Reading links

Here is what has interested me in the last few weeks online:


Ceramics Re-interpretation Derby Museums

Just a quick update this evening. I’ve signed up to the University of Leicester Museum Studies MA MOOC ‘behind the scenes at the 21st Century Museum’. Today I got a little more under the skin of the re-interpretation, understanding how the project has been conceived and how the feedback on the Project Lab had been actualised into the final solution.

Things are still very much in flux. Like I said before, because the work has to be completed during closed hours, so we are essentially double handling in places – taking some items out of cabinets to put them back in again.

The vinyls are gradually being replaced for plain white backgrounds and the proto-type stands made from acrylics are being used to display some of the items in the week between work sessions to give the public a chance to feed back and the experience to bed in – for both the co-production team, other staff and visitors.

Today I assisted with some packing and organising storage. As well as trying to document the process more, as you shall see below.


Ceramic reinterpretation – Derby Museums

On the 11th January The co-production team began the work to reinterpret the ceramics exhibition in the Derby Museum cafe. The team, led by Andrea H-J, had been collecting feedback on the display for a while, both via Twitter and in person from Project Labs and general feedback left in the cafe.

As the work involves removal of the ceramics from the cabinets it can only be completed on a Monday when the building is closed to the public. I’m really excited to be able to assist; up until now I have only been involved in shorter term projects. This will be the first longer-term work I will have the opportunity to experience – the first time to see the curation, cleaning and documentation process from start to finish.

On this first day I have been mainly cleaning and preparing – keeping the space tidy, removing vinyl lettering from the cabinets, moving items in and out of stores, conducting some research on books suitable for the seating area. It’s great to be able to observe what is going on, and to be honest it was pretty similar, in fact nearly identical, to the visual merchandising and display work I tried when in uni’. The main difference is the cost of the items on display and the amount of documenting and auditing work that must take place as pieces are moved and displayed.

All being well I’m planning on helping every Monday. I’ve taken a few photos to document the process. I think it’s always great to see what goes on behind the scenes. It’s such a chance to see the pieces from an unusual point of view, such as from directly above or juxtaposed in odd groups it would be criminal not to capture some of the process…

If you’re interested in seeing the finished work, it is due for completion by the end of February. You can also follow the hashtag #DMCeramics on Twitter, and contribute a mug shot if you like.


A great start to 2016.

So I cleared out the house this weekend. Mark and Mylo exited, leaving me with 12 months of accumulated crud to tackle, with a huge side helping of Christmas presents and and holiday icing dirt to finish. What an appealing prospect. Well, from the point of view of being an autie it was. One of the things I get genuine pleasure from is restoring order from the chaos, and man things had got chaotic over the last 2 weeks.

We live in the same building as my partner runs his business from, as well as having a toddler, our living space has to be multi-functional. We have a fairly modern house which includes a through living room cum diner so can’t even designate one of two spaces for working and the other for living. Over 48 hours our living room is a lounge, dining space, photographic studio, office, exercise room, playroom, and dispatch bay. Keeping the oasis of calm I relish is all but impossible, so we have all had to compromise a bit. The main one I ask is that we practice toy rotation. At any time about 60% of Mylo’s toys were packed away, but we still had too many. Christmas was just the straw that broke the camel’s back so, everything came out, got sorted, and packed into plastic storage boxes (a bargain from Aldi, half the price of Homebase). It was a strange feeling of space having a house with no toys in it – a phenomenon not experienced in over 3 years.

I decided to go for it and tackled a few more jobs. Everywhere has been spring cleaned – no dust balls. I took all of the extra stuff that has been stored in the main bedroom when we moved my son into his new room 10 months ago. We were still co-sleeping until recently, but have made the decision to let him have his own room, and on the whole it has been a success. Now all his clothes, treasure and books are organised. The wardrobes have been turfed out and a few hideous shirts belonging to my partner have gone to a better place in the charity shop down the road. Luckily he rarely reads this blog and would give up before this point so I should be safe. Two sets of drawers have been moved downstairs, one to store the business odd and ends in the living room, the other TBC. My son’s room has been cleared and I’ve bought the paint to decorate; a lovely shade of blue called Javan Dawn 2. I also found an indoor Jasmine looking forlorn in the reduced section which smells divine –  now located on my desk whilst I type. So much nicer than a Glade plug-in. I also put together a bunch of stuff from around the house that will really brighten up the living room. It ended up being a bit brown and beige – not a look I rate excessively.

I’ve been spending a bit more time on myself recently. I have been growing my hair. It just reached my shoulders and I think that it has brought out more of my femininity.  I put some earring in for the first time in age and have even found time for make-up! If you see the image in the side panel you can see how short my hair was 3 years ago. I think it was just a reaction to being so busy, with moving house and being really ill, renovating a property with a 3 month old, anti-social neighbours for 2 years. You name it, we did it.

My last treat to myself was a BurgerKing. Real food resumes tomorrow and I haven’t done a scrap of shopping since Christmas Eve. I’ll leave you with the hilarious proofread fail I spotted on the menu.

Happy New Year!


