Cold Angel: Draping A Giant
An artist creates a piece of work and his contemporaries respond to it. It’s been 14 years since the iconic sculpture byAnthony Gormley was completed on the A1 and A167 roads into Tyneside and after nearly a year of planning and rescheduling, I finally managed to get a team of people together to make my idea possible. The objective was to respond to an incredibly famous artwork in a comedic way that was going to endear its viewers to an otherwise quite muted and serious monument. On a cold Monday morning in November, thousands of cars and lorries drive past the Angel and it signifies a point in their journey. We were going to try and make their morning commute that little bit more interesting.
For two and a half months, I knitted continuously with the help of Bath Spa University knitting club where we would meet up on Mondays and clatter vigorously at our needles to produce what would become the scarf for the giant of the North East. At 76 stitches wide on size ten needles, I figured this would be the quickest way to produce something of this size in the shortest time. The hefty load of the scarf and after six weeks of knitting one ball of wool each day, it soon became like a ball and chain in my mind. I took this roll of scarf everywhere, it was like an wooly albatross hanging around my neck. I can’t put into words the relief that came when I got the tape measure out and it had finally reached the magic 50.
The team in charge of putting the scarf on the angel consisted of Bradley Garrett of Placehacking fame, Witek the mystery man, Helen Carlton from theeyeofsilence and myself, representing sewyoursoul and wool enthusiasts everywhere. One of us was to be in charge of filming, one in charge of still shots, one to climb to the top and one to do the ropes. When it came time to leave our base in Hartlepool, it had started raining and the wind was picking up, throwing the leaves about the road ahead of us. These were probably the worst conditions that could befall us on a night like this. We ideally needed it to be a dry, still and foggy night that would provide us with excellent coverage from observant truck drivers on their way to delivering goods to Gateshead and beyond. Being seen by one of these juggernauts would be fatal to our plan as it would inevitably result in them calling in the sighting to the local constabulary. Cue the blues and twos, a lot of explaining to do and stashing gear into the bushes to conceal our intentions.
We pulled up to the statue which wasn’t immediately visible in the darkness but once in the car park, the beast and our target loomed heavily over us and the butterflies in our stomachs were once again fluttering away to their tune. After unloading all the gear, I headed up the road to hide the car just in case it was seen by a curious passer-by.
I started the night keeping a look out for truck drivers pulling into the lay-by for a rest or cars full of amorous couples looking for fellow voyeurs. It soon became clear that welly boots were the worst possible footwear in this occasion and before long, I was fighting against a deep desire to go and camp out in the car. This was not possible, we were going to complete this project regardless of temperature, inclination or intervention. A few star-jumps and invisible skiing motions helped bring us back from the brink of hypothermia.
The ropes were attached to the angel for Helen to ascend on by shooting an arrow with fishing wire that cascaded over each wing. It was a little tricky getting it to where we wanted it to be and it certainly didn’t work first time but we got there in the end. Soon Helen was at the top and she was hauling the scarf up to the top of the wing to start wrapping it round the neck. This angel was going to be shivering no more.