Amgueddfa Blog: Tŷ Gwyrdd

Earlier this year I was presented with the chance of a lifetime, a paid opportunity to develop my professional career and expand my portfolio. I applied for an artist in residency with Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, to work with their museum volunteers up and down the country, to create a project that would celebrate 10 years of the volunteering program. After a thoroughly exciting interview process, I was asked to join the team.

Fast forward 6 months and my Artist Residency has now reached a close. I’m very happy with the work I have created; it showers the volunteering hub in colour and celebrates the amazing contribution volunteers have given to the museum. It fills me with joy to share my work with such an enthusiastic cohort of volunteers from all walks of life.

I started designing the mural at the same time as touring the country and running creative workshops with volunteers. I had collected a long list of volunteer roles but understanding them in a way that helped me generate genuine visuals required meeting volunteers in person, visiting the sites and experiencing what they do first hand. Over a month or two, I managed to construct flowing imagery to turn into celebratory hanging banners - a design format that stood out during my research.

I created the design by hand, as I feel more comfortable using traditional techniques, then started the daunting task of rendering a digital copy of the work using Adobe Illustrator. Including this step was somewhat of a learning curve for me, but it’s been a valuable experience. Having a digital copy of the design meant that we could create prints for all the museum sites and a printed gift for each of the volunteers. It also sped up the painting process because it allowed me to use a projector.

Using string, pins and painters tape I divided the wall up into segments. Piece by piece I projected and copied details of the design upon the walls rough surface. The wall is made of lime rendering, which it turns out is not a very cooperative surface to paint on. It’s dry, so moisture from the paint is quickly absorbed which increases the amount of paint needed, the stroke count and the time it takes. It’s also rough, which slowly ruins brushes and pens.

Once the design was cartooned upon the wall, I chose to fill in large areas using low-pressure spray paint. This part of the process saved time and had the lucky benefit of creating a smoother plastic wrap over the wall. After filling the space with basic flat shapes I used brushes and pens to add details and definition with regular acrylic paints.

My goal was to create a design that was not only on brief, but functional, aesthetically pleasing and contained other layers of depth hidden below the surface. The hanging banner format is supposed to connote a sense of celebration and heraldry. The colour palette is reminiscent of the dyes used in the tapestries sewn by volunteers for Llys Llewelyn. I wanted the illustration style to be subtly influenced by welsh traditional craft and contain subtle suggestions of embroidery, slip-on cast tiles patchwork etc. I created the typeface used for the quotes contained in the artwork from some of the earliest welsh stone carvings found on a cross near Ogmore.

I’d been looking forward to the painting process since the very beginning, it was long and laborious but oh-so rewarding. Despite the fact that a large percentage of my wardrobe is speckled with a rainbow of vibrant acrylic, I really enjoyed physically crafting something.

I want to say the biggest thank you to everyone in the volunteering & community engagement department - especially Ffion & Haf - for checking in on me and giving me guidance and support, thank you to all the kind staff at St Fagans for making me feel welcome, thank you to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for providing the funding for this amazing opportunity, thank you to my partner Elin for driving me everywhere, but most of all the volunteers who have truly enriched my experience.

The last 6 months have been the best of my life. It has been so rewarding to work in a creative role where I feel valued. I’m going to miss working at Amgueddfa Cymru. 


If you'd like to know more about the project as it was happening you can have a look at Robin's previous blog https://museum.wales/blog/2019-06-20/ARTISTS-PROJECT-Celebrating-10-Years-of-Volunteering/

 

Move over Alexa, Ada the pianola’s back!

‘Alexa, play me a song by the Beatles! Alexa what about something by One Direction! Alexa, play something classical! Beethoven or Mozart. Alexa, Alexa, Alexa you are the must have gadget of the 21st century - but Alexa you don't always get it right?!

This is where I Ada, the Pianola comes in. Let’s travel back over a hundred years in time from 2019 to 1919 when I was in my heyday and see how I performed. I am, the first truly musical piano-playing device in the world. Listen to my specifications. They are quite impressive if I say so myself. I was designed and first made by Edwin Scott Votey in his workshop in Detroit in 1895. So even one hundred years ago I had already been around for nearly twenty five years.

‘What can you do?’ I hear you ask.

Well I can play any number of tunes you request…. Music hall songs, Christmas carols, nocturnes by Chopin to name but a few, and I make no mistakes! I do need a human to work the pedals and load the music scrolls. My sound is generated by the pianolist's feet, and controlled in pitch by a perforated music roll. When my pedals are pressed, I send air up through holes in a roll of paper to press my keys and hey presto I am in action. Sit back and enjoy my performance. With my help, anyone can make music.

