One magical summer: a tale of serendipity – Taunton 2016

A dream come true in Taunton … photo by Mike Godleman of Missing A Trick Photography

This year’s summer began for me back in last year’s autumn, when a chance meeting in the Museum of Somerset set an incredible chain of events in motion.

Talking to someone in the museum about how I was looking for opportunities to demonstrate and run workshops on quilling (the art of paper filigree), I was overheard by Jenny Keogh, CEO of GoCreate Taunton, and co-organiser of Taunton Live, the town’s annual arts festival. “Would I be interested in demonstrating at next year’s festival?” she asked. Would I?? “Absolutely … tell me more!” I replied.

A couple of weeks later, I found myself meeting with Jenny and her colleague Diane Burnell in the Foyer of Taunton’s Castle Hotel, explaining how I stage ‘make and take’ sessions for adults and children at public events, teaching them to create flowers, butterflies and other colourful creatures out of paper strips. This proved to be of great interest to them, as it was exactly the kind of drop-in public workshop they were planning to offer at Taunton Live 2016.

Following this meeting, I became a member of GoCreate Taunton and attended a Creatives Club meeting in early January in order to show my commitment and learn more about the plans for this year’s festival.

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Taunton Live poster

It was inspiring! The week-long event, I learned, was to encompass creativity in all its forms, focusing variously on two-dimensional art; comedy and street performance; dance, movement and fashion; three-dimensional art; poetry literature and drama plus music, all being represented on different days and centred on an open area in the town centre. Supporting this would be exhibitions, performances and ‘Adopt An Artist’ events throughout the town, with colourful and quirky yarnbombing very much in evidence on Taunton’s historic streets.

Initially I was asked to stage a ‘make and take’ quilling workshop, open to all-comers, in the Orchard Centre – Taunton’s main pedestrianised shopping area – on Thursday 21st July. With Thursday being the town’s busiest shopping day due to an adjacent open-air food market, this was an exciting opportunity to spread the word about quilling, and I was delighted to accept the invitation.

As winter turned to spring, however, further opportunities arose – to my great delight!  The first of these was an invitation to quill the Taunton Live logo which I have already described in a previous post.  Diane also asked if I would be willing to stage a three-hour quilling class in Taunton Library, putting me in touch with staff there to make the necessary arrangements. I was duly booked to run the class on the morning of Friday 22nd July, supported by excellent pre-event publicity.

Perhaps most exciting of all, however, was the invitation I received to display some of my quilled collage pictures at the festival as part of the ‘Adopt An Artist’ scheme. Having seen my work online, and noting the way in which I was developing my quilled tracery (echoing the architectural features of gothic church buildings and stained glass windows), Diane approached the Vicar of Taunton’s magnificent parish church, St Mary Magdalene, to see if he and his team of church wardens would be willing to ‘adopt’ me as an exhibiting artist there.

I visited Taunton in early May, and kept an appointment to meet the Vicar, Reverend Rod Corke, in the vicarage. I showed him pictures of my work on my iPad, and he was sufficiently impressed to propose my ‘adoption’ at a subsequent parish meeting. After an anxious wait, I received news in June that I would be permitted to mount a display of my pictures in the church. From that point on, the stage was set!

Adopt an Artist 2016

It took a great deal of planning and list-writing to prepare myself for the festival, as in addition to my pictures I had all my workshop materials and equipment to bring to the various venues, and I would be travelling to Taunton by train!

In the build-up to the festival, I contributed as actively as possible to the on-going publicity machine which, I discovered, was centred mainly on Twitter. Soon I was tweeting, re-tweeting and being re-tweeted with the best of them, picking up followers in Taunton’s vibrant cultural and arts community along the way.  (You can find a link to my Twitter feed in the right-hand side panel.)

The festival officially ran from 18th – 24th July 2016, but I had the opportunity to set up my display in the church on the 16th, and leave it there until 6th August when I would be attending the Taunton Flower Show – of which more later.

On Saturday 16th July, I excitedly boarded the train for Taunton with six framed pictures and all my library workshop materials packed into one substantial suitcase! On arrival, I headed straight for the church, where I had been allocated a display table in a prime position right in the foyer, next to the cafe and bookshop. The Vicar had warned me that he could not absolutely guarantee the safety of the pieces due to the fact that all sorts of people wander in and out of this town centre church at different times and it was impossible for his team of helpers to monitor activity at every single moment. I considered all this carefully, but concluded that it was such a wonderful opportunity that I was prepared to take the risk.

The following weekend, the church was due to stage its annual fayre which would take up space in the foyer, so I agreed to relocate my display beforehand to a new position deeper inside the church.

