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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

10 January, 2016

The Power of Connections

I feel very privileged to be living in an era where being an artist does not mean struggling on your own, trying to justify what you do and why you do it against more ‘worthy’ occupations.  I know – most of us work on our own, and yes, we do end up trying to explain, and on occasion trying to justify, what it is that we do, and its validity.  But in the world that has access to the internet and social media, we are no longer emotionally or professionally on our own any more.  There is so much information online, some brilliant, some good, some mediocre and some downright wrong!  But we can reach out, through blogs, through online forums, through social media.

And when we connect with others, we sometimes get criticism, we often realise just how much we have yet to learn about our chosen medium/media, but more often than not, we get support, encouragement, validation, understanding.

I’ve spoken before about getting those ‘aha’ moments, and how wonderful they are.  But I had never before read an account of how these moments happen.  To me, I knew that the connections were made between specific techniques/problems/topics and my more general region and that there is not really much that is new but the individual voice and ‘genius’ comes from connections that are made between things that might not have been connected before, or thought about in that specific way before.  I also knew that many of my ideas come from quiet moments – the middle of the night, just before falling asleep (and thus preventing sleep!!) or immediately on waking, in the shower, walking the dog – and had assumed that my subconscious had been working on things whilst I was actively or passively engaged elsewhere.

Then I read a newsletter from somewhere – possibly Sam and Joe at TextileArtist.org (more of them later) – and the author had written of a fabulous little book called A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young, published in the 1940s.  I searched on Amazon and bought this little tome.  It arrived and this morning, whilst drinking my mid-morning coffee, I read it from cover to cover.  Don’t worry – this is not impressive!!  It is a short book – 48 pages cover to cover.  But it expressed exactly what happens in the creative process in such a lucid and succinct way.

This leads me on to my main point in this blog post.  The world is now a much smaller place thanks to the internet.  We can connect to each other like never before.  The guys at TextileArtist.org are part of this amazing chain of connections and they publish really good material.  If you haven’t come across them yet, please do click on a link in this blog and go and visit their site.  Their story alone is one of connections and curiosity.  Watch the videos that they are currently putting on their site – there is a time limit on them (good publicity ploy!) so go and check it out before the videos disappear.

The only danger is that we can get so easily side-tracked with all this social media  - so many people to connect with, so many wonderful textiles to look at and admire.  But connectivity-wise, we have never had it so good!!

17 February, 2013

The Shard, the Gherkin – it’s got to be a London trip!

A beautiful February day, a cheap train ticket to London, 4 possible exhibitions we wanted to visit – an exciting prospect!!  But beware!  If you go to London at a weekend (let alone a school holiday weekend!), check with London Transport before you make your plans!  Rather densely, I didn’t, and the Circle, District, and part of the Metropolitan (the part we wanted) underground lines were closed for engineering works!!  Very frustrating…. Mind you, we walked a lot, so perhaps it was good for us after all!  However, instead of 4 exhibitions (a bit ambitious), we only actually saw 1!!

We headed off to the Barbican to see if we could get into the Rain exhibition – its full title Random International: Rain Room  but the queue was already 3 1/2 hours and we did want to see other things, so we decided not to queue.  Their blurb says they invite you to experience what it’s like to control the rain, experimenting with human behaviour and interactive processes.  No wonder it’s so popular – we all want to be able to control the weather from time to time!

After a long walk to 3 closed tube stations, we finally made it onto the Docklands Light Railway – a really pleasant way to get to Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum!  A really popular exhibition of Ansel Adams’ black and white photography is on show there until 28th April.  There was queueing for tickets and then to get in here too!  Great to see so many people wanting to look at art exhibitions!  I’m a total fan of Adams’ work, and these focus mostly on his love affair with water in all its various guises – rapids, waterfalls, mist, spray, crashing waves, seas.  Gorgeous!  I would have liked to have had a bit more space and fewer people to be able to appreciate the works both up close and further away, but the catalogue at £20 is a must!  One of my favourite pieces – one of the ice ones – hasn’t translated well into the book, but most have.  One of the interesting curatorial decisions was that there was not a set or obvious path through the exhibition.  Divided into different areas with works grouped but easily interchangeable, it meant everyone was milling about and experiencing the work in different ways.  Also, although this may not have been intended, the low white noise of the air-conditioning was beguiling by the wave images – you could almost sense the crash of the waves about to happen and the slow sucking noise of the retreating water was just about there below the level of the aircon.  Quite atmospheric in a surprising and unexpected way!

