Pride of Place prep work

Signal Arts Centre has been nominated for the “Pride of Place” award, an all-island competition that acknowledges the work that communities are doing all over the island of Ireland. A group of judges will be visiting Signal in the next week or so, so we are getting various presentations ready to show them our work in the local community groups of Bray, as well as giving the place a good tidy! Today Margaret and Gill were busy rotating the display of the student artwork which showcases the work we do with local groups, children, people with special needs, and adults.


James Hayes


Sad news

Signal is not just a building, a gallery space or a place for art classes, it is also a collection of creative people and it is those people who make Signal so very special.  As such it is with a deep sadness that I inform you all of the sudden loss of Jim Morrison.  Jim was the foundation stone of Signal Arts Centre since it’s creation and inception in 1990.

Everyone here at Signal is a bit shell shocked by the news, and the phone has been ringing (I am sitting on gallery duty today and am answering those calls) from Jim’s friends calling, and people walking in to the gallery who end up sharing stories.

James Nolan, our digital media go-to man was looking for images of Jim in our archives and managed to capture this lovely photo from a video of the culture night 2016, which really captures Jim, his humour, energy, and his love of Signal and the arts.


I have known Jim for about 20 years now through Signal Arts, and Bray Arts Club, and the nights I would bump into him at BIFE (we both taught night classes there) and as parents waiting outside Gaelscoil Uí Chéadaigh. I have only been working at Signal again since March (time flies!) and I felt that I was getting to know Jim again, reintroduced so to speak.

Jim was regularly here in Signal, mostly because of his duties as a board member but just as often just for the chat. He was picking my brains just a few weeks ago with regard to mould making, because he had carved a chess set that he was very proud of and he was thinking about reproducing it. We had a good long discussion over tea about the various options available and I was looking forward to seeing the chess set. I am now experiencing a strong sense of disbelief, as I fully expect Jim to walk through the gallery door at any moment.

He will be greatly missed by all friends of Signal Arts and all of the Signal Staff, both past and present. Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the Morrison family.

Further information will be posted on the Signal Arts Facebook page as it becomes available, and you can find some information on the RIP deaths notices pages.

James Hayes

Developing Community Arts Practice – Training

For the past 5 weeks a group of us here at Signal have been doing training on Fridays. It is a course run by the Kildare Wicklow Enterprise Training Board (KWETB) entitled “Developing Community Arts Practice”. The course tutor is Aoife Patterson, a former Signal Arts Centre employee, and she really knows her stuff!

It has been a long time since I last undertook formal education. I am constantly up-skilling myself through reading, online courses, YouTube videos, and undertaking self-driven projects to learn new skills. This is a different kettle of fish altogether but I am enjoying it and learning lots of new concepts that are very relevant to my own practice.


Sitting through a lecture can get tiring, so Aoife breaks up the process with “ice breakers” and “energisers”. Ice breakers are usually at the start of the session, a simple exercise to get us thinking creatively and to begin interacting with one another.


A lot of the lectures also end with brain storming sessions where we are broken up into groups to discuss ideas and issues that were raised during the class, focusing on one specific topic such as creativity, or types of groups, etc.


As the lectures can be quite long, they are broken up with “energisers” which are small tasks that get us thinking creatively again, to get our energy levels up with a bit of insight or most often with a bit of a laugh!


That last one involved blowing ink around on a page using a straw, and then writing a Haiku poem (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) inspired by the ink or the action. Fun and got us thinking verbally as well as visually!

James Hayes

Ceramics, 6th and final week this session

Last week I showed you this photo of the tiles with the glazes on, waiting to be fired.


This week when we arrived for the class (I am assisting Gill this week) we got to see our finished products, and I must say that I am delighted!! Especially with the tile on the lower right. They all show details to a greater or lesser extent, but with that tile I was very careful to wipe off any excess glaze with a sponge to reveal some of the pattern below.


We laid out all the student work so they could identify their pieces.


The green which we thought was a glaze turned out to be an oxide, which is a different creature altogether! As a result, those who had used it needed to apply an extra layer of transparent glaze to retain the colour, as the oxide is not very stable on its own and tends to brush off. From what I know about oxides, ideally you put them on to highlight texture and as such wipe off any excess before adding an over glaze.


