a whirlwind of movement, change and finality as at the end of the day, we were required to pack up and go home, leaving the works to grow their evening shadows across the park.

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Image credit: Euan Adamson

In the run up to the final installation – a date which was unsettled and ever moving during the summer, I mused over the act of leaving a work in a place. The Tattiefields sculptures, which are intended to be permanent additions to the site, are hoped to settle into the place, to become part of the landscaping and surrounding area.

A public artwork, has certain aspects of gift-giving attached, in that I was spending large portions of time considering, and creating with the intention of then placing it within a location to develop a new, and somewhat independent relationship with the other residents of the location. But it was also unlike traditional gift giving, I was aspiring for associations of gift not to be primarily about value, or necessarily a relationship with artist and reciever, but about creating a relationship between artwork and receiver – in this case, residents of the place and the objects themselves.1

The work is also intrinsically a part of me. I have grown with the work, and developed new interests and approaches as a consequence of the project, (as well as having earned the title Princess Tattie, Tattie Lady etc.) To leave ‘casually’ the work to the elements and the place has imprinted the work into my memory. I check back regularly, driving a circular route around the site, and pausing to touch and check each element of the work.

It is settling in already.

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Image credit: Galina Walls

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Following the conclusion of this project I’ve been left with the sense that Public Art is a series of relationships between

the artist – and the artwork

the artist – and other makers and contributors – and artwork

the artist – and place – and artwork

the artist – and residents – and artwork

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Image credit: Galina Walls

Each of these relationships forms a new network that informs the work, and our on-going understanding of the place. In this way, it is not possible to claim exact authorship, even with a project that has been heavily developed independently, as each of the relationships created has grown the project in new ways.

Many of these were built through chance encounters, casual conversations with neighbours and the generosity of local residents who gave their time and efforts to support the projects development.

The relationship with other makers and contributors was a new one for me personally, as the first project where I have worked extensively with others to create an artwork. The process has been intensely rewarding and humbling, and I have so appreciated the calm, patient and sharing nature of each of these contributors.

Creating works like these draws some interesting questions about the balance between authorship and ownership. The authorship I explain a little bit more about in an earlier blog2, the ownership in that for these works to be truly successful, the ownership cannot be solely with the artist or client – in this case the housing partnership who officially ‘own’ the works. For an artwork to truly belong to a space they also need to belong to the people who occupy and reside within and surrounding the space. Each of the houses immediate to the site overlook the work, and hopefully as they become part of the place, the residents too can feel a sense of ownership towards them.

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Becoming ‘Resident’

At a recent workshop I led collectively as part of an interior architecture course, I asked the question ‘what does it mean to be resident of a place?’ How do we ‘reside’ I, or occupy place? In the development of the Tattiefields site this has been one of my on-going questions. The sculpture too will become a resident of the place, but this also asks a bigger question of us as people, and as citizens of a place, to reside are you also an active citizen, or is being resident a passive role?

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Image credit: Euan Adamson

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Public art and the monument

In many ways, this is the stereotype of public art – monuments in places (‘what do you think it’s going to be?’ ‘A giant tattie, for sure.’). In a certain way, Tattiefields is a monument, albeit to a vegetable rather than a historical figure, but it also seeks to determine an alternative approach to permanent public artworks. One that plays a close relationship with the place and the people, whilst also drawing out the less well known narratives of a place, celebrating the everyday and commemorating unique memories and identities of the places we live in. It’s all a question of scale.

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Image credit: Euan Adamson

 

1                For more on gift giving, have a look at Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, a book I have never yet finished but has influenced my thinking about gift giving.

2                https://katiejanderson.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/international-technician-day-everyday/

Tattiefields: Developments

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Experiments with concrete

Sandblasting and stencilling in the detailed work for the new pieces going to the tattiefields site next month.

The patterns reference the original landscaping design, the artwork locations and the wider map network that makes up the tattie map of the world! (With Lochside at the centre, of course).

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Special thanks to Alistair of Grit ‘n’ Polish, highly recommended for any shot blasting requirements you may have. The stencils pick out really delicate details, with sharp edges and great focus.

