Hello and welcome international English language learners, and of course, local friends of Blue Noun English language School, Crieff; home of a unique art and design English course for creative practitioners wanting to learn professional English skills. 

Our blog is where you can find out about what our language school and English learners have been up to.

Today we meet a collaborator of our Meet the Makers English language immersion course – your art and design English course specifically for putting creative practitioners into professional contexts.

Transcribed for you below is my full interview with Artist June McEwan about the Willow Work Sculptures she’s currently in the process of installing in Crieff’s Community Garden.
June McEwan at work making sculptures for Crieff Community Garden, 2021
In the interview we discuss Community Engagement in Art, Funding in Art, Crieff in Lockdown, the NHS, local Politics (!)– and I learn a brief history of Crieff’s Community Garden as we establish the context of the artworks.
 
For those of you (obviously not local!) who don’t know June McEwan, she’s a very talented, irrepressible, Crieff-residing visual artist who works with painting and sculpture and also leads various local Community Art initiatives. She’s the Chair of the Crieff Arts Festival, Administrator of a local, vocal Facebook page (with 5.8k members). She’s also vegan, warm-hearted, has a healthy opinion on most subjects – and good luck trying to not get her to say it!
 
Beechgrove Garden also gets a mention: this is a Scottish TV institution: Beechgrove is a gardening-themed TV show: running since the 70s: it has aired more than 1000 episodes.
 

June is just one of many artists that you can meet on a Blue Noun English Language School holiday as part of our Meet the Makers Programme – which is part of our Art and Design English Course ‘Creative Professional – Immersion‘. 

With June, you could have an afternoon being shown the techniques of making willow sculptures in her Perth workshop – or just chat to her at one of our many evening social events – when we talk and enjoy all things relating to Scottish Art and Culture, including good food, whisky and music: a perfectly interesting, friendly English language immersion course!

 
By the way, if you are local, and we didn’t get something quite right about the history (or future) of Crieff’s Community Garden, contact me with the issue.
 
And do get yourselves down to the Community Garden to see June’s wonderful willow work sculptures – as she mentions in the interview, bring a leaf or something colourful to add to it. It’s your community garden and it’s looking absolutely fabulous – visit it and support it however you can.
Art and Design English Course English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
June’s arched willow sculpture over the entrance to the Community Garden, 2021
JM Are you recording?
 

RP Yes, I’m recording, if it’s ok with you I’ll ask you a couple of questions. Can you tell me about the community involvement in this artwork?

JM The community involvement involves a couple of things – the making a leaf to try and get a ribbon going through all the sculptures – the figure sculptures – so that they look like one piece of work. I’m hoping that lots of people will make leaves, quite a few people have already made some, but I haven’t had any returned yet.
 
JM For the rainbow, a lovely lady named Fiona has crocheted 60 flowers, on Friday she phoned me and asked if she could do anything to help – and I suggested making a few flowers and on Saturday she phoned and said she had 60!
JM So I’m going to sew them into the rainbow.
 
RP Will they last?
 
JM I don’t know. They’ll last as long as they last.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
Crieff’s Community Garden

JM I’ve got a plot here, so I’m back and forth. I’ve been in the Community Garden for years. At the very beginning, there were two lovely ladies called Sally and Rose, and they kept the whole place – then Sally got ill, then there was committee involvement and the whole thing stopped.

RP Eww, committees!
 

JM Exactly, I don’t know how you feel about them but the Community Garden just went to weeds,

RP Because it takes upkeep,
 
JM Yes it does
 
JM And one of the reasons that it went so mad was because a type of wildlife grass had been planted and it grew like mad.
RP Well good for the wildlife…
 
JM I quite liked it, but nobody else did.
JM Anyway, a lady called Catriona Smith came to live in Crieff during Lockdown. She’s a Crieff girl originally, got married, has a family and has returned to live with her parents through Lockdown. She began tidying this garden up. She started with the children’s area so that her own children had somewhere to play, and it’s just evolved from there. She set up a Facebook page and she’s had lots and lots of support from the community.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
Crieff’s Community Garden (children’s area)

RP And as soon as things start happening here, probably more people want to get involved and start helping.

JM That’s right. She also sent a wee video – a before and after to the Beechgrove Garden, and they’re coming in the summer, to film it.

RP Oh seriously! That’s wonderful!
 
