Posts Tagged With: sculpture

The Creative Quarter Project: Phase 4 (Installation and conclusions)

Monday came and we still had a lot to do. We’d organised for Leanne to pick up the plinth from the hairdressers later that day at the same time as picking up the head. In an hour break early on in the day we painted the plinth so it was ready in time. The rest of the day was spent finishing the hat, securing hair to the back of the head and covering up gaps. Leanne messaged us with a time which was a little earlier than we first anticipated, so it was a rush job to finish on time.

The big worry at this time was the moving of the head. We’d already moved the head without decoration in the lift so knew it would fit, but we had a new problem…moving it with a chicken wire frame and paper mache. In addition to this, it was heavier with all the heads and more fragile. Luckily Leanne turned up with a flat trolley which made it easy to manoeuvre out of the building. The lifting into the van was our biggest worry at that point.

Amazingly we got away with a few scuffs on the paintwork but the heads and acrylic sheeting remained intact. We were given the area just outside the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery and Emma and I were left to fix hat and hair to head while Leanne and the guys went to pick up the plinth.

Overall the installation went well. The head was positioned and screwed to the plinth base.

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The Robin Hood sculpture finished and in position outside the gallery.


Once it was finished we were relatively happy with the overall look. The main problems came with the rush job at the end which resulted in a less than perfect finish to some of the sections of the head. The back of the head was not secured as much as we’d have liked. We had to resort to gaffer tape in some areas which meant the hair was looser than initially designed, so of course over time, there was some hair loss, possibly due to wind or passing crowds. From a distance it had the desired effect. We watched as people walked past and stopped to look while we installed. The face area was visually striking both close up and from a distance. The acrylic worked and the content was interesting. Emma did a stunning job of edging it with the wool and creating an interesting pattern. Had the hair hat been finished on time, we could have finished everything off to higher standard. The back of the head with the hair pieces was visually striking as it did look like a head, though due to time constraints it wasn’t secured well enough. The sculpture did however fulfill the brief in the fact that it was designed largely by the hairdressers, adapted and built by us, finished on time and to budget. The concept of many heads coming together to create it was partially successful and it said something about the hairdressers in the creativity, use of recycled materials and the history/culture of Nottingham which also fulfilled the brief.

It taught us about time management and the need to adapt designs due to budget and practicalities. Design is all about compromise and problem solving and that’s no different whether you work in film, art or theatre.  It’s also about negotiation and communication. I’m happy with the way we handled that side of the project. Between Emma and I we had contact every week with the hairdressers and Leanne from the council. Thankfully we managed our time well enough to allow the time needed at the end to finish the hat for the hairdressers.  It’s important to remember that for future projects. If you are organised and try to finish ahead of schedule it allows for last-minute disasters.

A big thank you goes out to Mick from NTU workshop for sparing his time and space, to NTU and to Leanne.

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The Creative Quarter Project: Phase 3

With the basic structure of the head ready we set about the task of how to fix the heads inside and the shaping of the neck with paper mache.  We collected all the painted heads from the hairdressers and began arranging them in a rough order to work out the internal space. Fixing them in place was going to be a matter of using chicken wire inside to give a surface to fix things to and loops of wire around the necks to secure their positions. The plan was then to work from the inside out, as once the heads were in position we would continue the paper mache over the acrylic sheets when they were fixed in place.

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Above image shows the first stage of paper mache. We moulded a wire frame around the plinth to create a neck shape. We then packed the spaces behind with carrier bags to give an extra surface for the paper and glue to fix to and to give the wire frame strength.

The whole week was spent working between the paper mache and the heads. We spoke with the hairdressers and they said that all the hair and wool had been delivered and that they would work on the hat.

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Further paper mache work on the neck.

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The above images show the progression of head display. Rather than making the heads uniform, we opted for angles and upside down to create visual interest and to make it look as though they we just thrown in. The spaces were then filled in with black weed guard to hide the wire and block out fixtures. We also decided on placing relevant props here and there to tie in the hairdressing theme and fill large black spaces. Everything was then glued in position.

We cut some of the acrylic early on so as to have the side windows fixed to help hold the heads in place. Cutting the sheets took some practice. The first sheet split too far down and we had to do a patch up job, but as we were  covering the corners with more paper mache it wasn’t a concern. We finally got the hang of scoring the surface of the sheets deep enough to make a cleaner break. Using the glass cutting tool we were also able to take little bites out of the acrylic to make a neater edge. Then all edges were sanded. The front sheet would to go on next to seal the whole face.

Towards the end of the final  week we went to pick up the hat and was told that the apprentices had not had as much time as they’d hoped. The tutors had woven most of the wool in preparation for fixing to the hat. In short, the hat had to be finished by Monday and we had 3 days including part of Monday morning to finish the neck, the plastic front and seal it in, glaze it all, paint the plinth and somehow get it to Uni plus the hat and the back of the head. We worked all day Friday and most of Saturday on the hat and painting the neck. At the end of the day we used sealant to fill in gaps and sprayed the painted neck so both could dry over Sunday. We opted to cover the central area of the hat with fabric for speed instead of wool and kept the hair for the back of the head instead of it getting lost in the wool.

