Only hours before, I'd been primping and puffing the last few bits of the installation. The very weight of the cape means it has to be sewn shut to stop it slipping off the dummy.
I know it's my own insanity played out in public, but every stitch and shell and fringe must be in exactly the right place for me to feel balanced.
The backdrop makes the perfect setting of calm and serenity.
A short film plays at the entrance to the gallery documenting each of our progressions through the project.
Alongside my sculpture, a vitrine shows examples of my practice and materials - how I dye, spin, throw, fire and make every element of my work. (One friend joked that she wouldn't put it past me to know the sheeps' names. That is taking it a bit far....although I could name each of the Alpapcas I've met if I tried hard to remember...)
When I'm working, I feel like an alchemist, adding a little of this and a little of that to make the perfect potion combination. So I put all my base materials in little apothecary jars.
The opening was a great success, with 400 visitors, and many more set to stream through the gallery during its run.
It's open until the 31st August, is free, and is well worth a visit. Vasconcelos' work is AMAZING!
(I nearly don't dare saying it, but..) La Pachamama is almost finished. It's been such a mammoth task that at times it felt never ending, even though I knew I was on schedule.
The cape is finished and just awaits the whispering pots, for which I'm currently designing the leather hanging straps.
A whispering pygmy pot (just 3cm high)
As you can see, it's filled the room I'm temporarily working in whilst my studios are built.
As for her head, I want to adjust a bit of her under mane, which will be visible due to the tilted display angle proposed by the gallery. And her nose is still an undecided factor. Not sure if I want her to have one or not.
But the ice tusks work well for me.
So really, just a few minor tweaks to go.
The show opens on the 6th May at Visual Carlow, Ireland, and continues til the 31st August 2014.
I could not have dreamt how much a trip to Orkney would influence my work, and in such a different way than I thought.
I went to learn about neolithic ceramic techniques (which I did). But I came back with a wider understanding of the people that lived in both Orkney and Ireland more than 5,000 years ago.
What beautiful, funny, talented crafts people they were! They didn't just make course, functional pots, but produced sparkling, highly-decorated vessels to cherish, that still work today.
And as for their beads, combs, clothing adornments, architecture and furniture! I am astounded. I can only guess at what their clothing must have been like. It's a shame that textiles don't last the way ceramics do. I think we would all be begging to learn their weaving skills.
I'm humbled by their work. The trip will inform my practice for many years to come. And as Orkney archeology is in the hands of the finders, it's very informal, so I was able to handle all these items rather than stare at them in a case under subdued lighting. A priceless experience - to hold eagle talon and whale teeth beads.
Work on La Pachamama Santa Maria is moving forward. This week I have concentrated on documenting my trip to Orkney for the gallery book and making her beaver tail.
I'm going to attach pictures of just two things this week - neither my work. Firstly, the Ring of Brodgar as darkness falls, amidst the 66 standing stones. And the other of something that blew me away. It's a button, shiny and black, made from bitumen rock. It was found in the Tomb of the Eagles on Orkney and is either Neolithic, or possibly Megalithic... I think you'll agree that these were not primitive people 5,000 - 8,000 years ago... til next week,
I've been doing a lot of cut leather work and adding it to the front of La Pachamama Santa Maria's cape. The cream and beige pieces here (hopefully) echo sting rays and feathers alike as they tumble to the seaweed.
The pit firing was spectacular. It was entrancing. And as you can see, the whispering pots that came out of it were beautiful. The salt flashed red and orange on the surface. The pit also yielded onyx-like blackness on some beads.
The creamier coloured beads were brushed with a simple willow ash paste, which formed a natural glaze in the electric kiln.
So I'm about to jump the plane to Orkney in half an hour, to experience the land and peoples who invented the technology that I've been exploring on this project. Expect lots of pictures of standing stones and rock carvings next week....
I'm beginning to realise that by mapping my making for the gallery (and on this blog) in this public manner, I am for the first time, truly revealing the inherent madness of my personal practice with my need to make every element from scratch ...