If you haven’t been to Greenwich and the Royal Maritime area, you’ve missed a treat.  I’m ashamed to say I haven’t before visited Greenwich, but I shall certainly go again.  Those images we saw of the equestrian sports at the Olympics wetted my appetite, and the setting is just stunning.  The grandeur of the buildings, and the space in which they are located, are beautiful.  The buzz around Greenwich village is tangible and it has a busy village feel to it like the best of the small coastal villages at the height of summer that we do so well in Britain (that is if the weather is good!!).

Because we had been so delayed by the transport problems, we decided to take the Thames Clipper down to the South Bank and what a lovely way to see London!  Firstly the Docklands Light Railway had taken us through the dock areas above ground and threading through the iconic buildings and warehouses of the Docklands, and then the Clipper took us quite swiftly around the twists and turns of the Thames.  It was fascinating to experience the different perspectives this trip gave us of a city we know and love.  I knew the Thames was a writhing beast, but hadn’t realised just how much as the Shard was so close, then so far, then so close again!

The added bonus of the delays was that we got to see London dressing itself up in lights as dusk fell – and what a beautiful sight that is!  Iconic buildings changing their character from day to night – putting the glad rags on and dazzling with illumination!  We were hoping to get to Tate Britain but that didn’t happen.  Instead we stopped off at the brutish beauty of Tate Modern and had a quick scoot round Gallery 2 before heading back on a tube that was running to our crammed train back to the Midlands!

The other exhibition we were hoping to see, at the Hayward Gallery in the South Bank complex, had sold out of tickets but this we are intending to return to.  It’s the Light exhibition.  Happily it has a few weeks to run yet, so maybe we will get to see this one!

In the meantime, here are a few images from London, architecturally. (Sorry – WordPress is doing weird things with my photos!!)

St Pauls as dusk taken without flash from a floating dock on the Thames (with added shake for artistic reasons!!!!)

Is it just me, or does the Shard have a strong feel of Lord of the Rings about it??

Is this like an eyelid, or am I just going bonkers from all this walking?????

Verticals, horizontals, diagonals – very weaverly!! And dramatic…

A glimpse of the Gherkin – looking a little shrunken these days beside the new behemoths, don’t you think?

3 February, 2013

Results and exhibitions

Filed under: Art,Education,Nature,Philosophy,Publications,Travel,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 6:40 pm

It’s been a while since my last post, but life has been busy…

After a delayed Christmas, the New Year began with assessments for my masters degree.  Happily, I did ok and got a merit and a distinction in the second stage.  Now the bar has been set and I am going to do my damnedest to get better marks in the final stage!  A lot of effort in reading, assimilating, writing, and weaving to come, I think.  I do like a challenge, which is just as well!!

With winter well underway, it’s always lovely to get out and visit an exhibition or two.  Both of those we visited this month were on the verge of closing, for which I can only apologise as now you won’t get the chance to see them! :^((  The first was calledTheFirst Cut and was on at the Manchester City Gallery and Platt Hall Museum of Costume.  Artists were from America, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK and all working with paper in unique ways.  It was a fascinating insight into the many different and varied ways of working with paper, and the exhibition was based around five thematic concepts: i) Imaginary Worlds, ii) Drawing with a Knife, iii) Mapping New Territories, iv) Papering the Body and v) Off the Page.

My favourite works seemed to congregate mostly in the Off the Page category which features works derived from books, whether cut, deformed, twisted together or shredded publications.  An artist I love who wasn’t in this exhibition is Guy Laramee, and his geologically inspired work just blows me away!  In the same mould, Noriko Ambe’s work  is based on topology and contour cuts which are absolutely magical and in a much smaller scale than I had imagined from seeing her work online.  She also applies the same techniques by cutting into artists’ monographs and using her knowledge and understanding of their work to create strangely disturbing work reminiscent of the technique of reverse applique.

In the Mapping New Territories section, my attention was drawn to Georgia Russell’s cut map of England where she removed the shape of the UK from a page of an atlas only to discover that on the reverse was a map of Iraq.  So what?  Well, some could say she was prescient as just 3 weeks later, Iraq was invaded by coalition Western forces.