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By Monday morning the head itself was complete apart from some hooks and some protective plastic for inside the back of the head. The hat still needed finishing and so did the back section of the head. We’d kept the whole sculpture in three sections so it was easier to move and get through doorways and lifts. That also meant that we had to then put all the pieces together once the plinth and everything was in position.

Above image shows the near complete hat on Monday morning after we’d sewn the fabric on and finished edges.

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The Creative Quarter Project: Phase 2

The second phase was where we worked on the practicalities of the build. Firstly we borrowed one of the heads for a paint test so the hairdressers could work with waterproof paints for decorating the heads, then we devised some visuals to give us something to work from and to show the hairdressers what could be done. We found acrylic paints to be sufficient for brightness of colour and to be hard wearing with a PVA coating.

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Below are some of the concepts and visual research that we undertook.

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We spoke to the workshop and model making department to get an idea of the process and the cost of doing such a design. The hairdressers wanted the head to be completely transparent and head shaped which meant making some kind of curved front. We found out early on that this was not possible for a number of reasons, firstly because it was a lengthy process and we would have to vacuum form a plastic front, which would take weeks. Secondly it would cost us near £1000, which given the budget was impossible.

So Emma and I set about reworking the design so to create a shape that was still head shaped and still allow all the heads inside to be seen. We had to inform the hairdressers of an altered design that was more angular and allowed the face to be covered with straight flat pieces of acrylic sheeting which would make the build quicker and cheaper.

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The model above provided a visual for working out how many heads needed painting, the dimensions and as a guide for the workshop and hairdressers.

When we finally spoke to Mick at the workshop we were told that there was very little time that the workshop was free.  He gave us a couple of slots in which it would be possible, amounting to 2-3 days at the most, one day being too close to the deadline. He also looked at the model and said that it would take some skill to angle the wood and joints and that he would have to do that, time permitting.

He suggested a bit of a “find object and alter scenario” due to the time constraints and later that day we had a search for furniture that would be suitable. We found a TV unit that could be altered and an old plinth from Nottingham Trent that was going to be scrapped. In doing so, we were keeping to our original plan of using recycled items as well as saving money and time. We took the TV unit and plinth to Mick and worked out a day for construction.

Later that week, Emma and Mick worked on the structure, altering the shape a little so the back of the unit had a curve. The shelves were removed to create a space inside for the heads to fit. Then they fixed the head unit to the plinth neck.

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Completed structure ready for heads and decoration.

We also had to provide the hairdressers with a wire structure for their hair design that would sit on top of the head. They had decided to go for a hair style in the shape of Robin hood’s hat. So we built a wire shape and covered it with chicken wire to provide a framework and holes to which they could sew or fix hair. They told us that the hair was going to be costly so opted for a combination of wool with hair for the edging. We took the wire hat to them for decoration. At this point we had about 2 weeks left until the deadline. Next phase was decoration.

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Above image shows the full hat structure with wood supports for stability.

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The Creative Quarter Project: Phase 1

Last month Emma Bibby and I teamed up to take on a brief with Nottingham’s Creative Quarter initiative and Nottingham City Council in which artists work with apprentices from Nottingham’s various work sectors.

The Brief:- To work with the apprentices on designing and realising a piece of sculpture that would be installed for apprentice week at the beginning of March. Although it didn’t have to be a literal connection with their trades it had to encompass something about them.

We were also given £300 budget to work with.

We were assigned to the hairdressing academy and in week 1, once we’d meet up with Kathy from the Creative Quarter, Leanne from the council and all the other artists we spent some time collecting visual ideas as a starting point and as something to encourage the hairdressers to think of possible designs. We wanted them to have as much input from an early stage, so kept our ideas and visuals to the possible use of recycled materials and hairdressing styles, using visuals from Pinterest. Below is the mood/visual board that we put together to get the project started.


This was what we took to the first meeting, along with a selection of samples of plastics that could be used in the construction.

Meeting 1 mainly consisted of discussing the idea and CQ project, meeting some of the apprentices and their supervisors and leaving them with the task of coming up with an idea. We  were aware from the early stages that the apprentices didn’t have the building skills to do anything large-scale so Emma and I would take on the construction side. It was apparent that they had very little time to spare on the project, mainly Mondays.

Meeting 2 on the following Monday was when the idea was presented to us. They wanted to use old hairdressing heads that were no longer useful due to the thinning hair and build a larger head from those. There were practicalities to consider such as what paint to use, how much time they had to spare, scale and how many heads would need to be painted. We also discussed the possibility of doing some kind of hairstyle on top of the head, so left them with the task of designing an avant-garde hairstyle/piece for the following meeting.

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Above images are the heads to be used and an example of an avant-garde hairstyle.

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