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!

 

Taunton here I come!!

The programme for the Taunton Live 2016 arts festival has just been published – and I’m so delighted that my name is on it in three different places!

Here’s a summary of the events I’ll be involved in:

Taunton Live 2016 poster

And here are the two sections of the programme in which my name appears:

Adopt an Artist 2016 Taunton Live supporting programme

You can download a complete copy of the festival programme here.

If you scroll back through the recent posts on this blog, you can also see the quilled tracery collage pictures which I will be putting into my church exhibition.

My involvement in Taunton Live all springs from a chance meeting that I had with one of the festival organisers last October – and what a serendipitous meeting that proved to be! I introduced Go Create Taunton‘s Jenny Keogh and Diane Burnell to the art of quilling a couple of weeks later, and before I knew it I had two workshops booked, an exhibition arranged, and two Taunton Live logos to quill!

I was privileged to be present at the local Creative Club meeting back in January when several of the events on the programme were first discussed: the yarn bombing (even bigger and better this year!); the decorating of the fabulous copper beech tree outside Taunton Castle (can’t wait to see that!); the rounding-up of the town’s numerous buskers for the Music Day etc. etc. It’s so exciting to see it all coming to fruition at long last!

If you can make it to Taunton Live, do try to come along to one or more of my events – I’d love to see you there!

And the best news of all? My husband and I are now seriously discussing a move to the Taunton area in the not-too-distant future … something I’ve wanted so, so much for such a long time. Taunton Live is just the beginning … I’m coming back home where I belong.

It’s all happening in Taunton!

There are now just six weeks to go until the Taunton Live Arts Festival 2016, and from my point of view things are really starting to come together!

Last week I received confirmation that permission has been granted for my exhibition of quilled collage pictures in St Mary Magdalene church to go ahead, and so now I am busy sourcing the necessary display stands and designing the flyer leaflets that will accompany the pieces. I have written before about the breathtaking beauty and atmosphere of this wonderful church – see this previous post – and I cannot tell you how privileged I feel to be able to display some of my work in the very place that has inspired several of my quilled tracery patterns. Although I have now completed the six pieces that will be on show (from 18th July – 6th August), my brain is buzzing with more ideas after visiting the church again last week – hopefully I will find some time to explore some of them in the weeks ahead.

Just as the exhibition had been confirmed, I also received word from Taunton Library that the poster for my pre-bookable quilling workshop on 22nd July 2016 is now ready – here it is:

Library workshop poster

I have limited the places at this workshop to a maximum of 10 so that I can give each of the participants plenty of individual attention. If there is sufficient interest, however, I have agreed to stage a second workshop at a later date, so that anyone who misses out on this one will not be disappointed. Watch this space!

Now I am just waiting to confirm the details of the drop-in ‘make and take’ workshop that I will be running in the Orchard Shopping Centre, Taunton, on Thursday 21st July 2016. Hopefully there will soon be a poster available for that event too.

During my visit last week, I also delivered the two quilled festival logos that I had made at the organisers’ request, and I was delighted to learn that these are to be awarded as prizes to people who produce outstanding creative work after attending one of the many workshops included in the festival programme – what an honour!

I cannot describe how much it means to me to be so deeply involved in a festival of the arts in the place that I love beyond all others. One day I hope to be able to make my home in the Taunton area once again, but until then this is unquestionably the next best thing!!

 

Quilling the Taunton Live logo

In July, I will be hosting two quilling workshops as part of the Taunton Live 2016 arts festival – one a ‘drop-in’ make and take session in the town’s main shopping centre on Thursday 21st, and the other a pre-bookable three hour workshop in Taunton Library on Friday 22nd. The festival organisers have been extremely supportive of me and my quilling, which is a real thrill for me as I am delighted to be able to participate in such an exciting event in the town that I love!

A while ago, I was asked whether I’d like to have a go at quilling the festival logo, which is a colourful swirly design as you can see here:

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So, of course, I thought: yes, I can do that! The idea of reproducing the swirls with fanned-out multi-strip open coils immediately sprang to mind. Once I got started, however, I realised that the task was a little more challenging than it had at first appeared.

Look closely at the logo, and you’ll see that the thickness of swirls is maintained throughout much of the length of each one, rather than tapering sharply as a multi-strip open coil normally would. So I found myself having to add extra bundles of multiple strips to my open coils in order to bulk out the shapes so that they conformed more closely with the design.

Also, there are subtle colour variations in each swirl which I also needed to ‘suggest’ in my quilling.

Here you can see the first logo that I quilled, taking these challenges into account:

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Well, I’m pleased to say that the festival organisers were very pleased with my effort and asked whether I’d be willing to quill a second one, with the intention that both finished pieces could be presented during the event as prizes. What an honour! So I took up the challenge once again, but this time I decided to use a different technique.