Papering the Body was located in the Platt Hall Gallery of Costume, about 1 1/2 miles away from the Art Gallery.  Susan Cutts made a gorgeous ballet dress and pumps which were shown against a window on the half-landing of the C18th stairs while Violese Lunn’s delicate and ethereal dresses revealed the traces of a spine or organs against the light.  These garments looked so delicious that you could imagine wearing them and becoming a fairy princess!  The only problem was that they were all unwearable!! Still, one can dream….

In the cut work, I loved Andrew Singleton’s work inspired by the Eagle Nebula which hung suspended against two walls in a corner of the main exhibition hall.  The shadows were exquisite and the swirling patterns had an energy which threatened to burst out from their corner position.  Negative space is just as important as positive space in cut pieces and all the exhibits in this section were entrancing and engaging at all their different scales.

There was so much to see and absorb in this exhibition.  My companion was back for a return visit whilst I only had the opportunity to see the work just once, but the catalogue helps to remind me of each of the artists’ contributions.  Photography was allowed but unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me as this usually isn’t the case.  You can, however, get the catalogue for a reasonably-priced £12.99 from the Manchester Art Gallery.

The second exhibition, again just as it was about to close, was Light, in Derby’s Quad.  The poster had an image of a close-up of the sun broiling its atmosphere, so I just had to go and see what it was all about.  In fact, the video, Brilliant Noise, by Semiconductor, was a black-and-white rendition of various shots of the sun’s activity.  It lasted for just over 9 mins and was so mesmerising I had to watch it again.  I found it firing off all sorts of ideas related to my current work on geology and the natural world, and had to scribble down thoughts whilst sitting in the darkness!

Another piece called RINK – a skating drawing floor, by David Ward, was a long piece of over 21 minutes.  It was a projected cyle of light drawings and was fascinating to watch illuminated lines taking themselves for a walk!  I stayed in the exhibit for around 10 minutes, but I would have liked to have stayed for the full 21.  I wonder if anyone did?

One static exhibit, of 3 silver gelatine prints by Tristan Hessing, was just exquisite.  Small linear prints like a topographical rendering of a scanning microscope on a piece of stone, silver etched against the black background, almost engulfed by the surrounding darkness of the black, they almost hovered above the surface of the paper.  I was half-expecting them to do the 3-dimensional 360 degree turn!  Being small images against the much larger black background, they drew you in really closely, so that you found yourself almost nose-to-glass to trace their delicate lines.

The MA is encouraging me to see more exhibitions, read so much more widely than ever before (and I’ve never been a narrow reader!), and to think about things in a much deeper and considered way.  It’s certainly expanded my world!

But now it’s back down to weaving – a lot to do and an ever-decreasing time in which to do it!!

Happy Weaving!


24 June, 2012

Reiko Sudo and Japanese Style: Sustaining Design

This week I squeezed in a visit to Ruthin, North Wales, to see the Reiko Sudo and Japanese Style: Sustaining Design exhibition before it comes down this weekend.  As with all Reiko Sudo’s work, the style is clean, interestingly hung, and descriptive.

The sight, as you walked into the gallery (which is a lovely open space with light from large windows and gallery lighting) was an abundance of elegant forms suspended from the ceiling.  The lengths of fabric had been draped over hangers in a way remeniscent of kimono draped around the neck, and fastened together at the front by a simple fabric-covered clip which allowed the fullness of the cloth to move gently in the air flow of passing people.  You were able to wander around the pieces at will, choosing your own path, to explore the work as took your fancy.

Each piece was documented with a handling piece overhanging a description of its conception or broad technical information as to method, and enlarging on this were presentations of different yarns, fibres, and concepts simply pinned directly to the gallery wall and covered in front with a sheet of perspex.  The shadows cast by the swirling yarns and fibres gave extra depth and quality to the presentation.  Simple numbers stuck to the floor under each of the fabric forms related to the technical information and handling pieces which were gathered into related groups around the walls.  Simple, clean, effective, and totally entrancing.

I went with a fellow student on my MA course who is a mixed-media sculptor, and she was as clearly engaged as I.  The larger-than-life size of the exhibit induced a feeling of openness to contemplation, an unhurried absorption of the tactility of the fabrics, the unity of the concept behind the exhibit, the attention to detail.

Alongside the textile exhibition was also an exhibition of Japanese style incorporating ceramics, Kagure, Urban Research, and architecture exploring sustainable design.  There was also a fascinating video of papermaking which I would have loved to have been able to buy as a DVD.  The ceramics featured the Hale Collection of Tohoku Ceramics, traditional ceramics from the Tohoku region collected by David and Anne Hale. They were exquisite and exuded that quintessential essence of simplicity, elegance, fitness for purpose and sheer beauty in simplicity that is what I associate with the best of Japanese design.

