Art, reviews and thoughts from a young artist in Plymouth, UK.

Posts tagged ‘Plymouth’

Emerging Natural Beauty exhibition at Ocean Studios

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Today I went to the Ocean Studios gallery to see the exhibition Emerging Natural Beauty which is part of the Home Grown series of pop up exhibitions by local artists.

Alice and Bethany Antliff are sisters who are studying 3D Design Craft, specialising in ceramics and glass, at Plymouth College of Art. Both artists’ work takes inspiration from nature. From a distance Bethany’s piece Symbiotic Beauty looked like real twigs covered in blossoms and moss, but up close I could see her detailed work with porcelain and glazes wrapped around wire. It is pretty and fragile and stepping back again I thought that each branch looked like a dancing figure.

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Bethany’s Charred Bark vases are incredibly realistic and it’s hard to believe they were created and not grown. She has created ceramic bowls using the same colours and shades that seem as if they are ancient finds.

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Several of Bethany’s pieces feature mushroom shaped glass which appear to be growing out of them. I really like Bethany’s work which made me feel very calm.

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Alice’s pieces are incredibly fragile and delicate. Her Daisies Daisies Daisies collection are porcelain vases, bowls, and decorative pieces which have been ‘wallpapered’ with tiny porcelain daisies. She creates the daisies from a mould made using real flowers, then hand applies them individually so the entire piece is covered in overlapping flowers.

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Alice’s piece Destruction is inspired by deforestation. This piece made me feel sad and is a really effective statement about this issue.

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Alice has also created delicate flower-shaped jewellery and I really liked her intricate earrings and how she has displayed them.

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Renovat Moody is an African born artist also studying 3D Design Crafts, specialising in glass blowing, at PCA and is influenced by nature and their African heritage. Renovat’s The Essence of Africa vase collection have strong and bright colours and shapes and made me think of fruit and seeds.

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Renovat also has some framed pieces on display, including a copper wire piece that has been twined and threaded with beads. This piece looks like a tree covered in colourful birds.

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One of my favourite pieces on display was Renovat’s framed picture of the world where all the land is made of computer chips and circuitboard. The piece is put together so carefully and accurately, and even tiny islands are marked out. I could look at this and follow the coastlines for hours with my eyes and i’d love to see a bigger piece made the same way.

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The three artists completely filled every corner of the exhibition space and it’s amazing to consider how much work these students have created already! On display was also projected footage Behind the Scenes of their work in progress by Emma Pontin, and a film called Ink Flows by Jake Davey, Matthew Howard, Nat Goddard, Kristin Dodge, and Terry Lee Thurlow. Their films provided a relaxing soundtrack to the whole exhibition.

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Finally there were some pieces on display and up for auction to raise money for the Devon Wildlife Trust. I really liked Jane McEwen’s bowls with endearing messages stamped into them.

The new exhibition at Ocean Studios Gallery will open on Wednesday.

The Art of Truth In The Digital Age

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Ocean Studios Opening Hours!

Today I went to see a pop-up exhibition at Ocean Studios in the Royal William Yard.  The exhibition is The Art of Truth in the Digital Age and the artists are Oona Wagstaff and Alan Qualtrough.  The work on display “explores the cosequences of digital communications technology on our society such as the spectacle and the changing nature of truth and reality.”

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Prints by Alan Qualtrough

Alan leads workshops on letterpress printing and explained to us how it was done.  It sounded similar to using stamps but instead using big wooden blocks with letters carved into them.  I’ve seen one of the prints in the PCA Pre-degree Centre, and Alan said that he has been working with a group of students there.  This installation of his letterpress prints  seems like a protest against misuse of social “meedia” and lies that are spread digitally.  It is a striking and colourful display and the simple slogans made me really think about the messages I see and hear every day.  Interestingly, one of the most interesting prints seemed completely blank until I took a very close look, but you’ll have to visit to see it for yourself! 

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Letterpress print by Alan Qualtrough

This print feels louder then the others because of it’s huge, blocky typeface and dark colour.  I liked the way that the print isn’t completely finished in places and Alan explained that this technique is called a ‘kiss’, whereas a strong complete print is called a ‘bite’.  I’ve never done any letterpress printing but seeing this exhibition and meeting Alan has gotten me really interested in trying it out for myself!

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Oil on board by Oona Wagstaff

This abstract piece by Oona Wagstaff is a painting, but her paintings felt more like sculptures when I viewed them up close.  She layers oil paint on board and there are sections cut out of the boards which made me want to stroke them and feel the edges. 

