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Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Friday, 31 July 2009 11:31 UK
Sarah's Illuminating artwork!
Sarah studied Art and Design at Blackpool and the Fylde College
Sarah studied Art and Design at Blackpool and the Fylde College

Sarah Myerscough from Blackpool has an interesting job - she's an artist with the Blackpool Illuminations!

Sarah is one of over 40 people who work behind the scenes throughout the year to bring the lights to life for thousands of visitors.

She studied Art and Design at Blackpool and the Fylde College followed by a degree in Fine Art at Lancaster University.

And now she gets to work with celebs like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen!

We asked Sarah to tell us more...

How long have you worked on the Illuminations ?

I have been working at the Illuminations for four years now. After completing my fine art degree at Lancaster University, I worked at Blackpool Pleasure Beach for two and a half years as an artist/model-maker; making characters, backdrops and scenes for the rides.

I then saw the job at the Illuminations advertised and went for it! Part of the interview process involved carving a small donkey - I guess they liked mine the best and I got the job!

Do you design them as well as make them?

Actually, this year is the first year that I have designed a new feature and it has been really good fun. But I can't tell you anything just yet… it's top secret!

What's the process for making a piece?

That depends on what the piece is. For 3D pieces, we carve the models by hand from large blocks of polystyrene. We project the image we want to make onto the blocks before carving into them using simple equipment such as kitchen knives and sandpaper.

These polystyrene models are then plastered, sanded down and fibreglassed to create a mould. Once this is created, we can take as many fibreglass castings from this as we need.

Light fittings are then added, as well as steelwork to allow the features to be fitted on the promenade, and the model returns to the artists for painting. We use spray guns to apply the paint to ensure a smooth, even finish, building up the colours from light to dark to create an image.

What's been your favourite illuminations design?

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen at the Venus Reborn tableau
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen at the Venus Reborn tableau

The Venus Reborn tableau designed by Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen last year is definitely my favourite! It only took a few months to make; we were very rushed and worried that we would not finish it on time, but we just about pulled it together!

I helped cut out and paint the figures as well as painting the back-scene.

Actually, when I first saw the design on paper, I didn't think it was that special, yet when I saw the feature working fully for the first time up on the promenade, I was so moved that it brought a tear to my eye!

The tableau has water fountains as well as brilliant lighting and classical music, to create a five minute show that is truly spectacular.

What was it like working with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen?

I really liked him, he was very down to earth and easy to work with. I think the designs he created for the Illuminations are some of the best things we have ever made. He even gave his fee from the project to the NSPCC charity, which illustrates his generous personality. He has a genuine love of Blackpool.

For the Decodance road feature that he designed, I carved and painted all the figures down the left-hand side of the road. I also got to be on TV as the process of making the features was recorded for The One Show!

Do you work on the illuminations full-time?

Yes, I work at the Illuminations full time. When we are not making new features, there is plenty to do re-painting and repairing old ones. I even help with the erecting and dismantling of the lights on the promenade at times!

The Illuminations department is also responsible for putting up the local Christmas lights, not just in Blackpool but a few other towns. Also, we occasionally do work for outside companies, such as painting the dinosaur models at Blackpool Zoo's Dinosaur Safari!

What's the biggest piece you've made?

Actually all the features are pretty big. Most people are amazed when they see features up close in the depot at how big they are. The tableaux that I have worked on, such as Ali Baba from 2005, are around 21 ft tall and 70 ft long, but for something of that size it is a joint effort from all the artists.

What's been the most challenging piece to make?

Most people are amazed when they see how big the features are
Most people are amazed when they see how big the features are

This year's new feature has been very challenging as it is the first year that I have designed a feature as well as helping to make it, which has been a steep leaning curve! It has been interesting and challenging realising the design: making a pretty picture into a fully working tableau.

This involves a big team of people behind the scenes: joiners, electricians, fitters and artists all have to work together to decide the best way to build the feature. We are also using state-of-the-art computer packages to help create the design, which again is a new process for us.

The Illuminations features are also built to a very strict time and budget, so many ideas have to be adapted and modified because of this.

What do you think makes a good illuminations display?

Lots of colour, movement, sound, and of course light! I like to see lots of action rather than just still lit displays. I also like displays with an element of surprise, such as the giant pop-up mummy on the Egyptian tableau or the monsters coming to life in the Haunted House.

Your favourite way to see the illuminations?

Ride the Lights which this year takes place on Tuesday 1 September, is always a good night, and has a great festival atmosphere. It is one night each year when vehicles are banned from the prom to allow cyclists through.

It has become really popular and allows you the freedom to stop and view the features more easily. Apart from that, you can't beat a walk along the promenade to get up close to the big animated tableaux, and you can stop for fish and chips on the way!

Blackpool Illuminations shine from Friday 4 September to Sunday 8 November 2009.





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