There were also modern-day Japanese potters showing here – Takahiro Kondo, and Shinsuke Iwami – and their work was available for sale.  Kagure, Urban Research is a Japanese ethical design initiative that specialises in working with crafts people whose practice has a strong commitment to sustainable development, and whose work reflects the traditions of the medium in which they work.  Items on display included textiles, ceramics, iron and wood, bamboo and baskets by members of the group.  Their philosophy is ‘to lead a local, sustainable life style, and a connection with the earth, even in the city’. (Taken from the exhibition programme).

In several studios within the Ruthin Craft Centre were examples of Japanese architecture from Kazuya Morita, Tono Mirai, and Studio Archi Farm.  These were very interesting and thoughtful displays of models, video and images and gave me food for thought.

My only regret is that I didn’t go earlier and participate in some of the wonderful workshops that had been held – in papermaking (Gill Wilson), shibori (Michelle Griffiths), sashiko (Michele Walker), 3D Construction and Print (Mai Thomas), and a dance performance (Sioned Huws and Reina Kimura).

However, for those of you unable to attend, at least you can buy the exhibition catalogue – ZokuZoku – to add to the growing collection of inspirational fabrics that Reiko Sudo and Nuno Fabrics have created and illustrated in their books.

20 May, 2012

Weaves That Shape Themselves, Pairings and Textile Matters

What a bumper few days!  A book launch with an accompanying exhibition, the Stroud International Textile Festival exhibition, and a textiles seminar in three days!  Food for the eyes, the brain and the soul!

Taken in the order I experienced them, firstly a book launch at Handweavers Studio in London for Ann Richards’ book “Weaves That Shape Themselves”.  Detailing many of Ann’s experiments and discoveries over a twenty-year period, this is a great addition to a weaver’s library, sharing hints, tips, and lots of very useful knowledge on high twist yarns, weave structures that pleat and shape and finishing processes.  She also includes a number of other weavers who are exploring texture through structure and interesting yarns and processes.  (Hand up here to a vested interest – there is one image of my work in the book – thank you, Ann!)

The launch was attended by a number of weavers whose work is in the accompanying exhibition currently at Handweavers Studio, including Lotte Dalgaard (Denmark), Berthe Forchhammer (Denmark), Fiona Crestani (Austria), Lucia Schwalenberg (Germany), Jennie Parry (UK), Bobbie Kociejowski (UK), Wendy Morris (UK) and me.  Other pieces in the exhibition are from weavers such as Deidre Wood (UK), Geraldine St Aubyn Hubbard (UK), Emma Sewell (UK), Sheila Reimann (NZ), Liz Williamson (Australia), Anna Champeney (Spain), Andreas Moller (Germany), Dorte Behn (Germany), Gusti Austin-Lina (Netherlands), Teresa Kennard (USA), Kasuhiro Ueno (Japan), Noriko Matsumoto (Japan), Junichi Arai (Japan), and Reiko Sudo (Japan).   A wonderful treat!  The exhibition is on for another couple of weeks, so I urge you to go and visit very soon!  And, of course, you are surrounded by the very yarns that are used to create the myriad effects on show!  And you can buy the books….

Secondly, the Stroud International Textile Festival has been running for a number of years.  This year, due to reduced funding, there is just one main exhibition in the beautiful setting of the Museum in the Park in Stroud.  Instigated by Alice Kettle, the exhibition is ‘Select Pairings II‘, the collaboration of different artists, usually in pairs, with at least one of the partners a textile artist.  The artists featured are Alice Kettle who paired with David Gates and Jane Webb; Ismini Samanidou who paired with Sharon Blakey; Kate Egan who paired with Vanessa Cutler; Dawn Mason working with Dr Nigel Hurlstone, Shelly Goldsmith working with Annie Shaw, Jane McKeating collaborating with Jilly Morris, and Janet Haigh with Rachel Kelly.  There were also three individuals whose work was on show – Clair Curneen, Rhian Solomon, and Fiona Haines.

The pieces were varied and interesting, utilising the courtyard outside the museum, the corridor leading to the main exhibition space and the main gallery. This exhibition is on until 27th May, so you still have one week to see it!  I shall be writing a full review for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and The Weave Shed (where you’ll also find information on Ann’s book) together with photos….

