Archive for November, 2009

Rugs, Knits and Stitches

November 25, 2009

Although I’m no longer formally studying woven textile design my enthusiasm for the textile world remains undiminished. The textile-related events of the past week have been in my diary for some time so I felt I had no good reason to dismiss such opportunities just because I’ve stopped attending college. The first date was a visit to Area Rugs and Carpets in Dewsbury to meet managing director and carpet designer Andrew Warburton. The second was to go to the ‘Knit and Stitch’ Show as it ended its perambulations around the UK in nearby Harrogate.

Detail from an Alice Kettle machine embroidery at The Art of Stitch @ 'Knit & Stitch' Harrogate

Andrew Warburton at work with the tufting gunWhy rugs? I have a studio in a community of artists in central Wakefield. This community opens its doors to the public 6 times a year as part of what is known as The Art Walk, an evening during which galleries and studios in this small city welcome visitors (with a glass of wine) from 5.0 to 9.0pm. It’s a great idea, originating I believe in Seattle. I started opening my studio doors earlier this year and quite enjoy making contact with people, many of whom have a) never met a composer and have no real idea what such an animal is (Do you really earn your living from your music? – closely followed by How much do you earn?!) and b) what’s this? – pointing to my loom. Well, it is probably the only one in the city . . . during July’s Art Walk carpet designer Andrew Warburton visited my studio, and of course, he knew straightaway what he was looking at (and he likes music). The most charming and generous visitor he said: do come and see my workshop  . . . and I have masses of remnant yarns waiting for a good home.

A hand-tufted carpet in progress

As I prepared in September for the fifth of my HNC projects (focusing on natural fibres and recycled yarns) I realised I had the answer to the recycling component on my doorstep. I decided I would make a rug – having a loom and the project title (Natural Boundaries) suitable for such an adventure. I rang Andrew and arranged a visit to his workshop. Area Rugs and Carpets make rugs and carpets to order. They create bespoke items that can be vast (the foyer of the Hungarian State Opera House) or intimate (rugs for homes and offices). The workshop is in the midst of an unprepossessing industrial estate and there are two carpet-related businesses sharing some considerable floor and wall space. Andrew is the master of the tufting gun. Within minutes of our arrival (a morning out for the otter expert) Andrew was firing tufts of wool into a vast carpet strung up vertically on a moveable frame on a scaffolding structure. The gun pulls yarn into its mechanism, cuts it to a chosen length, and then fires it (with a jet of air) through the hessian-like carpet base. The speed with which this simulation of hand tufting happens is astonishing – a day’s work by hand achieved in a few seconds.

The machine tufting carpet maker

We were introduced to much of the basic machinery including that required for cutting patterns into machine-woven carpets. Taken into an adjoining workshop we were able to see the machine-tufting process. Fascinating, but in essence little different from those industrial weaving Dobcross looms at Farfield. In the corner of this workshop lay two vast bins of remnant yarns, some in very large cones about 2 kg in weight. Nearly all of it was top quality wool and I went for colours rather than quantity as I already have some rug wool (Herdwick) acquired when I purchased my loom. I’ve discovered that much of it will be great for my preliminary tapestry projects too.

A view of my latest tapestry study in raffia

Before I start on the ‘Knit and Stitch’ Show I think it’s time to explain where I am on my tapestry adventure. Last week I put on an 8” width warp on my Toika loom using a three-twist cotton at 17 epi. Now I’m away from the anxiety of warping up for the next college project I’ve set myself (for a while) to put on a new (and short) warp every week – to become really confident at this process. I’m also keeping proper and careful notes – not before time. I feel I’m now examining every stage of the warping process, determined to be a happy weaver, not an anxious insecure one!

