Until 22 May, Edinburgh Central Library will be displaying an exhibition of photographs called “Postcards from Ukraine”. This project aims to record and demonstrate the damage caused to the Ukrainian culture because of the bombings and shelling of buildings during the war that Russia initiated against Ukraine on 24 February 2022.
Russian troops have destroyed many of Ukraine’s historical, architectural and archaeological monuments. Museums, memorials, university buildings, cinemas, churches, temples, cathedrals, TV towers and monuments have all been destroyed. In the process, Ukraine’s cultural heritage, which dates back thousands of years, is being destroyed.
The 23 images on display show buildings before and after they were destroyed.
The project was developed by the Ukrainian Institute with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and in cooperation with the creative agency Green Penguin Media. You can find out more about the project and also see the images online at the Ukraine Institute, Postcards from Ukraine.
As part of the Living Knowledge Network Chinese and British exhibition, we decided to celebrate our close links with Xi’an, home of the famous Terracotta Army, and the twinning of our cities in 1985 which coincided with the landmark cultural exhibition of the Terracotta Warriors visiting Edinburgh.
The Emperor under whose rule the terracotta army was created is a controversial figure. So, inspired by the artists’ craft and skill in the creation of these figures, we are reframing the terracotta army, to create an Edinburgh Libraries’ version of the terracotta army, with a monumental art display of terracotta readers celebrating Edinburgh Libraries’ close links with our Chinese community and beyond.
Our young and older library members came together to use their unbelievable talent and made some wonderful reader warriors.
They are on display in the exhibition cabinets on the Mezzanine at Central Library until 22 April. Come along to see your Terracotta Reader on display!
Also included in the exhibition are three small replicas of warriors gifted to Museums and Galleries Edinburgh to commemorate the Terracotta Warriors exhibition held in the City Arts Centre in 1985.
In support of the upcoming Rare Books Festival running from 16 to 25 March, we have an exhibition at Central Library relating to the history of printing. The history of print is a vast and wide-ranging topic and the titles on show represent only a tiny fraction of the volumes about printing held by Edinburgh Libraries.
The Gutenberg Bible is widely accepted as the starting off point of printing in Western Europe. Printing in England started with Caxton as the first English printer setting up business in 1476. Then Chepman and Myllar were Scotland’s first printers, licensed in 1507. The timeline of these famous printers shows the expanse and progress of printing history.
Whilst Central Library cannot claim to have original examples of these printers, it does hold works by the famous, infamous and the obscure. Highlights include Scotland’s first complete Bible, the Bassandyne Bible, printed by the Edinburgh printer Bassandyne and finished by Arbuthnet in 1579, early works by the Aberdeen based printer Edward Raban, and ‘The Nuremberg Chronicle’ (Latin edition, 1493) printed by Koberger. These are all available to consult. Currently some early works are on display in our Reference Library.
The trade of printing flourished in Edinburgh and other towns and cities in Scotland. The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection holds an array of material including the cheap, jobbing printing of posters, chapbooks, broadsides from early examples to modern times. Some of these are highly collectable due to their ephemeral nature and often few copies have survived.
We have on view a broadside from the printing house of Agnes Campbell. Unlike many of her fellow printers, Agnes Campbell made a fortune out of the trade, but for many profits were far from significant.
The art of the printer was and is a highly skilled trade encompassing all aspects from the paper to the embellishment. Industrial techniques, new inks, papers and binding methods have changed the skills to be more computer and design based. However, small and specialist presses have always existed through the decades and examples such as the artist’s book on display demonstrate the art of printing is far from dead.
Whether you are a bibliophile, a collector, a reader, or someone interested in all aspects of culture, visit the Edinburgh Rare Books Festival which is supported by many Edinburgh institutions through talks and exhibitions.
Our exhibition can be found on the main staircase and in the Reference Library until 27 March at Central Library.