Finally, how to sum up a full day’s inspiration and input from four immensely talented and inspiring weavers from the UK, Japan, and Denmark?  Organised by Tim Parry-Williams with Bath Spa University, and the first in a series (so Tim promised!) of seminars, Textile Matters was held in the incredible surroundings of Corsham Court, the home of the Textile Research Dept of Bath Spa University.  Ann Richards started the day with explanations of some of the concepts behind her twenty years of research and exploration into weaves that shape themselves.  Her clarity and scientifically disciplined approach to her research was inspiring and salutory at the same time!

Ann was followed by Jun Tomita, a Japanese weaver who specialises in ikat art for interiors.  Jun is inspired by walls that are showing the ravages of time and decay – in this he reminded me of fellow weaver Ismini Samanidou – but their approach is so totally different to each other.  Jun uses the most simple of weaves – plain weave – to create his mood pieces through the kasuri technique of ikat.  Spanning his complete career to date, we were fascinated by his development of ideas and the use of warp ikat to convey so many facets of mood, depth and spirit.  It was also fantastic to have a glimpse into his workshop and his method of working.

After lunch, and a chance to buy books from Chrome Yellow (always a wonderful excuse to indulge in some gorgeous books!) and yarns from Handweavers’ Studio, we were ushered back into the colourful world of Ptolemy Mann.  I probably don’t need to say much about Ptolemy.  Her dip-dyed ikats in myriad colours are well known in the design and interiors worlds, and we had plenty of eye-candy to enjoy.  However, Ptolemy also talked about the need for working in different fields (although all stemming from her ikat and colour work), including working with industry and architects, licensing products and doing large-scale public art commissions in the public health sector.  A whistle-stop tour of the possibilities that have led on from her weaving, Ptolemy injected a dose of day-to-day realism in our current economic climate – a way of working that is hard work, and challenging, but ultimately rewarding in many different ways.

Lotte Dalgaard was the final speaker.  Lotte is a weaver of collapse weave fabrics which are mostly for accessories and fashion.  Working in collaboration with a fashion designer, Lotte’s fabrics are developed to become garments that can be shaped in many different ways to create different silhouettes.  A founder member of the Danish Yarn Purchasing Association, GIF, Lotte has helped to introduce many different kinds of unusual yarns to the handweavers market, including many of the high-twisted yarns that she researches and uses in her work.  She published a book called Magic Materials in Danish a few years ago, which Ann Richards translated for English buyers of the book.  This book has inspired a new wave of weavers to work with high twist yarns and will, I suspect, continue to prompt new weavers into trying out active yarns.  One of the highlights of the day was at the end of Lotte’s presentation when she gave a demonstration of how the fabrics ‘do their magic’ when exposed to hot water.  She showed us the woven ‘grey’ state, or loom-state, fabric and then submerged it in hot water where everyone could see it crinkle into its folds.  A magic end to a magic day!

Despite the short-notice of this seminar, the delegates, most of whom were weavers, had a memorable day, energised by their conversations with each other, meeting up with old friends and making new connections, enjoying the incredible surroundings and indulging in some retail therapy, as well as absorbing a lot of intricate and fascinating information.  Even the peacocks were impressed – one showing off his formidable tail feathers – a great photo opportunity for those of us present!!

As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I will be writing reviews for the Weave Shed, and also one on ‘Pairings’ for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers which will include photos (after permissions have been sought).  So keep your eyes out for these…..

19 February, 2012

From Rings of Saturn to humour, From The Element to landscape

What do humour, the rings of saturn, landscape and passion have in common?


Well, they’re all books that I have read this week.  And what diversity – from an excerpt from On Humour by Simon Critchley; The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald; The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes ed D.W. Meinig; and finally The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson.

Humour takes a philosophical look at what we find funny.  Whenever you start to take apart something as seemingly spontaneous as humour, there is a very real risk of everything that makes it funny disappearing, and sometimes that is the case here, but in taking a look at something as deeply personal as what makes us laugh, chuckle, roar, or be in helpless giggles is actually very interesting.  As you might expect, there are elements that seem individual to each person but which are generic in how we respond to a joke, and I enjoyed my brief journey into the book.

