As a group we had decided to each host a visit to a quarry that we had an affinity with or had worked in previously. For each of us the quarry landscape is a familiar one but I wasn’t expecting the varied histories and personal experiences that we shared during these collaborative journeys.
Approaching Dinorwig quarry from both directions gave an insight into its massive scale both physically and emotionally. I hadn’t taken many steps before I came across my first ‘found object’ –
This was the last thing I had imagined coming across, and an object which was an antithesis of such an environment .At this early stage, I was totally enveloped by the scale and this small intimate yellow duck, which had the essence of children and play, brought a softness as a strong contrast to the mountains of grey /purple slate.
The physicality of human achievement however…
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Blog newydd o Merched Chwarel, gan Jwls Williams.
Dyma fi wedi cael fy magu yng nghysgod y Graig, sef Chwarel Penmaenmawr lle bu’n Taid, hen daid a mwy diweddar 3 o frodyr fy nhad yn gweithio.
Y mae chwareli yn rhan o fy hunaniaeth, ac yr wyf wastad wedi mynegu hyn trwy gelf; fy mherthynas unigryw a lle, a phresenoldeb trawiadol chwareli o fewn y dirwedd.
Merch y chwarel yn wir – ond beth yw arwyddocâd hyn heddiw ?
Wel, mae’r ffaith nad oeddwn erioed wedi ystyried y cwestiwn yn ddiddorol yn ei hun rywsut? Heb aros i sylweddoli’r anomaledd, dyma fi ymhlith hanes- dynion?
Y mae cychwyn ar y daith ‘Merched Chwarel’ yn agor gymaint o ddrysa a chwestiynau yn barod:
– o safbwynt fy hun, fel merch chwarel.
– ni’n pedair, ein grŵp a’n cysylltiadau a’n profiadau gwahanol, a’r bwriad o rannu a cyd-weithio.
– Pha rôl oedd gan ferched mewn hanes cyfoethog ein chwareli ?
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A thought invoking blog by Marged Pendrel for Merched Chwarel.
Walking the National Park Boundary around the quarry town of Blaenau Ffestiniog for a previous project ’ Ail Wneud/Ail Ddyfeisio – Re Take /Re Invent’ left me thinking of other boundaries that exist in this quarry landscape, in particular the gender boundaries.
What role, if any, did women have within the context of these slate quarries?
Our group, Merched Chwarel had similar questions and so a R&D phase of our enquiry began.
My research brought to light Kate Griffiths who, in 1909 both instigated the setting up, running and teaching of 23 children in a remote quarry school in Rhiw Bach village quarry.
Rhiw Bach School
She is the only woman mentioned in the quarry history of Bleanau Ffestiniog and I became curious. Her journey to and from Rhiw Bach (one of the remotest of the Blaenau quarries) during the spring and summer months, was where I invited Merched Chwarel…
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My first blog for Merched Chwarel.
Documentation of walking to Rhiwbach Quarry village with Merched Chwarel, led by Marged Pendrell.
The walk was to trace the footsteps of Kate Griffiths, the schoolteacher, who would walk the path from Blaenau to Rhiwbach, to educate the children of the tiny, quarry village. Our journey began by car, through a landscape swathed in frost, but with bright sun and dramatic forms.
We park at the entrance of a working quarry and exchange pleasantries with a man who was there to check the dust levels in the quarry. We walked away from the big machines, massive slabs of rock and earth working equipment, away from the little flags and towards the open landscape, with the quarry on our left.
The boundary marker between “journey to” and “Rhiwbach walk” was a fence and cattle grid. Blue plastic festooned the fence. Long hairs of blue, flapping in the wind like prayer flags…
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Six weeks ago, in the middle of writing my blog describing the triumphant showcase of the Pontio Synthesis project, which was already pretty late, I was stopped in my tracks by the vagaries of life. Hospital, surgery, more hospital, crazy drugs (prescribed)……
It’s all been a bit of a blur. However, I can’t leave it without recording the rest of the Llif/Flow story.
Saturday 2nd July, 2016 – Set Up.
Lindsey Colbourne, Jonathan Malarkey and myself arrived bright and early to begin setting up the runs on the slopes of Pontio. It was time to put our ideas into practice, and the prospect was daunting. In the back of my mind, I was convinced we had been over ambitious. The spaces seemed huge, the materials were huge too, but didn’t look anywhere near enough. Could we really make marbles flow through Y Caban? Lindsey was already in the zone, arranging the slate run like a beautiful river down the bottom slopes, so I forced myself to stop thinking and start doing. The first job was getting marbles to flow through Y Caban.
Once we got stuck in, it was wonderful. Everything we wanted to do we managed to construct, and the materials looked fantastic in situ. By the end of Saturday, it was all in place. The marble Laboratory inside the PL2 lecture theatre was all in place, the Vorticarium was working, even the marble dispenser that had caused me so much stress appeared to be functioning perfectly. The outside runs were a worry, so susceptible to vandalism or weather damage, it was like leaving a child out in the woods, but there was nothing else to do but trust it would be fine, and go home.
THE SHOWCASE. JULY 3rd, 2016.