The March exhibition in the Art and Design Library is “CIRCLE”, a thematic exploration using traditional photographic techniques by members of Edinburgh LoFi. The group were inspired by the recent Barbara Hepworth retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Some of Hepworth’s most recognisable works contain the circle motif – as a body, an eye, an aperture, and amongst the exhibits was an edition of the journal, CIRCLE, which touched the imagination of the members of Edinburgh LoFi.
Edinburgh LoFi defines itself and functions as a social circle – with ideas, concepts and techniques circulating around the group, and the works displayed in the Art and Design Library this month are some of the visual reactions and expressions of members to the circular concept.
While some of the works in this exhibition are inspired by the perfect form of the circle as described by geometry, others look to the myriad of meanings associated with the shape. Ending and beginning at the same place – the circular walking route followed in lockdown, a zen meditation around the centre. Enclosing and arranging – circles of friends and colleagues gathered for a purpose. Defensive, protective, time wasting, inescapable or complete – a circle can suggest all these concepts.
Edinburgh LoFi is a photography collective that has been running for 14 years. The group meets regularly to share their photography experiences across traditional, alternative and lomographic formats. They also run events, hold workshops and plan exhibitions. New members are always welcome. Visit Edinburgh Lofi online to find out more about the group.
CIRCLE runs throughout March in the Art and Design Library.
The Art and Design Library are very excited to host an exhibition by Edinburgh Urban Sketchers this month. The exhibition includes many and varied drawings of landscapes, street views and interiors around our beautiful city and beyond.
Edinburgh Urban Sketchers is an affiliated chapter of urbansketchers.org, a worldwide organisation that boasts 120,000 members in 374 cities in 60 countries! They are a friendly group and invite people of all levels, from absolute beginners to accomplished artists to join them and to meet up for sketching. Edinburgh Urban Sketchers meets every Wednesday and Sunday with some ad hoc meet-ups in between. You can join them and learn more on the Edinburgh Urban Sketchers Facebook page.
Urban sketching is a great way to share a love of on-location drawing. It turns a solitary activity into a group event. Meet-ups are free and open to everyone, whatever their age or ability: people simply get together with sketchbooks at a chosen venue. The aim is to inspire and support one another and to celebrate the act of sketching. They usually sketch for a couple of hours and then head to a local cafe to chat and share their sketches with each other. They encourage all attendees to post their sketches on the group page.
Urban Sketchers chapters exist around the world, and the Edinburgh chapter shares their manifesto:
1. We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation. 2. Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel. 3. Our drawings are a record of time and place. 4. We are truthful to the scenes we witness. 5. We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles. 6. We support each other and draw together. 7. We share our drawings online. 8. We show the world, one drawing at a time.
The exhibition in the library showcases some of the artwork that features in their 2020 publication, “Edinburgh, One Drawing at a Time”.
The December exhibition in the Art and Design Library is a tribute to some of the people who inspire the Irish according to Scottish-based Irish artist, Greag Mac a’ tSaoir. “Mythic Heroes of the Irish” is a series of 14 oil-painted portraits of such luminaries as Elvis, John F. Kennedy and Sinead O’Connor. Greag’s pantheon is a broad church, and the subjects might raise some eye-brows!
Here is how Greag himself describes the exhibition:
“The starting point for these paintings was a previous body of work that dealt with memory and loss. I looked at a lot of photographs of Irish homes in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and noticed that these often featured pictures of cultural icons. That got me thinking about how people choose their heroes because many of the icons weren’t straightforwardly heroic. They were often flawed characters, and even failures. For me a hero, at least in the Irish sense, is someone who has succeeded against the odds, or failed. It’s the journey, not the destination. This group of 14 paintings is an extract from a continuing project.”
Here is a little taster of the works, with the artist’s own descriptions:
Edna O’Brien wrote unabashedly from a young woman’s perspective at a time when Ireland was still in the chokehold of conservative political forces and the Catholic church. She was banned in her own country, the ultimate accolade to the prophet she undoubtedly was. She held her nerve and kept writing stunning works which still have a rare emotive force. A visionary and a hero.