‘So you don’t operate alone? ‘you ask.

Well neither do you Alexa, as far as I can see. You need wi-fi, monthly fees, speakers and human instructors.

I was around throughout the 20th century. But will you still be operating in 2119? Who remembers music cassettes and floppy disks now?

Who can tell? Who knows? But I think I am ageless. I can go on for ever.

Want to check me out for yourself?

If so, you will find me in the Oakdale Workmen’s Institute on the top floor in the grand ballroom. Pop in on a Wednesday morning and my volunteers Cheryl and Marie will show you the works. Before too long you too will be singing my praises.

My name is Brian and I live in Talbot Green. When I was in school I used to do gardening in Y Pant. In the winter I used to help my dad in the garden.

I worked in Remploy in Tonyrefail for ten years starting in 1974. We used to do all sorts of jobs. Then I did four years in Llantrisant, and twenty five years in Porth. On Fridays we finished early and went to the pub for lunch. I retired in 2013. I have the opening plaque from when Remploy opened in Porth in 1988. The building has been demolished.

Since I retired I have done a computer course and a photography course. I have also done pottery and pop art, and I have a big collection of paintings that I have done.

I came to the Take Charge coffee morning in August 2018 and found out about the chance to help at The Secret Garden at St Fagans National Museum of History. That’s when I decided to start gardening again. I’ve learned about teamwork, we work here in a team.

I enjoy doing it, I feel happy. I look forward to coming out and abought especially. I feel tired after, but good tired. My favourite job is raking. I’ve learnt that I enjoy volunteering.


The Secret Garden is maintain and developed by Innovate Trust whose main work is to support people with learning disabilities, mental health issues and people with physical impairments.

 

A few months ago, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I was invited to work at Amgueddfa Cymru as an artist in residence and asked to organise a project to celebrate 10 years of the volunteer programme. The project has consisted of a series of creative workshops with volunteers at sites across the country, which have fed into the creation of a celebratory artwork.

My name’s Robin Bonar-Law, I’m a self-taught artist and graphic design graduate of Falmouth University. From the time of my graduation up until my residency, I have been working in the catering industry so my artistic outlet has been primarily restricted to latte art. The creative industries are incredibly competitive and coming from a low-income family I have often felt stifled by a lack of social mobility. I take portrait commissions and enter competitions when I can but over the coming years, I would like to make the rewarding leap into self-employment by becoming a freelance mural artist.

Early this year I applied to an artist opportunity based at St Fagan’s. After a thoroughly exciting interview process, I was asked to join the team and given an open brief, ‘Create an artwork that is inspired by the volunteers and showcases the amazing contribution they have given to the museum. The process should also include a series of creative workshops with volunteers.’ With over 900 volunteers this year alone this was no small task, nonetheless, overflowing with unbounded enthusiasm and a sense of freedom (from the coffee shop) I got to work planning.

The project is split into two main components; the workshops and the final artwork. I love drawing and wanted to run a series of ‘mark-making’ workshops that help re-introduce the volunteers to the idea of drawing as something that’s fun and relaxing. By normalising and simplifying drawing through a series of games and activities, I hoped to make it less daunting and something relaxing that they may enjoy doing brief moments of spare time.

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As well as allowing me to teach the volunteers new drawing techniques the workshops served as a time for the volunteers to teach me about their roles and experiences at the museum. From the beginning of the project, I have wanted to create an authentic artwork that represents the true collaborative spirit of the volunteer workforce and the best way to do that is to meet them and get their personal input. Visiting the sites and talking to members of staff was another valuable resource.

I have met such a large number of enthusiastic and happy volunteers, they are all equally passionate and have truly enriched my experience. The workshops have been far more rewarding than I could ever have expected, I hope the volunteers enjoyed them as much as I did.

My favourite part of any project like this is the final, hands-on crafting of a design, but there’s no point rushing into it without a strong design process as a foundation. Alongside the workshops, I started amassing a large pool of research to help shape the direction of the artwork. I gathered inspiration from celebratory imagery such as friendly society banners, religious artworks, Flags, political/social murals etc. I also furthered my knowledge of Welsh craft and traditions by meeting with curators, visiting volunteers outside of workshops and making use of the information on display to the public. I wanted to create a final piece with mulitple layers of complexity; representing the wildly diverse range of roles, having that celebratory feel and being reminiscent of the traditional craft that imbues each site.

