Monthly Archives: March 2012

‘The Arts Council Cometh!’

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‘The show must go on…’

A week to remember has just gone by and has seen blood, (cut my thumb) sweat, (lots of running up/down stairs) tears, (got the giggles) gallons of coffee, (obviously) cake, (don’t judge me) and even pizza. (Who in their right mind would turn down a veggie/chilli number – Thanks Cath!) All in the name of Art. ‘Trust new Art’ is a new initiative at The National Trust to incorporate contemporary works of art from the Arts Council Collection, into our existing collections. Although recently launched, we at Dyrham have had just two and a half days to get the show up and running. We have had a cool twenty-something pieces to hang and display alongside our collection from a variety of artists. The ‘A World Away’ globalisation theme fits nicely in with one of the most important people ion Dyrham’s history, the first William Blathwayt. He was responsible for the major building works in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s creating most of the property. Mr B was a major player who had ‘fingers in many a pie’, from property to multiple jobs. His work dictated a need for a working knowledge of the world that was almost ahead of his time hence the link with the contemporary art theme.

Arriving un-fashionably early, we watched the truck wind it’s way down the drive as Sarah (the Blond bomb-shell of the Garden team) pointed out I looked expectant…  (well, I was breathing out at the time and had eaten a lot of biscuits) With a heave and indeed a ho too, we got all the crates of artwork off and pilled up in the house ready to be unpacked the next day. A slightly surreal version of Christmas… With the help of two of the Arts Council Collection’s ‘logistic experts’, the ACC curator Anne Jones, Dyrham Curator Rupert, House Manager Lin and Myself, we had a hectic two days hanging all the artwork, which was not as easy as it sounds. Not by a long shot…The house office did become a little cramped with boxes, packing material, tools, chain, paperwork etc. Some pieces were hung on existing picture rails, some freestanding and some screwed into the wall! It was uncharted waters for Dyrham staff, so the party line was ‘We’ll get it done…’ as well as ‘Keep Calm and Carry on…’ which is always a winner. Our collective positive mental attitude did prevail, as we had literally minutes to go before the house opened at the same time as paintings being fixed on the wall. An ‘eye of the storm’ to be sure… Although weirdly enjoyable too… A big thank you to the ACC crew for all their hard work. The show stopper pieces for me are ‘Candle Bathing’, my personal favourite, which I think I could look at all day, and obviously the pink circle, ‘Line Painting’. A visual firework-show to end the visitor route with…

‘A mixed bag.’

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‘Light, camera, action’

All our ‘Dosimeters’, (small light meter cards with a blue centre) have finally been collected in and shipped off to the lab. They are a beautifully simple tool to measure the amount of light an object receives over the course of a year. The blue patch of cloth fades at a specific rate that can be analysed to tell if there is likely to be any deterioration. Thankfully our efforts at light control are working as they didn’t show too much fading and we could even re-use a few with no fading at all.

We had a visit from the Arts Architects Panel and I was on hand in true ‘gig road crew’ style to open/close doors and adjust blinds for various rooms. Later that day saw culture go out the window in favour of a plan to hold an April 1st ‘Spot the Oddity’ trail. This was a carefully planned house tour/brainstorming session. Our Princess of Visitor Experience Katie Morgan required the keen brain and sharp wit of a tall dark stranger. Typically he was out fishing so I volunteered to help. (Not that tall but strange…) We toured the house to work out what we could put in each room, and the ideas came thick and fast. To discover the fruits of our collective gray matter you’ll just have to visit on the day…

This week saw the completion of the ‘groundwork’ for the Arts Council Collection exhibition. Our work on the pink circle has been completed and looks mighty fine. We did breathe a collective sigh of relief and it has already drawn quite a bit of interest from staff alone. Next week will see the completion of the piece and the arrival of all the other items. Exciting times…

‘Pick it up and start again…’

We at Dyrham are caring folks, and had an opportunity to help out in the local community and take part in some litter picking in Doynton village. As soon as Myself James, Ali and Natalie and squeezed into Ops Manager Cath’s car, she confessed ‘this car has never had five people in it before’, so we were in for a wild ride. Not only did the car cope well under my added weight, but we even did a 3 point turn and reversed up a hill too! The stretch of road we were designated, met the main road, so got to see plenty of traffic. Unfortunately that meant plenty of litter. Being in jovial moods we wondered if there was a prize for the weirdest item of rubbish would be.

Unfortunately I would later win that one. Armed with gloves, grabbers, high-vis jackets and bin bags, we set to work and the section James and I found ourselves in did not seem too bad at first glance. As I got stuck in, (literally, there were brambles) It did feel, the more we picked up, the more we saw. Having used up all our bin bags, we re-grouped to call it a day when I spotted a few overgrown and degrading bags near where we started. As I picked up the nearest to find it had a bone sticking out of it. Not unusual, but on close inspection, it was an entire bag of bones. Trying to convince Ali as much as ourselves, we repeated, ‘I’m sure it was just a chicken.’ (And not a cat, sacrificial goat, or anything sinister at all…)

‘Art for Our sake…’

‘First day nerves again…’

I was a little reticent about my first full day without my bossy but beloved mentor, but also wanted to make sure her hard work training me was put to good use. My first day holding the fort had gone fairly smoothly, ably assisted by volunteer Tim it was the ‘dry run’ of what was to be a baptism of fire. The last two days of the week had House Manager Lin and myself frantically ticking off our ‘jobs to do before opening’ list. This included room information sheets, laminating, vase cleaning, rope hunting, and above all a full house clean. The beginning of the week was my first tour of duty when the house was fully open and it was a memorable one. The daily clean was the first order of the day, but co-worker Margaret could not make it in, so along with Jane we prioritised the visitor route and focussed on windows, flat surfaces and floors. Somehow I muddled through the daily briefing allotting rota cards, and cascading info. I was home alone in the afternoon and had a hectic time of manning the front door as we were a few guides down, as well as enquiries to field, not to mention starting the pink circle.

What’s that I hear you whisper? Well. A big part of this season at Dyrham is the exhibition we have from The Arts Council Collection. We will be incorporating contemporary works into our collection as part of a ‘Networks and Globalisation’ theme. One of the biggest we have is a piece that involved a little forethought. Roughly speaking, it’s a large pink circle painted directly onto the wall. To have as minimal impact on the surface as possible, it was decided between Curator Rupert, Maintenance supremeo Paul Poulton and the house crew, that we paste a backing paper to the wall then paint the circle. Shed loads of scaffolding went up to get to the right height so we could mark out the circle with ingenious precision thanks to Paul’s patented ‘pencil on a stick and a hole in the wall’. Hanging wallpaper was never my specialty, but we did a grand job. Next week the real fun will begin…