George Best was good looking, stylish and a supremely talented footballer but he blew it all, drinking his way through two liver transplants and fizzling out before he got old. Deep down, quietly and in secret many of us probably acknowledge that we would have done exactly the same. He has an airport in Belfast named after him though.
If the possibility of failure is central to the notion of heroism, then Samuel Beckett is John the Baptist preaching its gospel in the wilderness. ‘Fail again, fail better’ is the mantra of the existentialist hero. That craggy demeanour and ineffable cool make him a perfect subject too.
The exhibition runs throughout December, in the Art and Design Library, finishing on New Year’s Eve. We hope to see you there!
Central Library is proud to be hosting a photo exhibition presenting children’s photos of the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. The images were taken with disposable film cameras and capture their everyday lives.
At the end of February 2022, two young Brand Managers from Kyiv – Dmytro Zubkov and Artem Skorokhodko – found themselves sheltering from Russian bombs in the basement of their newly opened pizzeria. Surrounded by strangers, also looking for refuge, two dogs and some friends, they decided to turn their restaurant into a charity kitchen for those in need. Their premises quickly turned into a full-blown volunteer centre and the reach of their help has spread to the nearby villages.
Having befriended local children from recently liberated villages, the idea for a photo project, later called Behind Blue Eyes, came naturally – alongside toys and colouring books, local kids were offered disposable cameras, which they were free to use, as they please, to capture their everyday lives and show the rest of the world what growing up during wartime is like. The portraits of friends and pictures of flowers and pets comfortably coexist with images of destroyed houses, burnt military equipment and rocket shells. Each of the shots, at times illuminated or defocused, tells a story. Artem explains:
“It seems that when you look at these photos, you understand that children perceive everything differently. There is no tragedy there, they cope with it. It forces me to rethink my vision and attitude toward some things. It is what I would exactly like to transmit.”
This exhibition includes the works by nine children from Lukashivka, a village near the city of Chernihiv, which survived World War II, but was all but destroyed in 2022 as a result of Russian occupation. The photos present children’s untouched candid accounts of life after liberation.
Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan says,
“I am so thrilled that Edinburgh’s fantastic library service have been able to play host to the exhibition of photographs taken by Ukrainian children, entitled ‘War Through the Eyes of Children’. I would encourage everyone to come and see this free show.
Although it is a difficult subject and some of the children’s own comments and observations are truly heartbreaking, what emerges from it is a sense of the resilience of these young people and of the universal nature of childhood – with concerns, dreams and wishes revolving around favourite pets, their siblings, playing with friends, and the annoyance of having school homework and chores around the house!”
This must-see exhibition is available to view at Central Library until Friday 16 December.
Opening on Friday 18 November, the display draws on personal stories and moments of national significance to ask what it means to be Chinese and British.
Inspired by the Chinese and British exhibition at the British Library (18 November 2022 to 23 April 2023), the display celebrates the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK, from wartime service and contributions to popular cuisine to achievements in literature, sport, music, fashion and film.
You can find the display in the following libraries:
From the first recorded individuals arriving from China in the late 1600s to Liverpool becoming Europe’s first Chinatown in the 1850s, Chinese people, who trace their heritage to regions across east and southeast Asia, have played an active part in British society for over 300 years.
Edinburgh Libraries are one of over 30 library services across the UK highlighting the rich history of Chinese British communities as part of the Living Knowledge Network, a UK-wide partnership of national and public libraries. The Living Knowledge Network are hosting a series of events showcasing Chinese culture in the UK, including:
the launch of Chinese and British livestreamed from the British Library featuring Helena Lee, journalist and founder of East Side Voices, and Dr Wei Yang, internationally renowned town planner and urban designer, on 17 November 2022
an evening exploring the history of UK Chinatowns, on 28 November 2022
a celebration of the Lunar New Year with British Chinese authors and artists discussing literature and storytelling livestreamed from Liverpool, Europe’s first Chinatown, on 21 January 2023.
