I was recently a lucky finalist with one of my glass orchids for the BBC’s forthcoming production, ‘Paul Martin’s Handmade Revolution’. Due to be aired on BBC 2, autumn/winter 2012, the popular ‘Flog It’ presenter’s concept is set to be another ground-breaking winner for our delectation. Paul Martin’s career is a splendid evolution of artist and creative thinker whose varied pursuits have culminated in superb programmes for Aunty Beeb. He’s a ‘muso’ too; played drums for, ‘The Average White Band’; sooo my era! And he still swizzles the sticks with local blues and jazz bands at home; good for him. His genuine passion for arts and crafts, both ancient and contemporary, oozes from our screens on ‘Flog it’, tempered by a gentle light-heartedness that endears you to him immediately.
‘Handmade Revolution’ is a seamless natural progression of his zeal for all things unique and beautiful, made by the hands of similarly passionate people. With the aim of encouraging viewers to experiment and perhaps discover hidden talents, the format of the programme also delves into the rich history of Britain’s arts and crafts heritage.
Having spent two gloriously sunny days at the Jinney Ring Craft Centre, Bromsgrove, for the filming, I was stunned by the variety, quality of craftsmanship and creative talent represented. People with very little - if any in some cases - formal training, producing breathtaking works of art and craft born of enthusiasm and natural creativity. I believe there were over a thousand applications originally and the whittling process was very tough. I was overjoyed to be invited to audition and thoroughly convinced I didn’t stand a chance of making the finals when I saw just a few of the potential candidates work. I danced about my studio for quite some time when I received the call congratulating me on being selected.
A nervous few weeks followed as I made an orchid especially for the show; the usual, ‘if it can, it will’ minor irritations occurred during the lengthy process, but despite always feeling the next one will be ‘better’, I was satisfied with the end result. Phalaenopsis Phenomena ‘Revolution’ was then laid to recline on a gossamer bed in a locked room until ‘D’ Day.
Upon arrival at the location, nervous tension was palpable; mostly from me, but good old BBC pros looked after perspiring participants with admirable calm and good humour. The sun put its hat on for us, but the Jinney Ring’s duck population were dwiving the sound men quackers. I think I heard ‘orange sauce’ mentioned a number of times.
Avian hooligans and ensuing overruns aside, one by one we braved the fiendish black boxes and seized our opportunity to shine. I’ve only been making glass for about a year, so I was particularly nervous of discussing my work with the judge, but she was genuinely enthused by everything I said and asked some very searching questions. I know I babbled, but that’s what editors are for.
Day two was even more nerve-wracking. Judgement day. Naturally, everyone wanted to be the judges’ favourite and win the mystery prize; but there wasn’t a single confident face. The ‘wall of death’; a blacked out marquee in the grounds of the Jinney Ring, was the focus of attention as the judges deliberated over our labours of love. The temperature inside the marquee was rising exponentially as the hot summer day wore on, and sweltering camera crew regularly exited the tent and dropped like flies on the lawns, guzzling tepid water as they wiped dripping brows.
When it was at last our turn to run the steamy gauntlet, Paul and the judges, also seeking respite from the heat, did their best to bolster our frazzled nerves with words of encouragement. Finally, we made our entrance and stood before our pieces displayed on a table. My initial reaction was one of awe as I looked upon the work of my rivals. I had only managed to peek at a couple of the entries during filming, but the standard displayed before me was a joy to behold. Paul announced the highly secret ‘prize’, garnering a number of sharply drawn breaths and broad smiles. I was utterly astounded and I think it probably showed quite a bit; I do hope I didn’t have spinach stuck in my teeth.
Before the favourite was announced, I’d already mentally cast my vote. I was proved to be in agreement with the judges. The work is stunning; its creator phenomenally talented and skilled. I was bowled over by it in an instant and I know viewers will be too. A truly deserved triumph and I hope a dream is lived as a result.
All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend in a glorious part of the country and participated in what is certain to be another well-deserved hit for Paul Martin, the BBC and the talented contributors whose artistry and craftsmanship superbly validated the entire concept.
Be sure to watch out for it later this year . . . I’ll be checking in to make sure you do!