A two-week festival of craft in Plymouth and Mount Edgcumbe from 12 to 26 September 2014
Acts of Making was a two-week festival that celebrated and explored contemporary craft through performance, ephemeral practice and live installations. In many cases the public collaborated with practitioners to create brand new works of art.
Historically people tend to see craft as being about the handmade production of objects by skilled individuals, which have perhaps been created in workshops. The process is informed by years of specialist training and knowledge and results in physical, long-lasting objects that can be bought and owned. The Acts of Making festival challenged this notion. The ‘making’ process was often not in the hands of crafts people and no physical object remained at the end of the performance.
The six artists who were featured in the festival, Catherine Bertola, Keith Harrison, Owl Project, Mah Rana, Clare Twomey and Richard William Wheater, all apply a different set of ‘tools’ to those normally used in craft, which raised questions about authorship, production, objects and making. Exploring the process or ‘act of making’, is the main purpose of their work.
The works that were featured in the festival were all in some respects ephemeral. They were developed to be experienced only in the period of time in which they were performed, or in which the public participated in the work.
Through Acts of Making the Crafts Council provided a platform for ephemeral craft practice within communities and settings that have had limited opportunity to experience and participate in performance work. The locations for the performances and collaborations weren’t always traditional gallery settings.
The festival was delivered at three UK locations
- Bilston (the midlands),
- Gateshead (north east England)
- Plymouth (south west England).
Each version of the festival was specifically developed with partners at each location that included Bilston Craft Gallery, the Shipley Art Gallery (part of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums), Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage) and Plymouth College of Art.
Throughout the festival at each location people were encouraged to capture their Acts of Making experiences on social media, recording the special, fleeting moments of works they saw. See what was shared.
Acts of Making was supported by the Arts Council Strategic Touring fund.
Filmmaker Jared Schiller was commissioned to create a film that documented the works in the Acts of Making festival as they were presented at each of the UK locations – Bilston, Gateshead and Plymouth. The film investigates the themes the artists are exploring within the works they presented within the festival.
In some cases, this film is all that remains of the performances, collaborations and installations that were part of the festival, as their ephemeral nature meant that they only lasted as long as they were performed or the public took part in the work.
Bilston Craft Gallery
14-28 February, 2015
The festival in Bilston:
Bilston Craft Gallery worked in partnership with the Crafts Council to deliver the Acts of Making Festival in Bilston.
Bilston Craft Gallery enthusiastically used the project to present works in unusual spaces across the city and to engage with groups they previously hadn’t had the pleasure of working with. The people of Bilston made a significant creative contribution to the festival, including supplying scooter riders with their famous ‘battered chips’ during Richard William Wheater’s procession!
Bilston Craft Gallery was the main focal point for the festival, displaying performances by Clare Twomey, Catherine Bertola and Owl Project. Public contributions made to Mah Rana’s archive project during the festival were also displayed at the gallery.
Projects were also presented within Bilston town centre and the surrounding area: Keith Harrison’s work was presented in Bilston Town centre as part of Bilston’s Urban Sports event; Richard William Wheater’s scooter procession took in a tour of East Park, before heading down Bilston’s main shopping street before reaching their prominent location outside of the disused Science and Art School building, where they were displayed throughout the festival; and the public contributed to Mah Rana’s archive project at St. Leonard’s Church and Bushfield Court Retirement Village.
Key features of the Bilston Acts of Making Festival:
The Acts of Making Festival in Bilston was a great way for the public who were new to the work of Bilston Craft Gallery to engage with the gallery, taking part in performances, events and activities.
P3 (People, Potential, Possibilities), brought a group of homeless people to the gallery to attend an Owl Project iLog workshop. The group produced some wonderful work using electronics and carpentry skills.
Ceramic students from Wolverhampton University School of Art were introduced to the world of performance art, exploring how this could be applied to their craft practice. Five students were trained by maker Clare Twomey to perform her work Is It Madness. Is It Beauty.
Mah Rana and Keith Harrison talks
Both Mah Rana and Keith Harrison delivered talks on their projects in the festival to the public and students from Wolverhampton University School of Art and Birmingham City University School of Jewellery.
Just Ramps Skatepark hosted two of Keith Harrison’s benches ahead of his collaborative performance in Bilston Town Centre. The benches were a welcome unusual challenge for the parks skaters. The benches were donated to the park at the close of the festival.
Professional skateboarders and riders from skate event company King Ramps performed some amazing tricks on Keith Harrison’s benches, carving them up as they went.
St. Leonard’s Church were eager to be involved in the festival and hosted a Mah Rana live event, proving to be a welcoming setting for the project.
7- 21 March, 2015
The festival in Gateshead:
The Shipley Art Gallery worked in partnership with the Crafts Council to deliver the Acts of Making Festival in Gateshead.
Gallery enthusiastically used the project to present works in unusual spaces across the city and to engage with groups they previously hadn’t had the pleasure of working with. Organised community and school groups as well as the general public got involved in the festival, all making a significant creative contribution, developing their own works inspired by the festival projects as well attending and taking part in performances.