Design for my tapestry study: 15cm x 9cm watercolour with pastel resist

I’m continuing to take Sue Lawty’s advice and explore a single natural fibre – raffia – and a small palette of colours (yellow, green, blue). I’m slowly assembling a vocabulary of knots and techniques that I can feel comfortable with. The close-up illustration shows a number of these. After a few necessary experiments I thought it was about time to design a small piece. So with a mix of a pastel resist and my Koh-I-noor ‘super’ watercolours I created a little design that I pinned to the castle of my loom. I so enjoyed the process of realising this design, the surprise aspects of it (and changes of direction) mainly due to the unstable nature of raffia itself. As a fibre it has so many different manifestations. It can be hard, rounded and thin; it can be flat and uneven in width. Green seems quite an unstable colour – lots of natural undyed streaks; Blue responds well to being with other blues and purples (linen, wool and chenille); Yellow has so many shades and tones.

 I finished this 8” by 8” piece, cut it off the loom and mounted it on some black foam board. It became a birthday present for a friend to whom I wrote (on a card made from the painted design) ‘put this away in a drawer and take it out on your birthday well in the future. Then you’ll be able to say “Nigel wove that for me in 2009, and look what he’s doing now in 20__!!”’. We can all dream can’t we . . . I’m now waiting for my 2mm shifu paper yarn to arrive from PaperDelux in Barnsley. Glennis who runs this little business told me that the company in Preston who supply her is in receivership and getting the yarn is a matter of patience. Talking of paper yarns brings me neatly to the ‘Knit and Stitch’ Show where the Japanese company Habu from New York was on its seasonable visit. I spent serious time at this tiny stall working my way through all the paper and alternative yarns, with generous help from the Habu representative. The prices speak for the quality and imagination of this company . . . anyone for Pineapple fibre? . . . but temptation for once didn’t get the better of me . . . and I decided I’d leave acquiring any Habu yarn until I visit NY in the Spring.

One of my favourite images from Knit & Stitch - by Laura Beth Sharp

Harrogate is a spa town on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s full of expensive and exclusive shops and (reputedly) one of the best tea-shops in the world! It also has a large conference and exhibition centre that host this annual knitting and stitching bonanza I found myself experiencing for the first time. I think you’d have to be pretty determined to see everything with more than a cursory glance – you’d need two days at least. I reckoned within my initial tour of the main exhibition hall that there was probably enough in this one space to occupy me for the day. My companion for the visit had signed up for several workshops – an inspirational encounter with Jean LittleJohn and creating woven structures with Jean Draper – whereas I did a little wandering for an hour or so to spy out the land before returning in earnest to parts of the exhibition which looked most promising.

Woven work by Susan Jarmain - from her beautiful website

I could easily imagine that weavers visiting this show might come away disappointed (it is after all about knitting and stitching), but I was lucky this year for there was an extensive and varied show by Canadian weaver and ikat artist  Susan Jermain. For me this was the highpoint of my day at Harrogate and throughout the seven hours spent at the show I returned several times to take in what I could. My sole purchase of the day was her beautiful and imaginative catalogue (complete with a woven sample) – currently my bedtime reading.

Probably my favourite piece in the show - The Little Midinettes by Tammi Minnamarina

What is compelling about the Knitting and Stitching Show is that you have the opportunity to take in at least half a dozen substantial exhibitions in one location. If I analyse my journey through the show my principle destinations, other than Habu and Susan Jarmain, included Alice Kettle’s collaborative work with ceramicist Helen Felcey, The Art of Stitch touring exhibition (particularly Lizzie Cannon’s compelling Lichenography, Tammi Minnamarina’s woven paper box and Laura Beth Sharp’s beguiling folk and fairground images), Rozanne Hawksley’s dark and disturbing mixed media exhibition, the devoré work of Dionne Swift, bespoke soft furnishing by Tamsin de Lara, and Jessica Abraham’s print and dimensional collage based on mathematical symbols. For a resume of (some of) the exhibitions look at the Twisted Threads website here.

Janet Bolton's Angel among the Flowers

Right, that’s my list. I can’t possibly discuss all of these with my (self imposed) 1500 word limit just 68 words away! It will have to wait until next week. In the meantime, for all those admirers of Janet Bolton’s work who continue to make my blog essay on her Saltaire lecture and show the most read blog of all my 68 so far, here’s a glimpse at my work in progress – a song sequence for the Welsh soprano Philippa Reeves. It’s called Pleasing Myself – six songs after textile images by Janet Bolton. This is the fifth poem called Angel in the Garden.