It was in contrast to The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald.  This is a book set as a recounting of a walk in East Anglia, and I was never quite sure what was fiction and what was autobiographical, but it was all mixed in with a dose of history popping off at tangents.  I found myself being drawn into it and creating images in my head of the characters and histories recounted.

The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes, edited by D.W. Meinig, is a series of geographical essays, and what I expected to be dry and academic was in fact absorbing and enlightening.

The last book The Element by Ken Robinson immediately had me wanting to buy copies to send to Michael Gove (Education Secretary) and all the bigwigs who make decisions on our children’s education!  I hope that they have read it, but I doubt that they would – it makes far too much sense!!!  If they did, they’d have to re-think the whole school focus on maths, english and science and be much more inclusive, bringing the arts and vocational subjects into the same level of priority as the favoured 3! Ironically, anyone who’s an entrepreneur in business could tell them (and probably does!) that creativity in how we approach business, negotiations, daily life, is what it’s all about these days, and adaptability and imagination is the key to developing businesses and lives that are vibrant, growing, and fulfilling.  The old educational paradigms actually became defunct years ago, but the education system keeps hold of them for dear life.

I was in the position, when my son was around 9 years old, of teaching class music to 8 – 12 year olds at a middle school.  I’d never done class teaching, but they were desperate, and my knowledge of music is generally pretty good, I’d say.  I have to confess to being terrified at facing a class of 30+ youngsters who didn’t want to be doing school music, but I was blessed with colleagues in other subjects who were willing to try things out.  The curriculum stated that the children had to learn about instruments.  To me, an oboist, what better way to learn about instruments than to learn how sound is made, design your own instrument, make it and play it?  The art teacher allowed the students to design their instruments in art class, the physics teacher taught them about sound production, and the technology teacher helped them to make their own instruments.  Many children took the partially made projects home to finish off at home, and then they brought them to school and we composed little pieces that they then played on their own instruments.

It’s a simple enough approach, but one which required co-operation from other staff who had their own curriculum parameters to cover.  I was very fortunate that they were so willing to help this rooky teacher, and the kids got a tremendous amount out of the whole process.  That, to my mind, is how teaching should be – allowing teachers to work on collaborative projects which gives great enjoyment and fulfilment to them, and gives the children a holistic approach of how everything works together and also allows them to participate in a practical hands-on way also with great enthusiasm and passion for what they were learning.

One small example, but why, oh why, can’t the politicians and top educators get their act together and move into the real world with what kids need NOW to equip them for the world that needs them to be adaptable, versatile, imaginative and happy in what they do!!!!

If you haven’t read this book, do, and then go out and tell anyone in education – headteachers, governors, HM Inspectors, Michael Gove, about it.  I’m off to write that letter right now!

5 February, 2012

Lost in Lace Conference

An eagerly awaited conference, allied to the Lost in Lace exhibition, this was not a disappointment.  A wide cross-section of people attended the conference, hosted by Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery with partners, the Crafts Council to hear quality speakers.

The key-note speaker was Gijs Bakker, designer and co-founder of Droog Design, the famous Dutch design company who have done so much to change our perception of craft in design.  His presentation, based round lace, as were all the presentations, was informative but above all humourous, dry and beautifully ironic.  Taken from the notes that were given to all delegates, Gijs’ talk was entitled, Without Concept, No Craft.  ‘Form-giving’ is the Dutch word for design. He talked about craft being a tool for communicating conceptual interests, and that without concept, craft is merely a mastered sill, for skill’s sake.  His talk was stimulating, amusing and thought-provoking, drawing on his technique of jewellery making (which he loves and hates in equal measure, I think), but encompassing many of Droog’s innovative ideas and methods.  He mentioned “for me, designing is a way of thinking, a way of observing – intuitively understanding by continually questioning the subject and avoiding preconceptions.”

He was followed by CJ Lim, the founder of Studio 8 Architects, a practice in urban planning, architecture and landscape.  His presentation was a new experience for me, with his designs focussing on “multi-disciplinary innovative interpretations of cultural, social and environmental sustainability programmes.”  He uses, among other things, paper, carbon and glue to build prototype models in 2 1/2 dimensions of his futuristic, fantastical and eco-sustainable environments.  I am definitely going to buy his book “Short Stories: London in two-and-a-half dimensions”.  For me, this talk was of particular interest as I am investigating further the world of fractals and fractal geometry, although CJ freely admits that there is no science behind his use of the term 2 1/2 dimensions.  His is purely an artistic terminology where the work is not confined to the flat plane of 2 dimensions but is not a 3D model either.

