Friday, July 31, 2009

Teaching At West Dean, UK

I had the immense pleasure of teaching a lampworking workshop this summer at West Dean College, which is founded by Edward James, whose 'desire to see traditional skills preserved and incorporated into contemporary work'. West Dean is a haven for artists, not unlike Haystack or Penland in the USA. You work in a creative environment; studio is open till 10pm each day, no need to worry about meals since they provide three meals per day for all participants. This is the first lampworking class I taught at West Dean with another lampworking class running in November of this year.

Path leading to the visitor's center
Side of college building
Part of college building

Front of college building; it's like a castle, isn't it?

Since lampworking is relatively new to West Dean, they do not have a 'fixed' lampworking studio. Each table set-up is mobile and will be brought into the studio whenever lampworking classes are held. Safety issues such as ventilation and proper fixture of the torches on the tables were brought up to the college on my last day of teaching and these issues shall be rectified - a learning process for the college. These are not ventilation systems but dust extraction systems which were loud and unsuitable for lampworking. The college plans to move the mobile lampworking stations back to the other studio which has a central ventilation system, which is more suited to lampworking purposes. The lampworking instructor who first taught at West Dean did not advise the college on a studio set-up with the safety issues in mind. Apparently she no longer teaches there.

Lampworking Studio in Stone Room

View of the estate from my bedroom - yes, those are sheep in the background! Both students and tutors were given single rooms with private baths, with all bedrooms having this view.
I decided to visit the sheep
Sheep's view of the college building
A stroll to within the Kitchen & Glasshouses
Garden shed
Within the melon glasshouse; I was fascinated with this working contraption; a lever for opening windows
Giant onions; West Dean uses their own homegrown vegetables for our meals. Look at the size of that onion!

My Event In UK, June 2009

About two weeks ago, I was at Art in Action 2009 which was held at the Waterperry Gardens in Oxford, UK. It was a four-day event and I had been invited as a lampwork glass beadmaking demonstrator at this outdoor event. This is my fourth year back as a demonstrator; it also entitles me to display and sell my glass beads - though at this event, 'finished' work in form of jewelry is preferred to be seen and not so much as loose beads. As the name of the event suggests, it's about the artist being action and you as a visitor get to see how the artist create their work. It's not just glass, many types of art works are being demonstrated here. Regrettably this year, only my husband accompanied me to the event. Our two girls stayed in Germany, with one having her finals for her freshman year at the university and the other wanting to stay on to finish the school term as next year since she and her classmates will be streamed according to what they have selected for their Abitur (in other words, pre-university class similar to the 'A' levels in the UK; I do not know the direct translation into English). As a result, we were not able to take photos of the other tents and artists as Kai, my husband, had to tend to the sales whenever I demonstrated.

Before we leap to the event, here are two photos of Sandy, our retriever, taking his cannot-be-missed-nor-disturbed nap. Kai bought a new point-and-shoot camera and needless to say, had to try out on every one/thing.

Obviously, you can see the frown above his eyes, he's pretending to be asleep.


Had to open his eyes to tell us to bugger off!


Here's our tent, a single tent for both Amanda Glanville (another lampworker) and me. We were right under a huge tree (oak or not, I must admit I cannot really remember). The table is in the middle of the tent is where we had the demonstrating area. Basically either Amanda or I would demonstrate, taking turns. We did not have a fixed routine or schedule, more of a 'let's play by ear' situation.


Here's Amanda, giving the final touches to her display before the event begins.
This is my table, a bit dark since Kai turned off the flash on his camera at my request as I can't stand flashes. Besides being captured on camera is not everyone's cuppa tea.

Another view of my table. Believe it or not, I was not sure how I was going to display my work as I was absolutely not ready for this event. Somehow, it got worse than Bead & Button in terms of preparation. I had traveled to the UK with just my display trays, a few bags of rice (for display use, and not because I have to eat rice since I am Chinese!!), a small clay pot with sand (I knew I was going to display my mini cupcake glass beads), empty jewelry boxes, table lamps and my green fabric. But believe me, I had no idea what/how I was displaying! I was in a daze this time, I think I had not the time to recover my Milwaukee trip and my planning was off this time, ie no planning. Anyway, I sure was and still am glad that Kai came along as he was the one who kept me focused on what I had to do, get the items out, put them out, don't yak (chatter) too much with Amanda till I was done, etc. I was pleasantly surprised when I was finally done, the display looked pretty good!! You might wonder why I did not raise the table, this is the only event where I leave the tables low - there is a handicap law in the UK which prohibits us to raise the table, it must be at a height where the handicap in a wheelchair does not feel discriminated and can view the items at their eye level.


I decided to make my own earring displays this time. I used to display them flat on trays, which made them look dull, drab and non-existent, or on acrylic stands, which I did not really like but had to use since I did not look further into display possibilities. I am rather pleased with how they turned out.


That's me demonstrating. Amanda had brought a Nortel Minor for both of us to use. It was hooked onto a small bottle of propane and a concentrator.


Heavy rainfall on Friday, second day of the event, caused flooding in areas of Waterperry Gardens. Photo shows how bad it was and it was muddy all over. I packed my Wellingtons after my experience in 2007 where the whole of England was rained upon and flooded, I always take them with me for Art in Action!


Young volunteers who help each year at Art in Action certainly were having fun pushing the huge bale of straw; they distributed the straw by hand wherever flooding and mud were.

Despite the rain, the crowd still came over the four-day event. As I have come to know the Brits, they came with their raincoats, umbrellas and Wellies. Those who forgot their Wellies or did not think about it, went barefoot or in their squooshy mud-filled shoes. Many visitors have been to Art in Action for the past 28 years, rain or shine, and this time, they did not let the rain dampen their spirits or fun either. That's the way to go!