Category Archives: Collaborations

Edge-zine: A magazine for students, graduates and tutors of the Open College of the Arts

Edge-zine is a non-profit student-led publication which supports cross-disciplinary work of an international collective of present and past students of OCA and tutors. The original idea of the zine was to bring together the work of students who live and work at physical distance from each other.

The first zine (in December 2016) was put together, by hand, by the editor, Angela Johnson, who collaged pieces of work into a booklet meant to be seen in paper format offline only and photocopied on a sale basis. Support was offered by OCA for production of a pre-Christmas limited edition of zine No. 2 and 100 copies, were printed and distributed by OCA.  When a new editor, Holly Yates, took over the zine became a predominantly digital production on a free Issuu platform, although No. 5 was again printed in a limited edition of 100 and distributed by OCA.

Competing workload demands led to a hiatus in production of the zine until November 2018 when there was a call for additional members, including people who would be interested in being part of the curating team.  I was very interested in being involved so volunteered and we eventually settled into an editorial team of four who work collaboratively on zine production whilst also having specific responsibilities which further our personal and creative developments. We are editor Stefan Schaffeld, Fine Arts Student;  zine designer Amy-Sarah Opitz, Creative Arts student; funding, myself and communications Michael Green, Photography students.

See here

After much discussion we agreed our commitment to making edge-zine a sustainable and collaborative platform with impact and visibility and defined our Mission as being:

“To show work and to provide insight into a process of contemporary art practices as research across medium specificity in our visual culture.  We consider edge-zine as an evolving and developing publication and platform for creative approaches, the form and the content will continue to be fluid as water”.

We shared ideas on layout design and sought initial input and advice from Dr James Pyman, OCA Programme Leader for Illustration, Graphic Design and Visual communications.  James encouraged us to experiment with more varied approaches to design, making content more visual whilst utilising the coherence of a theme.

I took on the role of writing a detailed finance application to OCA/OCASA which included costs for the setting-up of a dedicated Wix website, capable of extension and which could support embedded videos, in addition to the free Issuu platform, and also a potential print run.  For this I compared the costs of a paid-for Issuu site, which would be ad-free, with that of a subscription to Wix which offered more scope for extension at a similar cost.  I also obtained sample papers and printing costs from three UK printing firms for runs from 50 to 200 prints.  We were pleased to be informed that the application had been successful

The zine was re-designed and re-launched by the new editorial team in July 2018, with Issue 7 “Water”, which included “Tutor Thoughts” from Dr Pyman.  Some of my images from Assignment 3 “the Silent Pool” appear on pages 18 to 22 (access to edition via this link .  The theme for Issue 8 in November 2019 was “Time” and our latest edition No. 9 “Inside” was published at the beginning of April this year.  We had chosen the theme before the end of 2019 and the title seemed so prophetic given that many of us were spending time indoors due to the Lockdown measures during the Coronavirus Pandemic.   Stefan suggested I write the Editor’s note for this issue.  I’ve never done anything like that before so felt anxious at the thought, whilst reassuring myself that if Stefan thought I could do it then I could; so I did and it’s on page 4 (access via this link)

It’s been quite a learning curve, with more to come as, after the end of June, Amy is going to be offering each of us some tuition on the use of InDesign software and website building.  We had planned to discuss a print-run once we thought the new design had consolidated but the events of this year have put all that on hold and, given the growth of student-run events financed by OCA/OCASA now, we might not be able to take advantage of the finance we had available.  Something to discuss when we next meet.

Even so, I ’ve gained a lot from my involvement in production of the zine; the sense of satisfaction that can be gained from working as a team and producing something to be proud of as well as the stimulation and challenge of tackling something new especially with a multi-disciplinary base.  It’s been quite a learning curve, but I feel proud of being associated with such a vibrant production and continually amazed at the diversity and quality of the work that gets submitted.