Sunday the 3rd was a stunning summer day. Unbelievable considering the variety of rain we had been appreciating up to that point.
There were four marble run routes set up on the slopes outside….and they were all pretty large. One flowed from Y Cegin cafe, zig zagging sharply down the ampitheatre style terraces, along metal offcuts from the Pontio Building’s construction until bouncing and flowing into a delta of slate in the courtyard. Another, a long clear pipe made a looping path beside the stairway until it to became a tributary to the slate below. The third route also began at Y Cegin, but this travelled to the left, dropping down until reaching a viaduct that took it to Y Caban, into a pipe that wound its way from outside to in, ending at Y Caban’s doorway. The final run picked up at Y Caban and flowing along the tiny gradient from Y Caban to PL2, along first the new materials from the building, and into the slate fencing, such as you may find around the traditional Cabanau.
The first visitors arrived half an hour before the advertised start time, and the slopes came to life as hundreds of visitors of all ages began running marbles, altering runs, fixing gaps and playing in the sun. it was anarchy of the best kind, and it carried on unabated til closing time.
The weather was amazing, and people were relaxing and having fun.
If the slopes outside were the field study, inside PL2 was the science laboratory itself. It was here where the marble instruments, in both a scientific and musical sense, were recording the flow of the day, and the shape and sound of the flow patterns created by us participants.
The stagnataphone used stagnation points to create delicate a delicate tinkling.
The Vorticarium is a sit in vortex, the space within the spiral, making a deep, rhythmic percussion.
In contrast, the Vorticiser uses the vortex in a freer way, allowing the energy of the participant to create the speed and success of the vortex, building up a frenetic whirring.
Laminar, trickling flow, dropping and running like city rain in scaffolding was recorded through the K Clampifone.
On the tables, were two smaller and more delicate laminar instruments..The Laminaphone created straight flow using pipes of different lengths…high pitched and staccato or legato, depending on the angle.
The Marbleharp uses tension and angle to create short, controlled flow and waves, reverberating softly beneath the turbulence.
The PL2 lab was also where our more scientific investigations had taken us. There was the ever present fascination of the vortex, which had appeared over and over again in our research phase, which resulted in the vorticarium, and the two table vortices.
In order to track the favoured route of marbles through obstacles, and thereby find the most successful flow pattern, there was a numbered run, also part of the orchestra, with an accompanying map, charting the route of each marble. The slatescape also had a bell on it that was just too tempting, so the new experiment became an investigation into how to find the most direct route to the bell.
There was even some real science, in the form of beautiful, graceful video presentations, by Jonathan Malarkey, illustrating the physics behind the flow.
Throughout the day, participants running marbles in the marble instruments were creating sounds that flowed through a multitude of wires into the mixing desk, controlled by the sound alchemist, David Hopewell. From there, through yet more wires, the sounds travelled out of the building and into Y Caban. On two occasions through the afternoon, these marble sounds were joined by the violin of Katherine Betteridge, clarinet of Sioned Eleri Roberts, and the voice of poet, Rhys Trimble. Together, they are The Marmaladies, improvising and collaborating with the ringing, trickling, jangling flow of the marbles . The Marmaladies wound through the crowds, along the runs and through the building, making their own patterns that ran and wound through the event. Rhys Trimble, cutting up Welsh and English, science and poetry, created both stacatto turbulence and low murmuring, interspersed by silky silences. Katherine and Sioned create sounds on their instruments that I have never heard before, weaving twisting, stretching violin sounds through percussive clarinet sometimes deep, sometimes sharp. The whole performance was recorded, creating a sonic imprint of the occasion.
THE MARBLE CREW
Llif/Flow was in every way, a collaborative work. Starting with Lindsey, Jonathan and myself, we quickly joined up with Rhys, Katherine Sioned and Dave. The day could not have happened with out the technical crews : Iolo, Dic and Iolo from Pontio, who said yes to everything, and made it happen, and Freya, Tom, Heather, and Billy, our assistants on the day, who were everywhere at once, fixing, helping, directing and answering questions.
Billy, Freya, Heather and Andrea
The whole crew.
Photographs by Andrea Thorley, Lindsey Colbourne, Jony Easterby
Time seems to be moving very quickly on the Llif/Flow project for Pontio Synthesis. There was a confluence in the barn on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, when Jonathan Malarkey, Lindsey Colbourne and I were joined by Rhys Trimble, Katherine Betteridge, David Hopewell and, in spirit, Sioned Eleri Roberts. Lindsey had been working on musical runs, and after coffee, cake and discussion of the physics of flow, we moved inside to play. It was both fascinating and a privilege to watch the magic of improvised sound and poetry collaboration happening before our eyes. A sound becomes a note, a beat becomes a rhythm, the marbles and words weave and bounce; sometimes flowing smoothly like the waves in Jonathan’s lab, sometimes bubbling and clattering in chaos like turbulent flow over rocky bed.
The afternoon ended with more cake and conversation, as well as a wish list of sound tech to take to our next meeting with Pontio, which was imminent. In fact the following week was intense with marbling. An afternoon spent playing and experimenting on the slopes by Y Caban, Pontio, and a fantastic tech meeting (you really don’t expect to hear “yes” so many times in any one meeting) are both pointing to us being able to do exactly what we wanted to do!!
