You Are Invited…

I have just received the most delightful item through the post. I discovered it whilst wandering round my house looking for something to inspire or motivate me to move.

Now most letters that come through my door are largely disappointing. They look colourful, but once I have read past the headlines (and deciphered whether they are inviting me to sign up for the most ‘incredible’ new service or simply reminding I am already signed up), there isn’t much substance that is of interest to me. So I often relegate it to the second drawer down in my desk and revisit it when necessary to do administration, or it gets dropped into the paper recycling.

So imagine my delight when I noticed this white envelope was not like the others. There was no postage stamp, no plastic window with my details extracted from a long database peeking through, no brand stamped on the corner, no return address – this white envelope simply said:

HAZEL

It had been hand delivered. It was not flat in form. It was a little bumpy. I let my mind wander for a minute and imagine a few possible sources for the mystery package. Yet, I had not let my mind wander far enough – as I had not imagined that inside I would find:

A BISCUIT

Not just a biscuit. But a hand baked cookie that had chocolate embedded into it, wrapped up preciously in brown paper. I peeled open the paper and took a quick bite. It was delicious. I thought about waiting to eat the rest later, so that perhaps I would appreciate it more. But after a quick moment of thought – I decided just to enjoy the biscuit now. I am glad I did. Behind the biscuit was an invite, one that offers me the chance to put creative ideas into action and join:

CIRCLE TIME

A place where a myriad of creative practices will come together, to share existing work and create new. I don’t really know what will happen in this time, I don’t really mind what happens. At this point, it is simply nice to be invited. No doubt I will report back here with the results at some point. In the mean time, I am simply going to ponder what I can bring to the circle, how nice it is to receive a surprising letter on a Sunday and how tasty the biscuit was.

Words & Images © Hazel Saunderson

Modern Masters Printmaking Masterclass

I learned a little more about printmaking at a brilliant free class ‘Modern Masters Printmaking Masterclass’ at The McManus last weekend. Local artist and printmaker Scott Hudson started by discussing the process of etching – both traditional and current. Then gave us a demonstration of drypoint etching on card – a technique that is similar to etching on metal or engraving – but much more simple and more direct.

printmaking, etching, mcmanus, modern masters in print, dundee, art, creative learning, museums

We then went to explore The Modern Masters in Print exhibition. This exhibition is touring from The Victoria and Albert Museum, London and showcases the work of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Andy Warhol. I did some of the marketing for this exhibition and had previously visited it on a number of occasions. I knew I liked the diverse nature of work explored in the 50 prints on display, I liked that it gave insights into the way printmaking influenced these great artists during their long careers (which collectively spanned a 75 year period) and I loved the detail that was captured in some of the prints.

However, on this quick specialised tour – as we walked round Scott encouraged us to ask questions about the printmaking techniques. Something I had not considered in such detail on my previous visits. Therefore, this visit was spent exploring the techniques each artist had employed – with detailed explanations of the process of these techniques. I gained a new understanding of how Picasso may have etched such impressive detail into prints such as ‘Le Repas Frugal’, a new appreciation of the soft quality and texture in Picasso’s ‘Le Cirque’ and Matisse’s ‘Nu assis de dos’ prints that would have originally been grinded into limestone using the lithography technique and I marvelled at the multiple colours in Dali’s ‘Paris’ and ‘Normandie’ prints that as a traditional offset Lithograph I imagined must have been created using a taxing series of layers.

modern masters in print, printmaking, mcmanus, dundee, art, etching

It was definitely an inspiration, and whilst I had no aspirations of reaching their level of ability when we headed back into the creative learning to suite to get crafting, I certainly did feel inspired. I was keen to get my hands dirty and test something, so I started with a very simple print where I was mostly interested in testing how the different marks I made in the card would come out in ink. So I cross hatched, I cut squares, I scribbled, I applied Chine-collé and I scratched with sand paper to make a vague representation of buildings. Then it was time to ink up, so I applied ink (perhaps slightly generously) then proceeded to wipe away most of it, before sticking it in the printing press and turning the magic lever. Then voila – my first etched print was born.

made a vague representation of buildings by cuttingFor my second print I dashed round the museum quickly for inspiration – sketching the curved roof in the Victoria Gallery, the straight lines of the spiral staircase and a model aeroplane. I decided to create something abstract with these shapes and just merged them all into one a4 page that was ultimately a further exploration of how the ink would show up different textures. A success.

I think it is important not to forget the value of creative learning classes like these. I know learning and education have been embedded in museum and gallery settings for a long time. However, it is important to remember how they offer visitors a brilliant chance to engage with the exhibitions, and local artists in a dynamic and exciting way. It is always great to learn more about the history and context of work, but this additional understanding of the process of creation is of equal importance and means that the simple words on a museum label (etching, lithography, screenprint, woodcut, linocut) gain a new relevance when looking at pieces of art. Particularly useful if you don’t have a background in printmaking or an art education.