My next port of call on that first Saturday was the library where a storage room was made available for me to leave my workshop materials in readiness for Friday’s class.

The following Wednesday saw me returning to Taunton in readiness for my two workshops, laden once again with everything I needed for the shopping centre ‘make and take’.

DSCF7503Thursday morning dawned, and I checked in at the Orchard Centre’s security desk to receive my pass before finding my way to my tables which had already been set in place for use by other artists who had done demonstrations there earlier in the week. I had quilling samples, literature and workshop materials to lay out in addition to my own merchandise (some small quilled items and paper bead jewellery) and, once this was in place, I settled back to rolling a few coils and waiting for the public to notice me.

The first hour was very quiet, but suddenly a family of three came over and asked to try some quilling – after that, I found myself busy for the rest of the day! One of the yarnbombers had been allocated to me as a helper so that I could take a break when necessary, and time seemed to fly by as more and more people (mainly children with their parents) sat down to create quilled flowers, butterflies and other sundry creatures for their takeaway gift tags and cards.

Marcia’s photo of me in action at the Orchard Centre

 

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I was delighted, during the course of the day, to receive visits from some of the contacts I had made on Twitter, including Marcia, Taunton’s former Mayor (who greeted me like an old friend!) and a professional photographer, Mike Godleman, who asked if I would be interested in commissioning a photoshoot of my display in the church. This came to fruition a couple of weeks later, as I will describe later on.

It was a fulfilling and fun day, and so good to be playing an active role in the festival … with more excitement to come!

Library workshop posterThe following morning, I walked to the library ready for my three-hour class. One of the ladies who had booked failed to turn up, which was a little disappointing, but the others more than made up for her absence with their eager enthusiasm! I gave my standard introduction to quilling, describing its history, showing samples, demonstrating the way in which quilled shapes can be put together to form pictures etc – and very soon my ladies were successfully rolling coils for themselves (without the aid of a tool, I might add!). All expressed an interest in attending further classes, several were keen to leave me their contact details, and one has subsequently become a member of The Quilling Guild. Taking all this into consideration, I feel it was a great success. The library is an excellent venue, with loads of room, large tables and a cafe on site – well worth bearing in mind for the future. Watch this space!!

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On Friday afternoon, I returned to the church in order to move my display as previously agreed, making way in the foyer for the parish fayre. The new site was a beautiful area of the church known as the Soldiers’ Corner, where stunning stained glass windows (depicting famous military men) cast beautiful coloured light from both sides. The table allocated to me in this area was much bigger, too, and I had a lot more room in which to set out my pictures (see photo below). Meanwhile, I received numerous very appreciative comments from people working in and visiting the church, and more than half of the leaflets I had left describing my exhibits had already been taken.

Soldiers' Corner shot

Saturday dawned, and my aim was to take some time to enjoy the penultimate day of the festival with free time on my hands. First I followed a marching jazz band through the shopping centre and into the main festival square, somehow ending up carrying a banner and being photographed with the musicians as we arrived on Castle Green.

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I decided to return to the church where the fayre was in full swing, as there was an opportunity on that day to go up its iconic Somerset tower. I was told that people would be taken up in small groups, so I had to wait for some more to arrive in order to complete our party – and who should they turn out to be but the current Mayor of Taunton Deane, Vivienne Stock-Williams and her husband?! As we ascended the 160-odd very steep and narrow steps to the roof of the tower, we fell into conversation, and the Mayor was very interested to hear that I had a display of quilled pictures down in the church below. After admiring the view and having our photo taken on the tower roof, we gingerly made our descent, and Mrs Stock-Williams asked to see my display before we all sat down for tea in the cafe at the Vicar’s invitation.

At the top

 

Philippa Reid, Quilling artist

 

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Now, I can’t say too much at the moment because discussions are still ongoing, but suffice it to say that in the space of 15 minutes two very interesting propositions were made by those present in terms of future opportunities for me and my quilling art. If there are further developments, I will of course report them here on the blog. Even if nothing further comes of them, however, the delight I felt on that particular morning will remain with me as a truly wonderful memory … serendipity indeed!!

The festival ended the following day, and my thoughts now turned to the next exciting event – Taunton Flower Show – which was held this year on 5th and 6th August. I have written about the Flower Show here on the blog before – it’s a major competitive event and visitor attraction in this part of England, sometimes referred to as “The Chelsea of the West”! Last year, I managed to win two prizes in the competitions marquee, and I hoped to repeat that achievement once again by entering two of this year’s craft classes.

I removed one of my quilled collage pictures from the church display as one of my entries, and also brought a card that I had crafted for the class entitled ‘Hand-made Ruby Wedding card using no commercial embellishments’. Next morning dawned, and – two prizes once again!!