(photos by Lindsey Colbourne)
At the end of the week, Lindsey, Jonathan and I were invited to the “garden shed” workshop of Iolo Price, a member of Pontio staff, and also a fantastic glass craftsman. He generously showed us the whole magical process of making a handmade marble. The confluence is getting bigger, as Iolo is now working on Pontio marbles for the event.
We are definitely moving into the next phase of the project now, away from exploring and experimenting and into the construction and definition process. As I have been working in the studio, I have been thinking about collaboration and how it works. How do you make something that is coherent as a whole, but contains elements of each individual involved? I originally decided that I wanted to work in collaboration rather than making work alone because I found I was having a really hard time finishing work, and was getting lonely and defeatist, but I wasn’t really sure how to collaborate as part of my practice. I began going on walks with Rhys Trimble, as we were both interested in walking as art, and in the practice of making small interventions in the landscape. We had a couple of great walks, one where we were joined by tiny little horses in an abandoned quarry, another where we built a little cottage out of slate. They were interesting walks, and could still be the start of something, but we didn’t so much collaborate as just share a space, a journey and an intent to create “art”.
Working with Lindsey has been amazing, as we have a shared vision and different skills,as well as the fact that we work well together personally.. My initial fears of losing my voice, or being the lesser half, have been overridden by just working through them and creating together. The beauty of marble runs in they are so compulsive, there’s no room in my head for nagging doubts.
Now we are adding Jonathan to the mix, and not only collaborating between artists, but across disciplines. I think at first I expected that Jonathan would tell us about flow, and Lindsey and I would make runs based on his knowledge, and I wondered what he would get from that. The way it has worked out is so much better. The knowledge is not a one way street, and from the very first meeting, ideas have bounced back and forth until they have become our ideas, and the individual origin has all but disappeared. Although, practically, construction is being done alone in studios and on kitchen tables, there is not one element that hasn’t been created through joint exploration, discussion and agreement. The approach and processes across the disciplines of science and art also seem to be in harmony, as, when you get back to basics, both start with curiosity. I have also realised that, as an artist may look out at a feature of the world and wonder how to represent it in the studio, so the scientist will wonder how to recreate it in their lab. Both are hoping to learn something more about what they are seeing.
It was a cold, crazy day, complete with freak hail and sunbursts, when we (Lindsey Colbourne, Dr Jonathan Malarkey and myself) met at the barn in Nant Peris for our second “play day” for Pontio Synthesis project. The barn, though chilly, is an amazing space, housing the collection from Lindsey’s Digging Down project, as well as some fabulous new marble pieces that she has been working on. The plan was a loose one; to use our new knowledge of flow patterns to inform our marble run design, and play with some different materials on the lower slopes of the mountain, testing and experimenting for the 3rd of July. It began awkwardly, for me at least. It was so different from our lab visit, where Jonathan had been so erudite and generous. In contrast, I felt a real inability to verbalise my artistic practice, or explain anything. Of course, once we relaxed and started playing with marbles, self-consciousness disappeared and we found ourselves on the slopes, in the freezing wind, running marbles down pipes and slates, playing with angles and vortices. This, “the process” is the pay off of making art for me. The “flow” where the hours become meaningless, and each twist and turn makes a new pattern and a new connection. I think it’s so hard to verbalise because it is such an individual thing. As the three of us worked on the slopes, we each approached the same problem and the same materials in a very different way. The art of collaboration will be for all the approaches to join into a single flow, just as individual modules of a marble run can be linked together to make a complete system.
We made some good progress and some good discoveries and lessons. One thing we learned unequivocally is that marbles do not behave like liquids in a flow, nor do they behave like particles in liquid in a flow. In fact, marbles are fabulously anarchic. However, marbles can be made to behave in a way that mimics flow patterns by making adjustments to their route, trying to control angles, momentum, velocity and the transference of force ie bounce! As well as creating features that force them into patterns such as laminar and turbulent flow, and of course, vortices!
In the following days my head was buzzing with ideas of how to make marbles move like turbulent flow, to twist and turn but still keep going, so i began carving a marble landscape in plaster to see where they would go.
As the week went on, we started to tentatively order a few materials, ready for our next play session, this time at TOGYG. It’s reaching the point of the project where too much information could be seen as spoilers for the main event….but here are some sneaky peeks of what we got up to.
Determinism vs Chaos.
A series of experiments with angle of descent, shape of paper and frequency of marbles.
The act of spinning around as fast as I can creates a space in which there is only me. As soon as I start to spin, I become the centre of my own vortex. It is peaceful there.
Spinning on a gentle decline, drifting, feeling gravitational pull.
Spinning in biting cold sunset air, puddles flashing.
Spinning in defiance of fascists on a Saturday afternoon, uncoiling the spring.
Spinning fast enough, everything ceases to exist but the centre.
Spinning into mindlessness in the damp darkness with arrow darts of questions.
Spinning in space, greeting the winter as the centre of my own landscape.