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Far from quietening down during this summer (??!), there seem to be more events to attend than ever!  This week, I received an invitation to attend a seminar day, Craft in practice, Craft in process, run by the MA Textiles students at Manchester Metropolitan University.  The speakers were Helen Carnac, Lauren Bowker, and Deidre Nelson.

All three speakers are very different from each other, in discipline, in practice and in approach.  It was fascinating.  Firstly, Helen Carnac talked about her discipline and how important it is to find the right material to express what you want to convey.  Hers is metal, and more specifically, vitreous enamel with its variety of forms – liquid, chalky (when dry) then hard (when fired).  For her process is more important than product, and she loves the intermediate stage when the enamel is malleable enough to draw or etch into before firing.  She is interested in the surface beneath – an aspect that resonated with me – and looking at reductive processes rather than additive processes.  She works alone and in collaboration, with each feeding the other.

Helen is also widely known in the UK for her collaborative exhibition with Andy Horn (formerly from Craftspace) from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  They put on Taking Time: A Slow Revolution which explored practices which use both place and time as a major influence.  This touring exhibition highlighted the movement which began with slow food, and is now encompassing many different genres to make us think about slowing down and appreciating things which take time to do.

Helen also talked about her interest in siting artwork outside the regular white cube space – putting it into working environments, and communities.

Lauren Bowker has a wonderfully irreverent approach to her work, but is incredibly broad with intensive research into science (photo-chromic inks among other things), and engineering, as well as design.  She questions everything and looks at design briefs from very different perspectives, coming up with imaginative and intelligent design.  She is a practical visionary, and her work is exciting and unexpected.    Currently her work which was spread all over the place is being corralled into a new website that is not yet ready, but that will be  So I’ll be keeping an eye out for this!

The final speaker was Deirdre Nelson.  Deirdre is well known in the UK for her use of knit and stitch in community settings, and she often uses language as a tool for connecting people.  One such project was in Ireland, called Modern Languages.  In this project she used an ‘authentic’ Aran sweater which she bought on ebay to unravel it and re-knit it in a mix of Aran and plain knitting.  This led to a conversation with many in Ireland about authenticity.  A more recent project on the Isle of Mull with Cape Farewell at Tobermory brought art and science together in a different way – she looked at the plight of the Arctic Tern in respect to its survival as a species on the borders of climate change – and approached the topic from a humorous perspective using Twitter (!/Birdyarns) and knitting as a way of broadening out the community involved in the project and highlighting ecological concerns in a non-preachy way.  The knitted ‘colony’ of Arctic Terns ‘flew in’ to Tobermory for only a short time, and could also find themselves in other places….

Thanks to the MA Textiles students for organising this seminar!  And it didn’t rain!!