The panel discussion with the two speakers was ably MCed by Grant Gibson, who many people know for his editorship of Crafts magazine, and also for his writing in various high profile publications both in the UK and beyond,and he oversaw the running of the day.

During the lunch break, and amidst the networking that was going on, delegates had the opportunity to be taken round the Lost in Lace exhibition by Prof Lesley Millar, the curator.  This was a chance to hear the rationale behind many of the works (although this can also be found in the catalogue) but was enhanced by Prof Millar’s passion and enthusiasm for the works.  It is the second time I have visited the exhibition and I was just as entranced the second time.

After lunch, Michael Brennand-Wood gave the story behind his piece in the exhibition, as well as showing us his close connection to lace throughout his long career.  I first came into contact with his work back in the 1980s and was intrigued by it then, something which has continued to this day.  His talk was called Pretty Deadly which reflected the use of military motifs integrated within lace-like and Islamic patterning.

Then came Kathleen Rogers, who explained the development of her piece in the exhibition which is a video installation of black Chantilly lace seen through a scanning electron microscope.  It is accompanied by the sound of silk worms chomping their way through mulberry leaves heard through headphones, and leaves you wondering if you are listening to a tropical storm in a rain forest or the silk worms.

Finally, the team of Kira O’Reilly (artist) and Janet Smith (biochemist) talked about their joint work on working with living cellular materials in the laboratory.  In the past, Kira has created artwork based on creating a living lace from skin cells, and together with Janet Smith , they have been working to culture cells onto spider silk.  This talk was very interesting, especially in relation to the ethical issues raised, and how the development of the work they are doing ‘sits within larger lace, craft and textile practices.’  This is indeed thought-provoking.

A very stimulating day, which left delegates with plenty to think about!  Also it was a very successful day in terms of attendance, even with problems on the mainline from London!  Hopefully the Crafts Council will be encouraged to put on more events like this outside of London….

18 December, 2011

Lost in Lace exhibition

This week my fellow masters students and I visited the Lost in Lace exhibition, curated by Lesley Millar, which is being held in the Gas Hall of the Birmingham Museum & Art Galleries.  The Gas Hall, along with its sister building across the street – the Water Hall, is a beautifully elegant, tall, spacious room with two side ‘aisles’ of practically equal size, one either side of the main section.  The lighting was low, but not too low, and photography is permitted (although no flash of course).  The pieces are beautifully laid out with plenty of space surrounding each one to allow you to walk around them and experience them from different angles, which really helps to appreciate them.

The connecting theme, as you might have guessed, is lace.  The museum holds a lovely collection of laces from many countries and centuries and some of them were shown in an associated exhibition, Concealed and Revealed, elsewhere in the museum.  The artists all responded to the lace in different ways, some producing items of lace-work but not made in the traditional ways of needle or bobbin.

Where to start?  Each of the works was evocative, compelling and rewarded close inspection.  My particular favourites included Piper Shepard’s Lacing Space; Atelier Manferdini’s Inverted Crystal Cathedral, incorporating lots of Swarovski crystals hanging in ginormous spider’s-web loops; Michael Brennand-Wood’s Lace the final frontier, in which he had worked his lace in motifs of war and weaponry and based the formal patterning on a fusion of Islamic and Western geometry; Annie Bascoul with her Moucharabieh and Jardin de lit, lit de jardin; Katharina Hinsberg’s Perceids; Ai Matsumoto’sNo Reverse, which used impressions of lace in silicon embellished with embroidery; Tamar Frank’s wonderful spirograph A thin line between space and matter which used phosphorescent thread, and different lighting conditions; and Alessia Giardino’s Polluted Lace which involved printing onto light-sensitive photo-catalytic white cement which uses UV light to oxidize pollutants and odours in the air.  This last piece gradually became more and more visible over a period of time during which it had been exposed to the environments of Italy and Birmingham.

This is an exhibition that one can return to again and again – happily it doesn’t close until 19th February 2012 – but the fact that the stewards I talked to find it the most interesting and engaging exhibition they’ve been in for a long time, and that since it opened, the visitor numbers have well exceeded the estimate of visitors for the entire duration, I think you might begin to get an idea about the sheer quality of this exhibition.  Stewards have to sit in an exhibition for a long time and shows quickly begin to pall when you are in them for long periods.  If the stewards love a show because of the different perspectives they get and the visitor interraction they get, then you know it’s a well-curated show!