JM I don’t know how that will go and I don’t know what Lockdown will mean to it – I think it will probably just be normal by then. Well, normalish.
 
RP Normal for gardens surely
 
JM I hope so. Yes. I would think so. I don’t actually know.
RP Ooh, you’re going to be on telly!
 

JM Well Catriona will be – it’s nothing to do with me. But that is definitely happening.

RP Well your work will be. The sculptures will be definitely.

JM Yes, well it’s good timing because me and [local artist] David Campbell have been planning and plotting this for about 6 months, managed to get money to pay for… see the steelwork underneath everything, but the Lockdown meant that we couldn’t do any work. But now the Lockdown has eased – although David and I are sort of in a bubble together, and we’ve started to work. It’s great timing!
 
RP Tell me a little about the process of making the figures.
 

JM Well they’ve got these metal armatures, T-shapes, and one of the reasons we got the funding for them is because we said that when the willow dies off, the armatures will be there, and it’s an opportunity for other artists to maybe use the place.

RP So you see it as an evolving process…
JM Yes, yes I do.
 
RP And the armatures are welded together?
 
JM Yes, they’re done by a local blacksmith
 
RP Does he always do your armatures?
 
JM I’ve never worked with an armature before. I usually make them just with wood – they are all wood, but because of wanting to leave something that other people can maybe use we tried to get some proper money – and we did.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
Crieff’s Community Garden, with one of June’s sculptures (left)
RP who is supporting you then?
 
JM The Crieff Succeeds BID [Business Improvement District]. We tried to push for a sculpture trail. We’ve been trying to talk Crieff into a sculpture trail for about 20 years.
 

RP I think it’s such a brilliant idea because people travel to see a sculpture trail.

JM Exactly. The ‘Cowches’ proved that people will come. We’ve now got sculptures on Burrell Street. Originally I had a highland cow made out of willow there. That proved the need for a sculpture there. And the town got them. Crieff in Leaf have also put in for a new sculpture and there’s these too: that’s the start of a sculpture trail right away… and at the Campus, there’s also the wood ring.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun 'Sweetie Annie' and her artist Katy Galbraith
English Language School Blog Blue Noun  June McEwan's 'Innerpeffray Cowch.'
The Crieff Cowches were a 2019 Art Trail of 11 artist decorated cow-couches, here showing ‘Sweetie Annie‘ and her artist Katy Galbraith and June McEwan’s ‘Innerpeffray Cowch.’ It was supported by Crieff Succeeds and raised money for the SCAA – Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.
RP Oh yeah, kids love that one!
 
JM You know, a sculptor trail would be a lovely thing, and it would bring people all around the town. Better signage would make it even better.
 
RP It’s just fabulous for families isn’t it, to go exploring a space that is packed with things to find.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun The Coos Crieff sculptor Kevin Paxton and installed by local charity Crieff in Leaf
English Language School Blog Blue Noun The Coos Crieff sculptor Kevin Paxton and installed by local charity Crieff in Leaf
The Coos’ (Crieff’s Leafy Coos) are a family of Highland Cows, commissioned from sculptor Kevin Paxton and installed by local charity Crieff in Leaf. They stand in Burrell Square commemorating Crieff’s history as principal cattle market town – when Highlanders drove cattle from all over the North of Scotland into the town to be sold.
JM Oh and there’s the fountain in the square!
 
RP There are historic things to find too.
 
JM So this is us still pushing for a sculpture trail because my idea is that Crieff will be a destination town full of Arts and Craftspeople.

RP Well there’s lots of Arts and Crafts practitioners, so we just need to attract people to the town for that reason, which is what we’re doing with Blue Noun as well, putting it on the map for that reason.

RP Can you tell me a little more about the leaves? Do you have different colours?

JM The community idea is that people can get involved in making leaves. Similar to the poppy project for the WW1 Centenary. The Black Watch Museum had a river of ceramic poppies coming out the window. Now, this won’t be as big as that…
Time-lapse video showing the creation of the beautiful Weeping Window, by artist Paul Cummings and designer Tom Piper that was installed across several historic building in the UK, starting with the Tower of London and visiting the Black Watch Museum, Perth, 2016: commemorating the Centenary Year of the First World War.
RP But it could be?
 
JM (Laugh) No it can’t be, because I can’t afford to give away that much wicker! It’s 12 pounds a bundle! So I’m just thinking of creating a ribbon of leaves connecting all the statues.
 