Spot the fail.
Spot the fail.


OMG: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

So I feel about twelve years old at the moment. Just got back from watching the latest Star Wars movie and it was totally amazing. The writers have managed to fit three movie’s worth of references into one feature film. There was patricide (down a bloody deep shaft) comedy, wobbly musicians, a new improved R2D2 type robot, a planet blasting mega-weapon! Amazing new actors joining the line up of old favorites; Han Solo, Chewie, Princess Leia and the robots.

This is Star Wars but on steroids, Star Wars for the 21st Century! It’s 20 times bigger than the original series (there’s a handy CGI 3D image comparing the new Death Star to the old to illustrate this)  and as much a film showcasing the best technology and skills as the first trilogy. I know that I’ve used far too many exclamation marks, but I have been waiting 17 years for this film after the disappointment that was the prequel trilogy. I was raised on Star Wars and Star Trek – next cinematic stop the Star Wars rebooted movie 😀 😀 😀

Wrapping with Jane Bevan

I spent a second day working with Jane, this time focusing on cutting and fringing using some beautiful exotic bark acquired Jane from a nursery.

I also spent some time with Jane and Andrea as they began to curate the vessels  created for the Inspired by Nature gallery installation. The space is partially constructed and can be seen in Derby Museums over Christmas and the New Year if you are quick. We have planned a 2 day final installation process on beginning on the 6th January 2016. I’ll be documenting it further with video and photography.

Binding with Jane Bevan

Today I sat and worked in the Inspired by Nature gallery with artist jane Bevan whilst she started creating her commission for the space. The conversation was exciting and creative. I revisited some of the ideas that I began to develop during my Foundation Course and  and applied them to the materials that Jane had collected; feathers, bark, leaves and seeds. Her is the fruits of my morning’s labour. I am hoping to continue the talk and ideas swap later, with the possibility of working in nature on larger scale installations in situ…


Jane Bevan experimentation
A bit messy but a work in progress


New Skills – Nature Sculpt, Vinyl Cutting and Laser Cutting

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for opportunities to try out new skills and reignite my interest in older ones. When I was at secondary school and college much of the work that I did was tangible; drawing, print making, fashion designing and sewing, textiles. Since I graduated I have worked increasingly in digital and virtual. Don’t get me wrong, I love the skills in UX, design and project management that I have developed, but making, the experience of feeling it in your hands, interacting with the materials as they are shaped into something new is something I miss.

In the last month I have found some great chances to expand out my repertoire and try out things I’ve not done for an awfully long time.

The first two were short courses run by the Museum of Making Curator Daniel Martin (vinyl cutting), and the Silk Mill Maker-in-Residence Graeme Smith (using the laser cutter with InkScape).

Both took you through the basics of how to use the software and the hardware to create something to take away.

Vinyl cut acrylic designs
From the laser cutting I left with an upload of the software (which is OS and available here) and a phone stand made from laser ply. From the vinyl cutting lab I left with two printed acrylic sheets with designs on, one for my son and the other for my partner. In both cases I left with a good working knowledge about how to do the process myself, but more importantly with ideas about how I could apply them to my own creative development. Every Thursday evening at the Silk Mill is the Open Make. I am going to start going for the last few this month (December) and then again when the venue opens again on February 2016.

The last creative skill I tried again was linked in with the work that I completed for my Foundation studies in Art and Design. At the time I was fascinated with wrapping and revealing; ephemera, bodies, rope, clothing. It manifested itself in a number of ways. During one of the days I volunteered at DMAG the artist Jane Bevan ran a workshop based upon her own creative practice, one of foraging and developing unique pieces from her finds. I had gifted some peacock feathers to Andrea who included these in with the materials supplied by Jane herself. Andrea kindly invited me to participate in the workshop which drew about 15 other people, many of whom were practicing craft artisans as well.

Natural mobile from Jane Bevan workshop
I arrived late and only stayed an hour, but during the time managed to create an really eclectic mobile, incorporating wood, feathers, pine cones and copper wire, juxtaposed with a very bright, modern parcel tying string to create a nature mobile. It was lovely to connect with natural materials and remember making something beautiful from found objects. I recalled just how much I love being alone in nature, particularly by myself. The experience is something about being in the moment, seeing the light flickering, hearing the susurration of the plants and trees. Making something new from the natural environment changes it but evokes the experience found in nature and in some small way brings it back into the artificiality we now live within.

Notice Nature sky shot
Andrea has invited me to assist Jane in the creation of a number of vessels for the Inspired by Nature space at Derby Museum.  I’m hopeful I can work with Jane, incorporating some of my own ideas to compliment her own.

I’ll post some pictures here when I have completed the activity.




MA Museum Studies Students Visit DMAG

On the 17th November the latest cohort of MA Museum Studies students from Nottingham Trent University visited Derby Museum to meet with Andrea H-J and learn more about the museum’s approach to collaborative project development  and  the reimagining of the ‘Notice Nature’ gallery.

