Saturday, 4 August 2012

Final blog for TRACE

It's been a week since TRACE was open to the public in Bristol and I've had chance to take down the exhibition, and reflect on how it went. Being a critical Arts Manager I plan and arrange for situations, including plan B's just in case things go wrong. However, I'm thrilled and slightly overwhelmed that TRACE went remarkably smoothly and above everything I'm hugely proud to have put together the exhibition.

There are a number of people that I have to thank and acknowledge for the smooth deliver of TRACE and for it's over all success. The first of those are the artists and makers that submitted their work to be exhibited. It was a pleasure to work with them and to show their skills, talents, and creativity in a group exhibition. We had thirteen artists and makers exhibiting with nineteen pieces, all very different but came together to create a visually stimulating and provocative show.

The second is of course Motorcade/FlashParade, without Penny and Julie's help and support TRACE would have never got off the ground. Their advice and interest in the subject of contemporary craft and visual arts provided the exhibition with an in depth investigation, including the critique led with Julie where we discussed the difference and similarities between the two mediums of making work.

Another thank you goes to my pop-up support from Minno Kitchen and Bristol Magpies and I Market. They transformed the foyer of BV Studios and provided the community passing by and audiences visiting with tasty treats both for the eye and the taste buds.

A final acknowledgement goes to the audiences to the exhibition and participants of the workshop. Since the beginning of my career I have been incredibly interested with the connection of the art and artists vision to the audience and observer. Without one you cannot have the other. The audience's interest in the exhibition, comments and conversations I relished in having with them, and the enjoyment of taking part in something creative and exciting was incredibly fulfilling and made me realise that my role is very much two sided and happily so. On one side I support artists and their practice, and on the other I provide opportunities for the public to engage in high quality artistic practice.

It was the first Context Arts project to take place in Bristol and had visitors from local areas of Bristol, to further afield in the South West and as far away as Scotland. With a week's break I'm back to organising the next Context Arts project, which is due to take place in Bedminster Down in October 2012..... so watch this space for more blogs, more artist call outs, and lots more ways to get involved.  

Until next time,

Context Arts founder and Co-ordinator

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Watermark Performance by Claire Weetman

Today Claire performed The Watermark Performance fr the first time in the TRACE exhibition. She started from the gallery space and slowly made her way to the building entrance, leaving a trail of small squares created by painting water onto the surface of the floor. As she moved the squares left a trace of her journey and evaporated over time.

The performance was mesmerising with a rhythmic painting motion and clinking of the paint brush going into the jar, and her subtle knelling position that Claire would bounce up from after painting each square.

It wasn't before long that Claire had made her way to the pavement outside Motocade/FlashParade, where she started to trace and obstruct the passers by as they were making their own journeys.

Claire will be performing The Watermark Performance twice more over the weekend. Once tomorrow at 2pm and again on Sunday at 3pm.

It's free to watch and can be viewed at length or as long as you'd like to observe.

Mini Magpies & I - Craft Market tomorrow

Last night's preview and critique was fantastic and a great celebration to open the show with. We had many an artist, maker and audience member participate in the conversation about art and craft, followed by a really yummy curry provided by Motorcade/FlashParade, the shutters to the space was open meaning we could sit in the evening sun and enjoy a glass or two of wine as well. The evening ended with a great DJ providing some tracks to mark the end of a lovely event.

And the fun continues this weekend with a Craft Market, where stalls and local makers will be selling beautiful and unique crafts. We've asked Sian Titchener, organiser of the market and Magpies & I to tell us a little more about what to expect -

Magpies & I was born out of my love of crafting and the pleasing feeling of finding a one-off.

Over a year ago I decided that I wanted to create a new type of market in Bristol, with a mission to merge and bring together sellers of handmade and vintage. I felt that the two labels, 'handmade' and 'vintage' were becoming a little fuzzy. Many hand-made objects were increasingly being constructed with 'vintage' skills that were being revived. Reworking pre used objects, such as buttons, lace and fabric to create jewellery, homewares, and stationary. Also a trend to upcycle; to turn 'retro' items in to new contemporary objects. The vintage sellers are increasingly becoming the suppliers to the crafters.

Over the year Magpies & I has really come together. I have worked very hard to ensure that we have a high standard of sellers, but to never make it exclusive. Many of the sellers are from creative backgrounds, that have stepped out to raise children, but now want an opportunity to 'create' again. Magpies & I is also about creating a social setting in which the sellers can meet like-minded people.

