Category Archives: Migration

Bees; Humming and Dancing

I am working toward an exhibition starting September 2nd 2017 in Halton Mill Mezzanine Gallery, using layered mono-prints as the base with bees painted on top. I have created a fictional world for the bees – golden-lit circles and hexagonals. Some pictures have a visual representation of the hum of a bee hive.

The opening will be 6pm – 7.30pm Sunday 10th September, before a talk by Erica Sarney about the Lune Valley Bee Corridor.

Exhibition over

Open evening

Open evening

open evening and herris fence curation.

open evening and herris fence curation.

Artist with paper clothes from series Value Added

Artist with paper clothes from series Value Added

Map clothes from series (Dis)Placement

Map clothes from series (Dis)Placement

Papercuts (Tyvek), Home series

Papercuts (Tyvek), Home series

Artists books in display cabinet

Artists books in display cabinet

Lost Future (map clothes) on Where Are We Going? papier mache footprints

Lost Future (map clothes) on Where Are We Going? papier mache footprints

Lost Future

Lost Future

We de-rigged on Wednesday 23rd March. Chris unscrewed pictures and loaded the van. I stood and wrapped for hours. Both still very tired the next day, but I realised I had to put normal hanging attachments on all sold pieces, and then contact the buyers.

I think it was an amazing success. I am still astonished at how many pieces I sold at the open evening. I have never ever been to an open evening where artwork sold. I have therefore probably covered my costs – maths still to be done. Attendance was about 150 for the open evening, and 277 over the next 16 days, including two evenings of talks, and a writing workshop, which were all well-attended and interesting. Thank you all who came, to those who wanted to but were too busy, and to all who wrote in the comments book eg

‘Fabulous exhibition with such a wide range of extremely interesting techniques and layering of thoughts and research.’
‘A fascinating room – every exhibit generated a discussion. Well done.’
‘Both moving and beautiful.’
‘…excellent use of colour or lack of colour.’
‘Wondrous collection of intense work, so carefully researched and realised. So hard to do!’

Evening talks as part of the exhibition:
Women Making Art
Catriona Stamp, (artist, MA Fine Art UCLan 2010)
Dr Sarah Casey, (artist, lecturer, Lancaster University)
Dr Linda O Keefe, (sound artist, lecturer, Lancaster University)
Rosemary Betterton, (emeritus reader, Lancaster University)

Climate Change & Refugees
Catriona Stamp, (artist, MA Fine Art UCLan 2010)
Dr Giovanni Bettini, (lecturer, Lancaster University)
Cllr. Rebecca Joy Novell, (City of Sanctuary (Lancaster))

Writing workshop: Writing A Migration with Sarah Hymas
Feedback on Writing a Migration / Where are We Going?

“I really enjoyed Catriona’s work and it transported me to different parts of my life as well as imagining what it may be like for others in their given situation:  its scope is huge.”

“I was very inspired during my time in the gallery and I was challenged by using different pieces of art in the same piece albeit on the same theme. The pace of the workshop and time given to each part of it was just right in keeping me on my toes in the creative process.”

“I felt it was a great way to respond to that exhibition and had a distinct sense of being only able to happen then – those fleeting moments so characteristic of migration.”

“It appeared to me that the old room, the beautiful exhibition, the random movement of the people and the words spoken had made a single magical entity. It was amazing!”

Time now for me to think about what to do next…

Packed and Ready

Yes it really has taken 2 weeks to make final preparations for the exhibition:
making sure that each picture has the right hanging attachments, since some have been hung in places that had different requirements from the Storey,
customising clothes hangers for paper dresses in a gallery situation,
putting labels on each picture,
wrapping mounted prints for the merchandise area,
borrowing a print rack for said prints,
finding enough cardboard, bubblewrap and in some cases blankets for 95 pieces,
and cutting, wrapping, cellotaping everything.

All Packed thanks to Jo and Miles new flatpacked double bed cardboard wrap

All Packed thanks to Jo and Miles new flatpacked double bed cardboard wrap

Never mind still completing new work at the last minute, as I found for example that the 3rd piece of tyvek for the Home series was damaged and I had to order more.

Meanwhile my ‘technician’ has been busy too:
making a giant Impossimaze for the floor,
making weird clothes hangers out of branches and logs,
working out how to hang pictures from Herris fencing,
negotiating with Kerry from the City Council about chairs, tables, display cabinets etc,
Booking drinks from Nice, and
using a chalk spray and stencil to spray the streets and cycleways with the exhibition title so that hopefully the question is now on everyone’s lips – Where Are We Going?

chalk spray stencil

chalk spray stencil

But I think all is now ready to move down from my studio on Wednesday afternoon (tomorrow) to a downstairs area of the Mill, so that loading the hired van first thing Thursday morning will be quicker and easier. And we (me and 2 friends) will have Thursday and Friday to set up.

And what will I be wearing at the opening? Will I really be wearing any paper clothes? …
Still to be decided.