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My card entry used lots of different techniques, instead of just quilling, because I discovered last year that the judges sometimes like to see a range of skills on display (although this doesn’t actually seem to have been the case with 2016’s First Prize winner! ) Nevertheless, my effort involving iris folding, heat-gun embossing, decoupage and stencilling alongside some quilled numerals and interlocking rings, earned praise from the judges for the “variety of skills” shown.

Just when I thought all the excitement was over, the Parish Secretary from St Mary Magdalene church made me an offer to purchase my prize-winning card, as it was her sister’s Ruby Wedding anniversary later that week! So, quite unexpectedly, I ended up selling the card – a very satisfying end to a brilliant few weeks.

Meanwhile, in between all of these wonderful events, my new friend Mike from Missing A Trick Photography had visited the church to do his photoshoot of my display – and the results are absolutely stunning! Since all of the pictures were behind glass, I feared that he would struggle with difficult reflections in the church environment, but he told me afterwards that he contorted himself into all sorts of uncomfortable positions in order to obtain some brilliant shots! I’ve included a couple of his lovely pictures in this post, but you can see the full set in ‘sample mode’ online via this link.

So ends the story of my magical summer in Taunton  … the start of something very special indeed for me!

 

Viva Vivary!

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One of the many treasures to be found in Taunton (the county town of Somerset in south-west England) is a classic Victorian park which was first laid out for the public’s enjoyment in 1895.

Known as Vivary Park (after the medieval fish farm or ‘vivarium’ that was once sited there to serve Taunton’s ancient castle and priory), it features prominently in my memories of life in Taunton in the 1970s, and is still one of my favourite places to visit whenever I find myself in the town.

Vivary Park is the venue for the famous Taunton Flower Show which takes place annually in August, at which I was thrilled to win some prizes for my quilled art last year.  If you like, you can read about that particular adventure here and here.

The park has now become the subject of my latest quilled collage featuring gothic-style tracery, which aims to create a decorative ‘window’ on to this peaceful and colourful oasis in the town. At the centre is a digitally stylised picture of the gorgeous fountain which was unveiled as a memorial to the late Queen Victoria in 1907, and which is regularly re-painted in vivid bright colours which preserve its original magnificence even in modern times. The beauty of the fountain is echoed by fabulous displays of flowering plants throughout the year. There is also an elegant Victorian bandstand in the park, plus a peaceful sensory garden area – it really is such a delightful place!

I have tried to capture the rich colours of the park in this collage through my choice of background papers and the quilled flowers I made to complement them. Quillers will notice a little combed work along the edges of the deep magenta panels, nestling in between crimped-strip teardrops. The tracery is constructed using 3 mm gold-edged gold strips, triple-rolled to create ring coils around dowels. By cutting the ring coils, it is possible to make arcs that form the basis of classical gothic architectural shapes. I’m learning more and more about the geometry of tracery every time I make one of these pieces!

This picture will be placed on public display at various locations (including Taunton) in the coming months, unless previously sold. Should you be interested in purchasing it (or maybe even something similar, custom-made), please contact me by emailing quilliancemail@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Viva Vivary!!

Where the heart is …

I have lived in several different places over the course of my life, but none has ever meant more to me than the town which I am so proud to call home: Taunton in Somerset.

For this reason, I was thrilled to be awarded two prizes for my quilling at the prestigious Taunton Flower Show earlier this year (see previous posts here and here) … and, this weekend, I am equally delighted to have been accepted as a member of a vibrant local arts organisation called GoCreate Taunton – you can now read my profile on the GoCreate website here.  This connection has produced a very exciting opportunity for me take part in the Taunton Live 2016 arts festival next year – watch this space for further announcements!  You can read a review of last year’s event as a taster here .

Yes, home is definitely where the heart is – and yesterday my own house provided the venue for a really enjoyable quilling workshop, staged especially for 10-year-old Lily and her Dad at the kind request of our mutual friend, Janet.

It soon became apparent that Lily is artistically talented and very creative, just like her father! They both took to quilling like ducks to water!

Janet came along with them, and I insisted that she try some quilling too, despite the fact she’d assured me beforehand that she’s totally ‘cack-handed’! Not true … it wasn’t long at all before we got Janet rolling and coiling with the rest of us, and she surprised herself with the results (see below).

Janet with her quilling

After I had shown them the basics, Lily began by making a lovely purple flower and Pug (her Dad) got stuck into making a very impressive collection of marquise shapes for a poinsettia! I showed them some of my own quilled pieces, and Lily was very taken with my fantasy octopus that had won one of the prizes in Taunton. She was inspired to start making multi-coloured solid coils (just like the suckers of the octopus), and one of them quickly became so big that I had to help her reinforce the base with glue!

