Thursday 31 December 2015

Interesting things that I have seen this year (since posting the 199th post) New Years blog post, thingy

Hello. Did you have a good Christmas? Jolly good! Well, 2016 is upon us- and 2015 (the future) is a rapidly coming to a close, and so its time to upload the last post of the year devoted to recounting the previous twelve months. As ever I’ve been busy in my studio working on several projects, publications and exhibitions (but this has nothing on what’s coming in 2016!) But what shall I close on though? I could write a retrospective of all my projects again or simply write keywords such as Doctor Who, Arfon, clockwork, fish, cursed tree, rivet, David Bellamy, potato, slaughterhouse, Jack the Ripper, Tempest and Blue Peter. Naturally I must acknowledge the sad passing of many talented people lost to us this year such as Leonard Nimoy, Yvonne Craig, Patrick Macnee, Sir Christopher Lee, Grace Lee Whitney, Keith Harris, Bob Symes. Wes Craven, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Gunnar Hansen, Rod Taylor, Rex Reason, Claire Gordon, George Cole, Cilla Black, Warren Mitchell, Terry Pratchett, Dean Jones, Cynthia Payne, Shirley Stelfox, Carol Doda, Omar Sharif, BB King, Sam Simon, Anne Kirkbride, Jackie Collins, Alex Rocco,Cecil,  Robert Loggia, Blaze Starr, Nicholas Smith, Anthony Read, Maureen O'Hara, Peter Baldwin, Hugh Scully, Stephen Lewis, Susan Sheridan, Pamela Cundell, Michael C. Gross, The Pizz and Lemmy. (Much like last year’s list it reflects people that ‘inspired’ me personally in some way or their work I have enjoyed over the years). I could name drop and tell you that I had Tweets from Roland Rat, Gaz Topp, Andy Peters and Pat Sharp this year and that I also had the pleasure of meeting Stuart Ashen, Richard Wilson and Buzz Aldrin in person but then I had another idea. Seeing as the 199th blog post that documented interesting things that I had seen since starting the blog had been so popular I thought I would make another! So think of this as a ‘interesting things that I have seen this year (since posting the 199th post) New Years blog post, thingy!

Guy the Gorilla, Crystal Palace Park.
I intend to follow up my ‘Prehistoric Pining’blog post about 'Dinosaur World' Colwyn Bay with one devoted to the Crystal Place dinosaurs (incidentally check out this site and see the amazing work that Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs are doing in restoring these magnificent Victorian sculptures to their former glory). But today I would like to direct you to a relatively new statue, since 1961 a marble statue of a gorilla has stood in Crystal Palace Park. Sculpted by David Wynne OBE (1926 –2014) the Gorilla in question was the late Guy the Gorilla (1946–1978) London Zoo's famous resident western lowland gorilla and up to his death he was one of the Zoo’s main stars. Although Guy can still be seen by the public at the Natural History Museum he has been commemorated by two statues in London, one bronze statue by William Timym (the artist responsible for Blue Peter's Petra the dog statue) at London Zoo and this one at Crystal Palace Park.

The Chinese Garage, Beckenham.
This former petrol station situated in Beckenham in the London Borough of Bromley was built in 1928 to a design by Edmund B. Clarke in the style of a Japanese pagoda built purely on a whim! Although actually called Langley Park Garage this Grade II listed building soon became know to the locals as “The Chinese Garage”. Now a Peugeot car dealership they no longer sell petrol and it was voted the most unusual garage in England in 2001.

Down House, Downe 
This grade I Listed building is former family home of world-renowned naturalist and hero of mine Charles Darwin. It was in this very house and garden that Darwin worked on his theories of evolution by natural selection. English Heritage acquired Down House in 1996 and is open daily to the public and it was truly inspiring standing in his actual study, beautifully restored with original furniture his writing board and books. We happened to visit on a quiet day and had a pleasant stroll around the garden looking for pinecones (souvenirs) stopping only for conveniently placed benches to take it all in. If you haven’t been yet, make the effort.

William III Close-Stool, Hampton Court
I shall assume you all know what this was used for… C.1650 and located in William III’s State Apartments we find King William III (1650–1702)’s ‘other’ throne complete with red velvet and brass fittings. What was once a private facility used by king and attended to by his senior courtier known as “the Groom of the Stool” is now gawked at by smirking tourists.

