Eco2 blog entry 02: from the Artist
Over the past week, the community engagement programme for Eco2 began. Michael has been going into local schools in the area, and shall continue to do so over the next week. Here, Michael explains how the project has been going so far.
For the last few weeks it’s been the usual post-interview organizing and sorting out of contracts, invoices and the technical aspects of the commission. Once all of that is done, I’ll be able to order the metal and materials required for sculpting.
Eco2 are providing the foundations for the sculpture, so the aesthetic design of the artwork has had to be developed with my structural engineer into a specific form that works structurally. In order to calculate loads, size and mass need to established, and dimensions allocated to the various tubes and bars. But it’s only the principal forms that get this treatment – once they’re in place; I’ve got a fairly free hand in the overall visual development.
Meanwhile, I’ve begun the community engagement programme. These first sessions were this week at Kirkby la Thorpe primary school, working with the children and staff to exploring how the REP (Renewable Energy Plant) operates.
Tadhg O’Connor visited from the plant and helped with an introduction assembly, talking about the power plant and the necessity for alternative energy sources to coal and gas. He also stayed for the start of the sculpture workshops, which began withthe year 6 (10 or 11 year olds) class. I like to get the kids working at a fairly large scale, and corrugated card is a good material for making temporary sculptures. In my normal practice, I sculpt by constructing in metal, using steel tubes and sheet to build up my artworks. Card behaves a bit like metal, in as much as you can curve it or make tubes with it, but not stretch it very easily, so I quite like to use it for this kind of group activity. The children aren’t particularly used to working with card, so a good warm-up exercise is “Tallest Towers,” for which you need:
- 1 class of kids, in pairs
- 1 roll of Parcel tape, 1 pair of scissors and one A3 sheet of card per pair.
- A clock
The premise is easy: make the tallest free-standing structure you can in 10 minutes. It’s a great for breaking the ice, familiarising them with the materials, and getting them to experiment with different types of structure. We went through several 10-minute rounds, having a quick appraisal in the intervals.
By the end of it, some were more successful than others in height and stability, but more importantly there was a great variety of shapes and construction methods. The less stable ones were more interesting to look at, with curves and loops and delicately balanced elements.
The rest of the day was spent making larger card sculptures inspired by the Renewable Energy Plant. Here are a few snaps:
They were a really keen bunch, and achieved loads in the short time we had.
The next day I worked with years 1 & 2 (5-7 years old). It was a similar process, but with thinner card (those wee scissors and fingers wouldn’t get far with corrugated). Again, we started off by talking about the processes involved at the REP;
- Straw bales brought to the site and stored.
- Conveyor belts take them to the furnace.
- Bales shredded and straw fed into the furnace.
- Fire heats water in pipes in the furnace, boiling and generating steam.
- High pressure steam fed drives a turbine.
- Turbine drives a generator.
- Electricity fed into the National Grid.
- Smoke filtered, steam condensed into water.
- Some hot water piped to local amenities, rest is re-used
- Ash recovered for fertilizer.
The children could choose any part of this chain to base their artwork designs on. I worked with year 2 in morning…
The children made curving flame shapes decorated with drawings relating to the REP, which we combined into a single artwork.
We had another great day, and students from the rest of the school also produced drawings of their ideas for the power station sculpture.
So I now have a ton of source material, and still two more schools to work with!