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Caithness News Bulletins March 2004

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Craft Residencies in Highland 9 March 04

Three nationally acclaimed craft artists-in-residence start work this week at schools in Caithness, Lochaber and Wester Ross.  Each artist has been specially selected by pupils from local schools who also chose the craft they wished to study. Applications were received from craft makers from all over the country and pupils in each area selected three to interview before deciding on the successful applicant.

Jeanette Sendler

Each residency lasts for 40 days and during that time the artists will create a unique work in response to the area and the residency. Three small showcase exhibitions on the craft being studied will run alongside the residencies showing the work of other artists and will come together with the new work created during the residencies to tour Highland Council galleries in Wick, Thurso, Inverness and Kingussie later in the year.

The best of the work created by pupils during the residencies will also tour alongside the professional work. The artists will be compiling handling collections that show and explain how the work is created.

Funding for the project has been received from the Scottish Arts Council and The Highland Council Education, Culture and Sport Service. It is an objective of the Scottish Arts Council crafts strategy 'to improve opportunities to experience crafts in education and lifelong learning and in particular to ensure that every schoolchild has experience of making.' 

Paul Topen, designer and modelmaker, has been selected for the residency in Ullapool and Gairloch High Schools and will also work with other schools in the area.

He has always enjoyed experimenting with new materials and looking at ways of adjusting the normal making process in order to get innovative results. His work with pupils will explore new materials and the processes of making. In this experimental design project, which has the underlying theme of 'Time,' the pupils will be free to use any materials that they deem sympathetic to their outcome. They will spend time researching, making and collecting and this information will culminate into the production of a piece of artwork.

Since 1993, Paul has been working with the fashion designer Hussein Chalayan designing and constructing all the 'show pieces' for his autumn and summer shows. Paul's creations have ranged from wooden corsets and plastic remote controlled dresses to glass dresses that were smashed on stage. He has won numerous awards for lighting and furniture design and his company, Topen Design, has gone from strength to strength with retailers including Harrods and Conran. Paul also works as a freelance designer and modelmaker and lectures at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.

The selected makers for the showcase exhibition are Ruth Chalmers and Fabiane Perrella, both of whom will be creating new work for the exhibition utilising innovative design techniques and new materials.  Fabiane is currently working on new piece which she has entitled the 'Ulla-stool.'

Rachel Higgins was selected for the residency in Mallaig and the Small Isles. Rachel works in metal and creates automata and metal sculptures of animals and birds using found objects, metal filters and screens and assembles her pieces using a variety of techniques similar to many repairs and constructions carried out on her family farm.

Rachel will be based at Mallaig High school and in Eigg Primary school during her residency and will be running workshops throughout the area as well as collaborating with the pupils to create a piece of work that will be left at the High School at the end of her time with them. The pupils will document the residency and it is hoped that they will mount an exhibition of the work they have created with Rachel.

The showcase exhibition that will run alongside the residency will feature work by three artists, including Rachel, who work in metal using contrasting techniques and methods. The selected artists are jeweller Beth Legg (a native of Caithness) and Julia Griffith Jones who works in wire using textile techniques.

Jeanette Sendler was selected for the residency in Caithness and will be working with Hillhead School in Wick and schools in Dunbeath and Reay.  Jeanette is a textile artist whose current work concentrates on textiles produced through traditional crafts; sewing, spinning, knitting, papermaking and specialising in felt making.

Jeanette is trained in theatre costume design and has worked freelance for different theatre companies all over the world. She also teaches part-time at Edinburgh college of Art.

For the showcase exhibition that will run alongside her residency there will be work from Nora Fok, Kei Ito and Ismini Samanidou. These makers use a wide variety of textile techniques in their work including weaving, stitching and knitting.

This is the first stage of the Craft Residency project. Further funding will be sought to set up residencies in all eight areas of the Highlands over the next three years, culminating in a major touring craft exhibition in 2007, the Year of Highland Culture.