Oh sweet garden.

Dearest friend,

My conscience,



My hands desire,

Let me be your Guardian

Angel among the flowers.

Not for me

H.C. Anderson’s grisly tale

of sunbeams and sick children,

with the angel filching the flowers

to bloom more brightly in

heaven than on earth.

God forbid!

My garden is my heaven,

and I’ll make myself wings

if I must

to fool such

fair-weather flowers


A Visit to Ruthin Craft Centre

November 16, 2009

In a previous life, working for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, I spent a lot of time dashing across North Wales in the car, usually passing through Ruthin in the rain. It was pretty wet the day I finally made it to Ruthin Craft Centre, a long motorway drive from West Yorkshire. It is a place that in the short time the new centre has been open (July 2008) has become a must-see place to visit, if not for the crafts but for the inspired architecture of this gallery and studio development. The design by Segison Bates Architects rebuilds the previous centre on its original site and cleverly references local materials and landscape of the Clywdian Hills. It may look as though you are driving into a Tesco’s car park when you arrive, but that feeling disappears the moment you enter the courtyard, flanked by two ‘arms’ of artists’ studios that gradually embrace you to enter the galleries (right) or the spacious restaurant / café (left).

Barker 1

Jo Barker's Light Tapestry

The reason for my visit was two-fold: a major exhibition of tapestry was in its final days; I had an appointment to meet director Phillip Hughes about my forthcoming project with Jilly Edwards and my own Fifteen Images collaboration with Alice Fox. I expected a brief chat and possibly a cup of coffee, but this turned into a three-hour meeting (with education director Elen Bonner) and lunch! Of course it’s very gratifying when a gallery director has clearly made time to look at your work (on the web) and doesn’t need to be taken through it from scratch. For Fifteen Images this is a difficulty because it is a collaborative work operating across several mediums and uses aspects of new technology. For Phillip Hughes my completed work held the seeds of my projected work on Sense of Place with Jilly Edwards, and music and technology are already recognised as having roles to play in the scheme of things at Ruthin Craft Centre.

LT Studio

Laura Thomas- visiting artist's studio @ Ruthin

Before I had barely entered the courtyard of the Centre there was a sign in one of the artists’ studios announcing that designer/weaver Laura Thomas was currently artist in residence. I’d emailed Laura the day before to tell her of my visit and hoped I might get to see what she was up to. Sadly she wasn’t in residence that day, but I had a friendly letter telling me she’d just written up her blog to include details and images of the start of her residency as part of the Creative Ambassador Wales programme. Her blog is really worth a look, not so much to see her weaving but to see her ‘design development’ using painting and collage. It’s such examples by practicing artists that I really, really missed being introduced to as part of my late lamented HNC @ Bradford course. We were never shown any examples of ‘real world’ design development and simply left to ourselves to learn how to do it. Throughout the entire course there was no contact at all with practitioners. This is frankly inexcusable in today’s vocation-led culture when so much of what was being studied relates to industry practice. Whilst I came to admire much of my colleagues work in this area of design, it is not the same as contact with someone who is out there ‘doing it’. Of course several of us did make contact with professionals and visited studios, but as to sharing those experiences . . .

I’ve held a serious admiration for the work of Laura Thomas almost since I began to study woven textile design. She is running a number of public workshops and artist-led sessions during her time at Ruthin, and I’m hoping I can get to at least one to learn at first hand a little about this weaver who seems so very much for our time – both in her designs and materials. She has such clear, clean, straightforward design ideas, and they are beautifully executed. There’s a striking mix of order and disorder in her work that I find invigorating and carrying a strength that I have rarely found elsewhere. It doesn’t have any of that Welshness that seems to pervade so much art of the principality. Welshness? Hmm. This is a term I found myself using when working with the BBC in Wales. As a composer it was very easy to fall under the spell of the landscape and all that social history stuff and be referential about the dark and affecting mountains and valleys, which is why I tried very hard not to go near it (much as I have an affection for it). I think Laura would have thoroughly approved of my first piece for BBC Wales called Conversations In Colour based around the work of Josef Albers. This multi-location piece celebrated the kind of colour-thinking Laura has made her own. I’m sure she has a copy of Albers’ Interactions in Colour on her bookshelf!

