Art in the Pen 2014
Today I’m taking a short trip down memory lane back to those lovely summer months we had this year when I took part in not one, but two Art in the Pen events. The first was a new venue for the organisers on the outskirts of Carlisle, the second was the established show at Skipton Auction Mart. In case you have never been to, or exhibited at an Art in the Pen event here is my take on what they are all about.
Art in the Pen offers artists and makers the chance to take over a cattle pen for a weekend. These are working cattle auction venues where you are allocated an enclosure that has three (usually) metal barred sides and an open end which faces out onto a walkway. The floors are rough textured concrete that are hosed down by the auction staff to leave an as clean as possible space that non the less carries a slightly cow tinged aroma. That’s it, that is what you have to work with – and it is great!
The first time I attended the Skipton show I have to admit I was more than a little overwhelmed. The space suddenly looked much bigger than I had planned for and the fact there is nothing in that space makes you feel like a little echo in a big room. But, this I think is why Art in the Pen is so successful for many people. You have the absolute freedom to make that space your own. Within a few hours of the venue opening their doors to the creatives who have been selected, the place is turned into a villa of uniquely styled ‘rooms’. I recommend dumping your stuff in your pen and then getting a bacon butty from the cafe (locally sourced food products) while you have a little think and take a deep breath.
Now loading and unloading is easy in one respect but tricky in others. Both venues (Skipton and Carlisle) have plenty of free, off road parking but, because of the nature of the buildings there can be a long walk from the entrance to your pen. So, either use a decent trolley (beware, the textured concrete floor can bounce things off and trolleys are not invincible – watch out for wheels falling off) or find someone you can bribe to help you lug things from your car or van. Once at the pen there is plenty of space for moving stock and stand furniture around.
Because the sides of the pen are open, it’s a good idea to create a wall using fabric of some other such material. In the past I’ve used willow trellis but this year I made my life easier by having fabric and cable ties. Something like this helps you seperate your work from the stand next door and also creates the little room I was talking about earlier.
It’s funny how soon that huge pen suddenly becomes too small for all the furniture and stock you have trundled along. Next year I think I’m going to be brave and apply for a double stand! I could barely fit on the stand this year by the time I’d finished.
As you can see from my stand I am not a minimalist! Every year I try to draw things back a little and have less on show but it doesn’t really work, I get far too carried away and to be honest it seems to work for me. My good friend and neighbour Louise of Taylor Maid took a really different approach to her space that looked just beautiful and gave people the chance to really look at the jewellery pieces she had on display.
As you can see from the photographs there is plenty of light in the Auction Mart due to big lights and a fair amount of natural daylight but there are pockets of shadow and this year there wasn’t an option to have a plug socket on the stand so it is worth thinking about where the light is coming from when you are laying your furniture out. It’s also worth considering that this is a big shed really so it can leak a bit. If you ever show work there take covers for the night time (there are also birds and they don’t care where they poo!) and look out for little rust dots on the ceiling. There aren’t many, but if you see one don’t put something precious underneath it!
Carlisle was pretty much the same set up as Skipton but with the option to exhibit in a big exhibition area as well. I chose to give this a try and I’m really glad I did in the end. The space was massive and I was the first one there, for the first couple of hours I felt like an absolute pea on a drum. But! As the space filled up it because a really dynamic, light filled area and I was very happy to live there for the weekend. I think the roof in the pen area at Carlisle is a little lower than at Skipton so this is a place where it is definately worth considering some battery powered light sources!
Again all the artists made the spaces their own……
All in all a lovely event to be part of both as an exhibitor and a visitor. If you would like more information about the event of how to apply you can visit the website www.artinthepen.org.uk