Response to Migration

I have completed 15 footprints and stories. It has felt most poignant when matching stories of children onto the footprints of children I know. What if some of these traumatic events really happened to my neighbours’ children? Or I start to put myself in the place of grandmothers of my age who are suddenly responsible for raising grandchildren as the intervening generation has been killed.

I have also made 3 papier mache beaches to put the footprints on. The concept is to represent the terrain which migrants have to cross, which is not just the difficult physical landscape, but also the difficulties of media attention, interpretation and prejudice, and the high financial costs.So I used some old rolls of un-printed newspaper, white and pink (financial section), and brown packaging paper for the papier mache base.

This was papier mache on an industrial scale. Through the shredding machine, boiled in a catering size pot, whizzed with a catering potato masher, to produce buckets and buckets of mache. I then mixed in shreds of printed newspaper to make flecks, and made batches of different colours.

clingfilm wrapped footprints to keep them dry

clingfilm wrapped footprints to keep them dry

Adding greyboard undulations

Adding greyboard undulations

I cut out grey- board shapes and glued them to the wood base to make undulations on the beach, then covered this with flowing shapes of several colours of papier mache. I had to wrap the footprints in clingfilm so that they would not get wet again from the papier mache.
Luckily I have access to a boiler room where hot water is produced for a neighbourhood heating system. This room is always hot, so it made an ideal speed-drying room, as my time is fast running out. Speed-drying and the depth of mache in some places produced cracks, but I accept that as it matches the underlying idea.

Beach 1 completed

Beach 1 completed

Home series

How quickly January has gone by. A lot of my time has been taken up by preparing publicity.
By now I had hoped to have finished all the art work, and be able to concentrate entirely on final preparations for the exhibition. But I still have so much I want to do! Friends have consoled me with such reflections as, ‘I have never known an exhibition fail to happen because some of the work had not been completed.’ This is true; you go with what you’ve got. So I will just have to see what else I can complete in the time.

I have been working on a series of ‘paper’ cuts, having discovered tyvek, which looks like paper, but as it is made of plastic is much more resilient. I have nearly completed 2 cuts now called Home Land and Home Town. While tyvek will take acrylic paint easily, in this case I preferred to use the white untreated as I was hoping to express loss and emptiness.

Home Land - cracked earth

Home Land – cracked earth

I tried out a small version of Home Land and realised how important it was to get the lighting right in order to make the best of the light and shadow caused by pieces of tyvek curving out from the plane of the main structure. Sarah Casey told me what she had used to hang her paper pieces, and Chris (who is my technician) has bought a battery-powered light to try out. As you can see I have not yet hung and lit it properly.

I have also continued to work on the papier mache footprints, which I hope will come together as a complete piece soon.

Shapla Lily Maxi Dress

This dress was made to represent the people who came to Preston from Bangladesh – mostly from the Sylhet district. The national flower is the shapla waterlily or Nymphaea nouchali.

I took the mid green colour for the dress from the flag. After I had made up the bodice and skirt (thankfully not the sleeves) I thought that there was not enough contrast between the front skirt panel with flowers and the side panels.It was a bit reckless re-colouring the side and back panels a darker green at at this stage, but luckily it worked. I also experimented with a red waistband and collar detail ( to represent the red part of the flag) but I decided against that addition, as it detracted from the waterlily detail.

Shapla Maxi Dress 1

Sadly I think this is the last dress that I have time to make for the exhibition, though there were a couple more I had in mind, particularly to cover the much earlier migration to Preston from Ireland.

Poppy and almond dress

Poppy and almond dress

Poppy and almond dress

Making a design for Poland has been the toughest challenge yet. There were 2 periods of migration from Poland to Preston; one from the 1890s consisted of Jews, while the WW2 period mostly consisted of Catholic ex-servicemen. I could make clothes for each, but it feels important to keep both together and therefore recognise that Polish Jews felt themselves to be Polish.
I researched the Polish flag and flower, red and white flag, red poppy. So I could have red poppies on a white background, or the reverse, or both.

But how to integrate the Jewish history? The symbol usually associated with Jews is the Star of David, but that has strong connections now to the Holocaust, and I don’t necessarily want to reference that. The symbol that Jews frequently use themselves is the 7 branched menorah, so that would feel more respectful.

I spent ages trying to integrate poppies and menorah. I was not happy with the results either artistically or conceptually, as it was breaking the rule that I had made for myself about using flowers.

In the middle of the night I remembered some illustration that I did in the 1990s for Moonwise, a multicultural lunar calendar, when I was pursuing the theme of trees in spiritual traditions. If I recalled correctly the design for the menorah is based on the almond flower. Next day I checked. I was right. Conceptual problem solved! Artistic one still to do.

menorah based on almond blossom

menorah based on almond blossom

Exodus 25:31-40.
v31 Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. v32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. v33 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. v34 And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. v35 One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. 36 The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.