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"Information Bomb" by Oona Wagstaff

Information Bomb is a silkscreen of a graphite drawing by Oona.  It is dark and scary but still beautiful, and so are her black and white monotype prints. Both Oona and Alan will be in the gallery at different times throughout the exhibition if you want to talk to them or have any questions.

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A story box by Fi Smart

The shop at the front of the gallery has several pieces by artists from Ocean Studios including this story box by Fi Smart.  Her story boxes are cute and inspiring.  We have been making houses with story box rooms at my Saturday Arts Club and these have given me some ideas.

The Art of Truth in the Digital Age exhibition is part of Home Grown, a month of pop-up exhibitions at Ocean Studios by various Plymouth Artists.  I hope I can go to and report on all of them!

Links for more information:

Ocean Studios

Alan Qualtrough and his
Kiss & Bite Letterpress Workshops

Oona Wagstaff

Fi Smart

Titanic Exhibition

On the 23rd of January I went to an exhibition about the Titanic and White Star Line at the Duke of Cornwall hotel, organised by Nigel Voisley.  Nigel said that he was a Titanic enthusiast since he was seven and that most of the items on display were part of his collection, but he had hired a few to put on display, like the old rivet that came from the Titanic itself.

Some of the items on display included a scale model of the Titanic, a life jacket, and tons of everyday objects, like cutlery and crockery.  The model of the ship was interactive and had two buttons hooked up to speakers, when these were pressed they played actual recordings of the Titanic’s horn and the sound of its engines.  I thought it was a particularly fun part of the exhibition and the younger children seemed to enjoy playing with the buttons a lot.

The life jacket was a prototype used as a model for the lifejacket props used in James Cameron’s movie Titanic.  I learned that the life jacket design was one of the leading causes of death on the Titanic.  The lifejacket was cloth with pockets built into it filled with large chunks of cork.  The cork was effective in keeping people afloat, but it was so effective that it wouldn’t sink at all below the water surface.  This means that if someone fell or jumped into the water from over 10 feet, their bodies hit the water but couldn’t go under and so their necks would snap!  This showed me how important it is to look for unintended effects when designing something because they could be serious, even fatal.

I was really interested in the designs on the White Star Line crockery, because they were really pretty.  The designers had used only a couple of colours but the patterns were so intricate and delicate.  I copied some of them down to use as inspiration.

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Sketches of the patterns on the White Star Line crockery.  Unfortunately one of my sketches is smudged..

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One of the crockery display cases – One of my favourites in this one is the butter pat dish.

One of the other exhibits I looked at was a rivet from the Titanic.  I learned that not all of the rivets were made from the same metal, and this made the ship have weak points meaning the Titanic broke more easily, and was one of the causes of the disaster.  This taught me that choice of materials is really important in designing.

Another object I looked at was a commemorative print on tissue paper.  Nigel explained that White Star Line didn’t take responsibility for the sinking of the Titanic and so survivors and families of the victims didn’t get any compensation from them.  At that time there was no welfare system so that left many of those families destitute.  In order to raise money for these families people and organizations would make and sell objects like this commemorative paper.

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Commemorative tissue paper print

The exhibition was brilliant and I learnt loads from my visit and from talking to Nigel, who is very passionate about the Titanic.  Nigel gave some of the children in our group Commemorative Medals for doing some drawing of the Titanic and J was lucky enough to earn one.

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After the exhibition I went down to Millbay Pier to look at the memorial plaque.  The plaque was made with just a few colours but they worked very well together, and there were lots of tiny details and texture to it.  The plaque made me think of some of the linocuts and blockprints I have seen.  There are also plaques there for the Fourth Eddystone Lighthouse and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

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Unfortunately my photos from the day have shadows across them but I do recommend a visit to see these plaques if you can.

After I got home we found the movie Titanic on Netflix and watched it together.  It’s a really long film and the soundtrack was repetitive and too emotional, but once the disaster kicked off I really started to enjoy the film.  When I was watching it I was reminded of the different facts I had learnt earlier at the exhibition and it definitely made the film more interesting!

EpicMakeTime with MESH

Tuesday nights at ThinqTanq is EpicMakeTime, a regular coding and tech event hosted by MESH.  MESH stands for “Make, Engineer, Socialise, Hack”.   I have been to EpicMakeTime twice so far.  It is a fun and creative space where people can come together and tinker around with cool stuff.  The people there are friendly and helpful and my brother and me have had support there from Marcus, Rob, Garry, and Matt from the Code Club.