It was a delight to spend the afternoon with these three lovely people, and I’m very pleased to be able to share some photos of them and their creations here:

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Yes, I do quill flowers … occasionally!!

It seems I’ve got a bit of a reputation … and deservedly so, because it’s based on an indisputable fact: I’m not particularly ‘into’ quilling flowers!!

I CAN quill them, of course, and I have made many, many of them in the past during my ‘card-making years’ – but these days my preference leans much more towards abstract work than conventional quilled ‘prettiness’. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, and I guess it shows in style of the work that I generally produce.

However … I did make an exception this year when I created a card to enter into one of the prestigious craft competitions at Taunton Flower Show – a very high-profile horticultural and country show staged annually in the South West of England.

The requirement was for a card to welcome the arrival of a new-born baby, and here’s my design, made to conform strictly to the competition criteria of ‘an original design using no commercially-made embellishments’:

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Flower close-up copyrightedI decided that, if I was going to make a quilled flower, it would definitely have to be a ‘wow factor’ one! So I set to work with a combination of huskings made on onion-holder prongs, ‘curly’ pixie-hood loops (as first pioneered by my friend Janetta van Roekel), teardrop shapes and a central fringed pom-pom using a graduated strip – all in one of my favourite colour combinations.

I quilled the lettering using a multi-strip outline technique that I learned from Jane Jenkins and which we are, incidentally, going to feature in the Autumn 2015 issue of ‘Quillers Today‘ magazine because I’m sure that many other quillers will be interested to try it.

Anyway, my decision to go down a more conventional, ‘prettily designed’ route definitely paid off, as I won an award for this particular card at the Flower Show. That really meant a very great deal to me since Taunton (where the Show was held) has always occupied a very special place in my heart.

It goes to prove, too, that exceptions do sometimes prove the rule … now, will my reputation remain intact?

An undersea fantasy

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Now that the Quilling Guild‘s competitions for 2015 are over, I can finally share with you my ‘fantasy octopus’ which is pictured here.

This piece comprises literally thousands of quilled pieces, which took me well over six months to complete and assemble! The shape of the octopus is bordered with tiny solid coils (all fastidiously made without holes in the middle!), while the grey infill pieces are a combination of tiny ‘S’ shaped open coils and mini vortexes.

The suckers are all solid coils made using sequential permutations of two carefully chosen sets of colours. They vary in size to reflect the pulsating movement of an octopus when it swims. On some tentacles two rows of suckers are showing, while on others there is only one row; this reflects the way the octopus constantly rotates its ‘limbs’ as it moves through the water.

I mounted the octopus on a multi-layered ‘mat’ of specialist papers to create a semi-transparent watery effect. This was accidentally enhanced when the piece was on public display in a marquee earlier this year, where high humidity and condensation produced unintentional ‘ripples’ in the background water in an unexpected act of serendipity!!

The photo you see above was taken BEFORE the marquee experience, which occurred when I entered the octopus into a competition at the highly prestigious Taunton Flower Show in August. I’m delighted to say that the piece received an award at the show, which was especially gratifying considering that it was judged up against pieces made using many other ‘mainstream’ craft techniques such as embroidery and cross-stitch. Below you can see a photo of it at the show, in its ‘rippled’ state – which I now consider to have been a very ‘happy accident’!

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Quilling with marbled paper

DSCF6584I’m always on the look-out for potential new quilling materials, so was delighted to make the acquaintance of a hand-marbled paper supplier last week at the fabulous Taunton Flower Show. Marshall and Fuller produce an amazing range of uniquely patterned papers whose weight is ideal for quilling applications, so I just had to treat myself by buying a sheet to play with.

DSCF6587Here’s a photo of a section of the sheet that I bought … yes, with a pattern like that it was guaranteed to get the creative ‘juices’ flowing! What’s more, I was assured by the manufacturer that the colours do not run in contact with PVA glue or varnish, so I just couldn’t wait to start experimenting. First, I cut some 3mm wide strips and backed them by gluing standard quilling strips in complementary colours along their length. When dry, this produced some very substantial strips – patterned on one side – which held their coil beautifully after rolling. Here, you can see the lovely effect that quilling with these produced:

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Then, I tried rolling up some long triangular sections of the paper to make some beads, and I’m absolutely thrilled with the result! The little sections of pattern combine together in a really attractive and interesting way, and (although I say it myself), I think these earrings are absolutely stunning!

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I just can’t wait to experiment some more, so watch this space …