January 11th 2020 – A “Happening in the South West of England”

The idea for this day came from OCA graduate Anna Goodchild who issued an invitation to join in a collaborative group day at her home in Devon. Her overview of the day can be found here  and here  .  Most of those involved were members of OCA South West Group but some were artists and photographers from Anna’s local artistic network.

Anna provided the inspiration, venue, some artistic resources and a gentle framework for the day that allowed spontaneous art to emerge through a theme, randomly chosen from a dice, which was then turned into collaborative art by three randomly ascribed groups of four. The them was ‘Poverty’ and, to be honest, my heart sank a little at hearing that but I managed to stop myself from a quick descent into, “I can’t possibly think of anything artistic about that” by taking a deep breath pushing the thought aside and joining with the other members of my group.


We agreed a brainstorm around the word and then moved into discussion around the results.  At one stage I began to worry that we were spending too much time on discussion without moving into action but, in retrospect, the amount of time was necessary given our different experiences of and views around that whole topic. Eventually we reached a working consensus that there are many different ways in which people find themselves living in poverty and no one is immune to it happening to them. The process flowed from then onwards as we gathered together the available resources, both inside and outside, that seemed likely to act as visual metaphors for our ‘performance’ – the weighing scales, checks and balances, leaves and feathers that clung, floated or were blown away by the winds of change.  Each stage was documented with short videos which were then edited together by Anna.  Something else was needed to complete our concept and, slowly, a brief dialogue emerged as soundtrack.  Amazingly we had also finished on time and joined the others to listen, watch, present the art from the day and then burn it – the ashes to be preserved as a start to the next ‘Happening’, whichever and whenever that might be.

Further thoughts

I’ve admired OCA South West group from afar as their meetings are just that too distant for me to travel to for a day, so it was great to be able to meet with some of them, and others, for what proved to be such a spontaneous and collaborative event.  I also enjoyed being with a group of people who bring creativity and ideas from different artistic disciplines from my own and I was very interested to see how their ideas emerged and experience the challenge of different ways of looking at life.  I’m already looking forward to other opportunities to collaborate in this way.



Collaboration with Dawn Langley

I felt in a slight limbo after the “Time” Exhibition was taken down in February so I was delighted when, Dawn Langley, my student colleague (and co-curator for the Exhibition) emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in working with her on a mini-project.Dawn is studying Digital Image & Culture and her latest work concerns digital afterlife for which she created an intricate décollage project from her own photographs and the physical collages were then photographed, distorted and glitched digitally.

Dawn wrote that she had had further thoughts on this project after feedback discussion with her tutor, where they had both agreed it could be pushed further.  I think bringing them back to digital has lost some of their depth.  I had a thought this morning that maybe I’m not the person to do it, particularly as in my digital afterlife I won’t have any control over what others do with my images. Dawn asked if I would be interested in doing some work on them – whatever came to mind – and I could do anything I wished with six of the digital prints. I said “Yes” straight away and we agreed the deadline would be the end of March which was great for me – enough time to create some work and not so much that I would get carried along too many avenues and lose myself in the process.

Digital images are quite flat and, bearing in mind Dawn’s comment about depth, my first action was to print them, thinking it would be interesting to experiment with different types of paper to create tactile/textured prints. The one on Innova Canvas paper worked the best, bringing out the deep colours. Still with the urge for something tactile I wanted a three-dimensional object and so created a folded box, which I then repeated with thicker paper (‘Traces we leave (door)’ and ‘Traces we leave (glitch)’).


What next? Still pursuing materiality I had the idea of printed fabric, so I bought two sets of swatches from Contrado  and ordered a small sample print on silk, thinking this would best bring out the vibrant colours of the image I chose (Traces we leave (Ripple) – originally ‘Rose and Fern’), having created two copies, and ‘twinned’ them.

