Category: Art and Craft

Hats For Headway (by )

So this is a thing, I didn't know it was a thing - I probably did but then forgot :/ But get your fancy head gear out!

knitted brain hat

Today is #HatsforHeadway to raise awareness and cash for an absolutely brilliant charity who have helped so much with people like me who have sustained head injuries. This is the hat I knitted for the Science Showoff on Neurology and brainy things special that they did. It was a wonderful evening with Dr Carina Fearnley a fellow head injury sufferer and friend from my Geology undergraduate days. She has made a fantastic video about her experience:

The event was at the Star of Kings in London but I believe was raising money for the Bristol Headway and I made a paper mache brain and got gummy brain sweets. The hat has since appeared at various British Science Week Events, Cheltenham Science Festival and BBC Country File Live show/festival. It was an amazing night were I learnt about all sorts of things including the medical skeletons etc... lurking beneath London and what their skulls can tell us!

What I didn't say at the time was that I was struggling with knitting due to the damage to my left hand side so this whole thing was create out of loom knitting (French knitting or knitting nancy/spool knitting are all mini looms). Also for me to actually make it to the gig my dad had to come and meet me at the station - which in your 30's is pretty embarrassing, but I have only recently been able to attempt travel on my own on that sort of scale and I was still unable to cook anything other than a microwave meal safely on my own (I've set fire to pans and tried to pick up boiling pots with my bare hands...).

There is currently an Art Exhibit and series of talks etc... at Kings College about head injury including a pice on Identity after the fact. I myself had to basically learn to draw again - I always drew with both hands but now... the pictures come out distorted - I have a blind spot in my left eye, and hand coordination was hard. Add in the crisis of everyone else knowing more about me than I myself did and I ended up producing Love: A Stranger Dream. It started as distinct pictures which people asked for as colouring sheets so I put them up for free download here. Then I realised there was a kind of non-linear narrative or themes running through the works and it became a book of visual poetry. I took refuge in art - something that is quiet important in developing coping mechanisms and reducing the amount of depression that head injury victims feel - it is like having everything that is you stripped away.

I even made audio.

And video of it.

Art that started as a way to just express myself when speech and writing where hard graft ended up as something that has helped friends, it explores lots of different aspects of identity and so has ended up at GLBT+ events, dis/different-ability events, music and art installations, two different events for International Women's Day, comic book conventions, poetry events, story telling and maze festivals. I've even made a dress from the art work 0.o - ok yeah I got carried away!

(can't find the photo - if I came across it I'll add it later! but it got compared to the stuff worn by the Welsh Eisteddfod singer/bardic peeps)

As I've probably bored everyone with - I have not long been discharged from the head injury unit including physio at Gloucester Royal - still under neurology but the main chunk of it is done. Charities like Headway - the brain injury association are an absolute life line and they have local branches but head injury sufferers often struggle to get the help that's needed especially as most of the time they still look "normal". I was being mistaken for being drunk and struggling with lots of things. So yeah - hats for headway 🙂

May Events 2018 (by )

Bit late to be adding this now considering I have already performed at a few including the Swindon Literature Festival's 25th anniversary extravaganza of a poetry slam (Joy-Amy won!!!) which included people like Tina Sedaholm and other previous winners. I have been to London, Bristol, and Stroud also - but that is the what has been and there is still a lot to come!

Sat 19th May 3-7 pm Food For Thoughts Heroes event in Worcester - poetry, music, spoken word, comedy and story telling - free with charity collection

Tues 22nd May 6-8 pm Gloucester's second Pecha Kucha Night - fast fun Japanese style presentations on various creative and community aspects or the creatives tales themselves - my presentations is From Rocks To Puppets and Back Again - Gloucester - free

Sun 27th May 2-4 pm - Sea Special Villanelles at Waterstones Cafe - I am co-hosting this event with poetry games and open mic, come and share your own work or poems that have inspired you - Gloucester - free and family friendly

Wed 30th May 7:30 pm start - History Showoff Women's Special at the Bishopsgate Institute - a night of comedy and cabaret - come and meet Aethelflaed the Puppet and learn about the Warrior Queen of the Mercians! (psst she's much better than her old dad who only went and burnt the cakes!) - ticketed event £9

And June isn't looking too shabby either - but more on that later!

Weekly Twitter Round Up for The Aethelflaed Quest (by )

It is 1100 yrs since Warrior Queen Aethelflaed was buried in Gloucester - one of the new minsters she founded, Gloucester is therefore having an epic festival to highlight this forgotten woman of history - I have somehow ended up involved - I am very excited and have even designed and with my parents made a new puppet and workshop materials for Cuddly Science/Cuddly History.

