Monday, 31 March 2014

Memorial Mosaic

The First World War had a profound impact on the history of the UK and Basildon. Although the last human witnesses are no longer with us, the First World War remains etched in the collective memory of our nation.
The Great War has had lasting effects on world geography, attitudes and brought about worldwide social change, confirming the importance of international cooperation, partnership and solidarity.
The BHBG plans to deliver a series of commemorative projects linked between the twinning towns of Basildon, Meaux and Heiligenhaus – thus creating a mutual learning environment and an opportunity for collective remembrance. 
On Friday 14th March, The Laboratory Art Studio launched the commemorative project with assistance from pupils from both Vange Primary School and Pitsea Junior School, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Bob Sheridan Basildon's Twinning Town Coordinator and volunteers from The Basildon Borough Heritage Group. The pupils, (all from schools that would have been around during World War 1) set about working on a mosaic design by Lisa Smith to commemorate the centenary of The Great War.
The children marked out tiles, cut the tiles and placed them onto the mosaic, due to be placed in a designated space outside The Green Centre at the park. After spending some time working on the mosaic, we took some time to scatter some poppy seeds of the area where the mosaic will be placed - taking time to remember those that fought and died for us during the Great War.

Here are some photos from our day in the park
Adding tile onto the mosaic

Working as a team

Broadcasting poppies on the designated poppy patch at The Park

Getting ready to sow some seeds

Chatting with Local MP Stephen Metcalfe about what the symbol of a poppy means

Local MP Stephen Metcalfe helps lay some tiles onto the mosaic

Making mini mosaics

Getting in some good practice making mini mosaics before work starts on the large piece

 If you are interested in becoming involved in the World War 1 commemorative project we would love to hear from you, we are currently looking for the following:
1. Exhibits, artefacts, poetry, writings, objects etc from or about what life was like in Basildon during World War 1. These will form a mobile exhibition that will visit all three countries featuring the exhibits.
2. Young people ages between 16-23 that are currently studying history to take part in a conference for young people in Heiligenhaus in Germany. The pupils (aged between 16-23 years) - will discuss the impact that World War 1 had on each town. These discussions will facilitate an understanding of diverse opinions and perspectives of WW1, leading ultimately to the creation of visual art and theatrical productions.
3. Willing volunteers to take part in a re-enactment of the famous Christmas Football day match. This will take place in Meaux in France. After the match participants will have the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings after the football match – to think about what they would talk about with their German counterparts and what (if anything) they would swap or show to them on the football pitch.

Through these events the BHBG aim to broaden people’s understanding of the war, to commemorate and remember those that were caught up in it, to tell well known stories from fresh perspectives and to inspire and encourage learning in the years ahead.  To inform, educate and share findings with the public through the mobile exhibition, film, educational resources and social media – creating a sustainable legacy.

If you would like to get involved in any of the three projects listed about, or have artefacts that you think may be of interest, we would love to hear your stories, please contact Lisa Smith, Project Manager at for more information

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Fossil casting and John Ray collages at Braintree Museum

Last Saturday, The Laboratory visited Braintree Museum to provide two workshops (a collage workshop and a fossil casting workshop), looking at the amazing work and life of John Ray. Here's how we got on....
Collage – The illustrations we used were taken from John Ray’s ‘The Ornithology of Francis Willughby’. This book was originally published in 1678 and was the first attempt to try and identify and record all the species of bird. John Ray was a local man from Black Notley who founded natural history (the study of the natural world) as a scientific subject in this country. He is therefore Braintree's local science hero! Ray’s book on birds included many pages of lovely drawings. These were to help people identify the birds, as they could match the pictures with the written descriptions. Back in the 1600s people didn’t have cameras to take photos of the birds they were trying to describe so drawings were very important! The museum owns a 1972 reprint of the book which these images were taken from. In our workshop we selected a couple of images from the book and cut out various sections of the birds. We then created our own new "species" by collaging the cut out sections together. Finally we added detail with biro pen such as land formations, flowers, trees and additional features to our birds - I wonder what John Ray would have thought of these!
Selecting images

Discussing ideas

The workshop was carried out in the education room at Braintree Museum

Starting to assemble the collage

Gluing the cut out sections down

Now where should this piece go?