Liz White, Head of Public Libraries and Community Engagement at the British Library, said: ‘People and their stories form the core of the Chinese and British exhibition in London and the displays in local libraries across the UK. The Living Knowledge Network partnership enables us to connect with people across the country so this is a great opportunity to celebrate the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK and uncover more stories along the way.’
Chinese and British has been curated by Dr Lucienne Loh at the University of Liverpool and Dr Alex Tickell at the Open University in collaboration with the British Library.
The Living Knowledge Network streams free events, exhibitions and workshops from libraries across the UK through www.LKN-events.co.uk.
*The display boards will not be available to view by the public whilst at Forrester High School.
Central Library are delighted to be displaying through November an amazing community woven tapestry, Golden Threads, created by a group of amateur weavers based in Edinburgh. Find this beautiful display in the main staircase cabinets at Central Library.
The tapestry has a very interesting story taking its name from the golden threads it uses that were collected by the German Jew Hedwig Philip and that have not seen the light of day for some thirty years. Hedwig and her husband left Berlin in 1941, narrowly missing the Holocaust, travelling to join family in Pennsylvania.
Hedwig was a skilled needlewoman: she collected golden threads and embroidered a Torah Mantle for the local synagogue. In 1951 Hedwig travelled with all her belongings to Britain to join her daughter in Newcastle, dying not long afterwards. Hedwig’s box of threads, unopened, was passed from her daughter to her granddaughter, Cathie Wright.
Cathie wanted something purposeful and interesting to be done with the threads. This secular tapestry pays homage to Hedwig’s story using her historic golden threads woven together with contemporary red and gray yarns. The tapestry Golden Threads is divided into sixteen panels designed by the sixteen amateur weavers Judith Barton, Sandra Carter, Sarah Clark, Barbara Clarke, Sylvia Davidson, Jackie Grant, Elspeth Hosie, Joan Houston, Kirsteen Kershaw, Joan MacLellan, Irene McCombe, Francesca McGrath, Lindi McWilliam, Serena Naismith, Anita Nolan, Hilary Watkinson and Ann Smuga. Together the panels pay homage to Hedwig’s story but the quantity and beauty of the threads, the heritage and the journey travelled, called for something more. The result is a modern, secular tapestry incorporating these historic golden threads, drawing on themes of Jewish heritage, refugee travel and survival, conflict avoidance, building bridges and seeking a better world with hope for a brighter future.
To quote from Cathie,
“This is a community enterprise that takes the threads from one spiritual tradition to universal themes that celebrate life and survival”.
The tapestries are woven with contemporary materials (wools and cottons) supplementing the old golden threads. They are joined with an overlay of golden braid which also came from Hedwig’s box. The overall size of the composite tapestry is 30 inches square. Thanks also to professional tapestry artists Joanne Soroka and Jo McDonald.
Supporting the display of the Golden Threads tapestry are books on tapestry weaving from the Art and Design Library.
Art of Tapestry author talk with Helen Wyld
If you enjoy looking at the Golden Threads tapestry and want to learn more about the art of tapestry come and hear author and Senior Curator of Historic Textiles at National Museums Scotland, Helen Wyld, deliver a free illustrated talk about her new book The Art of Tapestry. The book explores the National Trust’s collection of historic tapestries and brings new perspectives to the history of tapestry across Europe.
The Art of Tapestry with Helen Wyld will take place on Tuesday 22 November from 6:30 to 7:30pm in the George Washington Browne Room at Central Library. Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.
In June 1940, a new volunteer force – the Special Operations Executive (SOE) – was set up to wage a secret war. Its agents were mainly tasked with sabotage and subversion behind enemy lines in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany. Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said that they should ‘set Europe ablaze!’
Exiles from Czechoslovakia saw this as a way to support the resistance effort at home. The training of some three hundred Czech and Slovak agents took place at locations all over Scotland. A memorial to those agents who died in World War 2 stands near Arisaig, where many of them were trained.
