Technical Assistant Trainee – Salma Patel

Our newest blog has been written by Salma Patel – without further ado, we’ll let her introduce herself!
She writes:

Hello, my name is Salma Patel; I am a Technical Assistant Trainee with Bradford Museums and Galleries. As part of my trainee-ship, I get to experience many diverse roles including blacksmithing, 3D printing and more recently assisting in putting up an exhibition at Cartwright Hall, a building I have long admired and visited since I was a child. I remember making daisy chain necklaces for my dad on the field overlooking the pond.

My role involves using a 3D printer to recreate historical and natural artefacts from Bradford Museums and Galleries’ archives; for the public to access handling/display objects that have not been seen before in this way.

So, throughout my time here, I am working on a few on-going projects; this includes working with Iain the Blacksmith to forge a candlestick holder for the volunteer’s costumes and a fire poker to practice my skills on (see below).

Iain the Blacksmith taught me how to forge a fire poker, here is mine

I worked with the Printers at Bradford Industrial Museum to design the Christmas cards; I was shown a few fonts from the vast range in the archives and a selection of Christmas themed printing blocks. The final design featured ‘Merry Christmas’ in a Times New Roman font, atop a jolly Santa Claus in magenta ink on a shiny cream background.

The volunteers work very hard with Bradford Museums to maintain these valuable crafts that form our culture and heritage. These new experiences in such a setting are so unique that I don’t think I will ever experience them outside of these historical buildings.

Learning new skills in the Printers gallery at Bradford Industrial Museum

Working at Cartwright Hall, I assisted the curator Sonja Kielty in taking down the David Hepher paintings with technician Pav Chana, ready for the next exhibition called Animal Craft.  It’s an exhibition that celebrates craftspeople and printmakers in the UK featuring ceramics, sculpture, illustration, jewellery and prints, all on sale.

Being filmed at Cartwright Hall on November 29th, 2016
Being filmed at Cartwright Hall on November 29th, 2016

One day, as I arrived at Cartwright Hall, I was unexpectedly asked to be part of a film by students from the University of Bradford. I gave them a little demonstration showing the paintings being packed away and a little talk about me and my role at the Bradford Museums.

I held my nerve and answered the questions from the director about the 3D printer – the most important thing was not to look at the camera, which I managed but I was so nervous that I was waving my hands around like a fool throughout the interview. They then asked me about my personal work as a sculptor and stone carver; I graduated with a Fine Art degree in 2015 from Batley School of Art during which I specialised in sculpture. (We are waiting to hear back from the students regarding the film.)

Grace 2: An image of the sculpture I was commissioned to carve from my graduate show in London

I was commissioned to make this stone sculpture at my graduate show in London, in 2015, and have recently shown this digital print in an exhibition in London at the Espacio Gallery (near Brick Lane) to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2017.

Panoramic picture showing preparations for the Animal craft exhibition are underway in the gallery 6 at Cartwright Hall
Panoramic picture showing preparations for the Animal craft exhibition are underway in the gallery 6 at Cartwright Hall

Preparations for the Animal Craft exhibition began at Cartwright Hall. We began cleaning the gallery, painting walls and plinths and rearranging everything. The artist’s paintings, prints, sculptures, jewellery, cards etc. began arriving by post while a few artists delivered them personally. As it happens, I know a few of the exhibiting artists; Francis Noon, who makes beautiful, and quirky animal and landscape themed sculpture and jewellery, taught me printmaking at Kirklees College (the course has since closed down) and I exhibited alongside Janis Goodman the printmaker at the Saltaire Arts Trail in May 2016 in the Art House, in Salts Mill. I arranged the jewellery in the display cabinet with the Francis Noon sculpture and assembled the stamp table installation by Rachel Barron.

The stamp table by Rachel Barron is an interactive installation for children – and the child inside all of us – with handmade stamps featuring geometric shapes that could be used to make animal shapes and patterns. I opened the installation to the public on the opening day of the Animal Craft exhibition; it was very well received by the public, with children (and adults!) creating sheep and whales by creatively using the stamps.

There have been a few workshops inspired by this exhibition with Von Allen and Rachel Barron which I assisted in; Von Allen makes beautiful handmade felt animal dolls, she hosted a needle felt dog making workshops, these sold out within days before the exhibition even began, and Rachel Barron’s personalised stamp and book making workshop was an absolute triumph with the public. It was a pleasure to assist on these workshops but more than that, it was so inspiring to meet these wonderful, kind, successful artists whose motivation to continue to deliver beautiful artwork was contagious. Thank you for this opportunity!

In order to allocate objects to recreate with the 3D printer, I had a look through the archives with the curators of the museums to find the most suitable for potentially recreating as handling objects for the public. I was given a tour of the Natural History archives by Gerard McGowan where I spotted a starfish exoskeleton that would be an excellent project to recreate; an object that the public wouldn’t otherwise have access to could possibly be made into a handling object. Holding the starfish exoskeleton is a lot lighter that I imagined and somehow I could feel its hollowness.

The exoskeleton of a starfish in the Bradford Museum archives.

During this traineeship, I have learnt new skills, met brilliant people and made contacts with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. This opportunity is still on-going; we are looking for new ways to move forward with the 3D printer and we are exploring options the best suited projects. We hope to showcase these in a few projects coming soon, however in the meantime we are making steady progress through this.

I am looking forward to assisting in a few more exhibitions this year, including taking down Animal Craft in May and helping with the Bradford Open 2017.

I am learning so much more than I anticipated and I hope to continue to acquire more new skills throughout this unique opportunity.


One thought on “Technical Assistant Trainee – Salma Patel”

  1. What a great post. Your love and enthusiasm for your work shine out like a beacon. The future of Bradford Museums seems pretty secure with such trainee curators in the pipeline. I loved Cartwright Hall as a child (saw my first modern art exhibition there) but the Industrial Museum is something I’ve yet to see. You obviously enjoyed your time there. As a Bradfordian living in London it’s clearly time I made an extended visit with time to see how well our heritage is being preserved. It sounds as if it’s in good hands. Good luck in your career.

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