Of course I shouldn't forget the buyer, without their patronage the markets couldn't survive. The customers always walk away with a beautifully made product, and often a story. A story of how that item was created, where the vintage item originated from, all of this makes the experience so much more than just a 'purchase'. Those that attend often comment on how aesthetically pleasing the markets look. The love, care and time that all the sellers put into displaying their products on market day is always evident.

The future is also looking exciting and busy! Magpies and I is joining forces with two other creative like minded folk to create a new space in central Bristol. The space will provide floor space for handmade and vintage sellers to display and sell their work, workshops and skill swaps, space for small exhibitions and more with time.

This Saturday to run along side 'TRACE ',we will be offering a little taste of Magpies & I.
A dash of vintage and a little smidgen of handmade. 

Attending on Saturday will be Love Nettie.
This is the recent creative development by Lynette Evans, Artist and Maker. Lynette has studied fine art and has picked up and developed several self-taught craft skills over the years. She has a passion and curiosity for various vintage and antique items, in particular buttons. Lynette loves the idea of a history behind the item. The romantic idea of the memories they hold from those that once owned them. The basis of the work of Love Nettie is to re-use otherwise old, broken, dis guarded, unfashionable items and create something beautiful to adorn yourself or your home with.
If you are interested in learning more about her products please contact 
Another attending is Into the Loop the work of Lisa Whiting. She has always worked with traditional craft techniques such as knitting, crochet and embroidery to reference themes of history and nostalgia and enjoys injecting a contemporary twist to her 'products' with elements of surprise and unexpected results. 

Please visit or contact me at for more information. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Tonight's the night - preview of TRACE

After much preparation, planning and organising tonight has finally arrived. I've spent the week painting, sanding, hanging & curating the artwork & craft carefully selected to show in TRACE, and tonight both muself and Motorcade/FlashParade warmly invite you to join us for the preview and critique of the exhibition. We'll be opening the doors to the gallery, Motorcade/FlashParade at 6pm until 9pm to provide an evening of previewing work, meeting some of the artists & getting relaxing in the gallery with something refreshing from our bar. The idea for TRACE started back in January when I(Emily) found the gallery space in Bedminster. Having been trained in Finr Art and for the last few years having a battle with myself about what my practice is and whether I class my craft making as a hobby or part of it. It was at an early stage of my practice that I realised my role as an Arts Manager, so I am immensely proud to present to you TRACE. The exhibition beings together two main questions & concepts in my work. I've already mentioned one, but the other is the idea and notion of something being imprinted and left behind. Whether you can make it to the preview tonight or over the weekend I hope you enjoy the exhibition. If you have any questions, thoughts or ideas yourself I'd love to hear them and will be in the gallery throughout the show. Thanks & happy viewing, Emily

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pop-up Cafe at TRACE

On Saturday and Sunday this week we have a real treat to help you enjoy visiting the TRACE exhibition at Motorcade/FlashParde on Phillip Street in Bristol. A fantastic Pop-up Cafe company, Minno Kitchen, from Somerset will be running a pop-up cafe from the foyer space at the gallery and BV Studios.Katy, from Minno Kitchen, will be rustling up tasty morsels and will be open from 12 - 6pm.

On Saturday will see Minno Kitchen dishing up Merguez Sausage and Goats cheese sandwiches, as well as crushed British Broad beans, Feta and Mint on homemade Soda Bread along with fresh salad leaves and their signature savoury muffins.

On Sunday it'll be a more relaxed affair with a brunch menu of Smokey Baked Beans with a Sweetcorn Muffin, as well as Spiced Courgette Fritters served with Summer Slaw.

Let's not forget the cakes!!! Gooey, crunchy Tiffen slices and Rhubarb and Frangipane Tart will feature amongst a selection to tickle everyone's fancy.

One last thing..... lots and lots for the little'uns including handmade snacks and small portions of adult sized dishes.

This is making our mouths water already so we hope to see you there. I know Katy is looking forward to seeing you for a natter and to fill your tummies before or after walking around the exhibition.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Alex Marsh - Interstices and Retrofix IX

Today's the first day in the gallery space and work is being delivered for us to hang and curate. It's really exciting as up until now the work has only been seen via email and photograph, so to see everything in 'real life' is making the the idea of TRACE come to life.

One of the artists who delivered their work today was Alex Marsh from London.

Alex has two pieces that we're showing in TRACE. The first shown above called 'Interstices' and the second called 'Retrofix IX'. These beautiful photographic prints and meticulously printing and then details removed by hand to leave some what of a negative imprint of an image.

