Blog

Opportunity: Captured?

Earlier today I attended the ‘Opportunity: Captured?’ event and exhibition that I was invited along to through my work with the university outreach programme. I was not really sure what to expect when I entered the Nottingham Contemporary, however I was faced with an exhibition that featured images which were among dozens submitted to the Centre for Student and Community Engagement.

Films, artwork and photographs capture what ‘opportunity’ means to students, staff, pupils and friends of Nottingham Trent University and therefore I really enjoyed going along to show my support. Everyone utilises university differently to access a range of opportunities; I personally have valued getting involved in as many younger pupil led workshops and sessions, as well as throwing myself fully into getting the most out of my degree as I can.

The showcase really did display the differing interpretations of the question around opportunity and how this has had a positive impact on the individuals. Themes included female empowerment, trips abroad, how university has helped after graduating and fostering creativity in activities such as dance. It also opened my eyes to the opportunities NTU offer to students not within the university, including NTU Summer School and Art Clubs.

I did not previously know much about NTU’s innovative work on social mobility and therefore the exhibition was a great visual and interactive way to raise awareness around this work. I now realise that the uni was first to sign the Social Mobility Pledge and has since been selected to co-run a national evidence centre to determine ‘what works’ in social mobility in higher education.

Although the event was only in the Nottingham Contemporary, I feel that it is a great way to get students involved in a positive movement that will encourage future bodies of students to join NTU.

Rachel

Crunchy Granola Cookies

These cookies are my go-to mid afternoon snack. They have a crumbly, crunchy texture thanks to the nuts and toasted oats in the granola. I used my favourite Deliciously Ella granola, but I’m sure any nutty granola would work just as well. These are also very versatile; feel free to add in any other ingredients such as cacao nibs, raisins, seeds, etc.

This recipe makes 6 cookies.

Ingredients:

100g Deliciously Ella Nutty Granola

50g plain flour (I used spelt flour)

35g ground almonds

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/2 tsp baking powder

75ml non-dairy milk (I used brown rice milk)

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Mix all of the ingredients, except the milk, in a large bowl.

3. Add the milk gradually; keep adding and stirring until fully combined but not too sticky.

4. Separate the mixture into 6 even balls, slightly flattening onto the baking sheet.

5. Place in the oven for 15-17 minutes, until the top starts to turn golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

7. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.

Rachel

A Las Iguanas Vegan Dinner

As I had never been to Las Iguanas before, my friend suggested we should go. I am more than ever up for trying new types of foods and am more likely to experiment when I am out, picking something off a menu that I wouldn’t necessarily cook for myself at home. I was a little worried that that the authentic flavours of the Latin American menu would be too strong and spicy for my preference, but I was certainly proved wrong.

The interior was fun and decorative with maximal colour which reminded me of the extravagance of the Rio Olympics opening ceremony. We went straight after work on a Monday evening and therefore it was not overly busy so we could select where we sat. We opted for the circular booth cushioned seats which I think made the visit even more comfortable and warming.

I was very pleased when I was asked at the door whether we required a veggie menu, as this is still rare at most chain restaurants. The vegetarian and vegan options were extensive, so much so that I was almost overwhelmed by the choice which ranged from tapas to main dishes from Brazil, Mexico and Peru; there was also a wide range of sides.

Between catching-up, we managed to select what we fancied off the menu. My friend went for the veggie chilli, which I was also very tempted by, which consisted of sweet potato, butternut squash and chickpeas and came with crispy blue corn tortillas, whereas I selected the smoked chipotle pulled jackfruit burrito bowl. Their presentation of dishes was amazing; mine came in a deep circular bowl filled with black beans, avocado, grated vegan cheese, slaw and salsa. Both dishes were packed full of flavour and the best part of mine was the jackfruit which was sweet and had a soft texture; this combined with the melted cheese, beans and rice made the meal for me.

We also treated ourselves to a dessert. Although I was drawn to the brownie and cookie combo, I wanted to try something new so I had the Chocolate Coconut Tart. This was rich and indulgent but was balanced by the nutty base and scoop of dairy-free coconut ice cream, meaning it wasn’t too sickly. My friend also devoured her Cinnamon Churros with the chocolate sauce.

I mentioned my trip to another friend that I usually explore the Nottingham brunch places and coffee shops with and she has also never been. Therefore we have added it to as seemingly never ending list of places to go when we next meet, meaning I will definitely be back to try out some more of their dishes.

Rachel

Dissident Lines by Lis Rhodes

Today I wandered around the new Nottingham Contemporary exhibition, Dissident Lines. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this exhibition, but it certainly was not what I roughly had in my mind.

I was presented with a series of mainly black and white films that focused on shape, light and movement. However, the showcase was not just restricted to film; her practice also crosses into installation, sound art, performance and writing.