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Words & Images © Hazel Saunderson

Taking A Chance In Dundee

I was walking down the street on my way to work the other morning when I spotted this simple a4 sheet stuck on a lamp post. It was typed in a really simple font, just black on white, but it was the words that jumped out at me – they said:

Please take at least one

Then there was a number of tear-off slips that said:

A chance

I have to admit that my first reaction was to take a photograph, but on realising that I didn’t have my camera – I pulled off a chance slip, took a mental photograph of it and subsequently sketched this out quickly later. I was pleased to see that when I walked home that evening that I discovered the posters were actually up on three or four lamposts, yet in fact all the chances had been taken that day!

I will add that this was situated outside an art school, so it could have been a simple experiment, part of a larger art or design project or just a bit of fun. However, I was impressed that it managed to capture my attention whilst rushing to work on a route that I rush down everyday – so it shows the value of choosing clever words that capture both people’s attention, but also their imagination. Secondly, I enjoyed that people had obviously reacted to it and torn the scraps of paper off so quickly – which made me wonder if the people of Dundee took any more chances than usual that day. I like to think that they did and I wonder what they may have been.

Words & Images © Hazel Saunderson

Yuck ‘n Yum – 2013 Autumn Issue Launch

I headed towards the Yuck ‘n Yum launch at Generator Projects on Sunday thinking that I would sample just a little of the soup they had promised and quickly pick up the latest copy of the zine. However, Alexander Aitken invited us to join in with her I Lava Dundee performance by stepping onto an island and then starting to construct colourful new lands.

yuck n yum, dundee, 2013, generator projects

So I did. Alexander stated that initially the first three rules below were the most important:

  1. The ground is lava – DON’T TOUCH THE GROUND.
  2. To move forward cut your island on half, float it where you want to go.
  3. If you are standing – Mark make onto your island.

I started by standing still and subsequently having to doodle. Initially, my head was blank so I started drawing squares of different shapes and sizes – a little inspired by the paper islands surrounding me that were starting to change shape and size.

yuck n yum, dundee, 2013, generator projects

Then I decided to cut my island up and float it as advised – before stepping out onto new land. Continue reading “Yuck ‘n Yum – 2013 Autumn Issue Launch”

Tin Roof Social Club

A social club for artists appeared in Dundee for 4 short days in August 2013; the Tin Roof Social Club was a great little space that was housed within the gallery space of the Tin Roof Arts Collective. This art installation functioned as a working social club with drinks, daily newspapers, snacks for daytime visitors, a fully licensed bar and games competitions. A social club often has a distinctive look, and although this one housed some of the normal features like a darts board and a pool table – the windowless gallery felt surprisingly bright and welcoming with its bright white walls and shiny tin foil signage.

tin roof, social club, dundee, 2013, impact 8, art, social club

The social club was hosted by the ‘landlord’ Fraser Mcdonald and ‘landlady’ Catrin Jeans, ( the local artists who conceived of the project) and they made every guest feel very welcome – being particularly pro-active at offering drinks to thirsty artists (and their friends) that came to visit. I managed to pop in on the Saturday and Sunday night and on Sunday I took part in their darts and pool competition. It was a great lesson for me – one where I learned that I was particularly bad at darts! Whilst all the competitors slowly worked their way up the numbers – I progressed painfully slowly. On each shot I hoped that the three darts that I threw would magically hit the spot I intended them too. But more often than not, they would be nowhere near. Continue reading “Tin Roof Social Club”

Henningham Family – Chip Shop Press

I was lucky to be able to satisfy my hunger for a little bit of art and printing by visiting the Chip Shop Press during Print Festival Scotland. They were offering up a unique menu of delicious words, freshly printed and at a great takeaway price – such a treat for a Thursday night. The Chip Shop Press is the brainchild of the Henningham Family Press, otherwise known as the artistic duo of David and Ping Henningham. They are both Artists and Authors who are curious about every aspect of writing, printing and publishing.

Henningham Family Press – Chip Shop Press

They visited Dundee recently and set up shop in Dundee Contemporary Arts to feed the hungry print making delegates visiting the Impact 8 conference. They fed them with words, ink, chipboard and witty conversations. Set-up in front of the brilliant Sister Corita Kent exhibition, and surrounded by printmaking professionals and academics; they got to work and made a number of very simple screen prints onto chipboard, based on the words suggested by the bustling queue of people that was forming. Continue reading “Henningham Family – Chip Shop Press”

Having Fun A Day in Dundee

Towards the end of 2012 I saw a wacky poster advertising something called Fun a Day in Dundee. It was bright and colourful and unlike most other graphics that I had seen floating around. The poster encouraged me to think of a creative project that I could do every day in January and join a pop up exhibition – I promptly emailed the organiser Morgan to let her know I would like to join the fun. I decided to cut one word from paper each day – real crazy fun that would allow me to explore paper cutting a little.

