Archive for May, 2017

Artist in Residence Spectra – Aberdeen’s Festival of Light

I was delighted to be Artist in Residence at Spectra, Aberdeen’s festival of light.

The brief was to work with twelve classes of children across the city to make an installation based on my workshop Illuminating Geometry. Throughout this project I worked with Hannah Ayre, Head of Public Engagement for Curated Place . It was great to have someone to sort out all the logistics for a change.

I went to the University of Aberdeen and have very fond memories of the city so I was very excited to be spending some time there. Our first visit in November was to meet the teachers we would be working with, check out the venue and run an Artists CPD workshop.

It was great to meet local artists form all disciplines, painters, glass makers, and poets to mention a few. I was amazed at the Anatomy Rooms, which were once part of the anatomy department of the University of Aberdeen but now house artist’s studios, and amazing woodworking workshop and other spaces that can be hired out for events.

In January the project got going in earnest, we ran half day workshops with P5 and P6 classes. Each child made a lantern, and hid two symbols inside it, one that I had given them to represent their class and one that they designed themselves. When the lantern was illuminated the symbol would be revealed. I was inspired by the wonderful Pictish symbol stones that are found across the North East of Scotland. I felt that using Pictish symbols and getting the children to design their own symbols was a way of connecting Aberdeen’s past and it’s future.

symbols for spectra

Here is a link to a video of our workshops in action:

As part of the workshop we used Little Bits electronic kits to explore circuits. The circuit used to light up the Illuminating Geometry lanterns are very simple and the children had lots of suggestions on how we could change improve the circuits by using light sensors, sound triggers or pressure sensors.

Large installation

The festival was in February, 8-11. Our venue was Seventeen on Belmont Street. I turned up with more than 300 paper lanterns and about 35 m of LED lights. I spent the next two days putting it all together with the help of Isobel Towler who was a great volunteer.



Even as we were putting the finishing touches to the installation some of the children came along to make sure we were doing a good job of displaying their lanterns. As part of the installation we had rigged some lights to a colour sensor controlled by an Arduino. We then invited the children to change the colour of the lights by sensing colours on their clothes.


Through the window


Once the festival had opened we had more visits from the children with their schools and with the mums, dads and grandparents. One boy came at least four times with different family members. It was lovely to see his excitement as he shared his part in the installation with his family.

While the festival was live we also ran some public workshops.  I was helped by Katie Ward who was a great help in the workshops (and is also an amazing painter!). In these workshops we showed children and adults alike how to make their own lantern to take home.

At the end of the four days Spectra had received 63,ooo visitors across the four sites. It was great to be part of this festival and great to spend some time in Aberdeen once again. It was truly lovely to work with the children from Bramble Brae School, Skene Square School, Cults Primary school, Kingswells Primary School,  Hanover Street Primary School, Loriston School, Manor Park School, Danestone Primary School, Forehill Primary School, and Walker Road Primary School. I would like to thank all the teachers and pupils for their support and I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did.Seventeen Belmont Street