I did enjoy the piece, Light Music, in gallery 2. Two large screens were positioned adjacent to each other, beaming light across the room. The audience was invited to immerse themselves in the light, image and sound that I now appreciate was underrepresented women composers in the European musical tradition. The shadows cast where individuals wandered between the two light projectors added another layer of interest; observing how the image was distorted by the human form.

I came out feeling slightly disturbed which I think was as a result of the borderline creepy soundtrack which accompanied the films and the fact that to enter each gallery, you were required to find the entrance through a black curtain with very little light to help guide you. In one space, I didn’t want to move forward as I was very unsure as to whether or not I would walk straight into someone.

Having said this, it was interesting to witness her use of lines and how they were taken out of their usual conformed straight parallel form. There was a clear link between each piece, despite them being created over a 50 year period. Rhodes therefore has a very distinctive style and knows her strengths and how to manipulate a simple line. This showed me the power of image, sound and light and how much of an impact these can have on the audience when used optimally.

Rachel

Profane Magazine

In this month’s Stack Magazine subscription, I received issue eight of Profane Magazine, which combines amateur obsession and French eccentricity. The pages are filled with artists and collectors, who seem to be inspired by something greater than a need to make a living or seek personal fame. Hobbies are the theme that runs throughout.

On the opening pages of the magazine, I thought the fruit paintings worked really well. They are evidently created using oil paints and are bold, fun and playful with the exaggerated brush paint marks giving them greater character and a larger sense of expression.

I was very much drawn to the first chapter entitled, ‘Starting Over’. I am really interested in bringing back creativity for children, especially in an age of technological overload, instant gratification and school pressures. The chapter explores ESAT Ménilmontontan, a French initiative to integrate disabled people into the labour market. The images show students creating paintings and ceramic in what appears to be a non-judgemental and encouraging environment of experimentation. I love the fact that the space is dedicated to artists with mental and psychological disabilities, who are creating in order to feel better, visualising their ‘infinite inner-self’. This showed me the benefit of capturing this creative independence and capacity for creative freedom.

When I was flicking through the magazine, I marked pages that I thought could act as visual inspiration for future projects. By the end, I had a whole book full of post-it not page markers which reinforced how strong the publication’s visuals are. In my opinion, what worked successfully was the fact that in every section, all of the imagery in that chapter linked together, following the same theme or colour palette for example. The chapters were also made obvious by their clear colour sectioning and full-page title page which also explained the key points of the upcoming section.

Having a physical copy of this magazine will be a great source of reference next term when I begin to talk to a printer about my own visual final report outcome. The printed magazine is smaller than A4 which I liked and I also think the paper quality and feel of the magazine is tactile and therefore links to their ‘create, collect, enjoy’ motto. The front cover is almost soft with a layer of texture and the inside is an uncoated craft-like finish which I feel works really well. The craft and texture focus creates a more personal result and makes it more enjoyable to flick through.

Rachel

Laura McCafferty – Lakeside Arts

Today I visited Laura McCafferty’s exhibition at the Lakeside Arts gallery. I was exploring the gallery’s website and this showcase appealed to me; it was portrayed as a colourful display of fabrics. This was certainly mirrored in the physical space.

Although I was expecting the exhibition to be larger, I enjoyed closely observing the four pieces that were on display. As a result of their only being few elements to the exhibition, it reinforced the quality of each piece and made me appreciate the craft that would have gone into the construction of each one. They managed to fill the empty space as a result of their large scale. Even though they were all a substantial size, a hierarchy still existed, with the largest – entire wall piece – demanding the most attention.

I really enjoyed witnessing McCafferty’s interdisciplinary approach combining installation and textiles to ‘subtly mess with what’s expected’. The brightly-coloured, boldly-patterned textiles suggest the artist finds pleasure in repetition, which I admit that I also find joy in the repeated process. Cutting and sticking, chopping and piecing together means one thing leads to another, making the process purposeful and enjoyable.

I have since explored and followed her Instagram page and discovered that each small panel was sewn together, using hand embroidery to form larger squares, and it was these that combined together to create the whole mosaic fabric wall. This showed me how much construction went in to putting this all together.

Rachel

NTU Degree Show 2019

I first explored the Graphic Design, Architecture and Fine Art show displays to get inspiration outside my particular subject area. Some of their techniques I feel I could apply to my own future work: architecture’s attention to detail, graphic design’s storytelling and children’s books and fine art’s experimentation and self-expression.

However, I spent the most time exploring the FCP work, especially the self-devised projects. The exhibition of creativity provided me an invaluable insight into the standard of work I will be aiming for next year. Each visual final report had a differing style but the ones that stood out to me were the ones where the passion for their subject matter was extremely evident, using the printed page to show self-expression through visual and written media.