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Our Shrimps

The first week me and my brother brought and built our Shrimps from the Shrimping.It kits.  A Shrimp is a buildable device which can be substituted for an Arduino Uno.  We brought all the components we needed for the first project, “Blink“, and put them together.  I enjoyed putting the components together and learning how it will work and what everything does from the project pages.  We also saw some of the other projects people were working on at MESH, including Steven, the little remote-controlled tank/crawler made by Rob (see him in the video below!) and a remote-controlled drone which flew my little sister’s toys across the room, held onto the bottom with sellotape!

The second week we went we brought our Shrimping.it kits again to program the “Blink” project onto them.  First I had to set up my mum’s laptop with the Arduino IDE, the drivers for the CP2102 UART and the Shrimping.it sketches.  I compiled and uploaded the “Blink” code onto the Shrimp and the LED started blinking!  I took a good look at the code and I edited it to make the blinking light faster and slower, then I experimented and programmed the Shrimp to transmit the S.O.S signal in Morse Code!

I was then given some advice by Marcus on how to make an LED fade.  The LED is set to flash so quickly humans can’t see it flickering, so it just looks like the LED has been dimmed because the light is on half the time.  You can also alter the interval between the light switching on and off to make it brighter or dimmer, for example if the light is on for slightly longer then when it is off, it appears brighter.  I had a go at coding the LED to fade up and down with Marcus’s help.  To just turn the LED on and off I used the code digitalWrite but to make it fade in and out I had to use the code analogWrite and give a value of between 0 and 255.

Next Marcus explained how to program an RGB LED to show and make different colours.  Before I could do it he showed me how to look up some information on the Internet to find the right pins for the three different coloured wires.  I took out the normal LED and plugged the three RGB LED wires in instead.  I made a new program file and identified the three different coloured LEDs.  I used analogWrite to control the colour of the LEDs by putting in different values for each one between 0 and 255.  For example putting 255 for the blue and 0 for green and red would make it glow blue.  If I put 100 for blue and 100 for red and 0 for green I would make it glow purple.  It is easy to make the LED flash in any colour you like for as long as you want.  It was a really cool project to play with and it also helped me think about how colours mix in the RGB system.

Marcus also gave a short talk about his own project and showed us how the Walabot 3D radar sensor works to sense objects around it, even through walls, and to sense someone’s breathing.  J (my brother) didn’t work on his own Shrimp this week but instead worked on his Raspberry Pi playing retro games and learning how to change different settings.  Garry gave me the RGB LED to keep and also a couple of other components to play with including a dimmer switch.  I will definitely go back to EpicMakeTime if I can and will be working through more of the Shrimp and Arduino Uno projects.  It is really fun and interesting making things happen using electronics and code.

USEFUL LINKS:

MESH website and YouTube channels from MESH and ThinqTanq

MESH, #EpicMakeTime and ThinqTanq on Twitter

Register for EpicMakeTime and other MESH events

Buy Shrimping.It kit and do the projects

Arduino lessons on the Adafruit site

 

 

The Science and Technology Showcase at Plymouth University

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Freebies! My Explore Discover Achieve lanyard, my Event pass, a Plymouth University notepad, and our 3D printed tags from the Electronics stand

Yesterday I went with my brother to a Science and Technology Showcase for secondary school students which was held at Plymouth University.  When we arrived we were given our Event Passes and after a short wait we were shown to a lecture theatre for careers talks from four different speakers.

First was a talk from Grant Cole (Twitter) to talk about the work of being a Geologist.  His work involves studying rocks and fossils, and he has been all over the world, including Iceland, Death Valley, and a salt mine in Sicily.  Grant said that he does lots of field work on his own and he has done his research from the air and off-road.  Parts of his job sounded really exciting – lots of travelling, glacial walking and making new discoveries.

Next was Kathy Redfern (Twitter), who is a nutritionist.  Her work is researching the “impacts of food and nutrition on the health and wellbeing of humans (or animals)” to give advice for the prevention of illness.  She specifically works with pregnant women, and she says some of the benefits of her job is that no two days are the same and she gets to travel around the UK and to Portugal.

The third speaker was Jon Waters who is studying Mathematics and is part of the Theoretical Physics Group.  His current research is in lasers and he explained that normal torches contain a wide band from the visible light spectrum but lasers only contain a narrow band and can concentrate energy to a fine point.  Jon said that his work involves getting used to not knowing the answer.  His work involves coming up with mathematical models and performing theoretical tests and he learns new things every day.

