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Introducing HCA Student Elley Westbrook

15th April 2021

We regularly partner with Hereford College of Arts on projects, so when we were approached by Fine Art Course Leader Daniel Pryde-Jarman (who is also a  member of our Board) to see if we could provide a place for one of his students as part of a professional practice course module, we were keen to say 'yes'. It was a great decision as we've found mature student Elley Westbrook to be full of enthusiasm with plenty of experience of the working world. We're showing Elley how we do things and she's helping us out with some of our jobs to gain experience.

We asked Elley about her art practice and she's been kind enough to write us a blog post about it...

 

All about me, Elley Westbrook

When the Government was recently encouraging us all to retrain - “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (She just doesn’t know it yet)” - with the tag line ‘Rethink. Reskill. Reboot,’ I had already jumped ship and gone the other way. I was accompanying #3 son around a Hereford College of Arts open day and complaining (muttering) about how jealous I was of his opportunity, having already seen #2 son graduate the Foundation Diploma course and go on to do a photography B.A (Hons) in Bristol, when a beautiful Technical Demonstrator (a staff member who oversees the workshop facilities) tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You can do this too.” That was the start of my change in career. I am indeed rethinking, reskilling and rebooting. I don’t think it’s what the government campaign had in mind!

I started my creative journey (apologies for the cliché) on the Portfolio course. One chaotic, brilliant, rollercoaster ride (again, apologies) of creative madness. I loved it! I had thought that it would scratch that creative itch, but it didn’t, it just opened up the full range of possibilities. So, now I am in the second year (level 5) of my B.A  (hons) Fine Art degree at HCA.

A tapestry embroidered with symbolsI have found myself writing this blog because part of our ‘Exploring Futures’ module commitment is to do some work experience with an arts organisation. How lucky to be able to volunteer with Meadow Arts! I am immensely affirmed that at nearly 53 anyone is considering a future for me, so I am embracing all opportunities. Rebecca and Leanne suggested that as part of my time with Meadow Arts I may like to write a blog explaining a bit about my work… I certainly don’t need asking twice!

Generally, I would describe myself as a stitch artist, or a multi-media artist. My work is always driven by a narrative. This hanging is one I embroidered on a sewing machine, free motion embroidery, as part of a project based around Hereford Cathedral. It now belongs to the Cathedral and it documents the Stone Mason’s marks that can be discovered there if you look in the hidden places. Each Mason, and you’ll find examples dating from the 12th Century in Hereford, has his own unique mark. No names identify the hand, just the mark.

A photograph of a grandma and girl projected onto the side of a houseMore recently however, I have been exploring projection photography. Rooting around in my attic for something completely unrelated, I came across a cache of photographic slides. These slides were of me as a child at my Grandparents’ house in the 1970s. A house I spent a great deal of time at as a child. There was another box of slides that I have no memory of ever seeing before, pictures of my biological father as a baby taken in the same house. These photos were shot on technicolour film which was very rare in 1944. My son Harry was staying with us at the time (in between lockdowns) and he was fascinated to see that the pictures of my father were ‘technically very accomplished’ (the lighting and composition etc). It was clear that the authors of the photos were different. My Grandfather was the happy snapper of the ones with me in, but the ones of Peter (my father) were from a different hand. And so, a mystery unfolded… It turns out that an American Army Airforce Major was stationed with my Grandmother during the war. He was Peter’s Biological father, and a ‘Second Treader’. This means he served in both the first and second world wars. My Grandmother adopted Peter in 1944. I’ll leave that there…there is so much to say but only really of interest to me and my family.

I contacted the current owners of the house in Cheltenham, and they gave me permission to project the photos onto their house in December 2020. I projected the past onto the present and the inside, outside.

It was an incredibly poignant experience and it turned out to be a spectator event, with passers-by coming over for chats and to discuss the project. One couple remembered my Grandma very well.

A photo of a young girl eating a lollipop, projected onto the side of a house  A photo of a smiling older woman projected onto a wall

A photo of a smiling baby in a baby bath, projected onto the side of a house

A wood framed chair has pictures of people's faces on its cushions and accompanying footstool

I am now moving onto a work about the loneliness experienced in lockdown. Its called ‘the lonely chair’ and I hope to be exhibiting it along with work by my classmates in an exhibition called ‘Art in Captivity’. We are utilising the windows of empty shops in Hereford High Town, some time in May. Watch this space…

If you are toying with exploring a creative career - can I urge you to jump in with both feet and take advantage of the amazing art college we have here in Hereford. I cannot begin to explain how much I am loving my life at the moment!

You can follow me on Instagram @elleywestbrookartpractice.

Thanks for reading 😊