I spent time flicking through the pages of their dissertations, amazed at the amount of detail and research that had gone into some of those works, as well as the presentation and layout – they looked professional. Although I am excited about producing my own in less than a year’s time, it also made me apprehensive now I have seen the expected outcomes.

I photographed layouts that I believed were successful and matched my preferred style; I aim to reference these images when I start to put my own together. I also noted how the projects were bound. I have only ever bound my work in one way, perfect bound, with the same paper quality, and therefore it would be good to speak to the printer I use in person to discuss alternative options that could make the print look even more polished. I loved the hard-back covers and similarly the embossed, cut-out sections and foiling details on some of the reports which is something I may explore next year if it fits the aesthetic I have running throughout the document.

I was also able to clearly see that the written content is equally as important as the visuals; backing up the copy visually to convey each project’s idea and message. They were all telling innovative stories and narratives through their choice of media. The ones that I thought were the most successful were the ones where every page flowed on from the next and where it was evident which insights sparked the progression to the next stages.

Now that I have seen what the course committee achieved in terms of putting the whole show together, I would enjoy being a part of this process next year if the opportunity is available. They appeared to have complete creative freedom, presenting each individual’s work to the fullest potential and delivering an engaging outcome. So much effort and time had clearly gone in to making the display happen.

Rachel

Graduate Fashion Week 2019

This was my second year attending the London Graduate Fashion Week. It was as amazing as last year to see the creative and fashion celebration of students and graduates all under one roof.

I have been to a few different events at this venue and it always amazes me how much they fit into the space. Although there is a great number of stands and displays, it is evident that the best work from the top students at each institution are selected.

What my mum and I enjoyed the most last year and this, was attending one of the catwalk shows which included collections from a range of universities. I always love seeing the designer’s personality being displayed through the garments and the range of design on show. Some were subtle and elegant and others were maximal, loud and experimental. Although the latter would be something that I would shy away from, these are the ones that I remember. It was great to see the extent to which the students were not afraid to take risks and push their creativity. There was one designer in particular that used texture to its fullest potential, especially with regard to the structural details within her honeycomb dress, creating 3D form and shape in delicate fabrics.

The most useful part of the event for me was looking at the other communication, promotion and marketing work produced from students at different universities. The stands displayed imagination and endless possibilities, giving me the chance to observe visual reports and self-promotion material. I enjoyed looking through portfolios and photographing my favourite layouts and ideas for future inspiration to take into year 3. There was a vast range of themes and topics, largely based on current societal issues. This reinforced the amount of scope possible when it comes to Level Three, with the importance of pursuing a topic that is personal and interesting to the individual – it is this that shines through the work. I was also impressed with the theme in some students’ work being carried through in to a range of promotional goods.

I found it an overwhelming, yet exciting environment to learn from other students and gain inspiration and insights but it has really motivated me to explore possibilities and think outside the box.

I have since contacted two girls whose work caught my attention; one focused on ‘normality,’ exploring imperfections, and the other created characters to represent four themes around mental health. I would find it valuable to gain insight into their projects seeing that they are focused on similar topics that I hope to explore.

Rachel

Pudding Pantry Vegan Night

An evening at my favourite place with one of my favourite people.

My friend and I decided to go to one of the Pudding Pantry’s vegan nights to try out some of the treats from their vegan alternative menu. There was a selective menu of cakes, puddings, drinks and pancakes.

I was torn between the Biscoff and Oreo cake and the sticky toffee pudding. I concluded that I would try something that I had never had there before and therefore went for the pudding with vegan ice-cream. In a way, it didn’t taste how I expected it to, but it was equally as delicious as I imagined. I’m glad I tried something different and I think it would also be amazing with vegan custard, which was also an option.

Chloe selected the mixed berry compote pancakes and a Biscoff oat milkshake. I was really tempted by the latter, and similarly the dark chocolate or peanut butter one. However, I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish both if I got one with the pudding. Although Chloe couldn’t finish both as I suspected, she loved the pancakes and couldn’t believe how much the milkshake tasted of Biscoff; it was like drinking crushed up biscuits.

The most popular item off the menu seemed to be the Biscoff freakshake. It did look amazing, but we decided that it would be too sickly and filling. It looked like it came with vegan coconut cream and biscuits on top; maybe next time, I’ll just get one of these instead.

I’m not sure why it has taken us so long to go to one of these nights, however I am now sure we will be going back again! The menu had so many different options on so there would be no problem finding something to suit your preferences; it will be interesting to see what puddings are on the vegan night next month.

Rachel

Zine Making Workshop at Dizzy Ink

To conclude the research I have been conducting into belonging at NTU with a small group of students, we have been asked to develop an artefact to display our findings. Rather than making a typically written report or poster, a zine will be made to create a more visual, accessible piece.