Here is the week in tweets about my adventures 🙂

The Festival itself has it's own twitter handle Aethelflaed2018.

Papier Mache Anglo-Saxon Broaches (by )

dry paper mache former waiting to be decorated

One of the things I do for Cuddly Science workshops and sometimes for various themed events is make paper mache stuff. This started with things like props for Jean to take to pre-school for World Book Day and kind of escalated. By her forth birthday I was making paper mache "blanks" for the kids to decorate themselves at her parties (volcanos) but I got carried away and made too many so I took the remainder to various events and based activities on them - I have since had to make more volcanoes! Often with the kids!

extinction workshop at SmashFest Gloucester Library CuddlyScience

When designing my Fantastic Fossils workshops I found some silicon moulds which I used to form mulch or mashed up paper mache - this was a good way to turn old newspapers and office scrap into little fossil replicas that the kids could decorate and take home with them.

So it seemed only natural to do exactly the same for my Aethelflaed Quest. Initially I thought I would have to build the objects out of polymer clay or carve them and then make silicon moulds but I found a lovely mould online though it doesn't have the chunky base of my fossil ones so I can't just flop the finished product out to dry but then it is the same shape repeated so that doesn't matter as much.

tissue mache mush

I delved a little bit into art history for this as well as I was getting a little confused between things we call "Celtic", viking and anglo-saxon not to mention stuff I think of as contemporary Irish! Part of the reason for this is that vikings were not a distinct group as such but rather those who lived in Northern Europe who had decided to become pirates (due to land and resource shortages due to rising seas - present time governance might want to take heed of this!).

Here a couple of books I've been ploughing my way through in research! (A lot of online reading and chatting to people about it all has been happen too!)

So the up shot of this is that there were actually lots of overlapping cultures that had the same sorts of designed both pre and post Roman Britain and though minor things in it change like weather there are people or animals and weather they are whole or dismembered abstractions changes but over all its all got the same feel. I spent ages reading up on various anglo-saxons things and pouring over photographs of finds and artworks showing fashions of the time (and when I say time here were are talking hundreds of years and each region tended to have it's own little arty/fashion thing that then got traded just to make the stories even harder to work out - ie Syrian glass in Britain whilst our cloaks went to Rome). In some aspects our clothing hasn't changed that much since the Iron Age - we are still wearing the plaids/tartan designs or at least buying blankets styled on the same!

mould in Celtic swirls

Anyway with all this taken into account I chose a three lobed swirl to be the base of cloak pins/broaches that the kids can decorate during my workshops. The style was in general for two such fasteners to hold the cloaks in place.

setting up the paper mache

So I got busy with PVA glue, tissue and hot water - I am making a batch from pulverised newspaper as well to be stone replicas but I wanted a specific look for the ones to be decorated.

filled moulds

I squidgy the mush into the moulds and then press down with a towel to remove any excess water - it quickly became apparent that the whole thing would be easier if the shapes weren't in a big sheet so I had to cut my new mould up! This is always a nerve wracking thing to do... what if it doesn't work and you've just destroyed the thing you need?

cut up and stacked Celtic twirl moulds

But it did work and soon I was popping them in the oven on the lowest heat - much to the bewilderment of our poor builders - who have had to put up with me stopping them working so that I could extract clay from the trench they were building.

filled paper mache mould on baking tray

Once the shapes are sufficiently dry I pop them out of the moulds and leave them to fully Harden whilst I start a fresh batch - I often do a bit of paper mache each day when I am at home anyway - funny thing with this lot though... the shape of the moulds means that when I am squeezing the water out it has a tendency to jet outwards! Messy over gear has had to come into play! i.e. my nans' old housecoats, that they used to use for housework. I actually also have one of my own that Al's then work colleague got me when he got Alaric his metal working apron.

The little stock of these is steadily building up and I have gold paint and sticky gems for the kids - they will be having their first outing at the big Aethelflaed Festival in Gloucester this summer 🙂

papier mache bases for anglo Saxon cloak broaches

Tweets of Aethelflaed (by )

Lots of bits about my Aethelflaed Quest are ending up on social media but are being a bit slower to get onto the blog and also I pick up bits and bobs that others are saying - so I am collecting the tweets together in a kind of weekly round up thing and I have started using the hashtag #AethelfleadQuest 🙂

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