RP It’s something that future funding could do.
 
JM I’d love hundreds of leaves but I can’t afford it.
 
JM Unless people donate money or something.
 
RP Or local business sponsorship – but with that, you get labels and signs and it gets tacky quickly.
 

JM We got money from the BID for this, it’s from LEADER funding: they keep emailing asking for receipts.

RP Oh LEADER funding is notorious for the amount of proof and documentation at every stage of every project. It has a reputation. I applied for LEADER funding for a small amount of money but got advised against it. It’s not worth the bother because of the time you spend accounting for the money: it’s set up for managing big projects and big amounts.
 
JM. I’m grateful to have got the money but I hate paperwork. David’s doing the paperwork, but it’s my name – my reputation. I still need to keep track of it all.
 
JM So having spent £36 on coloured willow, I can’t give much more of it away. But people can make leaves out of their own things: make an invented leaf: a crocheted leaf: anything.
RP Do you want natural materials or can someone turn up with something big and plasticy?
 
JM I don’t care.
JM No, child-friendly – as long as it’s child-friendly
 
RP …and animal friendly
 
JM Yes. I think that’s fair enough. Because I don’t want to put anyone off. Why would you?
 
RP I think that Beechgrove Garden are coming is a total motivation for people to get involved…
 
JM I’ll get this done and then have a think about it. What do you think?
 
RP I think that if local people know that Beechgrove Garden are coming to pay attention to our Community Garden, there will be a sudden interest in our Community Garden – and why not take advantage of that, because it will bring people here who have never been here before. You know anyone who turns up with kids in tow to see the garden is a good thing. It’s putting it on the map for Scotland but it’s also reminding people that we’re here – and sometimes it takes a telly show and a bit of chat on a community forum to do it. It doesn’t mean they’re not worthy.
 
JM When we get the dates for the summer, for Beechgrove, that’s when to… we know that it is in the summer, but no dates.
 
RP I think it’s something nice to work towards. And we’ve got the Great Big Art Exhibition Facebook page that we can start poking creative talent in this direction. We can make a call for painted stones, leaves… crockery, teapots. Things that make it look pretty.
English Language School Blog Great big art Exhibition Strathearn
Images from The Great Big Art Exhibition – Strathearn Facebook Page
JM. There’s a bit of vandalism that goes on though.
 
JM It’s sort of accidents a lot of it. People playing with things and things get broken.
 
RP It’s open 24 hours, isn’t it?
JM At the weekend there are teenagers in here. Boozing. There are tables.. and a bin…
 
RP …but they don’t always work it out, do they?
 
JM And the bin is this far from the table! (gestures)
 
RP Couldn’t reach it, could they?
 
JM Some do, but… generally speaking, you come in in the morning and there’s litter, which is a pity.
 
One last question, and it’s about the rainbow theme? Can you tell me what that means?
JM Well the rainbow is to connect with the NHS. I did something last year, just myself, in Perth with a rainbow lady – to try and connect it with the NHS. And here we are a year later. I don’t think the NHS gets enough. People are beginning to be moaning.
 
JM Do you know, two years ago I was very ill. The NHS saved my life. Now that I’m feeling a lot better and pleased with the NHS. Let’s raise the profile. Let’s say how good they’ve been.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun Thank You NHS rainbow
Our language school rainbow. During the first UK wide lockdown, communities were awash with rainbows placed in windows to show support for NHS workers and other key workers.
RP. People are forgetting quickly.
 
JM Very quickly! It’s astonishing.
 
RP Like our family has not been touched. I’m very lucky and very grateful, but sometimes it’s almost as if, if it didn’t happen to you, you can forget about it – and start complaining about it. I suppose as a heart of the community, the Community Garden will bring people together, and share stories and histories and remind people that this is the history of our community – it’s not the history of a few people holding us all back – or lucky or unlucky people. I think everyone has reasons to feel both blessed and cursed right now: your career has been pushed in a different direction because of it – mine certainly has…
 
RP If you’re one thing, you’re flexible when you’re an artist. Keep bouncing back.
 
RP What would you like to see happen over the next year in this space?
JM Well over the next year I’d like to see it being used more. I’d like to see more children using it for storytimes and learning to grow things… and then eating them (laughs).
RP Have you got edible things growing in here?
 