Bois carib dress

Dress for Dominica using national flower and flag colours

Dress for Dominica using national flower and flag colours

I found out that most of the West Indians in Preston in the 1980s came from Dominica. The national flower of Dominica is the bois carib. It took me some time to make a design with the bois carib flower that I was happy with and that would work with the tiny amount of map that I had available since the islands are so small. The first designs had too few flowers to make an impact because of this limitation. In the end I decided to use maps of other Caribbean islands as well, and use maps for only half of the flowers, drawing the rest.

I wanted to make a dress using ‘fabrics’ of 2 different colours. I saw the Dominica flag, and decided to use those colours; the green and yellow for the background colours, and the black, white and red for the pattern. I love the contrasts.

The work making the dresses demands so much patience – such as waiting for 5cm of glued seam to dry before gluing the next 5cm, which I have to do when fitting two curved edges together, or trying to coax paper to bend rather than fold, crumple and crease. And then I finish a piece, and I know why I put myself through it.

Wearable map clothes

Jolene wearing my personal history map-clothes

Jolene wearing my personal history map-clothes

Family history collar round my neck

Family history collar round my neck

Bolero in progress

Bolero in progress

What to wear to the opening? People have been encouraging me to make map clothes to wear since I blogged about it earlier. As usual there is the idea and then the practical limitations.

I have discovered about 95 ancestors in my family circle – rather than doing a family tree I have put myself at the centre and worked backwards and outwards, to get 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents and so on. I have connections to the south of England (Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire), south east Scotland, Orkney, Ireland, Nigeria and Jamaica. One grandfather was born in Nigeria to missionary parents and grew up in Jamaica. A 3 greats grandmother, illegitimate but recognised daughter of a young army officer, got married in Jamaica at the age of 14 in 1800. These affiliations are rather outside my comfort zone, so I decided to make a huge collar for Nigeria and Jamaica – symbolic strangling perhaps.

I used maps of all the other areas as panels of a wrap-around skirt, and filled in family information as it related to each place. Sometimes it was hard to decide what to put in and what to leave out – the closer I get to the present the more family stories I know. It is still not finished as I can’t decide what map to use for the waist band.

Finally I thought about mapping me, my partner and our son. I did not map everywhere I have lived, just the most important; the various communities I have lived in, and the decade in Lancaster. This turned into a bolero. This was the hardest to make fit me, because I was not using a pattern, and I was trying to fit it to my body – using masking tape since I could not use pins as I would with material. Eventually I had to get help and have other people stick me in.

What is interesting about this piece of work in the context of the exhibition is the movement of people between the different countries within the UK and the mixing of people from different classes.
Among my ancestors I have a groom, a gamekeeper, farm labourers, a coal miner, factory workers, milliners, shoemakers, even a smuggler, members of the professional class and also  members of the owning class from esquires and lords to factory owners. I have various religious people from the Dean of Down, to vicars and missionaries. I have an MP (who is another skeleton in the cupboard). I have a pacifist who was imprisoned, and one of the early women doctors – the second wave rather than the first. And I have someone who lived in a Quaker community – my mum always comforted herself when I started living in communes by saying it was in my genes.

Why have I got vodka in my studio?

No its not for drinking

No its not for drinking

To make the plaques I put some damp sand in a bucket and placed my own bare foot on the sand to get a print, then mixed up some plaster of Paris and poured it in. It took a while to set because of the dampness of the sand. Then I had to get the cast out by upending the bucket and scattering sand everywhere. Then I had to order a whizzer online, (Chris having broken the previous one with hot soup.) Meanwhile I greased the cast with vaseline and carefully laid out the top layer of the final piece using tissue paper for the foot and newspaper strips for the surround glued together with acrylic medium. Finally got around to whizzing up some paper scraps into papier mache and adding it to the piece to make a thicker base. I wondered what would take the Vaseline off the top surface. Google told me to use rubbing alcohol from a chemist, but if none stocked it, I could use vodka instead. Well, guess what, I ended up with vodka in my studio.

I have learnt from the experience that I need to use a shallower but wider receptacle for the sand, so I can mould bigger feet or shoes, and get the cast out without so much mess.

I had a lovely time with a 7 year-old neighbour, showing him how to make a plaster cast of his feet. He was very impressed that he had to wear a mask while we mixed the plaster. It is getting interesting making the plaques, as I have to decide what news stories to paste around the edge, as well as what personal story to tell in the footprint. I found a good piece about the need for education in the refugee camps which felt just right.

the need for education

the need for education

Returning to paper clothes (as it takes so long for papier mache to dry), I took the story of the child drowned on a Turkish beach and conflated it with the current destruction of Syrian civilisation. So to tell both those stories at once, I made paper clothes for a toddler out of maps of Syria. When they were complete I crumpled them thoroughly, unlike the fashion clothes which I am trying not to crumple. I have stopped short of tearing or burning holes with joss sticks – but I still might.

Dying Syria

Dying Syria