The most famous operation carried out by Czech and Slovak agents trained in Scotland was Anthropoid – the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.
You can find out much more about the relationship between the SOE, Czech and Slovak agents and Scotland at a special banner exhibition in the foyer of Central Library until 14 October.
Black History Month runs through October and this year takes the theme ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’. A display responding to this theme has been installed in the Central Library staircase exhibition cabinets. We’re also running a short programme of author events on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 October.
The summer of 2020 saw protests, demonstrations and marches across the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in response to police brutality being witnessed against Black people.
Protests were also held in Edinburgh, including a static demonstration on Sunday 7 June, from which colleagues from Museums and Galleries Edinburgh acquired a large donation of placards, banners and signs. These placards and signs demonstrate the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement to Edinburgh residents and the wide-ranging impact of the movement on the city.
Taking the theme of Time for Change: Action Not Words, Central Library are displaying selected reproductions of some of these placards and banners collected by Museums and Galleries Edinburgh alongside books held in the collections of Central Library promoting the contribution of people of colour to society and recounting their experiences. The collections reflect our wish to offer a broad range of material including works related to or created by those from under-represented groups. All images are reproduced with permission of City of Edinburgh Council Museums & Galleries.
View more of the placards, signs and banners collected at the demonstration in Edinburgh in an online exhibition on Capital Collections.
Kate will talk about the powerful political elite in Scotland in the 1700s, who had investments in all aspects of the slave trade. How the anti-slavery campaign was pursued on the streets of Edinburgh, the devastating blow dealt by Henry Dundas, their member of Parliament, Home Secretary and leader of the Tory Party, in the spring of 1792. He proposed that ending the trade should be ‘gradual’ allowing his party colleagues to talk out the anti-slavery bill and the continuing capture and shipping of hundreds of thousands of African men, women and children into a life of enslavement and the propaganda campaign against black people which was then launched by vested interests here in Scotland to protect their business interests and how that white supremacist version of history became ours.
Tuesday 25 October, 6.30 – 7.30pm at Central Library Join author, broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove as he tells the epic story of Black music and the White House from his new book Hey America!
Hey America! is the story of how Black music came from the margins of American life in the early twentieth century through to the mainstream under Barack Obama’s presidency and then was mobilised as a force for radical opposition to Donald Trump’s administration.
The October exhibition in the Art and Design Library is “Over and Under the Sea” a group show by the Hillside Visually Impaired Art Group based in Edinburgh.
Here they describe their work in their own words:
Hillside Visually Impaired Art Group is a group of blind and partially sighted people from all over Edinburgh. We meet at the RNIB’s headquarters once a week to pursue our love of creating artworks in all sorts of forms, shapes and sizes. We manage to achieve some wonderful works of art with the fantastic help of our volunteers and, of course, our experienced tutor, whose help is invaluable, in trying out different techniques and ideas. Some of us like to paint, mostly in acrylic, others like to model in clay and use a variety of textured, and hence tactile, materials.
One technique is using waxed string. This was developed as a creative activity for children, but we have found these to be incredibly useful in helping to draw lines that can be adjusted to achieve the desired image. Clay is a great material too as it can be used in different ways. There are many types to choose from, some of which are more suitable for certain activities than others. One type will be used for straightforward modelling, another used as a base for plasterwork, and some are suitable for using straight onto a picture.
This time as part of the exhibition, the group has come together to produce two projects. One is a series of panels, each one created by a different member. They were challenged to produce an image based on the theme of the sea. Each person has completely different ideas which have come together to create a fascinating display. For the second project everybody has created at least one papier maché sea creature ranging from a terrifying piranha to chunky starfish which form a whole aquarium of fish. The remainder of the exhibition consists of a diversity of individual works created by the members.
The Art and Design Library are thrilled to have rising star of the contemporary art world, Molly Kent, as the September exhibitor with an exhibition of tapestry and weaving entitled “Dreams”.