Having spoken to Alex it's clear that she is clearly interested in the skill and craftsmanship of creating and how are creation leaves a trace of the original.

Interviewing Context Curator, Emily Bull, by Kevin Walker

We're please to be sharing a guest blog written by on e of the exhibiting artists in TRACE, Kevin Walker. Recently Kevin and Context Project Manager and Curator, Emily Bull met to discuss the background to Context. Here's what Kevin heard:

Interview with Context curator Emily Bull:
Context as arts practice

I come from a visual arts background; I did Fine Arts at Nottingham Trent University. And I became interested in the communication between the art and the audience - what happens when you make a piece of work and put it into a gallery and somebody sees it. I did an internship at the Tate, and from there went more into working in learning and participation. And I've constantly been intrigued by that communication between the art and the audience - and vice versa, how the audience can provide content for art as well, and bring it to life. As far as I'm concerned, the audience is part of the art for its life; it wouldn't exist, evolve or continue to be without the audience.

So Context is my practice as an artist; it's what i do instead of making work. Context is a project-led organisation that I set up in 2010. I was doing a Masters degree and looking at increasing the amount of provision and opportunity for rural audiences to access work, and for artists to be able to produce work in a rural setting - as well as bringing artists into a rural setting - mainly in Somerset and the Southwest.

Rural contexts

I did a big project that looked at how that could be done. It consisted of one-day, intensive residencies bringing artists and materials together to generate ideas and conversation; to taking over the whole of Somerset College for the summer holidays, thinking about unused space.

We also did a touring outdoor film exhibition where we got digital film and screen-based artists to make short work. So we went to village halls and quite rural places in Somerset, and invited the audience to choose from the programme of art to create their own evening - so they screened the films, they voted on what they wanted to watch.

And then the last piece of the project, we did what we called An Evening of Progress, which brought together artists, funders, stakeholders, people from venues, to come and have a big dinner party - sit around a table and eat food and discuss. It was a really interesting - excuse the pun - context. Bringing people who knew each other, speak to each other when they go to private views. But they had never had the conversation: 'Okay, so you’re the local authority and you provide funding. How do I access that funding?' Or, 'You’re the venue - what space have you got available to show my work?' The conversations that were fundamental to each other’s practice.

So that was the project, and we evaluated it, and I wrote my thesis on how you could make work happen, and about the role of the arts manager; I was doing an Arts Management Masters.

Audience analytics

It was through my Masters that I started working for Audiences London Plus, and I got into a full-time role, now as Regional Engagement Manager for the South West. There were all these regional development agencies all doing the same thing, so by combining we've become a sort of best of breed. Audiences Southwest used to be about numbers and audience data, and I've brought more community engagement.

The simplest way to describe it is that we can help organisations understand their existing and potential audiences through research and data. And the second spoke of our work is about practically advising and consulting about engaging with audiences, whether community engagement and outreach, or saying for example 'Our business plan's telling us that we should be looking at targeting families, or older people.' Then we would start looking at focus groups and evaluations and actually getting those audiences in. It's not just the arts, but includes heritage, science museums, the National Trust; culture being the bigger picture - cultural engagement.

I didn't know a huge amount about data analytics when I started. I was working for a dance company as their Education Officer, and before that, the same role in an arts centre. So I was coming at it from an engagement background. But now I think the most valuable part is pure evidence, because there's only so much you can presume about your audience.

For example, a rural village out in Somerset that you know has a lot of affluent people who engage when, say, there's a village fete. With data you can say, 'This is how much people in that village attend the arts; they either visit it outside or visit it in; this is their tendency to visit something should you put it on there; this is their lifestyle, their behaviour.'

It's stuff that you see used commercially, for selling products, but the way we use it for the cultural industry is thematically, for programming - being able to really deepen engagement with an individual or a group of audiences, and to really think about who your audiences are, how your programming and facilities fit them. And then including them in a sort of 360 approach with a review of your organisation and where it sits.

Sharing data & practice

We recently worked with Spike Island on a project called Understanding Audiences - a national benchmarking project looking at visual arts audiences. It was kind of a layered cake where we were funded to make a standardised questionnaire for visual arts venues that don't have box office systems. Showing how they could collect data in a standardised way, and also to train front-of-house staff to collect that data; and thirdly to create a data hub for us to analyse that data for the benchmarking report. Spike was one of 12 organisations in the whole South West, and there were four other regions that took part - East, East Midlands, London and the North West.

