Tuesday, 19 October 2010

More pictures of my project from Light Night

Andy Cotterill
Andy Cotterill

Andy Cotterill

Andy Cotterill

Andy Cotterill

Liann Jones
Liann Jones
Liann Jones
Liann Jones
Liann Jones

Foldageddon: Spooktacular!

Ha! See, told you it was just the beginning.

The next Foldageddon, which is a Halloween Special, will be held on Wednesday 27th October. 6.30pm start, venue (as always, must sort it out in advance) to be confirmed. If you'd like to come, let me know in the comments or via twitter (@gazpachodragon)

If you enjoyed the Light Night installation, or you're intrigued by origami, or you just want to meet new people, then come on down. Everyone's welcome!

End of song; start of story

So that's Light Night, all wrapped up. I'm getting together a gallery of all the pictures people have kindly given me of the installation, and I'll post a link as soon as that's up and running. If you do have any pictures, please email them to onethousandcranes@rocketmail.com with your details and I'll add them with full credit.

Was it worth it? Undoubtedly. It was hard work, long hours, I'm out of pocket, I got RSI (I kept that quiet) and I've still not caught up on my sleep. But I've made some of the best friends I've ever had, got involved in amazing things with amazing people, and challenged myself more than I ever thought I could. I'm fairly (not entirely, but fairly) happy to call myself an artist now, and I'm not going to give that up for the world.

So what's next? I don't really know. I'm going to carry on folding (in fact I'm sat here with a pile of origami paper next to me and my fingers are itching to get going), and I'll still be doing Foldageddon. I'll post up on here when they are, and also any events I'm doing. I'm hoping to get a Foldageddon website going, so look out for that. For now, I'm going to fold, just for the hell of it.

Thanks for sharing my journey. We're only just beginning.


Light Night 2010

It was 5pm. There were (rumours of) 250 people waiting to get into the Town Hall. It was time to start Light Night.

We switched off the lights and the glow of the cranes was magical. I'd been worried we'd need uplighters, but there was enough light to walk around in, and it really did transform the place. My mum grabbed me for a hug and I was suddenly more proud of myself than I have ever been in my life. I'd done this, and it looked awesome.

People started coming in, and although a few walked straight past, most people trickled into the tunnels, and before I knew it, it was full. All I could hear was positive comments, and though a couple of cranes dropped, we managed to grab them and perch them on lamps. At one point it was too busy, and I started to worry that the cranes would get damaged, particularly as people kept reaching up to touch them (and we caught a few people trying to walk out with them!). Loads of people were taking pictures, and although I was exhausted, I was kept busy answering questions (how long did it take? did you do it all yourself? is it based on Prison Break?)

I popped up to the courtroom a few times, and Lisa and Dave were constantly busy not only helping with the boats, but showing cranes and boxes and who knows what else! The courtroom was full of people learning origami and talking to each other. It was awesome. Even after Lisa and Dave finished their epic shift (and thanks guys, for staying around so long), and I'd abandoned the courtroom thinking I'd just clear it all up later, I still saw people working through the instructions, or teaching each other, or just sat colouring in (and these were adults). It seemed to really capture the imagination of Leeds.

As it drew close to midnight, there didn't seem to be any let up in the amount of people coming down into the tunnels. Luckily I had awesome friends who stayed with me right through (particularly RobC and Aretha, who not only stayed until the bitter end, but never took a break). I'd thought it would be busy up until about 7pm, then really quiet, then a little busier when the pubs let out, but it was relentless. And everyone was so nice about my installation. As it ticked close to 1am, when the Town Hall shut, finally it quietened down. By that point, I was too tired to do anything but pack up my stuff, say goodnight to the cranes, and head off to the final event of Light Night, where we toasted what a successful night it had been.

Morning has broken...