The Great Vine, Hampton Court 
The Great Vine at Hampton Court is over 240 years old and according to Guinness World Records has a circumference of 3.8m (12ft 5in) and branches typically measuring up to 33m (108 ft) long. The longest measures 75m (246ft) long as of January 2005. The Vine fills a purpose-built glasshouse erected around the original 1900’s structure and its roots occupy the outside surrounding area. Is still bears fruit too, the grapes are ripe after August Bank Holiday and are sold during the first three weeks of September (providing incentive to go back!).

There you go, I hope those were of interest! A very Happy New Year to all my friends out there old and new, a special ‘shout out’ to Mim, Kid, TwoHeadedBoy and Moira for regularly commenting on my posts/assuring me that at least 4 people are actually reading these posts (and I seriously recommend that you visit their blogs too! links provided). My sincerest of thanks to all that supported my work over the past year be it a commission or kind word (or both!) I look forward to catching up with you all in 2016!

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Thursday 24 December 2015

A sign of Christmas

Those with photographic memories might recall this photograph posted on my Roland Rat special last year. Taken on Christmas morning 1984 it features (from left to right) the author, my grandmother and brother showing off our brand new plush Roland Rats, please note the plastic 3D sign above our heads that reads “A Merry Christmas to you All”. Bought circa. 1983 my grandparents would hang that sign up in their home each Christmas for over 30 years. Every gift I received in that time be it plush Roland Rat, Snake Mountain, BMX or Game Boy that sign was in the background wishing us all a Merry Christmas. The years had not been too kind to it however, the plastic had started to perish somewhat, and the annual ritual repining to the wall had taken its toll. Others might have seen that the writing was on the wall for this sign and taken advantage of its cheap brittle nature and just thrown it out, not me! You just can’t buy this kind of nostalgia, I look at this and I am reminded of “Christmases long, long ago” and the people that made it special sadly, no longer with us.
Now, aside from my rather lovely set of 10 ‘festival lights’ and my gingerbread themed mug you wouldn’t think it was Christmas here in the studio, so I decided that I needed something that wished everyone a Merry Christmas every time they walked in. Having reinforced the original plastic I made a wooden frame that surrounded the sign (that should hopefully protect it too) and made it look ‘christmassy’ with a traditional candy cane red and white motif and of course I distressed it too. I made some repairs and applied paint to some areas and then finished it off with a new section that finished the sentence that hangs from a chain. So there you have it, a 30+ year old Christmas decoration steeped in memories, repaired and customised into a purpose built sign designed to extend a festive greeting it also serves as an appropriate closing for this post. “A Merry Christmas to you All… from

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Our Blue Peter Advent Crown

Well there’s only one more night to go before Christmas and so its time to light the last candle of our Blue Peter advent crown! Children of the 70s and beyond will of course remember this classic Blue Peter “Makes” and seeing as tradition and nostalgia are the key elements of a good Christmas for me I thought it was about time I made one. Armed with John Noakes’ instructions in the fourth Blue Peter book along with flameproof tinsel, coloured glass balls, thin wire, plasticine, some lids and some wire coat hangers I set about creating our own crown. I am not for a moment suggesting that I could improve on a classic but I did however opt for making some slight adjustments namely replacing regular candles for flickering LED tea lights and replacing the jam jar lid for milk bottle caps (because the candles fit them rather conveniently). To quote John Noakes, “People find it hard to believe that such a splendid decoration started off as four wire coat hangers!

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Monday 14 December 2015’s first Christmas staff party

December is here and the annual tradition of the office Christmas party seems to be in full swing with photos from ‘office do’s’ trickling onto social networking sites but what if you are self-employed like me? I worked hard during what has been a productive year, yet because I work alone and from home I seem to miss out on these big (potentially tax-free) knees-ups!  Apparently it’s widely regarded to be crucial for staff morale so why cant I reward this single worker with one? Why can’t I let my hair down at the company’s expense? Well this year I decided to do something about it so I treated this lone workforce worker to the first Christmas staff party!