The Shipley Art Gallery transformed their traditional Edwardian gallery space by hosting performances by contemporary makers Clare Twomey, Catherine Bertola and Owl Project. Public contributions made to Mah Rana’s archive project during the festival were also displayed at the gallery.
Gateshead Central Library worked with the Shipley Art Gallery to host live events by Mah Rana, whilst Keith Harrison’s skate event was held at Dynamix Skatepark, local to the gallery. Richard William Wheater’s scooter procession took in urban and natural landscapes in Gateshead, gathering at Trinity Square Shopping Centre and traveling to Saltwell Park before arriving at the Shipley Art Gallery.
Key features of the Gateshead Acts of Making Festival:
The festival was opened by a dramatic procession of 35 scooters from Vespa and Lambretta clubs based all over the north east region, taking part in Richard Williams Wheater’s flag performance. The Mayor of Gateshead was there to welcome them as they arrived at the Shipley Art Gallery, where a party was underway to celebrate the start of the festival.
Owl Project contributed to the festival opening celebration at the Shipley Art Gallery, presenting an improvised sonic art performance using their hand crafted instruments. They were joined by people who had taken part in their iLog making workshop before the performance.
Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School learned about the festival through talks from Shipley Art Gallery staff and by coming to the gallery ahead of the festival to make their own flags inspired Richard William Wheater’s scooter procession project. Pupils from the school were at the Shipley Art Gallery to welcome the scooter procession with the flags they’d made.
Mah Rana’s live event on the opening weekend of the festival was one of many events held at Gateshead Central Library during their Creative Makings March Celebration, a series of craft events held within the library.
The Gateshead Scribblers creative writing group developed some new stories and poems inspired by the subject of jewellery and Mah Rana’s archive project. They explored the interesting histories that pieces of jewellery can be associated with and presented their stories at a special performance evening at the Shipley Art Gallery, where the archive material was displayed.
Dynamix Skatepark worked closely with Keith Harrison to develop his performance benches. They hosted Keith Harrison’s collaborative skate jam event, where the top skaters from across the north east, competed against each other to pull off the most skillful tricks on the benches, whilst live bands played and trampolined in the circus skills area of the park!
Inspired by Catherine Bertola’s dust carpet, Gateshead Young Women’s Outreach Project explored craft alternatives to carpet making through a proggy mat workshop at the Shipley Art Gallery.
Plymouth and Mount Edgcumbe
12 – 26 September 2015
The festival in Plymouth:
Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage) and Plymouth College of Art worked in partnership with the Crafts Council to deliver the Acts of Making Festival in Plymouth and Mount Edgcumbe.
Works from the festival were presented at a variety of different and unusual locations across Plymouth and Mount Edgcumbe. There were three main centers of activity:
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, who hosted the Mah Rana display and held family activities and events throughout the festival. Plymouth College of Art, where Clare Twomey’s performance was presented alongside displays of Keith Harrison’s and Mah Rana’s works. http://Mount Edgcumbe House and Country ParkMount Edgcumbe House and Country Park, which saw Catherine Bertola install her dust work in the historic house and Owl Project present their interactive sound work, a sonic art performance and hold a series of iLog workshops.
Additional venues also were also involved in the project and helped to host key works in the festival. Prime Skatepark hosted Keith Harrisons Tombstone (let’s get over this) and Plymouth Central Library and Plymstock Library held the Mah Rana live events. Richard William Wheater’s [link to his page] procession, which took place on the opening weekend of the festival, travelled from TR2 to Plymotuh city centre, via the Barbican before finishing at Plymouth College of Art.
Key features of the Plymouth Acts of Making Festival:
The festival came alive in Plymouth as the main performances were supplemented by a range of activity across the city that was inspired by the festivals themes and artworks.
Owl Project welcomed Brook Green Centre for Learning to Mount Edgcumbe to take part in a sound installation workshop.
The historic Organgery Garden Café at Mount Edgcumbe was shook by the weird and wonderful sounds of a live sonic art performance hosted by Café Concrete and in which Owl Project one of their improvised sets.
Plymouth Young Writers Squad took inspiration from the day they spent with Mah Rana at her live event at Plymstock Library and wrote some original poetry based on their own jewellery stories, which they later performed at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.
The museum held family friendly events where all ages were welcome to come along and join in making flags, which they could use to welcome Richard William Wheater’s procession, and make jewellery inspired by Mah Rana’s jewellery archive project.
Plymouth College of Art got their students involved in the project through a series of performance workshops hosted by Siobhan Davies Dance and had the young people attending their Saturday Art Club explore Clare Twomey’s performance through a clay and film activity.
Plymouth School of Creative Arts organised a mass flag making workshop and produced some wonderful flags inspired by the natural world. They placed them on display during Richard William Wheater’s Tree and Scooters procession.
Members of the public took part in a stencil making workshop at Mount Edgcumbe, taking inspiration from Catherine Bertola’s stenciled dust carpet that was displayed in the main house.