Friday, 30 August 2013

The Floating Shed

'The Floating Shed is curious. So curious that one day, because he couldn't see over his garden wall, he floated up up and away...'

Last month my friend Sara and I collaborated to make a children's installation, The Floating Shed, for Womad festival. We invented a story of a curious garden shed who decided to see what was beyond his garden, and brought it to life by building the shed, complete with cardboard windows, and asking the children at Womad festival to help us imagine everything he had seen on his travels. We got them to create cut-out silhouettes of these things and hang them in his windows.


It took a lot of dreaming, nattering, tea-drinking and practical research to work out what we wanted our shed to look like. We even visited some allotments in Brighton and were hugely inspired by some beautiful sheds we saw there.

This shed wall is made entirely from plastic water bottles...not so clear here, but they reflected beautifully in the sunlight. 

We spent weeks talking through ideas, making mini-shed mock-ups, and playing around in Sara's studio with the structure of the shed.

An initial shed doodle by Sara

Making baby sheds

We wanted our shed to be 'flat-pack', so it could be assembled, disassembled, packed away and transported as easily as possible. This took a bit of experimenting to get the shed itself roughly how we wanted it, though we both agreed that this could be treated as a bit of an experiment (albeit a safe one, as it was a public installation), and that we'd learn on site what might need tweaking in future.

After working out the structure, we devised a labelling system so that we could take it apart and put it back together again as easily as possible.

Armed with a drill, a spotlight and a good dose of stamina, we reassembled the shed on site on Thursday night, and from Friday it was all systems go. We ran the workshops as drop-ins and kept the instructions fairly specific. We really liked Womad's description of the shed in the programme, which simply said 'Be part of the interactive Floating Shed', and sounded inviting and intriguing.

It was a great success - the children loved exploring the shed, imagining what he'd seen and choosing how to display their silhouettes. They loved the hands-on experience of being able to actively contribute to the shed and wander through it (we devised a simple series of entrances so they could go inside), and some of them really seemed to engage with the storytelling aspect of the project, which was what we hoped for. If they'd done a silhouette already, we asked them to develop the story by writing a few words about the shed and how he carried on his journey or what happened on his way to Womad...some of the children practically wrote novels!

We also had a fantastic floating shed team to help us - our wonderful workshop assistants Claudia and Tais (pictured with us in the shed), Sara and Claudia's respective partners Daimien and Paul, and of course their boys Robin and Tom.

We think the shed has got further to go and more stories to tell. Who knows where he'll end up next?

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