It was a really interesting process. Our standardised questionnaire had core data - full postcode, date of visit, stuff like that. And then we had optional, qualitative questions like why they visited, where they travelled from. It's one thing gathering the data, then analysing it, then telling about it, then getting people to use it; and there's always the danger that it can be interpreted in different ways. So our work is supporting people through that interpretation, and applying it so that they benefit.

We see our approach as consultative but practical, so that we provide people with skills so that they can sustain their own practice. Which is why we did a standardised questionnaire - so that they have a format, a template they can continue to use. And we can compare organisations - say Spike and Arnolfini, or Motorcade Flashparade - and then compare that with others across the region, like for example Stroud Valley Art Studios. So we can notice any gaps where we can help or start to shape something that can be sustained.

And this is what lots of our work is about - sharing audiences. You know, how can you increase your audience footfall by sharing audiences with the gallery up the road, recognising that audiences will travel. I think it's a redundant idea that galleries are in competition with each other. Audiences just want to see work.

And I think there's a lot to learn from the museum sector as well. There's a big project called New Expressions 2 happening in the South West at the moment, with I think four museums - M Shed, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, Barnstable, and RAMM in Exeter. They got funding to employ artists-in-residence to better engage with audiences, and to look at their artefacts and shows and stuff, to bring them to life through the residencies. I remember having conversations with them last year and saying, you know, I wonder what would happen if it was the other way around, and art galleries were employing historians or something? Like Spike Island - an old tea factory.

Tracing back

And this year I’ve started to think about Context a bit more. I did a lot of work looking into urban and rural audiences - the nature of the two. And where people travel, and how art travels. Hence there was a lot of correlation between the idea of context and what happens when you take work out of a studio and into another environment, and how that environment might change, whether it’s a village hall or a white-box gallery. And what happens with the artist as well, and what happens with reflection of their work. If you invite an artist from outside a rural context, do they perceive that as being as high-class as a sort of urban, streamlined gallery? Likewise, the appreciatoin of the audience - what happens when you go to see a piece of work in a local environment, as compared to when you travel to go see something?

I’ve spent my professional career working in the South West, and have seen people leaving the South West to go to London, or what they perceive as urban environments, to experience culture. The thinking behind that is that Bristol is the epicentre for the work, really, in the South West, with regard to that cultural, urban environment. 

So the work I’m doing at the moment is based in Bristol, working with Motorcade Flashparade, and we’re looking at the context between contemporary craft and visual arts. I’m interested in the notion of journeys and travels - how work can be taken from place to place, shown in different context - not solely a contemporary crafts exhibition for example, or a visual arts exhibition, but an exhibition of objects, each of which can be just an idea or a physical object. It's a case of taking the concept of context and applying that to different ideas and notions, and being responsive as well.

And that leads back to Trace. It's partly a response to my now working in Bristol, whereas the one we did in Somerset was exploring different ideas of how to create opportunities. And Trace seems to be an opportunity in its own right - it's a curated exhibition, it's got a theme, it's a one-off, it's over a week - it's relatively intense. So the idea of Context comes from those boundaries of visual art and craft.

Future contexts

I've got some ideas for what to do next. I really want to do some projects with the notion of popup shops. Popup art galleries in spaces where you wouldn't expect them. It's the same idea as flashmobbing: What would happen if the arts manager and the artists knew they were going to do something in a particular place, and you had followers - audience members - and you just told them, 'Right, okay, tomorrow night from 7 to 9 we're gonna be doing this there.' 

I quite like ideas like that. It was actually on a train coming from Peckham Rye to London Bridge, a few weeks ago, that I was looking into a block of flats. And I thought it would be really nice to do an exhibition in, like, a stairwell. So looking at opportunities in different places work can be shown.

And I really want to do something about the transport infrastructure in rural environments as well. Because there's the problem of transport in rural places - there's little to none, and where there are, it's really expensive. And placing artists to make work responsive, so like on the back of bus tickets or in bus shelters, or on trains - because there's a massive tourist trade as well. That same idea of the audience travelling and noticing things. Being somebody who would actively get a bus ticket from Bristol to Highbridge to experience something they'd heard about. To provide work where work isn't usually seen. To provide work by artists who don't usually get the opportunity to make. And to do things that increase the amount of work that people can access.

I'm quite interested in online stuff too, because I think we've barely scratched the surface of how art uses the online world. So the same way I talk about taking work into new contexts and spaces - it's usually within a walled environment, a physical space. But I'm interested in taking it out of physical space and putting it somewhere where people can still access, and making it quite an organic form that lives in a different realm.