I’m a fine artist, primarily a painter, and I’m also an arts educator working with schools, communities and running corporate training for businesses such as Confused.com.
My interest in science has grown from my painting practice where I became fascinated by working with transparent glazes. Over the years this evolved into experimenting with resins, and this year, I received an Arts Council grant to run a science-art crossover project to explore the potential of industrial resins as painting materials. This culminated when I found a industrial polymer chemist willing to assist me; he would come to my studio and I would learn the procedural rules from him, and then proceed to ignore them as I was keen to explore artistic potential discovered through accidents.
Frequently my experiments would fail dismally, but at last I was able to create a body of work to exhibit at Llantarnam Grange. This exhibition received the highest number of visitors at the venue for 5 years, proving just how popular such science-art collaborative projects are. Plus I participated in a live internet discussion with the polymer chemist, live radio and gave a number of talks about the work. The whole project opened my eyes to the potential of science within arts and made me see how effective the arts are to opening the door to science access for all.
So this is one of the reasons why I began to look at science through my arts education workshops.
I'm going to give you an example of one such project working with National Museum Wales, Cardiff. The project was called 'Just Bling?'; the brief was to design a workshop programme to introduce participants to the museum and it's collections, and to the theme of 'bling'. What is 'bling'? Is everything in the musem 'bling'? Why? Participants would then be asked to create their own visual response for exhibition at the end of the project.
Participating groups were young people aged from 10-16, mostly from ethnic minority backgrounds, and young Muslim mothers.
My initial challenge was to get participants comfortable with the idea of visiting the museum, engaging with the collections, and spending time within the museum environment. To facilitate this I organised a series of tours around various collections run by expert museum staff.
Creative making sessions took place in both the museum and community venues. My role was not to direct the participants in what to make, but rather to provide the practical skills and knowledge to help them turn their ideas and sketches into reality. And they made some amazing work!
The young people ended up creating a collection of wearable art pieces inspired by their Natural History and Tudor Portraits tours. This included Tudor-style armour camouflaged to look like a beetle’s shell, wire and netting butterfly wings, and a skirt made from netting (similar to a Tudor neck ruff), shaped like a jellyfish, and covered with ‘eye’ spots such as fish and insects use to scare off predators.