The students could now begin assembling their “fish” project that they had been working on with Gill. They had created a fish head and a tail and a series of pinch pots with central holes. These are strung onto a sturdy string along with beads to act as spacers.


The result is an interesting hanging ceramic sculpture, which looks lovely in the sunshine and makes small tinkling sounds as it moves in breezes.


Another ceramic tile, showing a fantastic variety of colours and textures.


One of the student boxes. She had been worried that the scratch line details would be lost under the glaze and was delighted to see them revealed again after the firing. She wiped a metallic glaze into the scratch marks and then over-glazed with a colour called Norwegian Blue, the same one that I used on 2 of my tiles. The random results of this blue glaze are fantastic and really bring the pottery to life!


Ceramics part three!

I was asked to come in again for the Wednesday ceramics class, which I was happy to do as today the students begin the glazing of the bisque fired works.


Some of the glazes come ready mixed and some come as a powder. Wonderful to see them going on, and the wet glazes look nothing like how they will turn out fired so it is always with a great pinch of imagination that the final result is pictured in your mind.


Painting delicate hearts over another glaze.


Dripping an oxide glaze over another glaze.


This is how my little coil pieces look bisque fired – no cracking or popping!


and here are the glazes drying in the sun. Can’t wait to see them fired!


Wednesday afternoon the youth group was in again, and I helped demonstrate turning pots on the wheel, something I haven’t done in YEARS but just like getting back on a bike I was able to show them a few things.  It is so good for the mind to make things with your hands, I always feel refreshed afterwards.

Enjoy the sun! James Hayes

Ceramics part two

On Wednesday I returned to the ceramics class to continue with the coil project. I discovered two problems with this process, both of which can be overcome. The first problem is that if you do not complete what you start in one session the clay gets too dry to bend or fold the flat slab. Even wrapped in plastic and sprayed all week I could not coax my slab to bend without cracking. One of the students did manage to make a vase shape using this technique, but that was because she managed to form it all in one sitting over the course of perhaps an hour.


The second problem, again easily sorted, was that the pressure of creating the slab causes the clay to stick to the work surface, so it is essential that the work is done either on cloth or cling film – cloth will leave a surface pattern on the clay of course. Ideally we should have a plaster slab to work on, which the clay will quickly release from as the plaster sucks the moisture out of the clay, but then you run into the need to work even faster if you want to roll the slab. At the end of the day so many of us loved the patterns and found that they would suit use either as straight forward tiles or as coasters for hot pots or drinks that we opted to leave them flat.


In the afternoon there was a youth group in from Sallynoggin who were shown how to use the wheel. Signal has two pottery wheels, and everyone had a chance to try it and make a small pot or cup. It was hectic and fun.

Afterwards I assisted Ger in loading the kiln with work by artist Michelle Fullham (the kiln can be hired for individual firings at VERY  reasonable rates), and then Ger showed me how to program the kiln to run overnight. It was a glaze firing so I will be interested to see how they turn out! The Wednesday class work should be dry enough to go into the kiln on Monday for a bisque firing so that the students can then begin glazing on the Wednesday.

Ceramics – classes & new shelves

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of being a substitute teacher for a ceramics class. It is a nice group of people who are very enthusiastic about learning new techniques. I showed them how to create coil patterns in a slab pot approach to building. Rather than the traditional coil built pot, you create patterns with coils as a flat rectangle, then keep adding and smearing clay to create one flat slab which can (if desired) then be reformed into a mug or vase shape. We got about halfway through the process, and should be able to have a finished product next week. The classes at Signal are very good value and run by knowledgeable people, so have a look “Classes 2017” link on the website to see what you might be interested in pursuing!


After the class was over I spent the afternoon building half-depth shelves to create more storage space on the existing shelving. It may be difficult to see in the photo, the half shelves look like little benches standing on the shelving, they are very sturdy and there are two more on the units out of view to the right.


There are plenty of other construction and repair projects around the building that I am sure will keep me busy for the foreseeable future, alongside the classes and gallery duties.

Now to get back to work! James Hayes