Collaboration, Creativity, Catching Ideas and Dundee’s Face of Freedom 2014

Coffee Shops and Catching Hold of Ideas

We are sitting in a coffee shop in Dundee and before our drinks have even been poured we are discussing ideas. More ideas! There are always plenty of those flying around when we meet up. Sometimes it feels like we are in a butterfly house with hundreds of great colourful butterflies flying around our heads and we have to get our nets out ready to catch one that is the biggest and most colourful.

Our latest discussion is around his upcoming event. It is going to be a big affair involving lots of creative people putting on a show to raise money for an incredibly worthy cause.

We had already collaborated a few months back (and not for the first time) when he asked me to design him a logo to represent the charity/ fundraising/ caring side of Freedom Hair Experience. Irving was very clear in his design brief. He wanted it to look hand drawn, yet crisp and tattoo like. It was to incorporate a heart, wings and hands. There was to be lettering and his Freedom logo in there too. I have come to call these collaborations and commissions ‘Irving challenges’ as they usually involve me having to learn new techniques and make me draw things I would normally veer away from… like hands. Have you ever drawn hands? They are not easy! Well I don’t find them easy to draw at all, so the research began, as did many many sketches of hands!

Turns out wings are not very easy to draw either by the way!

I got to the stage that I had the logo drawn up to the point I could let Irving see it and decide if it was anything like he had visualised. It can be really difficult to translate words into pictures sometimes, even if you do have reference materials available.

Turns out hands were not needed after all! Really?? But to be honest, when I was creating the logo with the hands in place they were not sitting well with me at all, but that was not for me to decide. The illustration wasn’t for me, it was for Irving and he wanted hands. This has been part of the learning curve for me as an artist who takes on commissions for others. I have to learn to let go of my work a little and stick to what my ‘client’ wants. My job is to draw them suggestions and let them decide what is best. Luckily Irving and his team were with me on the hands thing we were all in agreement, they really didn’t work. But hey, not to be disheartened, I now feel much more comfortable drawing hands!

After a little wing and lettering tweaking (I also learned how to curve text on Photoshop, YouTube video tutorials are great aren’t they), the ‘Who Cares Wins’ Logo was complete. Everyone was delighted with it, including me, which takes us back to coffee shop discussions and idea bouncing.

heart logo

Backstage Passes and Light Bulb Moments

At last year’s Dundee Face of Freedom everyone was given backstage passes in the form of dog tags. They were great. Irving wanted me to create something along the same lines for this year as he liked my laser cut acrylic jewellery range. I had looked into the idea (Irving’s idea) of getting the Freedom Hair logo or a map of Scotland (with a cut out heart for Dundee) laser cut and engraved with details of the show but it was just going to be out of budget, the acrylic was going to be too light to sit well and I didn’t have the resources to cut metal. We decided that it would be best that he contact another maker in Dundee to carry out this task. He was still set on the idea of me creating something though and he wasn’t for budging.

Then there it was, a definite light bulb moment! I could actually visualise the bulb above his head when he said the word ‘tattoos’. Tattoos? Yes tattoos. Everyone taking part in the show shall get tattoos of the ‘Who Cares Wins’ logo. The models shall all get large ones on their arms and everyone else shall have smaller ones that shall go on their wrists as cool backstage passes. Temporary tattoos of course! Fantastic idea. We were both delighted with it and within minutes he had ordered materials required for me to make them. The instant joys of modern technology!

Turns out our first run of tattoos wasn’t as great as the visions we had had in our heads. The paper we had found made them look like stickers. It would have been fine as decal paper but just did not give us the look we were after. We were determined to re-create childhood memories of sticking on tattoos found in bubblegum wrappers. After a bit of searching we found what we needed, I got the designs printed and began the, trickier than it looked on the YouTube tutorial because that girl had clearly been creating her temporary tattoos for years, task of layering up sheets of very sticky paper. Then for the cutting out. Oh my! Each little tattoo had to be cut out as close to the lines as possible to make them look as realistic on the skin as possible. There ended up being over a hundred. I don’t think I ever wanted to see another one again and neither did my friends who were roped in to helping.

IMG_9098 Tattoos

Houses for Hair and Fashion Shows

This was the third Face of Freedom (FoF) to be held since I met Irving and each time he had invited me to attend. I had previously declined as I had been away travelling. This year was different however and I accepted. I have never been to a show like FoF before, never been to a fashion or hair show or indeed even a fundraiser on a scale like this one. Irving was shocked when I told him this and insisted that in that case I was to be a part of it, I was to be backstage, be part of everything that was going on and truly experience it. I was to be in charge of putting the tattoos on everyone and I was to take lots of photos. Then came yet another idea. I was to help him to put my houses in the FoF Models hair! What?

