More than 100 stories: An artist’s blog

More than 100 stories is a blog and artwork commissioned by Creative People and Places (CPP) to creatively map and respond to its achievements, the problems it faces, and the questions it has generated. Here, artist and ex-Ideas Tester, Nicole Mollett explains the process and inspirations of mapping the UK and creatively responding to the 21 CPP projects taking place over the UK...

I think it is important to be adventurous as an artist, and experiment with new and challenging ideas. Working in collaboration, using new processes or materials, trying out anything which hopefully will produce something different, which has meaning, even if the risk is, that it fails.

This commission gave me the chance to make a work which directly responds to contemporary non-gallery art. I had the pleasure of working with a very talented novelist and writer, Sarah Butler. Together we discovered 21 very different approaches to the Creative People and Places aims and got to meet the people involved in all those projects. I also made my first animation and fully digital, online work. All in all it has been a very exciting roller coaster experience.

Since completing my Kent Baton project in 2012, I wanted to expand on making maps. I wanted to map the UK. I take great pleasure in working on the detail, and inserting hidden messages inside my drawings. Ever since working at Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross road, when I was a student, I have been collecting encyclopaedias and map books. I use my library as a visual resource, stealing images and diagrams, collaging and altering them to fit my ideas. Several of the drawings in the commission, have been produced directly as a result of finding an image I wanted to re-use and subvert in some way.

I also am hugely indebted to Sarah, who produced a wealth of critically perceptive texts for the joint pieces. We started on each theme lead piece with a conversation, on what format would best suit that theme, coming up with several ideas. After we agreed the basic concept, Sarah would then write the piece, following that I would compose it together with drawings, to fit amongst the words. It was a lengthy process, but the results are, I think, certainly worth the effort. Every letter was hand drawn, every drawing was scanned and then photo-shopped to remove shadows and dust.

As with every big commission I have completed, the time seemed to rapidly speed up as I approached the deadline. We started with almost two years to make our planned idea (loads of time – yeah right!). In the end the ideas had gone through several metamorphoses, a couple of summersaults, and had gained a few stone in complications. However we finished it on time, the printed copy of the maps (designed by the Swale-based Storm Bird Design) came out excellently. We even managed to present an introduction to a theatre full of people at the national CPP conference in Doncaster and anyone who knows me well, will know what a big deal that is!

As a result of doing this project I now want to make more animations, and possibly even draw a small graphic novel. It still feels strange to think it has ended, I have grown quite attached to travelling to see the CPP projects and then drawing what I’ve experienced on paper. I might have to sneak a few more drawings on, before I find my next project.