Based in Edinburgh, Molly is a recent graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, where she received a Master of Arts with First Class Honours. She worked throughout her college years as a Library Adviser in the Art and Design Library, so the exhibition also marks a homecoming of sorts!
Molly is a textile artist concerned with representing notions of mental and physical health through mediums such as rug tufting and weaving. She portrays contemporary existence regarding social media and internet living and the effects this has on our perception of self. This stems from her personal experiences of her mental health condition CPTSD but also reflects on wider anxieties and fears that have come to attention as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of 2021, after experiencing an episode of ill mental health, Kent’s work shifted towards a new project Dream Weaving. Dream Weaving is a multi-award winning body of work that records dreams and nightmares experienced by the artist as a result of her mental health condition. This series of work features recurrent themes of falling, extreme weather and digital anxieties and offers a critical insight into how dream psychology can tell a lot about the inner workings of a person. The work is inspired by symbolism, mysticism, myths and legends alongside personal symbols of the trauma she suffered that led to her diagnosis. The Art and Design Library exhibition features work from this series.
Molly has exhibited internationally, having contributed to exhibitions such as WORD OF MOUTH at the Venice Biennale 2019, which then toured to Australia, as well as various exhibitions across Scotland and the UK.
Her artwork is held in public and private collections worldwide, including the University of Edinburgh’s Art Collection, and the National Museum of Australia amongst others. She is represented by newcube, and if you are interested in learning more you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Dreams” opens on 2 September 2022 and runs through the month in the Art and Design Library at Central Library. We look forward to seeing you there!
The July exhibition in the Art and Design library is in full swing. “I didn’t know Robert Motherwell made prints” is an exhibition of unique prints by Dilal Singh, an Edinburgh-born art student.
Dilal is in his 3rd year studying Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. He has been exploring a variety of traditional printmaking techniques in recent months and the exhibition is the culmination of this work. Featuring prints made using Chine Collé, screen printing, waterless lithography and woodcut printing, the exhibition explores ideas and metaphors that mark Dilal’s evolution as an artist. He originally trained and worked as a gas fitter for 10 years, and in his own words, he states:
“This series of images evoke a very personal journey of self-realisation after the Covid-19 pandemic and a reflection of my journey to art and the freedom it has given me. The more abstract prints are inspired by the metaphor of a smashed mirror and my journey of becoming the person I want to be rather than what I thought society wanted. My evolution as an artist began with three years of life drawing evening classes taught by Paul Muzni and Claudia Petretti and some of the prints on display include human features and figures layered over abstract prints. As I progress through my degree, I plan to continue working with printing techniques alongside my painting practice, which is influenced by Kandinsky, Matisse, Joan Miro, Banksy and more. The title of the exhibition is a reminder of how much I still have to learn in the world of art.”
The exhibition is on display for the whole month of July and is well worth a visit to the Art and Design Library to see.
A big thank you to everybody that came to see Central Library’s beautiful Edinburgh Women’s Mural while it was on display in the foyer, and another big thank you to the people that attended our short series of Mural Talks.
Here, below, are the wonderful Iffat Shahnaz and Roshni Gallagher in conversation last week, talking at a sold-out event about their life experiences and insights as women of colour living in Edinburgh.
Central Library says goodbye to the Edinburgh Women’s Mural as it embarks on a short summer tour of community libraries, where local people will be able to visit the Mural on display and take part in related events.
Alongside the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays are on view at 30 public libraries across the UK including Edinburgh Central Library. The displays draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK.
We have delved into Central Library’s newspaper and periodical collections, with the aim to celebrate the value of regional news and champion the personalities, journalism and stories that have made a mark through the years in our local area.
It is often the case that national news carries many negative stories, but this can sometimes be quite different when looking locally. Local and grassroots news publications have a wonderful variety of stories, they can speak truth to power and are often free from the restraints and impartiality that is evident in the large mainstream tabloids and daily publications.