Fun - Day 2

At first I hadn’t really made any specification for choosing what the word would be each day and words came easily for the first few days (although they were pretty simple), day one was fun and day two was sunshine. I quickly discovered that one of the nicest elements of paper cutting was the increased potential they had when photographed with light directed at them. Light made the paper glow, shadows loom, negatives became positive and spaces filled with light. So quite quickly the daily process became more than just a paper cut…

Fun - Day 4

Continue reading “Having Fun A Day in Dundee”

Lessons learned the hard way

I discovered the most beautiful and insightful book today; an art piece by Aleksandra Mir – The How Not to Cookbook, Lessons Learned the hard way.

Recipes are designed to facilitate immediate success, they rarely document the ways in which it can fail. Based on Aleksandra’s personal history of cooking disasters, the project invited 1000 people from all around the world to offer advice of how NOT to cook.

This book was set up on mass in a lovely gallery space in the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh, where there was a bit of library feel. Although all of the books in the exhibition were the same.  I also liked that they took some of the ‘lessons learned’ into the community in Edinburgh to share the myriad of methods for learning how not to cook with members of Streetwork Edinburgh.

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In this book there are examples of ‘what not to do’ from people all around the world including entries from: Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, France, Italy, the UK and the US. The book is also split up into a range of unconventional cookbook chapters, from dating to drugs and everything in between.

The concept of this book started me thinking about learning and the ways in which we learn. It is not a new concept to learn from ones mistakes and we all do it… yet it is often a very good way to learn and often not always the easiest. There are no formal study pieces that I know of that present a series of things not to do in order to move forward. Particularly, in response to a specific topic. Yet reading parts of this book makes me wonder if learning from a collective of many peoples’ mistakes, could prove to be as valuable as the endless series of how-tos.

Of course it is good to learn from positive stories and routes for success. However, when trying to follow specific directions i.e. a recipe (to success?!), it is often the case that you have to substitute one part of the recipe, to change the quantities, to perhaps just add what you have got together and hope for the best. This may not always end up as a bad combination, in fact it could and certainly should work out better than a prescription recipe. But it certainly is valuable to have the knowledge that things do not have to work out perfectly on the first attempt. That in fact there are lots of people for whom it didn’t, but who could still pass on positive advice, despite through sharing perhaps a negative story.

As Scott Berkun discusses in his blog post How to learn from your mistakes:

What’s missing in many people’s beliefs about success is the fact that the more challenging the goal, the more frequent and difficult setbacks will be. The larger your ambitions, the more dependent you will be on your ability to overcome and learn from your mistakes.

My original post on blogger here. 

Discovering dennis

There are so many good photographers in the world. Particularly with the increase in digital, there seem to be a growing number appearing every minute. When I look on Flickr, I get lost in a sea of photography: the good, the bad and the ugly. However, when I see something that hits me and constantly makes me think about it. I know I have found a keeper.


I first saw the work of Dennis Darzacq when I was living in Paris. I went down a little street, into a little building, down some small stairs and found myself in a delightful gallery space, with some fantastic images. The series of photos on display were called La Chute and I was won over. How did he capture these people in these seemingly impossible positions? Do they not create the most incredible portrait of the young people living in the Banlieus of Paris? Just a reminder that good photography is about the an interaction between the photographer and the subject, which then captures the heart and imagination of its viewers.

The delights of Erwin Wurm

Tonight I was just thinking about favourite things. I have often been one to say that I can have so many favourites that it is difficult to choose. The problem is, that is easy to be inspired by things in life and it can be difficult to choose just one as a favourite. I think I can define something as a favourite, as opposed to an inspiration when it continues to inspire me in a long term. That every time I revisit the work of a specific artist, that it gives me a renewed sense of pleasure, that it makes me want to find out more, to learn about who inspires them and who they inspire.

Erwin Wurm is one of these favourites. 

I simply love his work. I discovered him a few years ago, when I came across his book The artist who Swallowed the world in the school library and since then I have been hooked. I love the simplicity of the idea in alot of his work, yet I find so much of it to be extremely compelling. It often makes me smile. which is the most important of all.

I love the series – 1 minute sculptures, which are based on simple interactions between the model and their surroundings. They are interactions which are unusual, that cause you to stop and take a second to look and to chuckle, as it is if for a single moment the person has been caught in the act of doing something that is normally not done. It is almost like a photographic diary of everyday people caught in a strange moment, these pieces seem so quick, so brief in their creation. However, there also seem to be many deeper messages that can be read within the photographs.

I like that you can notice traces of his work in others. I guess that’s pretty standard in art. I see his work as a possible inspiration to design work, mostly in the sense of the idea – not to take products and spaces at face value, to search for all possible ways that something may be used or interpreted by the people that interact with them.

My original post on blogger.