Sadly, in one respect, time was not on my side when it came to view the exhibition Follow a Thread. I found myself with just an hour to look at work that really required two or three. Never mind, I got so much out of what I was able to view in detail that I can say with confidence that this was one of the most valuable and enjoyable exhibitions of tapestry I’ve been to. This varied selection of work from just five artists was just right for me, as someone starting out on the road with tapestry weaving.

Green 1

My sketch of Related Thoughts by Linda Green

I was immediately taken with a body of work which really didn’t fit the traditional tapestry mode at all. No woolly pictures on the wall here! Linda Green’s work simply captured my imagination, and that of my companion for the day (who went home and made something herself that referenced Green’s work). I haven’t done that, but I did make quite a lot of drawings and took a few reluctant photos (yes, you can take photos at Ruthin, but the light isn’t brilliant). Her work is small-scale, but big in intent and gesture. I could imagine it in my home (better in my studio though where white walls predominate). I loved her Related Thoughts, a strung-out assemblage of threads upon which tiny (often woven) objects had been placed. Some were traditionally woven, some found-objects such as card, a sweetie paper, a piece of wood, all no more than two centimetres square. The magical part of this piece was her use of shadow emanating from the structure being held away from the wall by a very short distance. On her American gallery’s website you can see a very good example of this technique in a piece called Chinese Whispers. Very striking.

Exploring Structure 3

Detail from Exploring Structure - a personal journey

The other piece I loved (and could imagine owning) was Exploring Structure – a personal journey. Imagine a shelf 2500cm long with a collection of miniature tapestry frames assembled upon it. Some are really tiny, none bigger than 15 cm high. Every one is different. Some look as though they were made with driftwood, discarded rubbish (a cocktail stick, lolly sticks), lots of different yarns and fibres woven in miniature pieces of lively colours. It was a kind of folk-art gathering, ‘things I made on holiday from beachcombing’. Brilliant! It made me smile and remember seaside days (in Wales) with children picking up stuff they invariably brought home as treasures then forgot about.

Brennan 1

My analysis of Sara Brennan's Black, Blue & Grey Series (click the image to enlarge)

I took some time too over the more conventional tapestry of Sara Brennan. I was puzzled by this work to begin with. It carries a kind of minimalist stamp. Just a few colours carefully disposed in pieces that were no bigger than a paperback book, and arranged in series, such as her Black, Blue, and Grey Series of 2001-2. My colour analysis of this drew me into the quality of this conception and its woven nature. There is great subtlety here that rewarded a patient gaze. Her colour palette doesn’t immediately attract, but wait a bit and get in close, and there are surprises and delights to enjoy. I don’t think I’ll look at the colour grey in the same way again . . . I’d seen before her Broken White Band with Pink (2005), but not in the flesh, and I was struck by the detail and the subtlety of it all, though applied in a very different way. This work demonstrates how fascinating tapestry can be as an alternative to the painted surface. Sure, it’s very textural. You want to stroke it – well I do. This work demonstrated to me the intrinsic difference between the brushstroke and the beaten yarn. It’s a kind of pointillism extraordinaire, but executed with wool and linen, and it seems alive in a way a similar painted surface does not. Colours few painters would dare to use can look wonderful in tapestry, and Sara Brennan I reckon understands this and plays on it.