Our exhibition space will be dedicated to Breaking the News through the following themes:
4 July – 4 August 2022, Edinburgh: a city of firsts
We are looking at the local achievements that have put Edinburgh on the map. From the pioneering women known as the Edinburgh Seven, who would not rest until they became the first females accepted into a UK university to study medicine, to modern scientific marvels such as God particles and cloned sheep. Edinburgh has been at the forefront of many significant achievements and breakthroughs, this is your chance to explore and see how these were reported at the time.
During this month we also have a showcase of the many and varied local news publications that have been produced over the years.
5 August to 29 August 2022 – Edinburgh: Festival City
During the exhibition’s second phase, we are ready to celebrate. It is the 75th anniversary of the world-famous International and Fringe festivals in Edinburgh, we are using this period to review our collection of material to discover some key moments and breakthroughs from the festivals’ history.
Due to the closure of the Mezzanine area in Central Library for essential building works, we are relocating the British Library’s Breaking the News pop up display to the library’s front hall. This is where the festival material is featured also. (The display in the Mezzanine cabinets will be available to view until Saturday 13 August.)
During Women’s History Month in March this year, Central Library began work on creating a public mural celebrating Edinburgh’s trailblazing women, past and present. This was inspired by another project entitled ‘Work in Progress’ by the artists Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake which has been running in the USA since 2016.
We had a fantastic response from the local community, and we’d like to say a big thank you to everybody that contributed, whether you provided nominations for our list of unsung heroines, or helped spread the word, or attended one of our stencil workshops. Thanks also go to Creative Scotland, who awarded us funding for the project, and to local artist Madeleine Wood and graphic designer Greg Stedman.
The Edinburgh Women’s Mural is now finished and ready to display, at Central Library! See below for a sneak peek of one of the eight panels. How many people can you recognise?
Please come in to visit us and have a look at the full mural. We’d love to hear your comments and feedback, and if any portrait on the mural inspires you to learn more about a particular individual or subject, staff will be on hand to signpost you to relevant books and other resources from our collections. There will also be a “who’s who” to help you identify each of the women depicted, and a supporting display of interesting material about the women of Edinburgh.
Check out this short video about how we made the stencilled portraits:
As you will see, one of the women featured prominently on the full mural is the Rector of Edinburgh University, Debora Kayembe. She kindly took the time to speak to us about her inspiring life and varied career. Watch her video here:
We look forward to seeing you at Central Library, and if you are interested in attending one of our upcoming mural-themed free talks and events, please watch this space, or keep an eye on social media channels!
The Edinburgh Women’s Mural is on display at Central Library from 23 May to 2 July 2022.
A new exhibition of ceramics by Edinburgh artist Aleksandra Zawada opens on the main staircase at Central Library running from 5 April to 28 May.
Aleksandra Zawada studied Painting at Edinburgh College of Art. She lives and works in Edinburgh. Aleksandra creates hand-built, creature-looking sculptures. Her work is focused on simplicity of forms and yet is playful. Borrowing from an artist’s imagination as well as surveying ancient and oriental ceramics, she creates deliberately irregular, at times rough, works with a distinctive sense of style (and often humour!)
Aleksandra’s pieces are hand-built from mainly raku clay and bisque fired. They are hand-painted using oxides and glazes and then fired again. The artist’s love of colour makes her work not shy away from using strong tones. However, she often uses ones that reference historical glazes. Her sculptures are unique, escaping straightforward categorisation.
Aleksandra writes, “My work is inspired by Ancient; Oriental, Japanese and Outsider ceramics, and colour comes from my training as a painter. I respond to clay in the process of making. I have always had an affinity for simple materials and for works that are tactile.
I do not make many pieces.
My work is immersed in a dialogue with all the sculpture that has inspired me regardless of their origins and times they were made. Subconsciously, I am making my own museum collection.”
A selection of books on ceramics complementing Aleksandra’s work from the Art and Design Library at Central Library are included in the exhibition.