The last talk was from a psychologist called Leonie Cooper.  She has worked at the National Marine Aquarium and now is working with an intelligent robot called Snap.  Her research is in using mental imagery to train people to have healthier behaviours.  She says that people seem to find that robots are less judgemental to talk to than other people.  Leonie is also interested in how games and apps could be used to reach thousands.

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The Basic code I tried out on the BBC Microcomputer

After the talks were finished we went to a big marquee filled with stands from different university departments.  It was split into three sections, and we were given thirty minutes in each section.  First I went to a stand where I took my thumbprint and compared it to one from an imaginary suspect that I lifted with powder and tape.  There was a psychology stand where I did a lie detector test.  I had wires attached to the finger on my left hand and my left ear, and I had to pick a card out of five.  They were shuffled and I had to lie about which card I had as they were turned over one by one. The wires measured skin response (sweat increases conductivity) and heart rate.  The lie detector didn’t pick up my lie I think because I was nervous throughout the whole test!  I also had a quick look at other chemistry and biology stands.

In the next section was a stand for the South West Retro Computing Archive, where I did some coding in Basic on a BBC Microcomputer from the 80’s, and J got the hi-score on Pac-man.  I have been to one of their events before and they have a huge range of retro consoles to play and learn about.  On the BBC computer there is a “return” key instead of an enter key, a “break” key to reset the whole computer, and you have to write your code in numbered lines for the system to read in order.

We then went to the Computing and Games Development stand where me and my brother played Pirate Panic, a game written by some of the students at the stand.  Pirate Panic is a multiplayer game where the players have to work together to keep a ship afloat and moving until it reaches land.  It’s a really fast paced game which encourages you to panic, just like the pirates!  I thought it was exciting and good for teamwork.  I also tried a VR game using a headset and I had to shoot lasers at robots.  It was a lot of fun to play but my arm was aching after a few minutes because the shoot button was on the headset.  We also met and spoke to Nicholas Wade who is in his final year and is working to launch his own games studio called Nikomus Games.

Next I went to the Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Robotics stand.  I watched people play with some of the university’s robots and J used a red ball and a sensor to control LED lights that were on the stand.  There was a challenge to find the right frequency on one machine by turning a knob and getting a turning circle on a small screen to stay still. We were told that the shape the green light was making was a visual representation of the frequency it was on.  J was able to do it but I ran out of time, and we were both given 3D printed tags for taking part.

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Some flyers I picked up to learn more about the courses and events at Plymouth University

In the last section there was a Geography stand where I got to try an HTC Vive VR Headset to explore London using Google Earth.  It was brilliant and I loved using the handheld controller and that you could still see it in the virtual space!  We then went to the i-DAT stand where they had a small black dome which we entered.  Inside there was a film projected onto the dome ceiling about being an astronaut. A voiceover explained that there were different levels of G-Force as we watched a CGI representation of a G-Force training machine.  We heard how astronauts need to keep exercising while they are in space so they aren’t too weak when they get back to Earth and we saw an astronaut using an exercise bike.  We also met Luke Christison who works in the Immersive Vision Theatre (in the Planetarium) which we have tickets to visit in a couple of weeks.

The last stand we visited was about meteorites and the Solar System.  I looked at a rock from Mars and compared it to a rock from Earth under a microscope.  A woman working on the stand explained to me that the Earth rock had formed in a volcano, and I could observe that both rocks had been made the same way, so at some point there must have been volcanoes on Mars as well!  There were some pieces of meteorite on the table and a few of them looked alien.  A man from the stand talked to us about the scale of the solar system.  He said if we used a scale of 1 metre to 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), and imagined the Sun was right in front of us, the edge of our Solar System would be in Taunton and our nearest star would be in London!

I really enjoyed going around the marquee and the talks in the beginning were interesting.  My favourite parts were the Retro Games area and the Games Development area, and I really want to try out more VR gaming and exploration technology and learn more about how it works.  I would also like to do more study in electronics and robotics, geology and geography, and psychology, and find out more about Leonie Cooper’s research.