JM We’ve only just begun doing that. The Advreck School, came down, Little Advreck, and they brought lots of woven things down made from branches like catapult shaped branches woven with ribbons and wool. They planted some of them.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
Little details from Crieff’s Community Garden
RP I love it when places have free herbs and you can just help yourself to them.
 
JM. Well there’s loads of apples here in the Autumn, I get loads of apples for free.
 
PR And no one else is out here collecting up the apples?
 
JM Well for the last three years I’ve been one of only a few people using this garden. Those two lovely ladies did a brilliant job. See all the trees, all the bushes, all the plants here – all donated. There’s nothing bought, other than with donated money and they did all that.
 
RP They organised it.
 
JM They totally organised it. This was all rubble.
 
JM Who knows what will happen in the future. Of course, it’s been Lockdown, so we’ll have to see but there’s politics in this garden. There are still people who would like to see it overgrown again and close it down.
 
RP But they can’t do that now if Beechgrove Garden coming. That’s like an insurance policy. That ends now because you have media attention. Imagine the headlines! Things should change because of it. I don’t like playing politics but I know how it plays, and that’s a game changer.
 
JM. I like politics, but I’d rather have art.
 
RP I get sucked into stuff like that. I try to be aware of it but not get involved. Personally speaking I get sucked into it and it uses up time and energy and emotion and I’m actually better in my own wee bubble with my head down. Because I get stuff stuff done without it. If people actively ask me for help with stuff I do it, but leave me out of committees. In terms of having a lot of people in a room trying to decide what’s best for the community I can’t do it. It’s things that happen because somebody goes out and starts it which I like.
 
RP Do they still have any rented plots here?
 
JM No, and there’s no committee.
 
RP And is that working?
 
JM It’s working very well, there’s people who come and help and there’s a Facebook page.
English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
RP Yes, we donated a couple of big wall flowers which we found in our attic and I got in touch with Catriona that way.
 
RP The thought of people sitting in a room talking about a garden is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?
 
RP You just need people doing stuff. And they do. I remember around Christmas time Catriona made an appeal for lighting for the trees in the garden – and people were donating them. It happened. And quickly.
 
JM Crieff people can be great and they can be annoying.
 
RP (laughs) I’ll edit that
 
JM You can say it if you like. You get all viewpoints and they’re all here in Crieff – and you know what – the annoying ones can be the ones with the biggest hearts.
 
JM Anyway, here’s a bundle of sticks, take them…
 
RP I’ll make some leaves…
 
RP Thank you very much!
June McEwan English Language School Blog Blue Noun meets June McEwan in Crieff Community Garden
Artist June McEwan with her dog, Rhia

“I absolutely love June’s willow arch. It’s the perfect way to welcome you into the garden! It’s fun, it’s intriguing and it’s interactive. The willow is grown in the community garden and June has truly brought it to life with this living breathing sculpture which passers by can weave into as they enter the garden. I hope it will encourage other local artists to get involved. The garden is a real asset to the community and I’m so pleased that Willow Works has chosen to showcase their art for all the community to enjoy”.

 

Catriona Smith, 2021
Further language practice for English language learners:
Within this interview, you will see some question tags being used (it is.. isn’t it). These are good tools to use in any informal conversation – to be social, to solicit agreement or demonstrate solidarity with someone, as it is a relaxed and chatty language that cautiously seeks opinion without declaring it. Question tags are brilliant for interviews as they draw people out: their structure is a question that needs to be answered. Compare the statement, ‘horrible weather’ with, ‘horrible weather, isn’t it?’
Intonation is very important in using Question tags correctly: There’s a right good video on it here.
Join the Community Garden here
Find out more about Artist June McEwan here
Find out more about Crieff Succeeds BID here Find out more about the Beechgrove Garden here
Find out more about The Great Big Art Exhibition here

Blue Noun English Language Challenge

We hope you’ve enjoyed it when our art and design class talk sculpture. We cover a broad range of topics in our blogs – some a lighthearted look at Scotland, others an in-depth look at art and culture. There’s something for everyone.

If you’ve liked this blog, you might want to read our International Woman’s Day blog here.

 

Your Blue Noun English Language Challenge is: use the comments to tell us about a sculptor you admire.

 Write as much as you like, and if you would like us to check &  correct your English, write CP  (correct please) at the end.

 

“Tell us about a sculptor you admire.

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