Back in July, I read about a collaborative community arts project in our home city, called All Together Now. An invitation was extended to artists & makers to propose some “fun and unexpected things to happen in the city”. Intriguing! The focus was on encouraging local people to get creative during lockdown and involved in activities to be shared & enjoyed by locals and visitors.
One of the four projects, Somewhere in Ely, was led by artist Amy Wormald. Three proposals were put to public vote and the winner was Louise Beale, a ceramic artist from Ely. Louise wanted to involve the local community in creating a large-scale clay installation; residents, schools, clubs & businesses were invited to create clay models of something they feel represents Ely.
It came at the right time for us as we were still scrabbling for ways to keep the boys entertained in lockdown, so I asked Louise for a kit. She generously gave us three which included everything we’d need: air-dry modelling clay, tools to add detail and texture, paints & paintbrushes 🙂
ELY ACCORDING TO THE SMITHS
So, what did we choose to make?
Ollie wanted to make the famous cannon which lives on Palace Green, opposite the cathedral. This ancient cannon saw service in the Crimean War. It was captured from the Russians at Sevastopol and given to Ely by Queen Victoria in 1860. It now provides a popular backdrop for a selfie!
Ben wanted to stay simple and create a brightly coloured eel. Eels were once abundant in the River Great Ouse and they give Ely (Isle of Eels) its name. It’s also the star of the annual (except in 2020, obvs) Ely Eel Festival & Eel Day Parade.
I chose the badge of our boys’ lovely primary school which, I learned today, features the flower of the St John’s Wort plant on an emerald background. (Don’t tell anyone, I’ve always thought it was a daffodil!) It’s nice & bright and is special to our family.
Rob chose the pub sign for our local, the Prince Albert. And why not! FYI, it serves a lovely pint of Justinian from local Milton Brewery. The pub is one of our favourites and was the first place we dared to visit during August’s Eat Out to Help Out so it’s particularly special to us this year. (Just to be clear, below is Ben who was helping Rob 😉 No underage drinking here!)
The boys have used air-dry modelling clay at school, but it was new to me. It’s incredibly easy to work with and, as promised, our models dried after a day … well, two for Ollie’s chunky cannon 🙂
I need to find more excuses to sit & paint – it’s calming, therapeutic, slightly nerve-wracking. At this point, I was glad I went with a two-colour piece, although I’m not sure I nailed the emerald colour.
Rob showed a surprisingly steady hand on the detail of Prince Albert and his ‘leader of 19th-century fashion‘ clothing; it’s hard to get a sense of the scale in a photo – the clay model is only 4 inches by 3.
Ben’s eel got a wash of turquoise before embellishment with blue and yellow. Ollie decided his cannon didn’t need any paint because, well, because the “real cannon is that colour”.
Louise collected our models for the All Together Now exhibition at the Babylon Gallery down on waterside in Ely, where they will be on show for visitors from October 16th to November 15th. With council agreement, there will also be a temporary outdoor display – fingers & toes crossed that can go ahead too.
If you go to see the Somewhere in Ely models – where you can also see Comic Book Windows, Together in Isolation and Chapter in our Lives – whether you’re local or visiting, let me know if you spot ours! 🙂
Bye for now!