Arranging all the pieces on the paper

Sketching detail onto the collgae

A strange looking bird with a feathered beak!

Adding detail with pen to the collage

We loved the detail of plant life drawn onto this collgae

A double headed owl collage

A fabulous finished collage, 4 new species not if Francis Willughby's book!
Fossil casting – Local science hero John Ray was really interested in the natural world around him. As well as trying to identify different species of birds, animals, fish, insects and reptiles he was also interested in fossils. John  Ray lived in the 1600s when most people thought fossils were not the remains of actually living creatures but were just ‘plastic models’ made by nature. This is because they thought that any species created by God could not become extinct. The potential age of the fossils also did not fit with Biblical interpretations of how old the world was. Ray was the first person in England to suggest that fossils were the remains of actual creatures, some of which must therefore now be extinct. He was a very perceptive scientist willing to challenge the beliefs and interpretations of his day. 
In our workshop we used a range of fossils, kindly donated by The Essex Field Club, these included trilobites, ammonites etc ranging from 400 millions years BC to 190 million years BC. The children all decided what fossil they wanted to use and pushed this carefully into a piece of soft clay. This took a mould of the fossil that we could use to make our cast. Once the mould was made, the children then poured in casting plaster ontop of the clay, smoothing the plaster at the top. This was then left to set before carefully peeling back the clay to reveal our newly made fossils.
Plaster poured on the top of the clay mould waiting for it to dry

Clay moulds ready for plaster casting

The fun part - pouring the plaster in!

Doodling dinosaurs whilst waiting to cast a fossil

A fossil mould and a friendly dinosaur

Scooping out the plaster

What out fossil moulds and cast looked like

A stunning statue of the man himself John Ray stands proud outside the museum

For more information on events, activities and programmes currently running at Braintree Museum have a look on their website

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Children's Birthday Parties at The Laboratory

We design and deliver art parties for all ages. You can choose your own theme - then we design the art activity. The most popular at present is Mine Craft, Chocolate making and Jewellery themed parties!
Natasha and her friends proudly showing off some of the beautiful Jewellery made during her craft and art party
Pre designed theme ideas so far are:
Moshi monster party- ,Pirates - Furry animals - Football - Beano - Under the Sea - Ballet - Cars - Horses - Ghosties - Jungle Animals - Fairies - Rainbows - Egyptians - Power Rangers - Puppies - High School Musical - Bugs - Butterflies - Space - Unicorns - Dr Who - Flowers - African animals - Mermaids - Surfers/Beach - Fashion design canvas - Cars - Unicorns - Olympics - Winter wonderland - Moshi monsters - Horses - Prince and princesses - polar bears -
Activity Ideas : paint a picture, 3D wooden models, fridge magnets, mask making, clay modelling, paint a t shirt, 3D painting, decorative mirrors with mosaics, collage, mosaic art, door signs, 3D plant pot design, fossil plaques, glass painting & much more!
Examples of some of the art materials available for the children to explore & experiment with include clay, paint, pastels, ink, plaster of Paris, glitter, coloured paper, tin foil, fabric, ribbon, mod rock, wire, felt, lace, wool, beads, sequins & jewels, flowers & leaves, stones, shells, pebbles, twigs & tree bark, feathers, rubber stamps, clay shape cutters, sponges, mirrors, tissue paper, stickers, cork tiles, face paints, …………….. & lots more!!

Price range from:
 £10 per child*  - for a 2 hr booking including two art activities and pass the 'arty parcel' and games - break half way for snacks which you provide.
*minimum booking of 8 children on any bookings - deposit payable upon booking

Here are some more pictures from Natasha's Jewellery and Chocolate Crunch Birthday party
Selecting bead for a beautoful Necklace

Threading the beads onto precut wire

Helping friends to choose the best beads

Once necklaces were made, we moved onto make a bracelet 

More threading of beads was required

Beautiful bronze and gold bead necklace being worked on

Creating a pattern using beads

Adding the final beads on

Showing our lovely messy chocolate hands whilst making chocolate crunch

Hmm I wonder if any of the chocolate crunch made it home!!!

