THE ONLY WAY IS IRONBBRATZ: Episode Eight – A Tale of Two Halves

Big shout out to Marc. G. Cairns for again supplying a majority of the images right here! Check him out! Brap!


So last week I may have left you with the impression that all I do is sit at my computer and ramble on however I feel at any given time. You might be right. I’m sure anyone who read last week’s entry will have been left with the impression that THE ONLY WAY IS IRONBBRATZ is almost a personal exercise in free association. In many ways this feels justified however, when we consider how Ironbbratz works as a studio complex and an organisation – it’s very much a rambling, roving tree-house of people and ideas.

Tree-house is often a word I use to describe Ironbbratz when other people ask me about it or when I’m explaining the attitude of Ironbbratz to visitors and potential studio holders.  On the subject of potential studio holders we’ve had so many potential new faces to visit this week looking at the space that we have spare. I’m not even sure if there is any more space free right now, it’s a real phase of popularity and shift in the space – but possibly you could be lucky. You can still enquire about new studios by clicking on this little link.

One of the more magical elements of this particular Tree-house is it’s Narnia like quality, just when I think I’ve discovered it all I realise there’s a whole new group of micro communities springing up all over the shop. This arises as people arrive, meet new friends and form fresh social circles based on their studio neighbours or shared interests in work. I think one of the reasons that it’s difficult to keep up with all of these mini-social scenes within the bigger picture is because of the divide between what we know as the East Side and the West Wing. This is the first reason why this entry is ‘A Tale of Two Halves’ – we’re taking a strange journey into the uncharted land of the West-Wing!

The East Side is where I reside and it’s ‘East-side’ quality is most obviously exemplified by the Barbara Windsor-esque tones of Emily Sheppard, who will greet you as you enter the East as long as her grey curtain is pulled back. BUT biggest visitor to both the East Side and the West Wind is sadly not me, but the ever featured Alan Campbell (Art). Well known to be traipsing from studio to studio like a sad little Scottish ghost. This week I took it upon myself to visit the other side – where Alan Campbell (Art) should be situated if he could sit down for long enough. I made my excursion after Alan’s leaving hours but still managed to discover a whole new world waiting for me out there!

Of course the West-Wing is the home to some extremely glamorous tenants as it is, the Pidgin Perfect coop keeps guard at the end of the West-Wing and also looks over the BROOD space. As the West-Wing faces Miller Street it’s also the ideal place to watch girls fighting on a Friday and Saturday night or crouched up weeping in the doorway of Cruise a little later on. Probably sad that Cruise is closed and they’ll have to wait an hour 12 hours before they can buy a new Barbour Jacket in a shiny silver bag. The East Side is a lot more ‘earthy’ perhaps, it faces Virginia Street and so you are much more likely to be able to observe a lot of happy gays playing around outside Delmonica’s and just last week I was lucky enough to catch a (quite elongated) glimpse of a couple of students having sex in an alley near the Soho Pizzeria bin store.

Alan’s East/West fluidity and his keenness to keep an eye on all Ironbbbratz tenants have not only been observed by me and this week, on my trip West, I was lucky enough to uncover the world of The Sherriff, The Deputy and The Shit-stirrer. I like these titles a lot as it continues the Narnia theme I pushed a little bit earlier. Unfortunately there is no sexy Aslan type character waiting to greet you – although I’m sure I’m not the first person to draw a similarity between Alan and Mr Tumnus.

‘The Sherriff’, ‘The Deputy’ and ‘The Shit-stirrer’ are three characters invented by studio member Aralene Adamson to describe her relationship between herself, Alan Campbell (Art) and studio neighbour Ashley Russell (our exotic Australia painter!). Alan takes the role of The Sherriff by watching over all other studio members to ensure they are working long, hard hours. Ashley takes the role of The Deputy watching over Alan to make sure he is watching over all other studio members to ensure they are working long, hard hours BUT also watching over Alan to make sure he is meeting his daily quota of work avoidance and television watching. (Between his busy schedule of studio interference Alan watches at least six to seven hours of television a day, he’s a bit like the Scottish Andy Warhol in that respect.)

Finally, to complete this glorious West-Wing trinity, Aralene takes the mediating role between both The Sherriff and The Deputy. As The (self-proclaimed) Shit-stirrer Aralene regularly positions herself at the point of division between The Sherriff and The Deputy (a single studio wall) allowing herself what she describes as a ‘split-screen’. Under the guise of ‘stepping-back-to-look-at-her-paintings’ Aralene is in the ideal position the tease both The Sherriff & The Deputy and, like an Siren smelling of turps, bring the two keepers of the peace to blows. Think about all the long periods of Alan-baiting I must have missed out on! And to think I thought I had it all in the East Side.

