27 March, 2011
Mapping – a physical two- or three- dimensional representation of a given place at a given time. Maps are usually associated with a scale, a grid, an orientation, and presenting information. They can be geographical, social, economic, linear, bird’s eye view, a footprint. They can indicate power, land ownership, a way of thinking, a direction, physical properties, an impression.
This, and more, I learnt at Textile Forum South West‘s conference on Mapping the Future: Where are YOU now? It was held in the Somerset College of Art & Technology in Taunton and featured 7 speakers! A feat of organisation which passed off really smoothly. A hugely diverse speaking panel, starting with geomatician Peter Merrett and including maps and mapmaking, tapestry maps (Dr Hilary Turner), Networks (Dawn Mason), Mapping Impossible Islands : the internet for artists (Kirsty Hall), a sense of place embodied in a performance piece by Suze Adams, a mapping of a textile journey (Liz Harding) and keynote speaker, Dail Behennah talking on Grid, Line and Symbol.
As you can see, very varied fields of knowledge, and wonderfully thought-provoking. I especially enjoyed Peter’s presentation of 3-D animated fly-pasts of Greenland, and mine shafts, along with Dawn’s Stitching and Thinking group doing research through hands-on crafts-based practice, and Dail’s presentation on her wonderful willow-work.
This is the fourth of TFSW’s conferences and sadly, it might be the last unless new people volunteer to give time and energy into sustaining it. In the Midlands Textile Forum, we too have had to change format due to the lack of volunteers to keep it sustained at its previous level. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Every organisation has its lifetime, and may have to re-invent itself as funding streams change, the organisers want to reclaim their own making time for themselves, and we all know that there are those who will never commit to helping out whilst wanting all the benefits, alongside those who work really hard to contribute. That is life. Whilst it would be very sad to think that such an active and vibrant group as TFSW would not survive, that is the harsh reality of funding cuts and burnout.
I had the added pleasure of staying with fellow weaver Janet Phillips in her lovely cottage in Nether Stowey. Janet runs weaving courses in her purpose built studio up the path in her garden and we did a video interview for the WeaveUK video series I’m currently working on. Janet is well known in the weaving world from her two books, The Weaver’s Book of Fabric Design (1983) and Designing Woven Fabrics (2008). The former is out of print, the latter you can get direct from Janet. I had only met Janet once before, and that only briefly, so it was really a privilege to stay with her and to chat over a couple of days.
An extra bonus was to find that her husband, Nigel, is also an amateur geologist and we went out to East Quantoxhead to look at amazing strata and limestone pavement, and then to Blue Anchor Bay to see the Jurassic/Triassic interface and marvel at huge blocks of peach-coloured alabaster that have sheered from the cliff! Stunning! What a wonderful way to spend a weekend – weaving, textiles and geology!
20 March, 2011
I was doing a little tidying of my workshop, just clearing out the area under the stairs today. Wow. Isn’t it amazing just how much stuff we accumulate?!
It got me seriously alarmed as I pulled things out and took them outside so i could sort them into piles of keep, recycle, sell, and throw. The more I worked through the pile, the more stuff found itself on the throw pile. It just kept coming!!
I stopped for a cup of tea and started looking round my studio, wondering if I ever had to relocate, what would I do with everything?
It’s a known truism (not sure that it’s a fact) that we accumulate stuff to fill all the available space. Well, in my case, that is so true! And what a worry…
My Dad is in the throes of clearing out the house that he shared with my mum for over 35 years, in preparation for moving north to be with his second wife. Both Mum and Dad were hoarders – a product of being brought up in the war years when you grabbed anything that came on the market quickly before it disappeared. That I understand. The job is going to take him the best part of a year at least.
I had never thought of myself as a hoarder – not an dyed-in-the-wool hoarder, anyway – until today when I looked around and really looked at my stuff. Most of us fibrey people collect things and are given things, and we are so hesitant to pass them on or get rid of them. Having been weaving for 20 years this year, I have a 20-year hoard! Yikes.
So right now, I am contemplating what I really need. What do my students really need? Can I simplify things and pare my stuff down over the next few months? I like to use stash anyway, so that’s not really a problem until I go somewhere like the Handweavers’ Studio!! Like many of you, I probably have enough yarn to stock a small shop!
I find this kind of scenario can be very stimulating. It gets you to focus on what’s important in your life and to clear away the excess baggage that seems to pile up so easily. For instance, I have a cold mangle that I bought ages ago and have used once! Why am I hanging on to it? Does anyone in the UK want a good old-fashioned cold mangle?
Oh yes, and there’s an industrial jacquard power-loom too….. Buyer collects!! (And bring a low-loader!) LOL
13 March, 2011
This week was the first time I had to give a presentation to the MA students and staff. The preparation took a surprisingly long time because I kept having sudden realisations. Like – my goodness, I’ll have been weaving for 20 years in June!! Yikes!! That’s both very salutary and uplifting at the same time. Twenty years has flown by! But the knowledge that there is still so much to learn and I’m so excited about the potentials in what I’m doing is energising.