Placing the chocolate crunch into mini cupcake cases

The finished chocolate crunch

Each party has a choice of games from pin the moustache on the minion, pass the parcel, guess how many sweets are in the jar etc

Our Party Leaders are fully trained, CRB checked, First Aiders and insured. We use products are that are safe, suitable and non toxic. We strive to use products from sustainable or recycled sources. We give you a courtesy call a couple of days before the big event and you can arrive 45 minute before the party starts to meet and greet the party person and to prepare all the fun activities!
Email us for a Booking form:  

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

New Works - Steve Stott

Our final artist we would like to introduce to you is the photo realistic painter Steve Stott. Steve produces work with a magnificent lifelike quality, depicting the finest of detail. Working on pet portraits and cult figure portraits, Steve's eye for detail pulls the viewer into the picture, creating an emotional response and awakening the senses.
We asked Steve to tell us a little bit about his practice :
"These are all subjects that have inspired me in the last year or so, and I try to vary them as much as I can. I am now experimenting with hyper realism which is a slow process as detail takes a long time to perfect. My interest in oil painting has become more important to me over the last year and I will be producing more paintings this year."
Double Point, Oil painting

Daenerys Targaryen, Graphite on paper

Solitude,  oil painting

To find out more about Steve's work contact

If you are interested in exhibiting your artwork at The Laboratory please email Lisa Smith on

Thursday, 13 March 2014

New Works - Darren Jones

Over March and April you can view artworks by five local artists at The Laboratory art studio, The Green Centre and The Wat Tyler Cafe. We a pleased to be exhibiting work by Musician Darren Jones from the band The Long Run. Darren's work process involves layering paint through washes of colour and happenings too create the desired effect. Darren also uses collage, emulsion and acrylic paint to create layers paintings of tribal figures.

We asked Darren to tell us a little about his practice:
"I love creating, I love creating paintings, music, models anything because its good therapy for clearing my mind, getting myself in a place/mood. I like to produce art & music that brings you up. I'm deeply interested in African music & art, they're both bursting with colour & for me puts me in a place I feel comfortable. Sometimes the subject matter is an obvious nod to African culture for example the African portraits I've done. like African art some of my paintings are of my home town & the places/things I feel attached too like in the landscape of Canvey I painted. I prefer using acrylics on wood because of the textures I can achieve on a solid surface, painting on wood also is a great canvas to experiment on like using collage techniques. I went to Southend college for three years which helped me develop an understanding of exploring all types of mediums/techniques artists & thinking outside the box. I've been commissioned by schools & private jobs but my proudest moment was unveiling a giant mural to Prince Philip which I produced with Canvey Junior School in memory of the people who lost there lives to the 1958. "
Birds of Paradise, emulsion, acrylic and collage on board

African Portrait, emulsion, acrylic and collage on board

Canvey Island, emulsion and acrylic on board

To find out more about Darren's practice contact

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

New Works - Sue Barnfield

The Laboratory is delighted to be exhibiting works by the very talented and prolific Susan Barnfield. Sue has developed a unique style within her painted portraits over the past year or so, adding washes of colour to create depth and emotive expression. Sue draws and paints portraits of celebrities, popular culture figures and private commissions. Her skill at portraying the likeness and personalities of her subject is quite remarkable.

Sue Barnfield was born in London, and is now living and working in the Basildon Area. She has been painting and drawing since childhood, and now feels that her practice has led her to a positive place as an artist. Sue is self taught, encouraged and influenced by many people, most notably her late father George White.
Broken, Water colour on paper

Diana, pastels on paper

Harry Styles Pastel on paper

London Bridge, print of an acrylic painting - the original was auction in Australia

Marilyn, pastel on paper

To find out more about Sue's work contact