Friday, 17 April 2009

and we danced by the light of the sun...?

It was not that long ago that solar power was something you saw on the telly but never had yourself. It was expensive, hard to find but was hailed as the future of lighting.

We now live in the age where you can pick up a solar light in the local pound store, supermarket or hardware establishment. Oh how things have changed, and I'm sure that the majority of us have purchased one or more of these little bargains and revelled in the fact that we have free light and can position it anywhere we like.

But unfortunately the mass production and therefore cheapening of solar power has given it a bad name. The fittings are sometimes badly made, the battery life fleeting, with light given off so minimal a row of glowworms would give better illumination from the back door to the shed.

We have made solar power so cheap we have degraded the performance and therefore think that it is worthless and of no real use.

But this is wrong. Talk to the right people, get the right fittings, and yes, spend a bit of money, and you can have all the benefits of free power with the advantage of being able to use it and see properly - no glowworms required.

So - as we are required to light our new showgarden we automatically looked at solar power for the solution - no power hookup required, can be placed anywhere, free light, no cables - the advantages are huge.

We needed a few high powered spots to uplight some sculptures and a few 'atmospheric' lights for a general smattering of glitter, and after gazing at some very informative web pages and making a few phone calls to the extremely helpful guys at The Solar Centre, we had our scheme sorted.

The box arrived - full of brilliantly made, sturdy fittings that instantly blinded me when turned on. This is something you do not get with a pound shop special.

We can't wait to get them in our show garden now, and watch this space for the shots to prove how grand free lighting can be.

Solar powered lights do not have to be single LED and crappy. Some are magnificent and well worth spending a few bob on. Just do a bit of research and spend your bobs wisely...

Sunday, 12 April 2009

big brother is watching...

Things are hotting up with our new show garden. Despite the rest of the UK being on full time chocolate eating duties, we have had to mix our gorges in with continuing to work over the holiday weekend.

This sucks a bit, but when you love what you do, it sometimes does not feel like work anyway and you think that you are on an eternal skive.

Sunday morning brought about a very late breakfast, made and eaten around doing other stuff. (had also eaten a bit of a choccie egg in bed whilst reading my latest edition of Icon, so hunger was not pursuing me too closely)

One of the bits of stuff we were doing whilst cooking porridge and mushrooms on toast was for the new show garden - quite complicated and experimental, but fun none the less.

We were playing with our new wireless CCTV units.

A garden with CCTV in? Surely this is a little bit off the wall, even for me? Well, because the garden is all about interaction, movement, restriction etc, I wanted to see whether people actually reacted in the way I wanted. Would they 'perform'? If I stood there with a camera, the 'performance' would be stilted. This is where the CCTV comes in - hidden in the garden (within chestnut poles) I can sit up to 50m away and spy on those within and looking at the space.

And I can record them - all wirelessly and without many traces...

These performances will be cut into a very short film we have already made for the show garden, and will hopefully create an interdisciplinary garden.

But they came in incredibly useful today - whilst testing the wireless capabilities and whether they would work connected to a rechargeable 9v battery we were confronted with an image of our cat merrily munching on the remnants of the aforementioned chocolate egg, upstairs and seemingly unnoticed.


But I have to admit, I am feeling a little paranoid that Mark has hidden one somewhere to see if I am actually working, or looking at eBay for 50's kitchenware, and I am sure he is feeling the same.

Big Brother truly is watching now in our house, and will be soon in our show garden...what do those RHS judges actually talk about...? Would it be unethical for me to spy on them?

But the cameras do not have audio, so we are brushing up on our lip reading techniques...

Friday, 10 April 2009

what a load of balls...

Being a sponsorless show gardener has many ups and downs.

The downs can sometimes (majorly) outnumber the ups, and you seem to spend a great deal of time searching for ways to get more stuff for less cash. Sometimes this is easy, and a cheaper alternative to the desired can be found without many headaches, but usually it is a real pain in the butt.

On the downside, you have to do a lot more yourself, but on the upside you can find enjoyment and a smattering of skill that you never thought you had.

We had a bit of the latter this week.

Our forthcoming show garden 'dancing with the trees' includes a series of sculptures made from chestnut and woven willow. The chestnut is to be carved with a section from a poem - no way I was trying to do that, so poles have been suitably marked and sent to a (family member) who is turning from a Japanese woodblock carver and printer to lettercutter, albeit for a short while.

But the willow sculptures? Altogether more possible...

So, after trawling the Internet for inspiration, we took the bundle of newly coppiced willow from Water Willows, and began our masterpieces...

After many false starts, dismantling exercises and rebuilding escapades, they began to take shape. Mine ended up being distinctly along the 'eggy shaped vessel' vein, whilst Mark created a family of proper, mental looking balls.

Of course, they are never going to be as good as those created by an artisan weaver, but sometimes it helps to get stuck into a design, and get an ownership over and above that you get with a pen and paper. It helps to know a material when you design - how it behaves, how it feels, how it lasts. If it saves cash as well, count me in.

Their final destination is yet to be decided - after the show is put to rest, will we sell them, keep them, give them away?

Hmmm. Difficult with this one, after all, you gotta love your balls.