I also realised that I work in two very distinct ways, and always have, and didn’t even know it! Back in the day (1994/5) when I was doing a distance-learning course called the Bradford Diploma of Handloom Weaving (although it included spinning, braiding and dyeing as well as theory paper) I was allowed to choose a theme for my warps as opposed to specifying a technique. Once that permission had been given, my weaver’s block lifted and I flew in terms of design ideas and challenging myself. The theme I chose for my first themed warp was Antarctica. I’ve written about this before, I think, but it was a watershed moment for me in my weaving life. Using a direct inspiration from a nature photograph changed the whole way I thought.
The other method is to decide on a technique I want to study and explore it as far as I can…. Like the woven shibori for texture (although I’ve only just started on that….!)
Technically, I’m quite proficient and self-disciplined. I’m also a very literal person (not quite as bad as Temperance Brennan in ‘Bones’ on TV, but nearly!) so I have tended to take an image and try to re-create it through weaving.
This is something I am seeking to change. I’m sure it won’t be all the time, but I am looking to develop my capacity for abstraction.
Anyway, back to the presentation.
I’m used to giving presentations as a speaker, a teacher and a workshop leader. That’s not a problem. However, the Q&A session afterwards I knew was going to be tough. You’re talking to a highly educated group of people who have a good understanding of the art world. There was one audience member who is primarily a lace maker (exquisite work) but who also weaves, but other than Louise, no-one else is into textiles. My past education and livelihood was in music and my knowledge of the art world is limited, to say the least (although expanding rapidly!!)
It was very interesting to me to see that the tactility of the work spoke so strongly to people. I foolishly didn’t hand the samples out during the talk (partly because I thought the lights were going to be switched off, so it would have been hard for people to see, and partly because I forgot to do it halfway through the presentation). One of my tutors started picking samples up and handling them, passing them around. People were fondling them and really relating to the textures and relief surfaces.
I also hadn’t realised that the samples I had supplied would be regarded as a finished piece. To me, samples are such a fundamental part of developing my weaving language, but I am also aware that I could sample till the cows come home and still not have enough! It is going to be a challenge to find a stopping point and actually create finished work.
I did have one finished piece there, of a Dry Stone Wall in Staffordshire, and I had framed it on a simple stretch frame for posting to Convergence last year. What was especially interesting was that a bigger sample I’d made was seen as having more potential than the finished piece. This was sampling an interpretation of a snow field and the dichotomy of the materials (cotton and wool) with the idea of an ice field proved to be an interesting comment.
Another wonderful impromptu comment from one of my tutors of one of the woven shibori samples being ‘an earthquake in my pocket’ has really got me thinking! It’s also a very sobering thought in the light of the terrible events this week in Japan. Maybe this one comment will take me along a different path to the one I had anticipated.
There were some difficult moments when people asked me questions I couldn’t answer or didn’t understand. I need to develop my self-confidence so that I can ask for clarification when I don’t understand. Also the feelings of defensiveness that can so quickly rise up need to be put in their place. I have realised that I am so used to speaking to a weaving/textile audience that I haven’t considered how to put things that aren’t so readily known to a non-textile audience.
Lots of things to think about! Just what a masters is all about!
6 March, 2011
This week I have to do my first masters presentation.
OK, no big deal….! So far this semester, I’ve been attending a geology module, and the contextual art lectures. But I haven’t been doing anything specifically for the MA… But now I have a deadline to get something down in a concrete-ish form!
So I have now spent a wonderful two days collating images and playing with mood boards.
This was extra therapeutic because I had a few ‘down’ days this week caused by all sorts of little things that I allowed to affect me, and the only person who could raise my spirits was, of course, me!
So as I browsed through the tourist brochures I’d collected on Agnes & my trip to Arizona last summer, I found myself getting excited about the colours and textures all over again. It brought back all the wonderful memories of our travels, and instantly raised my mood and my energy level.
I have a large corkboard and I use both sides. One side is my textures side….
The other is all about the amazing colours of the Arizona/Utah rocks at various times of day and weather conditions….
Agnes and I have a plan to produce work for a joint exhibition based on this trip, so this will be my base point. I’m really looking forward to it as we have such different weaving styles, and Agnes’ sense of colour is just so wonderful!
It’s such a lovely way to get into the mood of a project to compile a board of images. I spend quite a lot of time cutting images out of magazines, selecting them from my collections of cards, postcards, and general design inspiration. I then spread them all out over the table, put the empty board in front of me and start playing with composition, positioning and re-positioning the different elements until I get a feeling that I like something….
When I first started creating mood boards, I always felt anxious that I was doing it wrong until I realised nobody else need see them. Then a client saw 4 different boards and loved them, and I suddenly appreciated that what I thought was just playing expresses how I see things and other people like to see ‘inside’. Now I have learnt to trust my sense of colour and form and don’t apologise any more!
So I feel I have something to show with my presentation. I have been doing quite intensive texture research for a few years now, so I have lots of samples, and I have the mood boards to give a flavour of the work I am intending to do, and all I have to do now is present my thoughts and ideas with conviction and passion….