I was commissioned by Red Nile Projects, as part of their Factory Nights series of unique commissions, to create new work based on the Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival Park site which opened in 1986. I visited the now underused park as part of Red Nile Factory Nights event in August 2011 and took part in a tour led by Anna Francis, an artist and local expert on the history of the park. I was inspired by Anna's collection of Woman’s Weekly magazines from 1986 containing information on the park and the two gardens that they sponsored on the original site, a cottage garden and a wildflower garden. I was interested in the connection between wool crafts and gardening in the magazine that was reflected in my work. I applied for a commission to create giant blooms that continued on from my giant daffodils and further explored how the work could engage people with a place.
The work was installed on a hill in the festival park overlooking Morrison's and the retail park on Saturday 14th April 2012 and explored using the giant blooms to engage the public with the park by encouraging the viewer to look up at the flowers and wonder what lay beyond. I also worked with members of the public at Airspace Gallery and on the festival park site to make mini crochet, knit and pompom flowers to stage a secondary installation in the park. The event and the workshops were a huge success and the project as a whole has provided me with inspiration, ideas and new directions for future work.
Read on in this section of the blog for photos and stories from the installation and workshop and to see the making process of the giant blooms.
All photos by Glen Stoker
On Saturday 14th the day had finally arrived to install my Guerrilla Knitted Cottage Garden intervention in the Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival Park. We had a great team of people from Red Nile, Airspace Gallery and volunteers from the uni working alongside Stu and I and the installation of the giant blooms was quick, stress-free and really fun.
We were all really chuffed with the finished results! The flowers had the desired effect and could be seen from way down the retail park and from houses on the other side of the allotments. I was very happy with the forms of the flowers and how the structures worked out. With only getting the scaffold poles on the day a lot was left up to chance but it all went according to plan.
In a little glade of trees over the hill into the park we set up the mini flower interventions that had been made at the workshop the day before. This formed a way for people to go further into the park and see for themselves what a beautiful tranquil place it is. The mini intervention worked a treat; it was very subtle and if you weren't looking closely you would probably have thought the flowers were real not woolly! It was great to have a part of the event that so many other people had contributed to.
The weather was very kind to us and despite rain being forecast we had blue skies and sunshine for most of the day.
Red Nile and the volunteers handed out maps of the park and talked to people about the history of the site, the park now and the commissions that would be taking place.
Many people came up over the day. Some had been to the workshop, some had read about the event, some were friends and fellow artists of Airspace and Red Nile, some happened to pass by the site and wanted to see what was happening, some saw the flowers from the retail park, one lady even saw us putting up the flowers from her house on the other side of the allotments and wanted to find out what was going on. She was from Sri Lanka and said that there they erect huge brightly coloured flags and sculptures when there is a big sports event so thought maybe there was a sports event on in the park. She seemed happy enough with pompom making though instead!
A walking group who meet monthly in the park came by on a tour of the site.
Visitors were encouraged to make a crochet or pompom flower and add it to the flower glade or elsewhere on the site.
All round it was an amazing day. People really engaged with the work and in turn with the park. We had lots of opportunities for discussion about the park, it's history and it's future. We met lovely people. Red Nile and the Airspace artists were a pleasure to work with. Even the epic hailstorm at ten to four did little to dampen our spirits!
All photos by Glen Stoker
On Friday 13th April I held a 'make your own guerrilla knitted flower' workshop at Airspace Gallery, Stoke-onTrent as part of my Red Nile commission. The idea was to create a secondary installation to go with my giant intervention that people could engage with the making of.
People could knit, crochet or make a pompom flower. Most people made a crochet or pompom flower.
It was a lovely cosy day of making and chatting. About 20 people came and went over the day. Some stayed all day some just for half an hour or so but everyone made a flower of some kind for the mini intervention in the park the next day. One girl made 7 crocheted flowers!
As well as making lots of gorgeous woolly flowers the workshop gave us the chance to talk to people about the National Garden Festival Park, the project, my commission and to hand out maps for the next day and invite people back for the event in the park. People seemed to engage well with the idea of the event as they now had played a part in the making of it.