So YES, this week I caught up on all these micro-politics occurring in the West-Wing. As enjoyable as it all was, I just hope Aralene doesn’t end up becoming the Helen of Troy of the West-Wing. Despite all the teasing that occurs, we know that part of being in Ironbbratz is a commitment to keeping all of our relationships motivated by friendship and positive intent!

I’m back at the heart of my East Side ‘home’ as I write this and in keeping in true spirit with Good Friday (its Good Friday today) there has been a beautiful spread of cakes, biscuits and treat put out on the kitchen table for snacking on. The most interesting of which, that I HAVE to give a shout-out to is Tawny Kerr for her donation of AMERICAN EASTER CANDY – the delicious Malteaser-style Robin’s Eggs which were sent over by her mum Janine Kerr. Apparently if you’re friends with Tawny on Facebook then it’s likely that Janine will have already looked through your profile anyway, so I don’t feel too guilty about dropping her name in.

In other delicious treat news this week I want to give a big shout-out to another West-Winger the wonderful Hilary Louden who made the whole studio smell like beautiful warm sweet popcorn this week and totally inspired by own pop-corn buying later that evening. The mention of pop-corn has been strategically placed so that I can also tell you all about my new Ironbbratz SCREENING ROOM!

As you may already know from previous posts the Ironbbratz Kitchen/Living space is in the slow process of re-design. One of my key ambitions for the space is to introduce a more permanent screening space, so we can all snuggle up on the sofa when winter comes (probably around June/July). In anticipation of this I built a mini private screening room in my own studio this week; just to tickle everyone’s taste-buds! I have to also give a big thank you to Natalia Palombo for lending me her projector in the first place, without this lovely lady none of my time-wasting would have been possible at all! There’s going to be a lot more on Natalia Palombo later on actually – I know she’s dying for a new TOWIIB feature!

This is the point at which I introduce the other reason as to why I have chosen the title of this episode to be ‘A Tale of Two Halves’. I’ve held off mentioning this for a long time, even though I’ve known it’s been coming for over five months maybe. Please don’t hate me; I’m just trying to prove what a reliable character I can be. BUT I know the cat is definitely out of the bag already now and it’s all over Twitter and Facebook: AMANDA DOBBRATZ, QUEEN AND CO-FOUNDER OF IRONBBRATZ is finally sailing back off into the sunset of America and leaving her baby, Ironbbratz, to fend for itself. Well, not completely for itself as Ironbbratz now has FOUR BRAND NEW DIRECTORS! Woah! It’s going to be a whole new ball game and I will totally look forward to charting the changes that occur under this new rule.

But none of this really explains why this blog is ‘A Tale of Two Halves’, or not yet. Essentially what I’m proposing to do is finish this section of the text right here, right now on Friday afternoon – and come back to it tomorrow morning, after THE IRONBBRATZ HANDOVER PARTY. It’s also teamed with a closing party for Anthony Lakey’s exhibition in The Telfer Gallery, Life is Life and Kind is Kind. (Presented by the one and only Alan Campbell  (Art))

So yes, like a political commentator mixed with Nicole Ritchie, I will be using this opportunity to introduce the new directors now and then come back to them tomorrow when I’ve had a brief time to reflect on them and the qualities they will bring. I may also be re-printing some of their personal statements/biographies because some of them have a certain quality.

I will also be writing and reflecting more about the reign and departure of Amanda and her husband Will, but I wanted to do it after the tonight was over so as not to get too sad right before the actual party.

Hopefully I will also be able to print some pictures of the newly crowned Kings    & Queens of the Ironbbratz world – DELE ADEYEMO – MARC CAIRNS – NATALIA PALOMBO – BECCA THOMAS.

See you on the other side!!!


Okay, I’m not going to lie. It’s not Saturday morning, it’s actually Saturday evening. I didn’t even get into the studios until 6pm this evening and when I finally did I was amazed to find brand spanking new director MARC G. CAIRNS hard at work mopping the entrance to Ironbbratz! Additional new director MR. DELE ADEYEMO (not to be confused with Dr. Dele) was also to be found lounging in the lounge with his arms around honorary Ironbbratz member Susan Martin, alongside Telfer committee member Rachael Smith. There was no sign of the third new director BECCA M. THOMAS but I imagine she will have been out having a romantic time in the sunny Saturday evening with her very own Mr. Big. Big Craig. Great Big Craig. How exciting.