Brennan 2

Detail from Sara Brennan's Broken White Band with Pink

My companion loved Jo Barker’s painterly (and large) tapestries. They were striking and wonderfully colourful. But I came to them after Green and Brennan and they didn’t grab me as I’d expected (from viewing the photographs on the Centre’s website) they would. Anna Ray was a different matter. Her thread was not tapestry but embroidered stitch, and Wow! is a gentle word to describe their affect (for someone who doesn’t stitch). Her garden series was beautiful, restrained, and embodied garden-ness to a degree that surprised both my gardener companion and me (garden enthusiast from deckchair). In the Garden is a series of eight works on embroidered silk. This work is the antithesis of Alice Kettle style machine embroidery. This is serious artwork and you forget the medium. Collectively this is an affecting series that provokes music and poetry in me. The garden in question is an unusual one. It is Winterbourne Botanic Garden in Birmingham where Anna was artist in residence for a short time. This is a place I must visit – described as a six-acre Arts & Crafts garden of a suburban villa. All in all I do recommend you to visit the In the Garden presentation on Anna Ray’s website. I don’t often get enthusiastic about websites, but this is one I shall go back to and think about carefully. The balance of image and text is compelling.

Ruthin in  > out

A view from Gallery 2 glass show to the studio courtyard

There was more to see at Ruthin, but time and circumstances took us away back to some very slow movement on the motorway and home. Now I’ve been to Ruthin I know I’ll go back. I’ll certainly reroute my journeys to Lyn via Ruthin in future. It was such a friendly and welcoming place, beautifully designed (baby change facilities in men’s toilets – full marks there from a father (of six – four girls, two boys) who has faced that problem often), and lots to see. We missed visiting Cefyn Burgess studio (just ran out of time), but as I was waiting at reception one of Burgess’ weavers was unpacking a box of scarves hot off the loom and, having announced my interest as a weaver, was invited to explore the box: some lovely things, particularly the pleated designs that still seem to be very much in vogue these days. Back to the loom for me, and further attempts at basic tapestry techniques with raffia and linen on a wool/cotton warp. More anon.

A small experiment in tapestry

Taking Time – themes and questions

November 8, 2009

The Slow Movement is a cultural revolution . . . it’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed . . . doing everything as well as possible . . . it’s about quality over quantity in everything . . .

“The beauty of thinking about Slow in relation to Craft is that it is asking me to look at every aspect of what I do, and why I do it, but in a very practical way. To look at making, and showing, and how and why the work is seen and used, and understood”

Malcolm Martin

“One of the things that is attractive about the crafts, or working with materials, is that at its best it can be an ethical practice and that is also what makes it political. When I have interviewed artists and makers about their work and their lives – their work and life is intertwined. When they talk about their work, they talk about themselves, that’s why the object, the work of an artist is never a product – because they are not an object themselves”.

Linda Sandino

Neil Brownsword

Neil Brownsword @ Taking Time

I have just read the catalogue of Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution. This is a touring exhibition from the Birmingham-based Craftspace curated by Helen Carnac. The exhibition ‘aims to show that contemporary craft practice and its methodologies can generate a modern and timely response to current social debates’. In my last blog I showed images of the making and presentation of Calculus, a large tapestry of tiny pebbles commissioned for Taking Time, and mentioned the themes of Taking Time that ‘quietly ask questions about global and local conditions that we find ourselves in today’.

The catalogue is as challenging as the ‘themes as questions’ themselves. The nineteen artists involved each get a couple of pages to tell their story through interview, statement, and image.  For many who read this blog on a regular basis the definition and meaning of craft embodied within this exhibition may seem pretty questionable, though curiously, what came to my mind as I read this catalogue was that those who spearheaded the Arts and Crafts Movement post William Morris in the early 20C (C.R. Ashbee et al) would have had little trouble with the methodologies and ideologies of those making, curating and showing for Taking Time. Weaver, spinner, dyer, designer Ethel Mairet, the subject of my college-based Historical and Contextual Study, was an avid student of the writings of Lewis Mumford, whose radical philosophy of responsible interaction between people, their environment and culture belongs to the tradition of economic and social discourse that Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman continues.