I would urge you to visit the website http://www.lostinlace.org.uk/ and buy the catalogues.  There are two, a small one (£4) which has lovely in situ photographs and interesting nuggets of info (generally those provided on the interpretation boards in the exhibition), and the more expensive but more expansive £25 Lost in Lace: Transparent Boundaries which is a treat for anyone’s book collection!

Also, don’t forget to visit the Birmingham Museum & Art Galleries site http://www.bmag.org.uk/ and see their collections (which are extensive) and the other exhibitions on, including the famous Staffordshire Hoard of gold!!

We are so fortunate to have wonderful museums in the UK and Birmingham’s is a jewel in the city’s crown!

11 December, 2011

The Weave Shed

Filed under: Art,Education,Publications,Teaching,Travel,Weaving — Tags: — admin @ 6:46 pm

A little while ago, you may remember I posted that a new weavers’ website would be coming online to signpost everyone to all things weaving in the UK.

Drum roll, please….

THE WEAVE SHED is now open for business….

Visit www.theweaveshed.org to find:
- Weave information, resources and listings
- Weave-related stories and news
- Events
- Jobs
- Featured weavers and much more.
We’re a community website and welcome you to participate in its development – please send us posts for our blog. If you think we can improve in any way get in touch via our contact page at www.theweaveshed.org/contact.
We look forward to hearing from you!

Philippa Brock. MA (RCA)
Woven Textiles Pathway Leader,
University of The Arts London,
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design
So – what are you waiting for???!!!

10 April, 2011

Cambridge – another world

This weekend I gave a full day’s presentation in Cambridge at Girton College, for the Eastern Region Textile Forum on “Passive Income for Artists”.  It was a wonderful venue and truly inspiring location, with an enthusiastic and attentive audience of fellow textiles people.

It was the first time I have ever visited Cambridge, and I went a day early to visit the Scott Polar Institute, an unusual museum focussed entirely on the two polar regions.  This was fascinating, and I came away with a few photos, an iconic image of an ice cave, some ideas for developing work, and a tasty book – Jennifer Murray’s Polar First. The museum is long-listed for The Art Fund Prize for this year, and it certainly gets my vote.  Please support their bid for funding.  They’ve done a lovely job with their museum and deserve the support.

After that, I walked round to the Fitzwilliam Museum & Art Gallery.  What a place!!  The architecture drew me more than the art work, but that’s just me!  I love the intricate plasterwork, and the lofty proportions of some of the rooms, with their marbled columns, and large overhead rooflights.  I have to admit to laughing out loud when I walked into the main entrance hall.  Talk about over-ornamentation!!  OK, so Fitzwilliam was a show-off!! LOL  At the very least, he liked to make an impression!

I wandered around all the galleries, quite quickly, because I find myself getting ‘galleried’ out quite quickly, so I only looked closely at items that grabbed my attention.  Entrance to both museums is free and certainly I could have returned over several trips to do the Fitzwilliam justice!  A lovely tea room topped it off for me, and the blazing summer sunshine on a spring day certainly helped to raise the spirits!

After that, I allowed myself to get deliberately lost….  Wandering through the streets of Cambridge was like walking back into a different time.  This city, compact and self-aware, isn’t full of frenetic people.  Yes, there are every day folk, but there are so many people on bikes, pedalling through the town, lots of people who look as if they would be far happier in a dusty library than out in the sunshine on their way to a college, and of course, lots of tourists, like me, stopping to gaze at the incredible architecture of the historic colleges, set in their spacious quadrangles with blossoming cherry and almond trees, and with gateways with tantalising views of ancient buildings of learning signposted ‘Members Only’.

You couldn’t help feeling a little bit of an outsider, wanting to be in the ‘in’ crowd, to feel part of this other world.  At the same time, I got the feeling that this is a bubble – a privilege to be part of – but oh, could I stand to be in a permanent bubble?  It felt somehow detached from the real world.  I can imagine that to be a student here would be an incredible and enriching experience that would shape how you think and act, and certainly influence you for your entire life, but to be an academic here would be perhaps to lose touch with reality a little…

I could, of course, be totally wrong!  This was just an impression.  But it makes you reflect on your own education – the surroundings, the people you were with, what you took from that.  I am so glad I have been to Cambridge.  It is well worth the visit….

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