Traditionally these parties are held in the office/work place but I don’t have a stationary cupboard in the studio and the photocopying machine is under my desk and inaccessible for seasonal shenanigans so the decision to go out for a meal was opted for instead. A Christmas party for one might seem strange but it really makes prefect sense, no minibuses to arrange and no quarrels or ill feeling over the location selected. That in mind I nominated myself to choose the location for the first ever festive shindig and the location I selected was Hooters of Nottingham. The “Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined” Hooters is an American restaurant chain that first opened its doors in Florida in 1983 and have since branched out (and at the time of writing this) have 430 restaurants located in 28 countries. Hooters of Nottingham are located at the Hicking Building on London Road and are the only Hooters in the UK. When it opened in 1996 a further 36 UK Hooters had been planed but only two opened  (Bristol and Cardiff) only to close not long after, meanwhile Hooters of Nottingham continues to thrive. Best known for their waiting staff comprising (primarily) of attractive women, known as ‘Hooter Girls’ supporting a uniform of a white vest top with Hootie the Owl logo on the front and short orange runner's shorts.

Perhaps not for everyone the Hooters franchise is often under attack from various groups, a shame really as Hooters pride themselves on making the restaurant accessible to everyone and to not discriminate. Kids eat free on a Sundays and they offer a 10% discount to those in the armed forces and the NHS. Speaking of discrimination many companies restrict their functions to employees only or make spouse or partners pay for their meals and drinks. Not this one! A warm welcome was also extended to this employee’s "plus one"!

Having arrived, we were shown to our table by one of their lovely, Hooters girls, the wood panelled premises had been appropriately decked out in festive trimmings providing a delicate balance of Hooters memorabilia and Christmas decorations. The music was a mix of classic tracks both Christmas and otherwise and as we awaited our meal a Christmas cracker was pulled which contained one plastic frog, a joke (“what does a clock do when it’s hungry? It goes back 4 seconds”) and one paper hat of which I wore. Our food arrived, Hooter’s speciality is chicken wings so I had the 10 piece boneless wings served with Hooters own recipe spicy sauce and the BBQ glazed rib and curly fries for my plus one. Although not exactly festive they do however offer 2 giant mince pies served with warm whipped cream and butterscotch sauce! Food aside it was time to engage in the Secret Santa present-giving ritual. Wikipedia defines Secret Santa as, “A Western Christmas tradition in which members of a group or community are randomly assigned a person to whom they anonymously give a gift.” Colleagues that don’t know each other terribly well buy each other mismatched gifts. Another win-win situation for me I know exactly what I like! A new Fred Flinstone 'Wacky Wobbler' for my collection!

So that was it, the first Christmas staff party where a good time was had by all, the food was delicious and the staff there were great! Apparently these workplace celebrations help motivate employees by encouraging hard work and offer a break from monotony and make them more focused and better able to tackle projects when they return to work. Lets see if it works, many thanks to everyone at Hooters of Nottingham for the warm welcome and for making my first staff party, a great one! Merry Christmas!

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.

Saturday 12 December 2015

The Tempest Poster

Last week I finished creating the artwork for this poster for 'The Tempest' which will be premièring at the Morecambe Winter Gardens on Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd of April 2016. Here’s a bit of blurb from the booking page, “The Winter Gardens will become imbued with the spirit of magic and the supernatural as an embittered conjurer seeks retribution on his usurpers from this theatrical prison. A storm is brewing and the spirits are awake as love and revenge play out in this iconic building and the past collides with the future in Shakespeare's comic tale of forgiveness, generosity and enlightenment. It's the stuff dreams are made on....
Presented by Attic Door Productions this production will be part of the Bard by the Beach Shakespeare Festival that marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. The festival will be celebrating the Bard's life and works through theatre, music, poetry, song, dance, art and a historical renaissance market. Promising “performers and artists from across the region and beyond will converge by the beach and bring the world's most famous playwright's work to life in a variety of exciting projects over a weekend full of events for all the family.” This is just a 'heads up', I’ll remind you all closer to April but in the meantime find out more by visiting their site or join their Facebook page to keep up abreast of news and information! To book your tickets for 'The Tempest' click here.

© Arfon Jones 2015. All images are copyrighted throughout the world.


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