What I find compelling about the whole Taking Time project (some two years in the making) is the place dialogue, conversation and collaboration has had in its conception and nurture. It is quite unusual, but refreshing, to come across an exhibition that has evolved and will evolve further through strategies that enable dialogue to develop and then be given value. The search for dialogue, collaboration, analysis and feedback is something I recognise in my own making during this year when I have unwittingly brought together a collaborative experiment that has so many components found amongst the questions in the themes of Taking Time.

 So without further ado, here are my answers to those ‘questions about global and local conditions that we (artists and makers working in the area of craft) find ourselves in today’.

David Gates

David Gates @ Taking Time

How can contemporary craft making enable social interaction and embrace collaborative practice?

 Craft has to achieve a visibility, not so much in the exhibiting of the final product, but in the business and process of making. The public perception of craft appears to be: something rather quaint, merely decorative, the product of the personal hobby, a feature of occupational therapy and voluntary arts practice; or as something expensive, difficult to comprehend, not easy to justify, embodying exclusivity and quite beyond our reach. We could be more aware that the making environment within most craft practice is intrinsically beautiful and radiates purpose, and that the artist/craftsperson has a special intrinsic nature too. Historically craft has benefited from a distinct kind of patronage in the provision of space and services, as well as the promotion of the individual vision that is pliable to the needs and requirements of others. Reinstating craft practice and personal vision in locations where social interaction can take place (the NHS, education, museums and galleries, public institutions) could be an effective starting point. Collaborative practice often benefits from crafters being welcomed into acknowledged and secure networks (such as the HOST in West Yorkshire and the FutureEverything festival). Such practice is rarely documented, publicised or promoted and its dynamics are neither understood nor encouraged by the major funding and ILBs (such as the Design Council).

Clark - promise

Promise by Sonya Clark

How do we think about the relationships that form an important part of making processes including those between people; people and places; materials and ideas; and the space and time that allows for things to change or be made?

 Here’s an interesting statement from composer Nigel Osborne heard recently on Radio 3. Apply this to craft perhaps. Osborne is talking about a recent performance project he curated – String Theories at London’s new concert venue Kings Place. “It’s a kind of snapshot of a place in time. It seems to me that art now exists in microclimates. It’s not metropolitan. It’s not led by big publishers and big organisations; it gathers in microclimate places . . . so it’s nice to represent new work by its environment, by its place, by the lines that join people together in their lives and make them end up in one place at the same time . . . and there were such a variety of people of so many different backgrounds who were putting in all the things that matter  . . . but don’t usually get a voice. It was a fascinating random slice”.

Gary Breeze

Gary Breeze @ Taking Time

 How do we understand time constructs that are used within the making process? These may be fast or slow.

 One aspect of computer technology that few artists have picked up is the machine’s ability to capture poiesis – the blossoming of blossoming to use Heiddeger’s words. Poiesis is described in Plato’s Symposium as something that describes the process of begetting and making. It lies outside clock time and is something akin to virtual time  – where an idea of the process of making a piece can be imagined in the mind’s eye in a fraction of the real time of making. The converse of that is the breaking down of a complex sequence of decisions that may come about through improvisation with material. Machine capture with digital tagging and processing can illuminate a previously mysterious sequence of decision-making or physical action.

Image 8 copy

One of Alice Fox's animated textile images for 15 Images

How can performance, which involves the public in the making of the work challenge ideas of authorship and explore ideas of ownership?

Here’s a reaction to hearing and seeing the web version of Fifteen Images (Le Jardin Pluvieux) – a contemplative work produced through dialogue and collaboration between makers in textiles, music, digital animation, and web design. 

 Hi, very beautiful tonalities! Organic progression with playful mind and fingers of conclusion exponented by spacetime metamorphosis. Now I can understand your interest in weaving. Actually, now when I see that connection (viewing the project link) I also realize that it is textures that I’ve always been mostly interested in music. Texture is like mental progressions within the mind, algorithmically speaking multiple paths simultaneously opening up, closing down, with interaction, similarities, differences – but

the most interesting thing is that it is only the interaction of the mind with the piece you hear and see, that FINALLY is the composition, not just the piece (or mind of the composer and artist) itself, nor the mind (of the composer and artist), but my own mind (and composition and artwork (although someone else’s): by listening and looking at this marvellous piece I just created it – absurd?! – Great stuff!