Now, I’m not normally a fan of filling in large open spaces with eye/leaf shapes – but I decided that on this occasion the closed loose coil approach might be a better way of creating the swirls.

So, out came my work board and pins, and I tried this different approach, moulding my coils to fit one other within the confines of each swirl outline, before wrapping everything around with a containing strip.

Here’s how it turned out:

Taunton Live logo #2

… and here’s a ‘work in progress’ shot – note the numerous pin holes left over from the completed swirls!

Taunton Live logo work in progress

For each of the little crescents, I found it was necessary to mould a whole-strip eye shape around a dowel and glue it on the back to hold the shape securely. Once again, pins were essential for this purpose.

For the ‘hint’ of colour variation, I’ve added an extra strip (or two!) on one side of each swirl’s outer border as you can see.

All in all, this was an interesting and enjoyable exercise. Now I just need to frame the pieces and look forward to seeing who will receive them as prizes in July!

As a postscript to this story, my first logo is currently being used as the cover photo on the GoCreate Taunton Facebook page!

Tudor Timbers

 

Tudor Timbers #2

The title of this collage – Tudor Timbers – refers to the picture at the top of the arch which shows one of Taunton’s most iconic landmarks, dating from the 16th century.  This lovely half-timbered building stands right in the centre of the town, and always used to be known as the Tudor Tavern. Today it is a coffee shop, but I remember it back in the 1970s as a Berni Inn (oh happy days!!), with a separate room at the back called the Hangman’s Bar. The hangman in question was the infamous Judge Jeffries who presided over the so-called ‘Bloody Assizes’ in Taunton in the late 17th century. This followed the suppression of the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion at the Battle of Sedgemoor, in which many local citizens had unfortunately been involved. Despite this somewhat grisly association, the Tudor Tavern remains a potent symbol of Taunton’s history, and seemed to me to be the perfect centrepiece for a Tudor-style collage. I like the way the steep roof of the Tavern zig-zags down towards the right hand side of the arch, highlighted by a subtle patina of moss on the richly coloured roof tiles.

Like my other collages, this piece is divided into brightly coloured black-bordered sections reminiscent of a stained glass window, with quatrefoil tracery shapes positioned on the inside of the arch. The tracery is constructed from 3mm pastel yellow/silver-edged quilling strips, crowned by my quilled interpretation of a Tudor rose. Two of the window panels contain typography: look closely and you will see that the one positioned towards the lower right includes the opening words to the famous Tudor song, ‘Greensleeves’. I decided to decorate this particular panel romantically with a folded paper rosebud. The interlinked silver spirals in the gold panel above it were made with a punch – I had to insert the paper first forwards and then backwards into the punch to form each pair, because the paper I used was only coated in silver on one side. (I’ve had to learn how to think both upside down and back to front when making these collages!) The serrated decorations on the left hand side of the arch were made by cutting paper with pinking shears, and I’ve also included numerous tight pegs made from gold and silver edged quilling strips throughout the design. The borders for the arch were created using the quilling strip ‘sandwich’ technique described here.

DSCF7393I promised to share the pattern for my Tudor rose, so – for the quillers amongst you – here it is:

I worked with 3mm (1/8 inch) wide quilling strips, cut into lengths as detailed below. These lengths are necessarily short, since the main body of the finished rose measures only 30mm (just over 1 inch) across – yes, be warned, it’s fiddly to make! However, the pattern could easily be scaled up if required.

Make 10 closed loose coils out of 26 mm (1 inch) lengths of crimped white paper, and five tight pegs out of 26 mm (1 inch) lengths of grey paper. Create five pairs of white coils by gluing them together side by side. Then add one grey peg to the base of each pair as shown in the photo. Glue these three-coil sets together in a ring, working over circular graph paper.

Use a yellow strip to create a tight peg big enough to fit inside the ring, and glue it in place.

Make 5 teardrops from 3 mm (1.25 inch) lengths of dark green paper and glue these in position between each pair of white coils, pointing towards the centre of the rose.

Make 5 crescent/bunny ear shapes (refer to photo) from 225 mm (8 inch) lengths of dark red paper for the rose petals and glue these in position above the white coils, separated by the dark green teardrops. Glue the tips of each petal together.

Make 5 teardrops from 3 mm (1.25 inch) lengths of lime green paper and glue these in position as shown in the centre of each red petal.

Voila!

If you use this pattern and post a photo of your Tudor rose online, I’d be grateful if you could please include an acknowledgement to me and a link to this blog post – thank you.

Tudor Timbers will be placed on public display at various locations in the coming months, including the Taunton Live 2016 arts festival. Should you be interested in purchasing something similar (custom-made), please contact me by emailing quilliancemail@gmail.com or leave a comment below.