Roses and ferns began to preoccupy me. I set a rose to dry out for a few days

and, whilst waiting, plus with some sunshine, I decided to create miniature lumen prints with nine of a pack of 5×7 cm expired Ilford soft, glossy photographic paper I had bought from eBay. For this I used some small dried fern leaves and flower heads, arranging them in the contact frame so that, hopefully, they could act as jigsaw blocks.  As it turned out, three of them exposed much darker than the others – the pack must have included a mix of paper I think.


I still liked the idea of being able to rearrange them though, leaving them ‘unfixed’ so that these ‘unique’ prints would need to be kept in the dark. Otherwise they would fade – unlike digital prints.

At this point in the collaboration Dawn and I shared individual progress on the project at an OCA Thames Valley Meeting in March.  To be honest I felt slightly anxious regarding how Dawn would react to my responses but she was very pleased.  In some respects, we had been travelling along similar lines too, as Dawn had also been experimenting with introducing more materiality, including printing on a different type of fabric from silk.  During feedback someone commented on what the feeling might be like in handing over one’s work to someone else.  This hadn’t concerned Dawn because the premise of her project had been concerned with Digital Afterlife.  The idea of ashes in a box also struck her,

I created further work during the next couple of weeks; still absorbed with roses and ferns.


Two polaroids of a maidenhair fern from two different renovated camera.

An 8” x 10” lumen print of dried rose flowers and fern leaves (exposed on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone Photographic paper) – again unfixed.

Cyanotype print of fern leaves – actually double-sided, the other side being almost a trace of roses.

With time running short, I wanted to offer a painted rock.  My rose didn’t turn out quite how I wished as I just hadn’t realised how intricate roses are!  I turned it into a rose tree instead.


Dawn and I met together on the 3rdMay and I handed the completed work to her. In our discussion on the process we touched on appropriation and trust plus the ongoing effect on my own thoughts/feeling on photography.

I had realised at an early point that I was actually involved in a process of ‘appropriation’, but it didn’t feel quite like that because Dawn had invited me to collaborate with her and offered the images to me. Also, I think I would have responded differently if Dawn had offered me actual photographs.  I know I just wouldn’t have been able to cut them up to make collages for example. I already have sets of photographs purchased from eBay which I haven’t done any work with so far but don’t feel able to either throw away or destroy.

I also think that trust is needed on both sides where handing over personal work is concerned and also in collaborative work.  I had already collaborated with Dawn, enjoyed doing so and felt confident to work with her. We’re both members of the same regional group and used to giving each other feedback in meetings. I know I would need to engage in some preparatory work before collaborating with someone new.

During the project I didn’t feel any pull towards creating further composites/layering – indeed I was aware I was looking underneath the layers to reconstruct hidden elements.  Much of my working life was concerned with working through large amounts of sometimes conflicting information to uncover patterns and histories and I think this is reflected now in some of my creative work.  This realisation was further strengthened when I attended the “Interpreting Landscape” Workshop with artist Clare Wilson in April.

The collaboration with Dawn on her project also strengthened my growing desire to be involved in more than just digital photography. I’ve been dabbling around the edges for quite a while now by using polaroid cameras and creating lumen and cyanotype prints, with the intention of seeing how I can use them in coursework Assignments. During March though I also began teaching myself to draw using the book You Can Draw in 30 Days, by Mark Kistler (2011). It even has a chapter on drawing roses! During April I signed on for a free online Sketchbook Revival Workshop – hosted by Karen Abend and with sessions from several different artists using all types of media.  I really enjoyed this but have had to take a break from it because I was neglecting coursework.

So, I’m now more firmly focused on following signposts to different creative paths and just need to find the right balance for myself. I know I’m already thinking photography in a different way too.  Many thanks to Dawn for inviting me to collaborate with her and, so, facilitating a firm though gentle push towards multi-disciplinary work.