“How on earth are we going to make green eggs and ham?” wailed a frazzled mum in March 2018, faced with a nine-year-old who had a “brilliant idea” for her World Book Day costume.
It used to be a real school-gates phenomenon. World Book Day morning and you’d see floods of children of primary school age trooping past draped in sheets, with knobbly knees sticking out of cardboard boxes, clutching twig bows-and-arrows or draped in glossy princess dresses, lightning scars drawn on with eyeliner. But it wasn’t fun for everyone. Working parents shook their heads hopelessly wondering how they’d pull something creative together. Children who wished for the expensive superhero suit in the supermarket were disappointed, and others just hated dressing up and spent the whole day on the edges of the event.
But we’re now seeing a rash of creativity that is smaller-scale and based on objects which children can make by themselves. Not to dress up a whole child, but maybe…. A potato? That’s a bit more manageable.
A potato character is a great way of making something small and funny that ties in with the general theme. Trying to think up who or what to depict is a great way for children to revisit what they might have read through the year but that’s only the start of it. A potato is round and knobbly and slightly damp. Not the easiest thing to dress. An engineering problem for sure. And as the potatoes started arriving back at the library in all their glory, we saw amazing solutions from our participants! Paper was a popular choice. Some people drew beautiful reworkings of familiar illustrations, like Tessa’s Famous Five, and attached them to potatoes. We also had a sculpted paper dress on Saoirse’s Amelia Fang and paper ears on Aidan’s Pikachu. Who knew you could draw on a potato with silver pen? Well, Mary did – and she also pinned lines of sequins on her potato king. Lots of them. Freya’s beautiful Spinosaurus had a long pipe cleaner tail. Hamish also made a dinosaur… with his potato shaped and cut into different body parts. But we really had to take our hats off to Malachy, who covered his whole potato in plasticine and added more plasticine sculpture and cocktail stick teeth to make a truly terrifying Venom sculpture.
We also approached Morrisons – who are our next door neighbours in our current home at Edinburgh College – to see if they could spare some short-dated potatoes. No food waste here! We were delighted with their generous response – not only a whole trolleyload of tatties to distribute for decoration, but also a beautifully wrapped prize to give to our favourite potato! Thanks Morrisons! (It had to go to Malachy – we hope Venom enjoyed the sweeties).
Our potato display in the library attracted lots of positive attention from visitors and we were happy to celebrate World Book Day in partnership with our creative young community.
And if you ever want to make green eggs and ham – don’t do as I did in 2018 and sit colouring in a piece of ham with a felt tip pen at 11pm at night… just be more Malachy and make it out of plasticine!
A new exhibition opens in the Art and Design Library, Central Library, running from 19 March to 26 May featuring artworks by Cordula Marks Venters.
Cordula Marks Venters is a German-born, Edinburgh-based artist and illustrator. In her work, she explores a broad range of themes and subjects, including the microscopic world, dinosaurs, mythology and nature. She finds inspiration on the forest floor, in the night sky, in the rocks below her feet and the prehistoric life-forms that fill her imagination.
The exhibition of artwork is entitled Pathogenesis. Viruses, bacteria and a motley crew of other characters inhabit the world of Pathogenesis.
This exhibition came out of the Covid pandemic. Viruses were the unseen threat, occupying our everyday lives and terrifying us – as diseases have done throughout human history. Yet, when these viruses and other pathogens are viewed under the microscope there is undeniable beauty. On examining their shape, form and functionality, we can also appreciate their enormous adaptability and resilience. They are survivors, just as we try to be.
Playing with the concept of pathogens in human or animal form offers wide scope for the artistic interrogation of a key question: who are the real dangers in our world?
All works by Cordula Marks Venters.
To find out more about Cordula’s work, upcoming events and to sign up to her mailing list, please visit cordulamarksventers.com or find her on Instagram @cordulamarks.
The Art & Design Library encourages applications for exhibitions from local artists and community groups. To find out more and apply email email@example.com or drop in and see us in the Central Library.