 Although this may seem a rather muddled ‘stream of consciousness’ response (and by a Finnish composer struggling with his English) it does describe how time-based art can challenge ideas of ownership. This listener (I gather) created his own way through the performance and played with the animation and layering of the images. So what he’s saying is – the work became his . . .

Heindrun Schimmel

Heindrum Schimmel @ Taking Time

 How can we better understand a making process if we reverse the process or ‘unmake’, literally ‘unpicking the stitches’ to reveal ideas of process, materiality and what an object may look like when it is complete?

This is what the trace aspect of computer analysis of making allows the artist to do – not only can one ‘unpick the stitches’, but more important unpick the decision-making sequence that decided the positioning and choice of stitches in the first place. With such virtual tools simulation becomes possible, not just of the final object, but of the process as well.

Matt Harris

Matthew Harris @ Taking Time

 What do site, locality and place mean within the making process and can our personal histories transcend or go beyond our geographies?

 The poetics of place is increasingly recognized as a significant factor in analysis and criticism. There is a growing body of literature on this phenomenon. However, although such study is usually focused on the outcome and not on the making process, the blogging culture with its use of sound and video clips alongside the still digital image is able to both capture and comment effectively on the making process. It can reveal and transcend personal histories and go (via the Internet) beyond the local to the global.


Boomwehmeyer @ Taking Time

 How can an object encourage you to slow down and to take a second look and ask why it looks or functions as it does?

Visual artists discovered in the 1970s that working with film and then video ‘captured ’ the viewer’s attention in an exhibition setting. The time-based factor stopped the gallery viewer in his/her tracks for longer than the oft-observed 10 seconds average in front of a piece. If an object has movement or is attached to interpretative media that might, for example, provide views of the object outside the range of the viewer (let’s say from a range of different angles the viewer couldn’t move to) then the viewer is ‘captured’, will slow down, take another look.

Rebecca Earley

Rebecca Earley @ Taking Time

How do makers communicate ideas of making and how are these spoken about?

 Increasingly makers are considering the web, its forms and structures (blogs, multi-media presentations, open-form browsing environments, social bookmarking), at the outset of, and integral with, the making process. Fifteen Images (Le Jardin Pluvieux) is one such piece. The ‘makers’ have recently learnt that there are aspects of critical explanation and technical language that need to be understood when critical investigation from a particular rather than general direction is engaged. We have recognized that, to best communicate ideas of making, a dialogue has to be engaged that is best governed by the notions surrounding the community of inquiry: an term coined by the American educator Malcolm Lipman. This requires participants to agree upon, and possibly negotiate with each other, shared tools for dialogue. A good example of this is in action is the Radio 3 producer guidance notes for talks and features: every technical term not in common parlance has to be properly explained and demonstrated satisfactorily. This means no listener is left fumbling for a dictionary, reference book or Wikipedia.

What may seem strange to you is that I haven’t yet been to Taking Time (!), currently in Birmingham but touring throughout the UK over the next 2 years. I do know someone who has, and who kindly lent me the catalogue and gave me some of her impressions. I do plan a visit when the show reaches Plymouth. For the best pictorial guide currently to Taking Time go to these Flikr pages here. In my blog for 9 September you can read a resume of the Slow Movement with links to many of the individuals and organisations connected to it.

Ruthin CC

Ruthin Craft Centre, North Wales

Back in the studio I’m just putting a warp on my loom to experiment further with raphia and tapestry weaving techniques. I’ve nearly finished reading Tim Ingold’s brilliant study of lines – in music, weaving, writing, map-making, storytelling and walking. This book titled Lines: a brief history will be discussed here in the near future. I also managed a trip to North Wales to see, in its final days, the Follow a Thread exhibition of new tapestry art at the Ruthin Craft Centre. An inspiring place and a fascinating exhibition that deserves a blog all of its own. Watch this space. . .