First thing on Friday morning, I went into the Town Hall tunnels. My mum had come along to help, and as we opened the door my heart leapt into my mouth. Would the nets have frayed and fallen? Had the few that had dropped been an omen and they'd all be lying on the floor? I took a step inside, and saw that around 100 had fallen off their strings, but nowhere near as bad as I'd imagined it to be. Quickly we scooped up the fallen ones, and sorted a plan.

As the majority of the nets were already up, it was a case of filling in the blank spaces. I'd worked out the night before that if I did strips of netting with cranes hanging off it, we could then hang these like tinsel along the side of the tunnels and in the gaps between nets. We got to work, and my mum figured out a quick way of tying the fallen cranes (which had no thread) to the ones with thread, thus quickening the process and meaning we were saving on thread. Unfortunately as we went to put one 'tinsel' up the ladder it was tied to fell over, and we ended up with a clump, but that was the only problem.

Until the pigeon. When I'd gone to get a couple of chairs from the cells, I'd noticed a pigeon lurking (I actually thought it was the ghost for a moment). We'd left it alone, and it had stayed out of our way, but then unfortunately two town hall people came down and one freaked out, which understandably freaked out the pigeon, which then started flying up and down the corridor. I chased it out of the way of the netting, as much concerned that it would get caught and hurt itself as to the damage it could do, and grabbed a warden. Who then decided the best course of action was to shoo it BACK down the corridor full of netting and string. The poor pigeon was frantic, I had visions of everything coming tumbling down, and the town hall people weren't really helping. In the end we managed to get it back into the cells, covered the end of the tunnel with material to stop it getting back in, and it finally left through the now-open door.

This seemed a good time to break for lunch, when I saw the only part of Light Night I would see this year, the giant heron in the Tiled Hall. Which was cool. Then it was back to work, and shortly after my friend Rachel, who has done a great blog post about Light Night, and her husband Andy arrived. We showed them what to do, then left them to it while we went and tackled the courtroom (you'd forgotten about that hadn't you?)

The courtroom was fairly straightforward. Material for a river, worksheets to make boats on the table, and cherry blossoms EVERYWHERE. The foldageddoners had come through strong, and I had a massive bin bag full. Big shout out to Rob, Lisa, Dave, Sue, Elly, Liz, Fran and everyone else who I might've missed out who made blossoms for me.

Back down in the tunnels, and we had about fifty cranes left. I'd kept saying we could just perch them on the heating pipes as if they'd roosted, but we were so close to having all one thousand 'flying' that we pressed on. At five minutes to five a steward came down to ask if we were ready to open in five minutes, just as I tied the last cable tie to hang the final string. We were there. One thousand cranes were flying through the Town Hall tunnels.

Piece of cake, huh?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The day before...

On Thursday morning I got up early. The cranes were all packed and ready to go - glowing away flatpacked in sandwich bags then wedged into holdalls and bin bags. More sandwich bags filled my rucksack full of useful things like duct tape and netting and scissors and pritt stick (I never used the pritt stick, it just seems like the sort of thing you should carry if you're an artist). My helper for the morning (who was also giving me a lift in) had dropped out at the last minute, so I was going it alone. The taxi dropped me off outside the Town Hall, and I lugged my bags inside.

I got down into the tunnels and the first thing I noticed was that it was full of stuff. The porters hadn't got round to clearing it yet, so there were crates and chairs and trolleys and even a chaise longue! One of the Light Night organisers promised to get it sorted quickly (which she did), and disappeared off to fetch the ladders I was borrowing. She returned a few minutes later with the tiniest stepladders I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, they were the sort of ladders old ladies use to reach the top shelf in the kitchen. By standing on the next to top step and stretching really hard I could just about reach the pipes we were hanging the netting off. Unfortunately, because I was on my own, I wasn't allowed up the council ladders in case I fell off (which to be fair was a real possibility due to the rubbishness of the ladders). Pleas on Twitter for someone to come and sit with me were unsuccessful (though I had amazing people already coming later on). I was left, after a brief recounting of ghostly encounters by the porter, on my own with a thousand cranes, lots of netting, and absolutely no way of attaching them to the ceiling.