The week began with me hand-making over 400 beads of varying sizes.
I saggar-fired a test few with seaweed, dried dog food (don't ask!), copper carbonate and salt, and once beeswaxed, the boring little grey lumps revealed their hidden colours. I particularly like the 'fusili' style bead, which was made by rolling the clay on St Patrick's reeds at an angle.
The beads will be strung across La Pachamama Santa Maria's cape, echoing the draping of Vasconcelos' Valkyrie in the main hall of the gallery.
Then it was time to get sewing. I concentrated on the red seaweed base
and the blue shoulder areas of the cape this week. A bit of colour therapy after sewing brown leather seaweed all last week.
And just to top it off, Andy and I spent a day with Neil and Patricia Millar building a 'mash up' between a Neolithic and a Nepalese kiln. She's not pretty, but underneath her dome lays a woven willow former. Thank goodness I had a lesson with Bob Johnston! We will be finishing the kiln this week (whilst we pit fire alongside) and then virgin firing her over the Easter break.
I've spent some long nights fringing up leather and slicing Bridgedale socks to create the seaweed at the base of La Pachamama Santa Maria's cape. I'm pleased with the movement it gives at her feet and the contrast of the two materials. I hope you agree.
Then it was on to real seaweed. I needed to collect it to grind into natural glaze for the sculpture's pots. Lo and behold, the storms in February came way in land and left some drying on a barbed wire fence in a field for me, perfectly washed by the rain to get the salt off and dried brittle in the sun.
And finally, on the recommendation of Joe Hogan,I spent the day with Bob Johnston (Joe taught Bob, who has gone on to be a Northern Irish basketmaking treasure).
Bob showed myself and four others how to weave a traditional Irish potato sieve.
Whilst making the basket, Bob and I discussed neolithic basketry, how it was used to make pots - both in the sieving of clay and the shaping of pots. And also how I can downsize the basketry techniques.
[for those social history buffs amongst us]
Bob explained that the potatoes would be boiled in a big pan, then strained and served in the sieve resting on the pan. Everyone would crowd around the sieve and eat their subsistence meal of potatoes. Apparently, this type of basket (without the handle - that was just put on so I could learn to make a one) is commonly used in Irish art to signify the famine. The artists placed the sieve upright and empty in the foreground to show the lack of food.
It's a complete honour to announce that I have been chosen to exhibit at VISUAL Carlow on the 6th June in response to the work of Joana Vasoncelos.
This incredible Portugeuse artist is installing her 'Valkyrie' sculpture in the main hall of the gallery. (Seen here installed for her solo show at the Palais de Versailles!)
I - along with 4 other artists, including basketmaker Joe Hogan, will be installing our responses in the adjoining Link Gallery space.
My response, La Pachamama Santa Maria, is the mother of all - animal, vegetable, mineral. Her human element will be in the shape of neolithic pygmy pots that I shall be learning to make.
Here's La Pachamama Santa Maria's head in progress.
And her spine before attachment.
So from now on, I'll be doing weekly updates on the progress of my sculpture for the LARGEST SHOWING SPACE IN IRELAND! Whoop!
The base of La Pachamama Santa Maria's spine is beginning to stretch out across her cape at quite a rate. I've been dyeing up local sheep's fleece to blend her chakras into the rest of the cape.
On Tuesday, I was able to add some of my pots to a firing in world-reknowned salt glazer, Peter Meanley's, kiln. I was there as he unpacked the kiln. It's such a privilege to be able to learn from someone such as Peter.
This is one of my resulting offering cups. The glaze is purely made from the salt introduced during firing in reduction. The cup will accompany La Pachamama Sanata Maria.
And lastly, a few of the pygmy pots I'm throwing ready for the neolithic firing. They are each about 3cm high and will eventually adorn La Pachamama Santa Maria's cape.
Inga Hamilton is proud to say that diversified technology company 3M support her art and community work by providing 3M 4251 Maintenance Free Gas/Vapour and Particulate Respirators for those involved in her projects.