PS – Dawn’s own write-up on the process can be read here

“Time” Exhibition – Open Art Collective February 2019

I’ve only exhibited work once before. The Exhibition was in aid of a Charity and the process was quite straightforward. Receive the invitation, send jpegs of my proposed submission for general approval, then pay a sum of money for each piece of work exhibited.  The Charity would also receive a percentage of any proceeds. I turned up on installation day with two framed photographs, handed them over and attended the private preview evening. Although I didn’t sell anything I was excited to see my work on the display board and people actually looking at, and talking about, it which compensated for the stress in the lead-up – worrying whether my work was ‘good enough’ and having to think about print quality and the right frames.

At the time I also wondered about the two organisers/curators and how much work was going on behind the scenes. Well, now I know – having been involved in the organisation of OCA Thames Valley Group Exhibition “Time”.  I was thinking the other day about how organising an exhibition is like planting seeds from an unlabelled packet, nurturing them for two years, wondering what the flowers would be like and then seeing them bloom for just two weeks.

I’m including photographs and a video taken during the Exhibition process and apologise in advance for the less than perfect quality.  The gallery lighting didn’t lend itself at all well to the taking of photographs, but I hope it gives a reasonable impression of how it all eventually looked. l

In October 2016 some of us from OCA Thames Valley group met up at the Brighton Photo Biennial and Teresa mooted the idea of putting on an Exhibition of new bodies of work which would not be connected with ongoing coursework.  I volunteered to be on the Steering Group which began meeting at the beginning of 2017 and comprised Teresa (as co-ordinator), Dawn, Monica, Sue and myself at first and then joined by Jonathan as our Treasurer.  The theme of “Time” emerged after much discussion and we also thought it would be a good idea call ourselves a different name for exhibiting purposes. We needed a Project Brief and prospective budget alongside the funding application to the OCA Student Association (OCASA) and a planning calendar was also drawn up by Monica to keep us on track with the process. With a scattered sub-group, planning meetings were a mix of virtual and actual, with emails in between, plus the use of a virtual “Basecamp” provided by Dawn to lodge important papers. Each of us took on different roles to meet our action plan as it progressed, mine being that of co-curator with Dawn who had already had experience of exhibition organisation and, later on, I mainly liaised with exhibitors and the Lightbox regarding the Exhibition arrangements.

Two venue prospects didn’t come to anything for a variety of reasons but after, popping in one day to The Lightbox in Woking ,I suggested we approach them for use of their Art Fund Gallery which is on the ground floor and available for community hire.. The space and situation it offered was excellent and their contract included physical installation and take-down of the Exhibition; insurance; labelling (with wording supplied by us); necessary equipment and featuring our Exhibition in their own marketing and dealing with any sales.   The contract was signed after we submitted an Exhibition proposal to the gallery. The only problem was that we had to wait until February this year to stage the Exhibition as spaces are booked so far ahead.

Slowly but surely, the action plan came into bloom. Fifteen members of Thames Valley group initially confirmed interest in being involved in the Exhibition and contributed to the advance deposit – an amount which also met the requirements of the OCASA funding. Contribution.  Suggestions and voting took place for our ‘official’ name/public face which became Open Art Collective. Monica acquired a domain name, built our website  and sought ideas for a logo – again chosen via a whole group vote.   Thames Valley group members as a whole were kept informed of progress through a regular slot at our monthly meetings and a separate Facebook page was set up for exhibitors to enable speedier communication when necessary. During this period we also had the benefit of advice on setting up an Exhibition from photographer David George (a founding member of Uncertain States the lens-based and artist-led collaborative project) who spent a day with Thames Valley Group in April 2017  (see here) . OCA graduate Keith Greenough, a long-term Thames Valley group member also ran a session on planning Exhibitions for us in February 2018.

The pace began to quicken in May 2018 when we were asked to provide a short blurb and a keynote image in readiness for the Lightbox advance publicity which went out online and in print in September 2018.  Detailed submission guidelines were sent out to everyone involved, with initial shortlisting taking place on 6thOctober – by which time the number of exhibitors had reduced to eleven owing to pressing work commitments.  I learned much from my co-curator, Dawn, as she modelled the process when the two of us looked at the work submitted – all on one theme yet each so different and individual. We spread small prints on the table, shared what came to mind as we looked and saw patterns emerging as we moved them around, with some double-checking against larger prints.  As the curatorial theme evolved it became a curatorial statement, written by Dawn, which we then presented to the rest of the Steering Group together with a draft layout.