I draw little houses, towers and tents (a lot) and it turns out that Irving really likes them. He asked me to create hair pieces from them. Houses for hair. I loved this idea, it had to be my favourite yet. I get commissioned to create pieces that I already love to draw and they get to be worn and be part of a show! How fantastic is that!! So after a lot of making of prototype houses for hair that involved wiring them to hair bands, hair grips, clips and more the conclusion was that it was far more versatile for me to simply attach them to wire. Thick pieces of wire. It would allow for them to be arranged in any way around a hairstyle, which let the hairstylists on the night have much more freedom to create. Houses for hair were born.

After several hours of printing, gluing and cutting out I had enough for the show, or so I thought when I delivered them to Freedom. I got a message later asking for another set! Just as well too because when it came to them being put into use at the show spares were definitely needed. But more about that later… I pressed on with more sticking and cutting.

Houses for Hair
Houses for Hair
Set of Houses for Hair
Set of Houses for Hair

Backstage Passes and Dundee’s Face of Freedom 2014

I arrived at the Gardyne Theatre in Dundee for about 5:30pm. I knew that the Freedom team were there already and that the show didn’t start until 7:30pm. Plenty time. Or so you’d think! As soon as I arrived it was straight down to sticking tattoos on the arms, wrists and even ankles of everyone I could find backstage. In my head I had imagined an orderly queue of people coming to me for their tattoos, most definitely not the case. I was in the hairdressing room, the dressing rooms, the green room, the make-up room, and even took to roaming the corridors to grab any stragglers. Am proud to say I think I got everyone, including myself! Turns out too that it was a great opportunity to meet everyone too and find out what their part in everything was. I knew that there would be a lot of organising involved in a project like this one but never quite realised just quite how many people would be there. I had a great night of sticking and chatting.

Photo by Dylan Drummond
Photo by Dylan Drummond
Photo by Frameworks
Some of the Face of Freedom Models: Photo by Frameworks

Once I finished tattoo duties it was time to go hide behind the theatre curtains for a bit and watch some of the show. Everyone looked great and so professional, especially as I don’t think any of them had really been on stage modelling before. The bands (Revolver and Model Aeroplanes) were fab and Lynne (from Lovely Things) did a great job of hosting the whole show, even though her uber high shoes were hurting her feet so much she wanted to cry (I caught her backstage reading her notes, shoes flung to one side).

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Ruby Coyne (Dreamland Vintage), Hayley Scanlan and Model Aeroplanes
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Face of Freedom Models Backstage

The whole time I was backstage I had been taking photos at Irving’s request. He wanted as much of the show documented as possible. Not a problem because if I am not drawing then I am usually taking photographs. There were so many cameras and phone cameras snapping away all night, I wonder just how many thousands of photos were taken all in all.

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“Dundee’s Face of Freedom is a celebration of life; a celebration of creative talent and a celebration of all that is great about Dundee. 16 March 2014 is the finale of many months preparation judged by industry experts. The winner will receive £500 cash, a starter portfolio of photographs and the chance of a modelling contract and there are also two runner up prizes.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, Dundee’s Face of Freedom also brings together a group from Maggie’s who are living with or have lived with cancer. They are our Maggie’s Models. The whole process is about celebrating life and making people these people look and feel great, and they, along with our Face of Freedom models will be strutting their stuff on the catwalk in front of family and friends.”                (Freedom Hairdressing, Dundee, 2014)

DFOF2014 Poster
DFOF2014 Poster

There was such a sense of teamwork backstage it was amazing, everyone just got down to carrying out all of their individual roles but with such a sense of fun and enjoyment with it. Everyone was laughing and having a giggle mixed amongst genuine tears of being overwhelmed by the emotions behind the show. It was quite the full on emotional experience. It almost felt like I’d been invited along to a large family event because everyone worked so well together.

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For me one of the most emotional parts of the evening was when Sarah and Irving took to the stage to cut Sarah’s long hair into a short bob. Sarah is 22 years old and has just been diagnosed as having grade 3 invasive breast cancer. She is to start treatment on 17th March (the day after the show) and decided that as she would lose her beautiful long hair during treatment, that she would get it cut short and give it to The Little Princess Trust who make real hair wigs for children. The image of her standing lit up on stage holding her hair in her hands as Irving cut it was one that will stick with me for a long time to come.