To learn the zine making process, I attended a couple of sessions, with the first held at Brackenhurst and the second at Dizzy Ink.

The aim: To develop a collaborative zine to demonstrate the diversity and experience at the university Brackenhurst campus.

The first session was certainly out of my comfort zone; however I actually enjoyed the process when I got into it. I had three hours to explore Brackenhurst, sketching, writing and photographing anything I thought was interesting. I focused my attention on the outlines of buildings, and different angles that I could capture through my phone lens. The combination of sharp edges of the architecture and the natural curves from the nature caught my attention.

This session was great for me as I had to slightly let go and not worry about what the outcomes looked like, but rather focus on putting my interpretation down on paper. Although I wasn’t happy with how each one turned out, it was a mindful activity where I was observing my surroundings that I would usually be oblivious to.

In the second session at Dizzy Ink, we combined all of our experiments together; we laid everything we had on the table and started to see which slotted together and would form part of the zine narrative. At the beginning I was hesitant about cutting up other people’s work to create overlapping collages with them. However once we all started cutting words out of free-writes, elements out of photographs and sketches, we started to quickly form the pages.

As part of this session, I learnt how Dizzy Ink create zines which is very different to how I have previously developed my own. They use Risograph printing where two colours are combined on top of each other, meaning we had to create two compositions for each page. I found it difficult to visualise what the pages would look like combined as we had the lighter layer on one row and the darker on another. As a result of the A6 size, I was concerned with overcrowding on some of the pages.

Once we were happy with the narrative and composition, we stuck the individual pages onto A3 sheets ready to be printed. We selected a dark burgundy as the darker layer and a green as the lighter as a result of these being the dominant colours in the photographs. I was surprised that Ben at Dizzy Ink essentially photocopied the pages in one colour and then repeated the process layering the other colour and composition on-top. The uncoated paper made the zine feel more hand-made and experimental and also mirrored the country-side environment at the campus.

Once the zines were cut, folded and stapled, it was evident that the naïve colourfulness and unpredictable nature of the Risograph print combined the free-writes and sketches really well to create a tactile artefact in response to the visual stimuli around the campus. Although the print isn’t in my usual clean and structured style and some of the pages wouldn’t be how I would have composed them, I was happy with the end result, bringing all of our interpretations together. I learnt a new way of printing and now have a couple more contacts that will be valuable in the future.

Rachel

DiG Zine Launch

As one of last week’s Five Things, DiG Zine was mentioned; I messaged the girls on Instagram and received an invite to their launch at Oscar and Rosie’s. I wanted to attend to not only celebrate the work of the third year students, but also see what is possible as part of a live project next year.

DiG is everything but the kitchen sink.

Their concept, creating a magazine for young creatives by young creatives, was a unique idea and one that I could relate my own experiences to. The majority of creative magazines are focused on established individuals who have already found their place in the creative space. Therefore a young creative magazine is more accessible to up-and-coming people looking to find their interest area and how their expertise could fit in the industry. The final result looks so professional and the quality was amazing.

The event space was relaxed giving everyone the chance to appreciate the magazine. It was great to chat to the girls about their work and their experiences in third year, in particular how they chose their live project.

Their magazine stemmed from their frequent dinner parties at one of their houses which led to their concept. This showed me that inspiration can come from the most random of places but also ones that are ordinary. They had decorated the space amazingly, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of time and planning that had obviously gone into the running of this event; they certainly achieved their banquet, last supper theme; their attention to detail was phenomenal. This demonstrated their commitment, passion and dedication to the course and their new magazine.

The launch showed me the importance of great team-work in third year, and therefore what can be achieved in a supportive group. It was evident that the girls worked hard, but also had fun while doing it. This is something I would love to achieve in third year – it is this balance that will keep the project exciting. An event to launch our work is something I will keep in my mind for next year.

Rachel

Oaty Breakfast Biscuits

These savoury vegan biscuits would be perfect for breakfast, but equally great as a mid-afternoon snack as they work really well topped with a berry jam or nut butter for example. They only have five simple ingredients and are very quick and easy to make. I tend to make them on a Monday and store them in an air-tight containing so I can snack on them throughout the week.

Makes 12 biscuits

Ingredients:

200g oats

80g ground almonds

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

150ml almond milk (or any other dairy-free milk)

Method:

• Preheat the oven to 180C and line two trays with baking paper.

• Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl, and then add the milk gradually to combine assessing the amount needed. Keep adding the milk until the mixture begins to stick together without it being too sticky.

• Using your hands split the mixture into 12 and roll into balls. Flatten these onto the lined baking tray.

• Place into the oven for 25-30 minutes, until they start to turn golden brown. Turn the biscuits over half way through.

• Remove from the oven, leave to cool, and then enjoy.

Rachel