Thursday, August 07, 2008

Art in Action 17-20 July

This annual event is held at Waterperry Gardens, near Wheatley, Oxon, UK. It has been going since 1977 and attracts thousands of visitors who go to see the demonstrators and take part in any of the practical workshops of fine music, dance, arts and crafts and perhaps to buy some goodies too.

This was the first year I had ever been and I went under the banner of The Nature In Art Museum and Art Gallery, who were there for their second year. I gave two batik workshops on the Friday, which were well attended and drew quite a crowd, both times, who stopped to watch.

It was challenging to come up with a format for adults lasting just an hour and a half. Most people who turn up to workshops have not done batik before or ‘had a go a long time ago but done nothing since’. So not only did I need to go over the basics of just what batik was and how the process worked, but there is the concept of working backwards on your image from the highlights first through to the dark tones in what I call a ‘suicide method’. If you go wrong… there’s nothing you can do to correct it, especially in such a short amount of time. This concept can ‘drop into place’ instantly with some people whilst others it takes longer and until you get a grasp of this, batik can be a complete frustrating mystery.

So I had to try and think of something that could be done easily and quickly, but was fun and colourful as a finished piece… something they would be happy to take away. I decided not to bother with tjantings, as they can take a while to master, so with time against us, I selected a few choice brushes and the plan was to get them to do a simple design of leaves or flowers.

The first hiccup we had was the electrics. There were only a couple of sockets and so a hunt was made for extension leads. The second hiccup was that all the sockets, and hence extension leads, led back to one source of power. So that we didn’t risk blowing a major fuse somewhere and causing a heap of problems for many other people who were relying on a power supply, I had to limit the electrical equipment I could use. I had 3 waxpots, an iron and 7 hairdryers… far too many items, so we cut back on the hairdryers… this meant the process of drying was greatly slowed as the people who participated had to wait in turn for the hairdryers. Adding to the drying problems was the relatively cold damp weather we were having. Consequently, we didn’t get as far along in our colour layers as I would have liked them to have achieved in the time we had during the morning session. So for the afternoon’s workshop I revised the project and we managed somewhat better.

The space we had to work in was rather compact for 7 or 8 people trying to work on batiks, get to hairdryers and the iron around the table. But everyone was great and mucked in dealing with the situation very well and seemed to enjoy the workshop. I hope they went away having had a bit of fun, learnt something and had with them a finished piece of work they were proud of.

Although I had a few hours between workshops I didn’t get round to looking at the rest of the marquees and tents, apart from a sculpture tent. This was quite disappointing as I'm sure there was lots to see and take in. I was also greatly disappointed to find I missed out on the Pimm’s tent… if only I had known it was there…. but perhaps that was just as well.

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