Although the Lightbox contract included their own social networking/marketing there were other networks that could be approached.    Sue worked on a draft press release which OCA Head Office were asked to ‘approve’ and Monica compiled an e-flyer.  Jonathan approached various newspapers and magazine outlets at the right point to meet their publication deadlines and Sue later contacted available OCA networks.

At times it seemed an unreal venture with such a long wait and communication with the gallery wasn’t always straightforward. Considerable time was spent gathering information from exhibitors about their work at various stages as sizes changed according to framing decisions and label information was a puzzle as well – how much/little to include. I kept worrying that we wouldn’t have enough space on the walls for it all as the walls kept expanding and contracting in my imagination despite our detailed layout plan and continuing reassurances from my much more experienced co-curator. We also had lengthy discussion as to the value of a special event  and what it should be called/viewed as, eventually agreeing on an ‘Artists’ Evening’ which seemed less formal whilst still being celebratory.  Jonathan made initial enquiries at an early stage which were followed-up and confirmed with the gallery by Teresa.

Yes – I felt anxious and stressed at times through being so new to it all, but everything settled and became real during the run-up week. Artist information had been provided to the Lightbox in readiness for preparation of labelling in their in-house style and Monica had printed out price-lists and an Artist Information hand-out.  Most of the exhibitors were able to bring work to the gallery themselves on installation morning (4thFebruary, 2019) and it was wonderful to see those blank walls and know that our work was going to be up there by the end of the day. Although James, our Lightbox technician, did the measuring and actual installation Dawn and I, and Teresa later on, helped with placement so at least I had some experience of actually installing an Exhibitions. The more detailed Exhibition layout we had provided also helped considerably in ensuring all the framed prints were in the right combinations. The labels would be printed out and fixed later on but we attached mock-ups to confirm placement.


(All work prior to painting of mirror plates and fixing of labels)

I called in the next day to make sure everything was in place, including Artist leaflets/cards and the comments book.  It was such a wonderful feeling to see it all, glowing so serenely  under the lights – looking just as we had envisaged.

All the thinking, talking, discussing and agonising became worth it, even more so on the Artists’ Evening during the first week when family and friends came to see what we had achieved.

The two weeks of the Exhibition went by so quickly and on taking-down day I did feel some sadness about that and the transience of it all – yet I have learned so much whilst gaining more self-confidence in myself as an artist. What did I learn? Long-term planning needs patience and imagination to ride the ups and downs of problems. Collaboration and communication have to be worked at particularly when it’s new and collaborators live quite far apart. Keeping the information flow going between us and also the larger group was very important.  Publicity, marketing, finance, web and graphic design are definitely not part of my experience or expertise, so I was very grateful that we had members of the Steering Group with those necessary skills.  I gained a good overview of Exhibition installation, plus the importance of the labelling and keeping it simple! I certainly went through a steep learning curve on curation, with Dawn as mentor,

So far as my own work was concerned, I do think it took somewhat of a backseat as I was focussed more on learning how an Exhibition gets organised. For me though, time in a wider sense gets measured very much by the time of year.  Autumn is my favourite season with its glowing colours as a last burst before Winter sets in.  I spent quite a lot of time taking photographs in Valley Gardens in Windsor Great Park and so I chose Autumn Trees for my Exhibition prints. Due to my own A3+ printer being determined to spurt ink drops on the edges of my A3+ prints I ended up having the images professionally printed, by the Printspace . Not my first experience of professional printing which I have had done locally once before, but certainly my first experience of ordering on-line and having test prints done first to check on colour quality.  I would certainly use the Printspace again.