Undead bands and pumpkin heads rock creative hub

In a derelict looking building in the city’s west side, where trains grumble by on iron girders and Glasgow’s elite elderly shoppers take their tea, Michael Collin is creating a band of the undead.

“This larger one is the drummer and this guy is sort of headless,” he says, pointing to an empty space on the sketchpad in front of him where indeed, a head should be.

“It may appear later, you know, in the shape of a pumpkin or something,” Michael adds with a grin.

For 37-year-old artist Michael Collin, the possibility of pumpkins is the reason he loves his job.

A graduate of Glasgow’s Art School, his forays into painting, comics, animation and video are what have kept his career as exciting and varied as he likes it to be.

“There have been random bits of pieces here and there,” he said, his head dipping modestly.

“It always starts with drawing though. It’s a pretty basic thing. And from there it can become anything; a storyboard or a design for a model. The possibilities are limitless.”

The son of a silversmith and an accountant, Michael went from painting on his classmate’s Dr Martens boots at school to sitting in the small creative kingdom he is building around himself today.

Stirring mugs of instant coffee next to a fuchsia pink flowering cactus, Michael is in the kitchen of his most recent artistic adventure with business partner Jane Sayer – the Hayburn Studios.

A large foosball table turned kitchen table takes up most of the floor space while in the hallway ‘writing pods’ are in the process of being constructed.

The pod walls are made out of old wooden doors, with glass shower doors handily sliding aside to let aspiring novelists in.

Each little pod has a desk and chair to give writers the space and quiet to, well, write and as Michael cheerfully points out, there’re portholes cut into the walls to give you a nice view.

“We have loads of ideas of what to do here,” Michael explains, pushing through the doors of the ladies bathrooms.

Although an eye-blinding sea of white porcelain and potpourri bowls at the moment, one corner could indeed, as Michael points out, hold a large ‘print your own’ t-shirt printer and a dark room for developing photographs.

Off the writing pod hallway other rooms are dotted about, filled with Glasgow’s top creative folk.

One is busily designing make-up brands for a large national company while another is hard at work video editing.

There’s a recording studio for voiceovers already built out of repurposed wood, large rooms cleared away for graphic design and animation suites and up on the rooftops there’s even the vision of a rooftop garden waiting to grow.

“It’s just such an incredible space,” said Michael. “We want to have a great community garden up here and decking for barbeques…”

Michael’s dedication to community projects has been decades in the making, after spending time at the Big Issue working with the homeless and vulnerable to his current work with the Yorkhill Children’s hospital helping young people to draw and publish their own comic strip.

“It always comes back to drawing,” Michael explains. “It’s the stuff you’re taught as a kid, that everyone’s taught, which is why it is such an accessible thing to do with groups of people. Even if people think they can’t do it, they can.”

Michael’s recent work has included taking on the design of a Data Protection Training Manual for Scottish Power, which sounds about as uncreative a subject as you can get – until you see what Michael’s mind made it into.

“I ended up creating a 76 page comic,” explains Michael, slightly apologetically. “I went for something a bit Flash Gordon with aliens and robots. You can take the dullest thing you see, but put your own edge on it.”

It’s this talented ‘edge’ which has brought Michael his latest project with Music Plus, to create an animation for young people on the truth of the business side of the music industry.

And that’s where the undead pumpkin heads come in.

“I’m creating models of the characters now,” explains Michael, his fingers moulding the face of one of his undead band members to be.

“I’ve created this band and this will be their adventures conveyed in animation. You can say so much with a simple gesture, with a light touch – animation can really bring ideas across.”

Michaels deceased punk rockers will be promoted nationwide to help young musicians learn the pitfalls of an often volatile and unforgiving industry.

“There are lots of bits and pieces here and there but the end result should be an animated television series,” adds Michael.

But it’s the Hayburn Studios which will remain an ever-evolving creative creature for Michael and the team of artists and writers who move into it.

“There’s not just the one vision for this,” explains Michael. “I want it to be a sort of flowerbed where anything can grow out of it. And there’ll be a lot of cross pollination between the creative types too.

“It’s not one single thing, it’s something made up of individuals who have their own thing going on but under the umbrella of creativity.

“The key thing in our future is that focus will shift from the space we’re creating and onto the work that comes out of that space.”

To follow the work of Michael and the Hayburn Studios check out their Twitter andFacebook page.

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