After doing some more cleaning and FEEDING ERASMUS (he’s really thriving!) they popped out to have a delicious well deserved dinner at Asia Style (mmm) and left me to work on the blog and watch a girl have a wee behind a bin (I have to stop looking out of the windows on the East Side!). From what I can remember with my brief meeting today with the two new gentlemen directors, they were up dancing in Ironbbratz until 4am, with Telfer committee member Bart Manders acted as IB resident DJ. I do vaguely remember Bart’s DJ-ing skills and can report I was definitely pleased, although I would have liked to have heard one little track from the new Nicki Minaj album. The thing I remember most from the evening was my real fetish for dancing in extreme slow motion – I just went totally wild for it!

True to her promise of last week the fourth and final new director NATALIA PALOMBO was sporting a controversial ‘nude’ effect dress, indicating that I was not the only one influenced by Nicki Minaj’s outrageousness this week!  We did finally get to really spend some more quality time together also as promised in last week’s blog, or at least hoped for! The most exciting discovery that I made from Natalia was her previous past as a child opera star – although she’s retired from the business I’m still hoping at some point to get a rendition of Ave Maria up on here! I also seem to vaguely remember having had a discussion with Natalia about the possibility of organizing an IRONBBRATZ CHRISTMAS PANTOMIME later in the year!

I’d also like to do a big shout out to Emily Sheppard who was a real East Side trooper last night when it came to dancing  I’m pretty sure she was as into dancing as I was, although she was dancing at a more regular tempo! Although, we did just find a really mental note on the top of ERASMUS’s tank – scrawled in red, like blood – telling us that ERASMUS isn’t happy. So possibly Emily is still a bit of a wild card to be watched out for. It’s difficult to resist her Southern charm.( I’m also hoping to get some clips of Emily up here soon, possibly doing a Nikki Graeme impression.)

I wish I could report more about the events of the evening but the red wine seems to have taken its toll on my memory (and possibly my motivation!) Needless to say that a great time was had by all and it was brilliant to celebrate both the closing of a wonderful exhibition (Life is Life and Kind is Kind by Anthony Lakey & presented by Alan Campbell) at the Telfer Gallery and the DIRECTORIAL HANDOVER of Ironbbratz to a new set of Directors excited about taking the whole tree-house to a new level!

I don’t know what the new directors have fully planned yet or what the future holds as things begin to progress away from the original incarnation of Ironbbratz. But I do that everyone will miss the wonderful AMANDA DOBBRATZ, Queen of Ironbbratz, as she sets sail back to America with husband Will, of Anthony Lakey fame. Amanda has basically been totally amazing at founding, holding together and caring for Ironbbratz and I’m sure everyone who knows her will know how much love we all have for her in the studios. I know that she’s looking forward to going back to America and beginning to focus more on her personal art work again but as I said to her last night, Ironbbratz has been her art work for the last few years. Whether consciously or not, she crafted together and maintained a space and an ever changing composition of people who work and hang out together every day.

It’s a really beautiful thing to be part of and has become such a big part of my life that it’s hard not to be over 100% grateful. I suppose I’m really just trying to impress on you the admiration that everyone feels for Amanda and for what she did, created and stood for. I’m not sure if I’ve ever met such a kind and patient person as Amanda and she will be sorely missed by all. However, I’m sure the new directors will continue to develop and build Ironbbratz in a way that will do justice to such a lovely legacy.

Next week I’ll hopefully have much more time to give each of the new directors a good probing – perhaps even I’ll dedicate a whole blog for that?! What I think will almost 99% defos be happening is we will be returning to our Dear Dr. Dele feature, the third piece in his FLIRTING MASTERCLASS TRIOLOGY! Sparks will fly.

But to end this edition, I wanted to dedicate a very special video and song to AMANDA DOBBRATZ & ANTHONY ‘WILL’ LAKEY two beautiful people and key figures in the Ironbbratz community. We look forward to hearing what their new futures will include an especially wish Will super good luck on his upcoming American-style MFA Course!

Mostly though we love Amanda & Will and so here’s a film for them, so that even when they’re eating Twinkies and drinking Kool-Aid they don’t ever forget that THE ONLY WAY IS IRONBBRATZ!

Big snaps to Amanda & Will!! We miss you already!


About Oliver Braid

Oliver Braid is an artist based in Glasgow selected as one of Scotland’s most promising new visual arts practitioners as part of Collective Gallery’s 2011 New Work Scotland Programme and currently based at Ironbbratz Studios. He studied Fine Art at University College Falmouth and Glasgow School of Art, where he completed the Master of Fine Art programme in 2010. Over the past twelve months he has presented solo exhibitions of his work at The Royal Standard, Liverpool; Collective Gallery, Edinburgh; The Mutual, Glasgow and BBC Scotland, Glasgow. Throughout 2012 he is co-hosting a weekly pop-philosophy radio show with the artist Ellie Harrison, The Ellie & Oliver Show, through Culture Lab Radio, Newcastle and is involved with the artist’s therapy group Artist Anonymous.
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