Students listen to Andrea Hadley Johnson present on the Notice Nature Project

The students experience had been broken down into a number of tasks:

  1.  Read the Human Centred Design Handbook, and the Museum Association article in advance of the visit.
  2. Listen to a talk on the Notice Nature gallery and how collaborative working was integrated.
  3. Explore the different galleries and spaces within DMAG and reflect on them.
  4. Complete a prototyping exercise to create a new interpretative tool for the nature gallery.

I was involved in the development of the student’s day, and make a number of contributions, including; recording the process of the prototyping exercise to allow it to be used again, creating a visual record of the students experience as they completed the exercise, gathering materials and setting up the space, working out how we could reflect with the participants on their experience in a fun and relevant way.

Andrea really wanted to challenge the students by taking them out their comfort zone with the prototyping. We gathered, essentially, a bunch of junk from the Derby Play and Recycling Centre, supplemented with  stationary and play-doh. The idea was to cut away the usual restrains that curb creativity, such as health and safety or space constraints, and instead respond to the materials provided and ideas presented.

Materials ready for creative hands to explore

In terms of the evaluation,  something written and questions focused was deemed inappropriate, firstly because of being away from the spirit of the event an also because the university had not asked us to do this. One thing I have recognised is that the public sector seems to be quite a way behind the private sector in measuring the value of something, using it as an opportunity to learn a lesson. I thought that as this type of experience was held a number of times a year, some kind of feedback would be useful.

Derby Museum measures interest in their activity with fun engagement

We eventually settled on a playful solution that also cleared space in the co-production office. Each student was given a collection of the mascot stickers that were used earlier in the year for voting. They were asked to apply these to a sheet under which of the 4 exercises had been the most useful part for them. We developed this idea. Each student was given some of the Notice Nature post-it notes to use for their own thoughts on the feedback sheet and badges to take away – we did lots of tweeting with them too.

Coffee and welcome packs for the Nottingham Trent MA students

Working through the discussion about the feedback was a bit hairy as it museum evaluation is an area that I don’t really know much about. I’m pleased that I stuck with it though as I think that the end solution added a great deal to the value gained and the visitor’s time on the day.

I’m currently working on the last version of the toolkit to allow staff to repeat the exercise in the future. Andrea and I are meeting to review the content next week and I’ll post a copy of the finished toolkit on my blog when it’s done.

Derby Local Offer event

I attended the Derby Local Offer event at Derby QUAD last Friday. It hosted a number of organisations who work with young people (read up the the age of 25), who have disabilities and other additional needs.

I went in a number of roles. Firstly to see if there was anything relevant for the Autism organisation I am involved in, Right of Way for ASD, second to see if there was anything that could also work for me as an Autistic individual and third to see if I could begin to figure out why services seem to stop for people who are aged 25 or 30 respectively.

Speaking to a lot of the voluntary organisations such as Umbrella, or Derby City Parent Carer Forum  and the like it is understandable. Most of them have been organised and established by groups of parents frustrated with the lack of organised support and facilities for their children and families. In these cases it is of course only natural that the focus should be on children, and increasingly on young adults as these families grow up. It still highlights the shameful lack of understanding and support for families with additional needs such as those with high functioning Autistic children in Derby. You do wonder that nobody seems to give any thought to these young people as they grow. There are also the rest of us who received our diagnoses as adults or who just got too old and so abandoned in the wilderness.

Despite everything, there are some really good ideas coming through in the city…

Derby Shared Lives offers support to adults who are vulnerable, either in their own home with a more typical support worker visiting, or alternatively by living with a host family, either for a short break or as a member of the household. Host families are trained to assist their visitors, and will be involved with things like social or household skills, getting out into the community or support in other ways.

Derby QUAD holds supportive environment screenings, which include subtitled films for deaf audiences, described films for partially sighted or blind audiences and adapted screenings for those with sensory issues, (involving reducing volume, keeping the lights up and allowing people to move around. The demonstration of these on the day of the event gave a good indication of how they differ from the usual film showings).

The St James Centre in Normanton supports individuals and their families with complex and additional needs between the ages of 3 and 35 years old. They run a range of services, from social events, employment support, and host a disabled women’s social group. Additionally, weekly sessions for children are held across the week under the ‘Fun-abil8y’ banner.

Disability Direct manage the Lottery Funded ‘the stuff’ website that acts as a great focal point for information relating to services and other organisations for young people and adults with additional needs. Like most things the service is for those who are up to the age of 25 years old, or over 50 years old. When questioned about this, the response I got was that “this is the requirement for legislation.” it was suggested that I write in to point out the disability doesn’t cease for 25 years in the middle. it would be good for somebody to perhaps pick up on this and make provision without needing a poke though!

Jumpz Fitness hold fitness classes for individuals with additional needs or a disability. They take place once a week at Derby College between 11 and 12am. THe organiser Michelle has experience of working as a support worker and is also a competitive powerlifter. I spoke to her at the event and she was really engaged, describing the project as something that allows her to combine both the passions in her life.  Jumpz also works with an Aikido instructor in Milford to provide adapted lessons, weekly on a Sunday.

If there’s anything else you’re aware of please let me know. It would be good to be able to make further connections.