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The particularly beautiful surfaces of the concrete are in the casting, made by the extremely talented Billy Teasdale, caster-extraordinaire based in Govanhill who has put so much time and work into completing the pieces in time for the installation.

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Final surface preparations to go ahead of the grand unveiling, on Thursday 13th September.

Tattiefields Community Evening

Tattiefields has awakened a true fascination with all things tattie-related as I’ve spent the summer working and re-working ideas for a new public space as part of a housing development in North West Dumfries. From the names of potato breeds, to their origins, growing seasons and varieties, good recipes to creative projects – I’ve started to go a little tattie-mad.

We decided to host an evening to share this new obsession, towards creating a bit of identity for the Tattiefields site, and also to become the first point for sharing the proposed designs for the location. Exciting times.

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The evening included a creative workshop inventing potato men, women, children, animals and aliens…, a curry cooking workshop, the sharing of new designs, a tattie buffet and ended up with some film screenings and the impromptu judging of the best tattie people creations. The event allowed Kirsty Turpie and I to really embrace our love of food as art and art as food, with (I hope) excellent results!

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I had some really great feedback to the designs, and also support from the clients to take the designs forward to we are now looking forward to getting into the production phases for the project! I am still very keen to speaking to anyone who is interested in developing a project to support vegetable growing, either in gardens in and around Lochside, or on site at Tattiefields in the Spring. If you have an idea or are interested in sharing some vegetable growing skills, please get in touch katie<at>the stove.org.

Tattiefields is part of The Stove Network’s Lochside Public Art Project, working in partnership with DGHP and Creative Futures Lincluden and Lochside. Big thank you to project assistant Kirsty Turpie, Michael, Liam Templeton, Agne and Jimmy and Matt B for all the support in pulling the evening together. Thanks and image credits to Kirstin McEwan and Michael. To see the extended photograph album, visit The Stove’s Flickr page here

High Street Neighbours

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Describe neighbourliness.

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What might a High Street community look like?

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Who, or what else, lives in the town centre?

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The usage of the word ‘neighbour’ has been in steady decline since the 1840’s.

It’s been Guid Nychburris (Good Neighbours to all of those not originally from or local to Dumfries), this week and the Stove has been exploring ‘neighbourliness’ as part of our current Conversing Buildings project. The building has gone a little Christo inspired, in what is definitely the brightest and boldest we have gone with celebratory decorations so far.

The sign board has also had a make over, prompting our latest favourite anagram game.

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H I G H S T R E E T N E I G H B O U R S

High Street Neighbours is part of our TAKEOVER theme, a series of events and activites focused around community takeover and creativity. Stay tuned to the Stove for more details.

New Distractions

Wee while back I blogged about ‘New Distractions’ over on The Stove Network’s blog

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We asked ourselves a question: “Can a sign above a High Street building ever do anything other than promote and brand; can it ask questions, be part of a conversation with other signs… can our High Street ever be a space that prioritises people as well as sales?”

what true opportunities are there between the moss and the ‘for sale’ signs? How do we re-make the spaces between the High Streets we remember and what is left when our High Street no longer meets the bottom line of the multinationals?

Our town centres have grown out of a need to gather, connect, meet, barter and exchange. Dumfries owes its place to the river, the cattle marts and the passage of people. But from our largely rural context, Dumfries has also been the gathering point, the melting pot of communities meeting and exchanging, not just economically but socially, our connection out into the world.

Dumfries is not dead, only sleeping. Hidden Dumfries is in plain sight, behind the sagging bus stances and single occupancy street furniture.

Now is the time to act.

This action does not require grand master planners, or large scale redevelopment, but a little collective energy and small positive acts. Testing and experimentation, problem solving and lightweight interventions can lead the way to a more active high street, looking forward to a more valuable town centre. Small actions can highlight, question, explore and initiate discussion, growing from an inquisitive response to our everyday.

This is a call for new distractions.

Can we create a new visual language for our high streets?

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Read in full over on The Stove page here