I had a great day last Thursday making ambrotypes with artist Vineta Gailite. Vineta’s hand-made dolls, sculptures and recent shadow puppet theatre work, Imaginary Islands, are beautiful, eery and full of atmosphere. I love the way each of her pieces tells a story or draws on one.
Hand-tinted ambrotype of Vineta with her creations.
I’ve commissioned Vineta to make a special doll for the youngest member of our family, Violet (age 5), and what she’s made is magical: it’s both a likeness of Violet and a puppet with its own personality. In return, I offered to show Vineta how to make ambrotypes (wet collodion photographs on pieces of glass) and to help her take some portraits of her dolls.
‘Violet’ guarding the ambrotypes © Vineta Gailite.
We worked in my partner John Brewer’s studio in Ancoats. I demonstrated the process to Vineta, who set up a series of still lives. We had huge fun making images of them. Vineta got the hang of wet plate straight away and made some lovely glass images and I took a portrait of her sitting with her creations.
The portrait reminded me of the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are. After I’d sprayed the back black to make a positive image, I hand-tinted the glass using chalk pastels to make it a bit more of a special object in return for the fabulous creation Vineta is giving to Violet.