I am in the final stages of the design process and putting the finishing touches to my artwork. Once complete, the modular, hanging banner inspired artwork will be transformed into a majestic, megalithic and meaningful mural adorning the walls of Tŷ Gwyrdd (the new volunteer hub) and made into a digital print for each of the 7 museums around Wales. It will also be made into tote bags and given to each of the volunteers. From the very beginning, I have wanted to create a purposeful artwork that rejuvenates and enriches the volunteer spaces, fostering an environment that helps individuals find a sense of well-being, pride and identity. I can’t wait to show you all the finished product.

I am incredibly grateful for the museum and all the staff that have given me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


Robin's placement was funded by the Hands on Heritage youth project at Amgueddfa Cymru, which is supported through the National Lottery Heritage Funds ‘Kick the Dust’

 

Wythnos diwethaf, fel rhan o Ddiwrnod Budd a Roi 2014, daeth 50 o wirfoddolwyr o Lloyds Banking Group i Sain Ffagan i helpu gyda nifer o brosiectau. Wnaeth rai helpu’r Adran Garddio, wnaeth rai ymuno a’r Adran Adeiladau Hanesyddol tra gwnaeth rai gweithio ynghyd a’r Gymdeithas Alzheimer. Wnaeth 11 o’r gwirfoddolwyr gweithio gyda fi a Bernice i adeiladu gwrych newydd yn y goedwig wrth ymyl y guddfan adar.

Da ni di bod yn bwriadu adeiladu gwrych wrth ymyl y guddfan adar am sbel, am nifer o resymau. Yn gyntaf, bysai’r gwrych yn actio fel sgrin wrth nesai’r guddfan, gyda’r gobaith bysai’r adar ddim yn cael ei ofni gan ymwelwyr yn cerdded ar hyd y llwybr. Ma’ wrych hefyd yn gallu gweithio fel coridor wrth i fywyd gwyllt symud drwy’r goedwig. Hefyd, mae nifer o ymwelwyr wedi bod yn creu llwybr wrth dorri drwy’r goedwig, ac felly, wrth adeiladu gwrych, da ni’n gobeithio nawr bydd llai o ymwelwyr yn gwneud hyn.

Tasg cyna’r dydd oedd minio’r pyst. Mae’r pyst yn bwysig er mhoen neud yn siŵr bod y gwrych yn cael ei adeiladu ar sylfaen solet. Mae creu min yn neud e’n haws i yrru’r pyst mewn i’r ddaear. Ar ôl creu tyllau arwain, defnyddiwyd morthwyl  mawr i yrru’r pyst i lawr. Unwaith roedd y pyst yn ei le, roedd hi’n bosib i ni ddechrau adeiladu’r gwrych.

Ma’ na nifer o wahanol fathau o wrych, a phenderfynon ni ddefnyddio pren a choed wedi marw. Dros yr wythnosau diwethaf, dwi di fod yn gofyn i’r adrannau garddio ag amaethyddiaeth i gasglu unrhyw bren ac yn y blaen a’i anfon draw i’r guddfan adar. Am fod angen cymaint o bren, es i a rai o’r gwirfoddolwyr mewn i’r goedwig i gasglu hyd yn oed mwy.

Ar ôl cinio, fel grŵp, aethon ni i fyny i Fryn Eryr, safle’r ffarm Oes Haearn newydd sy’n cael ei adeiladu. Mae’r goedwig yma wedi cael ei chlirio yn ddiweddar, felly llanwyd trailer yn barod i’w cludo i’r guddfan. Erbyn diwedd y prynhawn, llwyddon ni i orffen y gwrychoedd. Gorffennwyd y gwrychoedd efo toriadau palalwyf er mwyn ychwanegu bach o je ne sais quois.

Fel mae’r lluniau yma’n dangos, mi oedd y diwrnod yn llwyddiant enfawr! Gallwn ni ddim di gofyn am dywydd gwell a dwi’n meddwl gwnaeth pawb mwynhau’r profiad. Gorffennwyd y 2 darn o wrych oeddem ni am adeiladu, a dwi eisoes wedi meddwl am brosiectau am y dyfodol! Cyflawnwyd llwyth o waith mewn un diwrnod, bysai’r gwaith di cymryd amser maeth i mi a Bernice i orffen heb help y gwirfoddolwyr. Diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb wnaeth helpu ni a’r prosiectau arall hefyd!