 

Block printing cotton bags

I bought some cotton bags from Hobbycraft for £1 each so that I could try printing on them at home with my Plymouth Pilgrims linocut which I made at my NatSatClub.  I washed the bags and they shrunk quite a bit, and I couldn’t get them completely flat with the iron but I like the slightly crumbly texture they have.  The other equipment I used was:

  • Blue Essdee Block-printing ink which I bought from Cass Art (Bristol)
  • A stainless steel serving spoon to use as a baren
  • A thick slab of glass to roll the ink on
  • The four inch roller from the Essdee Cutting and Printing kit bought from the The Art Side (Plymouth)
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Attempt #1

Attempt #1 – I used cardboard inside the bag in case the ink bled through and the usual amount of ink I would use for printing on paper.  The print is visible but looks pale or faded.  There was no ink on the inside of the bag.  I thought that I needed to apply more ink next time and wondered if the cardboard had cushioned the fabric so that the pressure from the spoon wasn’t enough to transfer the print.

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Attempt #2

Attempt #2 – I removed the cardboard so there was nothing inside the bag and used a thicker layer of ink.  The ink did bleed slightly on the inside of the bag but it was quite a patchy print.  I decided I needed a thin protective layer inside the bag and to apply more pressure to the spoon.

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Attempt #3

Attempt #3 – I used a thin piece of paper inside the bag to protect it from ink bleeding and a thick layer of ink.  I put greater pressure on the spoon in all areas.  The paper took any ink that bled through but the print was still a little patchy.  The print wasn’t aligned properly on this bag but it was my best attempt so far.

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Attempt #4

Attempt #4 – A thick layer of ink, a lot of pressure with the spoon, and a layer of paper inside the bag.  I aligned the bag carefully and went over the print area thoroughly and with a lot of effort with the back of my spoon.  This print looked really good although I did lose definition in some areas because of how thick the ink layer was on the lino.

I enjoyed this experiment and I’m going to make some more block-printed bags soon.  I need to find a better way to apply more consistent pressure with the equipment I have at home because the spoon works well with paper and card but doesn’t work as well with the fabric.  I really like my design and I’m glad it looks good on bags.  I don’t know if the ink will stay on the bags in wet weather or if it will wash so I’m going to test one of these bags after they’ve had time to dry properly and look at different types of ink.

Glass Fusing Workshop

On the 30th of November I attended a glass fusing workshop hosted by Sheena Hallybone from PaperCutzGlass with my mum and a few friends.  Glass fusing is a technique used to make a piece of art by arranging, gluing, and then fusing pieces of glass together at a high temperature in a kiln.

Sheena demonstrated how to use the tools and what they are called.  There were three tools:

  • A Glass Cutter makes a mark on the glass for the Running Pliers.  The line can be straight, wavy or curved.
  • Running Pliers snap the glass along the mark the Glass Cutter has made.
  • Grozing Pliers, or ‘Nibblers’, are used to take small corners off and chip away at the glass.

We were given a small square of clear glass each to practice using the tools on, and after we finished practicing Sheena explained that we would have a large piece of clear glass each to arrange our coloured pieces on, which could be divided in different ways to make coasters, candle screens, long suncatchers or shorter tree decorations.  She also showed us some of the art she made and what other people had made before in the workshop.  I chose to make a coaster and 2 sun catchers.

I decided to make a Zelda-themed sun catcher first.  I planned it out on paper first then chose what colour glass to use for it.  It is decorated with three Ocarina of Time style fairies.  I took too long to make this one because making circles is a complicated process of first cutting squares, marking and cutting off corners, then nibbling around the corners to round them off.  This meant I didn’t have much time left to make my other two glass fusing pieces.  I do think it looks really good and so I’m glad I spent time getting it right.

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Sun catcher inspired by the fairies in Zelda.

For my other sun-catcher I used scrap pieces of glass organized by colour to make rainbow stripes.  I was inspired to make this by some of Sheena’s rainbow style suncatchers that were hanging up around us.  I used black frits (small granules of glass) to decorate the background.

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Rainbow stripes sun catcher

My coaster is also Zelda-themed and shows a Triforce.  I used triangles of paper to cover the area I wanted to leave transparent and sprinkled multicoloured frits and leftover small shards of glass over a layer of glue, then took the paper away.  This didn’t take long to do and gives a really pretty effect.

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Zelda-themed coaster. The clear spaces are in the shape of the Triforce.

We had to leave our pieces with Sheena so she could fire them in her kiln (there are photos of some of the unfired pieces at the bottom of this post).  She added hooks to them so I can hang them up.  Yesterday we were able to pick them up from her shop in Plymouth City Market.  They were wrapped carefully in bubble wrap and I was really excited to open them up.  I had tons of fun during the workshop and I’m really happy with how my fused glass pieces turned out.  I would recommend the workshop to any creative people and hope to do it again sometime.

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