Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Blue Peter Visits the Farnes Flock!

Finally, at the grand age of seven-and-twenty, I am the very proud owner of a Blue Peter badge! A couple of weeks ago, on my birthday in fact, I was heading into the Peak District for a celebratory luncheon, enjoying the sunshine and generally revelling in the fact that I had not one single bird to cut out, when my telephone rang. It was Blue Peter's director asking if I could go up to the Farne Islands that very evening to be part of a feature they had planned the following day! What would Diane Louise Jordan* do? I asked myself, and quickly said YES before I had chance to get too nervous.

So, after a quick sandwich, we hot-footed it back home for a slice of birthday battenburg (homemade with lots of marzipan - my favourite!) before I caught the train back up to the Farnes, just three days after I returned home from hanging the exhibition.

It's very exciting having your travel arranged for you by someone else. I spent a good chunk of the journey quickly trying to get to the part of Susan Cain's Quiet where she enlightens introverts on how to deal with public speaking. It turns out you need 1) practice: "Aaargh, I have no time to practice!" and 2) a passion for your subject: "BIRDS! COLLAGE! BLUE PETER! YES!" Everything would be ok, I promised myself, my jar of Night Time Kalms rattling reassuringly in my pocket.

In fact, everything was super. It should come as no surprise that people who work on Blue Peter are very lovely people indeed. They even gave me a special HAT. Anyone who knows just how much I love a good hat will not be surprised by my delight in having such a fine, green M&S specimen to add to my collection.

The children from the local middle school in Seahouses were brilliant. They asked some great questions about my exhibition and made lovely bird collages in a really short space of time. We also did quite a lot of walking in and out of the chapel, donning our hats at the appropriate moment, and a good deal of pointing at puffins:

Blue Peter

It was broadcast today and you can now see the whole programme here if you're in the UK, it will probably be available for a week or so and the Farnes bit is about 19 minutes in.

I'll be back on the Farnes during the summer holidays to run some children's collage workshops (as seen on Blue Peter!), I'll keep you posted and should have some definite dates lined up soon.
*My absolute favourite Blue Peter presenter when I was young:

Diane Louise Jordan

Flight

Farnes Flock 12

I spent the last week of June working high up amongst the rafters of a 14th century chapel on a tiny island in the North Sea, attempting to suspend hundreds of life-size seabird cutouts from the roof. From my perch atop the scaffolding tower I felt something akin to a fairly chaotic puppeteer, as I tied lines to the surrounding beams while the birds swayed about unpredictably below.

It's been two weeks since the my exhibition on the Farne Islands opened to the public and I still haven't written this blog, so I pinched that last paragraph from the guest blog I wrote for Barbour. It's difficult to know where to begin summing up such an enormous and incredible project, but I'll start with the birds.

Somehow I made 120 bird collages in just five weeks, covering about 20 different species which breed on the Farne Islands, from enormous cormorants to tiny swallows. These were then photographed (thank you Holly Booth!) and printed onto gigantic sheets of Foamex, like this:

Farnes Flock 2

If you imagine, as I did, that the name Foamex implies some sort of foamy quality, you would be entirely wrong. Cutting out 500-odd birds from 3mm plastic with nothing but a craft knife is no picnic. A HUGE thank you to everyone who came to the rescue and helped me to accomplish this mammoth task in just three weeks. It wasn't long before the birds had taken over the entire ground floor of my parents' house (where I have my studio) and while I escaped to a bird-free home at night, at one point they were clambering over cormorants and razorbills just to get upstairs! This is the plus-side of Foamex, a material so tough and durable, it could be usefully employed to build an assault course.

The other plus-side was that instead of working all on my own up in my studio, muttering to myself and letting the Radio 4 waves wash over me, I had company! It made a lovely change and everything much jollier (and finishing on time much more possible).

Extra thanks also go to lovely Alice Kiteley, who answered my plea on Twitter and drove across Staffordshire on at least four occasions to help me, all the super volunteers at Sudbury Hall, and Jack and Chris, who lent me a fretsaw and so revolutionised the entire bird-cutting-out process! Tina Webster also wrote a lovely blog about the day she drove all the way down from Yorkshire to assist.
Finally, the birds were sorted and packed, and the farm felt like it does after Christmas when the decorations have been taken down. We managed to squeeze them into my tiny car and I drove up to Northumberland to embark upon the hanging.

Unless you're prone to really violent sea-sickness, travelling to work by boat surely can't be beaten. It is utterly wonderful. Although I was slightly exhausted by the end of the week, I absolutely loved spending so much time on the Farnes and disembarking from the boat in the morning, even to be dive-bombed by dozens of nesting, extremely protective Arctic Terns, was quite magical.

Farnes Flock 11

When it came to actually hanging the birds (the wording always sounds a bit odd...), I was brilliantly assisted by Simon Lee, property manager and, most importantly, the person who thought St Cuthbert's chapel would be the perfect venue for a giant collaged avairy. There's  a great time-lapse organised by one of the National Trust rangers, which shows the whole flock going up in three days, although we did sneak a few more birds in on the morning of the preview!




Here are a few photos of the finished flock - although it's impossible to capture the whole thing. There are more on Facebook showing the whole process from start to finish and on my website.

Inflight3

Kate Slater 007

Farnes Flock 13

Farnes Flock 14

I'll be seizing all further opportunities to go back to the Farnes this summer, I had such a wonderful time. The exhibition is open until the 31st October, normal opening times and admission charges apply, more information can be found here.
PS. More VERY EXCITING NEWS TO COME. No idea if I'm supposed to keep it under my (specially adopted for protection from Arctic Terns) hat or not...

