Working with Amy Lawrence – Week 2

For this years Blaze Festival, a group of Artists will be working with professional curator Amy Lawrence to produce artwork in preparation for an exhibition in October.

They will be working together over weekly sessions, and will be blogging about each session as it takes place!

Week 2 – Written by Hannah G Stringer

Our second foray into the land of Accrington, specifically its library, was a slow one; now I’m not meaning the kind of slow we think of when we think of that queue at ASDA checkouts at 10am on a Saturday morning; the one that has obviously been scheduled by the devil himself in a rather effective attempt to inspire all that bad joo joo in us that we get told about when we’re kids. Time slows just almost to a stop, but trudges and scrapes itself along just fast enough that we can be aware; know we’re only ever almost at the till, or so it seems, as the lady at the front of the queue – obviously completely unaware of our great need to buy the essential loaf of bread; carton of milk; pack of double-double chocolate digestives (they were on sale, of course) – unloads the trolley at a maximum of 2 items per cycle of the till conveyer belt; then proceeds to arrange the items according to their destined bag before they are allowed to be tetris-ed into them, ending up too heavy for her to actually handle and so rearranged again and …we move on to the next trolley in the queue.

That’s not the kind of slow we experienced at the library, but I thought I’d slowly get to the part I’m supposed to talk about (and apparently really slowly get this blog post out, oops)! First we were given a great little excercise that seemed, at least to me, to have a great effect on the rest of the session. This was called, ‘check in; check out’, if I’ve remembered that right. Anyway, the whole idea was to sit in quiet and just give ourselves and each other room to think, not think – just let things waft into our heads, give them space to settle there, let them go out into the group. It was like a slow conversation really. Even if we didn’t want to say what we were saying that seemed ok; just a bit of slow down time really (good for aiding the digestion of double-double chocolate biscuits). And it worked!

We then went on to discuss articles we’d found that didn’t relate to our practice but might be interesting; drew mind maps of our mind – most were pretty messy, some would have been, but were boxed off nicely, compartmentalised maybe?

Next we drew maps of the library. For this we were given a little time to sit in, wander through, listen to the pulse of the library, to then come back to our little room at the back to re-create what we’d noticed; experienced, visually. Having been slowed down through ‘check-in; check-out’ I feel like we were really able to absorb what was around us; what wasn’t. Some of us had noticed what noises were happening around the library; how they harmonized, discorded; one had seen the reflections of faces in many different materials, a bathroom mirror, a lift door, a window into a back room; some were concerned with secluded spaces; big unprotected spaces and more…

So how did this all tie together?

With Amy’s help we drew all of these maps, articles, thoughts, experiences together and created experiences to share with others; created collaborative workshops: on what we’d noticed, wanted to draw attention to, alter; on our practice; on other’s practice; on the life in the library… To me, one workshop focused on slowly absorbing and noticing through listening; creating and experiencing safe spaces, being stood still in exposed ones, looking at the effect of opening and closing eyes when listening; when overwhelmed. Another workshop focused on orchestration of new noises from experiences of the ones around; utilizing our vanity as a new way of exploring the little crevices; the way we travel between spaces in the library and more…

Having the opportunity to not only explore our practices, but others’ and being gently guided in such unusual and creative ways; to experience and reimagine; highlight and give messages to the space in a new way was a great recipe for new types of learning, of art creations and focuses, at least for me. And the best part was, it became such a great exchange of gifts, of experience and understanding. I know this exchange will continue…. to deepen our connection with the library and what gives it life. I’m really excited to see what works we end up developing for the show!

To find out more about Hannah, visit