When Barbara Simpson first enrolled on an evening class at Warrington & Vale Royal College, she had no idea that her work would be on display for all to see at one of mid Cheshire’s beauty spots.
After completing the leisure courses at the college’s Hartford Campus, Barbara realised she wanted to develop her art skills further.
Now on the HND Fine Art course – and soon to complete her UCAS application for university – Barbara described seeing her work on display at Whitegate Way as an “odd” but “exciting” feeling.
“I have never had my work on display before,” said 62 year old Barbara, who has volunteered at Whitegate Station Café every Tuesday morning for two years.
Barbara’s sculpture – made up of a series of hands – reflects the changing use of the former railway station, which is now home to the not-for-profit café where she volunteers. It was produced as part of the ‘site-specific project’ for her course.
“I showed it to my mum first and she loved it, but having people looking at it now is odd. It’s quite exciting having people view my work but I feel like I want to explain the message behind it to everyone.”
Barbara: “It tells the working life and times of the railway line. Each of the hands – which are life-sized casts of other students – have been embellished and glazed in different ways.
“For example, some hands have been Raku fired to give them a rich burnished-glaze to represent the goods that were carried by the line, which was originally produce and then salt mined from underneath the fields. Other hands have been smoke fired to represent the steam trains that used to use the line, while others have the patterns of leaves on to represent when the Cheshire Rangers had their offices there.
“Each hand also has the names of the other volunteers on them so it’s great seeing people looking for their own name and engaging with the piece. There will be some literature soon so that people can find out more about it.”
Barbara is on the final year of her HND qualification at the college. She hopes to continue her art studies at either Wrexham, Chester or Salford University in September.
She said: “I first came to college wanting to know how to throw a clay pot as I’ve always been interested in art but had never done anything like this. I would never have been able to create something like this project if it was not for the fantastic tutors and facilities at Hartford.”
Ben Brady, Curriculum Manager for Art, Design, Fashion & Textiles at the college, said: “Barbara has really embraced the site specific fine art unit and she was very keen to use Whitegate Way as a source of inspiration. The wall mounted display which Barbara has created superbly blends a purposeful narrative with skilful making, Barbara really is to be commended for this work.”
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