Sarah wanted to use this opportunity to raise awareness and money for cancer research too. What a brave and strong young woman, turning something so terrifying into something so positive and so publicly too. I wish her and her family all the best.  Visit Sarah’s Just Giving page if you want to donate.

Sarah & co. backstage
Sarah & co. backstage
Sarah and Irving on Stage
Sarah and Irving on Stage

Hearing all the Maggie’s model’s stories, young and old was a huge reminder to me that life is precious. That it is delicate and should be embraced and not wasted. People so often moan and gripe about their day to day lives and forget that if they didn’t have their health then things really would be so much more of a trial. It often seems that those who genuinely are sick and threatened with conditions such as cancer that they are the ones who really appreciate life and try to get the most out of it. They seem to be the ones who will stand strong and embrace the old saying ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’. A quality to admire. There were a lot of lemonade makers in the Gardyne Theatre on 16th March 2014.

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It was side of stage, behind the curtains, and the final section of Dundee’s Face of Freedom 2014 (#DFOF14 for the tweeters and Instagrammers) was well under way! The models had taken to coming off stage and pelting across to the back corner as fast as they could for outfit changes. They did really well and were looking amazing in Hayley’s creations. The little houses, well.. they did good for the most part but some not so much! For every dress that was pulled off over hair another house took its chance.. they were flying through the air! Irving was chasing after them before their next stage walk to put more buildings in place and hairspray more hair into place.

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On stage at the end of the show
On stage at the end of the show

The night was a blur of hairdressers and make-up artists, photographers  and presenters, sound techs and bands, hair brushes and spray, tattoos and little houses, clothes and make-up, laughter and tears… What a successful, exciting, inspiring and emotional night. Nice work Kezia, Irving and the Freedom Team. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of it all. Such an honour. x

The Freedom Team (and Honey)
The Freedom Team (and Honey)

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Freedom Team Backstage
Freedom Team Backstage

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A few notes to self, did you knows and after show ponders:

Note to self: Don’t be getting all dressed up and wear a thick lace dress with tights and big boots when going to be running around lots. I now know this to be a bit of a backstage fail as the temperature rose and rose, and rose a bit more (especially in the tiny space behind the theatre curtains. I knew I should have stuck to my usual T-Shirt and jeans!

I didn't escape the cameras entirely! Thanks Dylan.
I didn’t escape the cameras entirely! Thanks Dylan.

Ponder #1: I wonder who won the framed WhimSicAL LusH print that I donated as a prize to the raffle? I hope they liked it.

WhimSicAL LusH Print
WhimSicAL LusH Print

Ponder #2: I wonder how much money was eventually raised from the event?

Did you know? That the bands Model Aeroplanes and Revolver were playing in the show. Very good they were too.

Did you know? There were so many people involved with the show that I know I have will have forgotten someone (sorry if it’s you), but here are some others who were involved: Kerry Fleming who wrote a lovely blog piece about the show, The Velvet Elvis Foundation, Jill Skulina, Spex Pistols, Rosy Tuesday, Debenhams… and more!

Did you know? That the ‘Who Cares Wins’ logo was also used on the Face of Freedom model’s T-Shirts and to my delight on the night was blown up to a massive scale on the screen on the back wall of the stage!

Logo On Screen on Stage
Logo On Screen on Stage
The Who Cares Wins Logo on the model's t-shirts (photo by Dylan Drummond)
The Who Cares Wins Logo on the model’s t-shirts (photo by Dylan Drummond)

Did you know? That as well as creating the ‘Who Cares Wins’ logo, tattoos and the houses for hair I have been involved in several other projects with Irving? They include him and his team at Freedom Hair Experience hosting one of my first ever solo art exhibitions, more logo design, an illustrated mini story in prints, jewellery, a mixed media and digital piece all about memories and I also designed and created the Christmas window display this year for the Freedom Hairdressing shop. I wonder what our next collaboration will be ………. ?

Commission for Irving and Honey 960065_745928715420749_161209804_n

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Suzanne this is a fantastic piece of work, on behalf of all those involved in Dundee’s Face of Freedom a very big thank you,Irv x

    1. I am so glad you like it! Thanks again for inviting me to be a part of it all, I enjoyed the whole experience very much ^_^ x

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