I have to admit I sat and had a little cry. Suddenly it looked like all the hard work was going to go to waste, because I needed the set up time so badly, and here it was ticking away with me sat on the floor in a dusty corridor with only a ghost for company.

Then I shouted at myself. I reminded myself how brave I'd been attending that first Light Night meeting when I hadn't known anyone and everyone else seemed to know each other. How easy it would have been to run away after I fell down the stairs at the budgeting meeting and embarassed myself. How when I'd got to 600 cranes and I was sick of the sight of them I could have given up. I stood up, shook myself off, introduced myself to the ghost and told myself to get on with it.

I emptied out all my bags and tried to work out a way to get going. My original plan was to put all the netting up then as more volunteers arrived they could climb ladders (I'd envisioned decent ladders, and at least a few sets) and string the cranes through. Clearly that wasn't going to work. So I hit upon the idea of laying the cranes out on the floor, then laying the netting over, tying the cranes, then lifting the whole thing into the air when more people arrived. I cut the netting into chunks for different parts of the tunnel, and started work.

As I was getting on with this my husband RobW (there were lots of Robs involved in my project) rang to say he'd left work to come in and help, and he arrived shortly after with a sandwich and a big hug, then got on with tying the cranes onto the net. For about five minutes before declaring it would take a million billion years to do 1000 this way (he wasn't quite so dramatic about it). We stood and puzzled for a bit - could we jam the thread through the netting rather than tying? Should we tie the netting up with cranes ABOVE it, like a balloon net? Finally we hit upon the idea of making strings across the netting which meant it was easy to tie the cranes to it, but we could still use the netting to hold it all together and to space the cranes. Then he chanced upon the idea of tying the nets at waist height, making it amazingly easier to tie them on, and also giving us the first glimpse of flying cranes. My friend Jane arrived and quickly and quietly got on with laying out cranes ready for us to tie on - taking an extended lunch break for me.

Soon we were flying, and by the time Katie arrived, an acquaintance from Twitter who'd responded to my plea for help, we'd got it down pat. She, like a trooper, took control of a net and got on with it. A while later Fran, Dave and Lisa (Foldageddoners), Brett, Aretha and RobC (friends from my husband's work), RobE (a fellow LightNighter) and the lovely aforementioned Jane arrived, and we soon had most of the nets ready to go up. With the teeny ladders it was a struggle until someone suggested rigging up a pulley system. This worked really well, and our first net was up! Then a porter walked through, laughed at our ladders, and offered to go and get us some proper ones.

With big ladders in play, it was nothing (nothing! it was a LOT of work!) for Dave, and later RobC to scamper up to the ceiling like a spider-monkey-super-squirrel, and before we knew it, the ceiling was covered in nets and we were rushing to sneak up the last one before the Town Hall kicked us out. We got it up, and around 700 cranes were dangling from the ceiling. As we were leaving a few cranes dropped down where the thread had slipped through the sellotape, but that was a problem for the next day. Saying goodbye to the ghost, we left for the night.

Thanks to Dave 'boiler-man' Naylor (@caramboo) for the awesome pics. I forgot to take any of the setting up!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

On the night...

Full report coming soon...

The final countdown

Sorry I haven't updated the blog this week - it has been more than manic.

On Monday morning I woke up at half past four in the morning, and had a panic attack that I wasn't going to get all the batteries in the cranes.

Wednesday I woke up and couldn't move my right hand, and it was all swollen. I still had 300 cranes to put batteries in.

Thursday I went down to the tunnels and half the people who had offered to help had pulled out. Then I wasn't allowed up the ladders on my own because of health and safety. Then the way that I had planned to attach the cranes didn't work. At lunchtime there still wasn't a single crane in the air.

It wasn't looking good...