Farnes Flock 15

Monday, 10 June 2013

Flying North for the Summer

Birds Flyer lo-res

In two weeks time I’ll be transporting my flock of six-hundred-and-something birds to the Farne Islands and in under three the exhibition will be open to the public! If you haven’t been to Northumberland before it really is the most glorious place to spend a few days (beautiful beaches, castles, seals, BIRDS, the Cheviot Hills, Hadrian’s Wall…) AND this year, for four months only, you can visit St Cuthbert’s Chapel on Inner Farne and find it filled to the rafters with my wild, collaged flock!
I’ve had some brilliant helpers over the last week who’ve assisted in the cutting out of about one third of the birds so far! Lovely illustration student Alice Kiteley has been an absolute STAR as have lots of friends, family and the fantastic volunteers at Sudbury Hall! Really couldn’t get it done without you all, so a HUGE thank you. Still 400-odd left to go, so if anyone else fancies helping out and is in the Staffordshire/Derbyshire area please get in touch!


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A Chapel Full of Birds

I've generally been blogging over here on Wordpress lately, but this is truly brilliant news, so I thought I'd blog twice...

I have some really exciting news which I can finally tell you ALL about!

In August last year, I had THE BEST work day out, ever. It involved travelling up to Seahouses in Northumberland to meet some lovely people from the National Trust, taking a tiny boat across the sea on a beautiful, sunny day, eating cake delivered by post, a tour of a beautiful island and a really unique exhibition space, all topped off by a seal watching expedition (and fish and chips for tea)! It really will take some beating, although I am, of course, open to offers.

Islands

The result of all this northern adventuring is that from the end of June until the end of October this year, a lovely chapel on the National Trust's beautiful Farne Islands will be filled with a vast flock of my life-size, collaged birds! Similar to those I created for Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2010, but at least ten times as many and only species which can be seen on the islands (no flamingos this time), the birds will be suspended from the beams in the chapel so you'll be able to walk amongst them as they swoop to and fro!

The Farne Islands are a tiny group of islands just off the coast of Northumberland in the north-east of England. They're one of the most magical places I have ever visited, this is the breathtaking view looking back towards the mainland from the Farnes, with Bamburgh Castle on the coast and the Cheviot Hills in the background.

View of Coast 1

The islands are most famous for their incredible bird life - they have 23 species, including around 37,000 pairs of puffin! Look - it is impossible to keep yourself from beaming with joy at the sight of ONE, let alone 37,000 pairs:

Funny Puffin

Luckily, I'd been to the Farnes on holiday in my teens, so I knew a bit about them when Simon Lee, the manager for this area of the Northumberland coast, contacted me about creating a flock especially for this space. Somehow one of my dream commissions has become reality - a seaside, bird-based reality! It really couldn't be better.

The chapel is on Inner Farne which was once home to St Cuthbert in 678 AD. Built in 1370, the chapel is dedicated to the saint and stands alongside the Pele Tower which once housed monks and is now home to some of the National Trust rangers!
Imagine this space filled to the rafters with birds!

Chapel Interior 3

Chapel Interior 1

Chapel Interior 2 
Chapel Exterior 2

Chapel Exterior 1

Here are some more photos I took of the islands:

Shags



View of Coast 2


Rocks

Pele Tower
 




Lighthouse

Inner Farne

Seals

Look - SEALS! Unfortunately my camera failed at the last minute and I didn't get many photos of them. Huge thanks to Simon, David, Claire and everyone else for making it such a super day!

You can see more photos on the Pinterest board I've created here. Also well worth a look is the rangers' blog - they live on Inner Farne for eight months of the year (check out the photos of their mammoth supermarket shop just before they ventured out for the new season!).

You can follow @Northumb_Coast (National Trust's Northumberland Coast group of properties) and @NTSteely (head ranger for the islands).
I feel a puffin brooch in the offing. More importantly, I have A LOT of birds to collage...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A Celebratory Discount – Hurrah for Hilary Mantel!


I made this Henry VIII illustration after reading Wolf Hall and becoming completely absorbed by all things Tudor, so to celebrate the brilliant Hilary Mantel becoming the first woman AND the first Briton to win the Man Booker Prize TWICE with ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, the second book in her trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, this print is now just £15, half it’s usual price! This offer will last for 48 hours only and expires at 1pm GMT on Thursday.

Zero 2 Illo LIVE


On Saturday 10th of November I’ll be participating in two panel discussions at Zero 2 Illo LIVE, the inaugural (one might say most eminent) conference for UK illustrators. It has been masterminded by Jonathan and Lea Woodward, who instead of bemoaning the dearth of such conferences in the UK, decided to launch one of their own!
I’m a bit nervous about the public speaking part, but thrilled too because I’m really looking forward to meeting the other fantastic illustrators taking part and hopefully gleaning some useful hints, tips and inspiration myself on such mind-boggling matters as The Future of Illustration. Thankfully, I’m not in that one, I will try to be much more enlightening upon the subjects of Getting Clients and Commissions (with Rod HuntStanley Chow and Leigh Hodgkinson) and Making it on Your Own (with Katriona Chapman and Kate Hindley). Apart from super illustrators there will also be people who commission illustration such as Stephanie Amster, head of design at Nosy Crow.
It promises to be a fantastic event so if you haven’t booked your ticket already head over here – hope to see you on the 10th!


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Penguins, Tennyson, Lanterns and Bears! Shop Update...


I've added lots of new products to my Notonthehighstreet and Etsy shops! Please visit and let me know what you think - any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

All the beautiful photos were taken by Holly Booth, photography-whiz and all round lovely person.

(Once again, I find myself vowing to blog more often...)