The Trouble with Making

I have a confession to make.  I’m avoiding making….Not on purpose but I seem to be finding other ‘things’ to do for my PhD rather than get into the making.  I just seem to have lost my making mojo!

I keep having ideas and now I am using a folder system to keep each participants information in then when I think of an idea I am adding a scribble or doodle or notes to the it.  It seems to be working quite well at the moment and my story regarding crochet seems to be the one I keep becoming inspired by.  I also am working on a story about a ‘rolling pin’ which again I keep jotting down notes and coming up with ideas, but never managing to produce anything.

I think doing a part time PhD and working full time is proving quite difficult.  Because I lecture and study at the same place I find it hard to break away from the role on my designated ‘research day’ or because it’s on a thursday, by the time thursday rolls around i’m completely wiped out making ‘making’ considerably harder.

Also with making, i’ve always enjoyed it so its hard to then do it when I feel like I should be marking or planning a lecture.  It doesn’t seem like a legitimate thing to be doing (it feels like playing to me).  With this in mind, maybe it’s the perception of making as research that has to change which in turn may help to change my mindset…..

So the goal this week.  Buy cheap acrylic wool (as per the direction in the story i’m working on) and start to crochet a toilet dolly….(never done before)…This is to: a) make it look like mistakes are OK and b) the narrator of the story spoke of how her Nana created crocheted objects from memory rather than pattern so things were always slightly off….(which is good as my new found skills are limited!)

I might also try and learn a few different stitches as at the moment I can only seem to go round in a circle and it would be better to learn how to work in lines too….!  I’m going to go into the studio early on thursday to try and give it a go!




Typing up stories and its revelations

Having a funny research day today.  Started planning my presentation for my PhD progression point, but I find it hard to spend a whole lot of time on the same thing, so I’ve more or less done the slides, which for today I think is an achievement.  I will carry on with this tomorrow and then start practicing it out loud to the dog (he loves a presentation practice).

The main reason of suddenly wanting to write this though was because I realised I hadn’t typed up a few of my lost love stories that I had collected most recently.

I have had the others typed up for me as I felt this was just a ‘job’ that needed to be done, but actually I think it is a big part of the making process and getting into the stories and the minds of the people who’s lost love they are talking about.

I began reading and typing at the same time and the overwhelming urge to analyse using my ‘artists voice’ came into my head.  When the writer talked about that she wished her Nana had taught her how to crochet it felt like a jigsaw piece that would be used in the making of the artefact.


I have been struggling over the last few weeks with the concept of using the same materials (leather and silicone) as I always have used, but this has just allowed me to break free of that and think that I can work in other ways!

So my idea is to re-type up the stories using my artists voice to try and do some initial designing using words and then pictures to see what happens!

Visualising Research

IMG_6286Over the past couple of days, since receiving my draft report back, i’ve been re-looking at what I am trying to achieve.  I got some good feedback back from my supervisor and realised what i’d written was too in-depth and what should be going into an essay rather than that of a report.  I realised I hadn’t been looking at my key aims as I wrote and underpinning my theory with my practice or these aims so no wonder I couldn’t get it right!

I went back to ‘Visualizing Research‘ by Carole Gray and Julian Malins which has been really helpful in terms of working out how to correlate the practical making side with the theory side.  Just doing the map above of my research question along with each of the aims and where they are covered within the practical or theory side has really helped.  It also shows the links between each of the areas which I suppose was just what I needed to do to see how it fitted.  I still have to add all the people/books etc I’ve looked at to the diagram, but this can then be used for the overall mapping of the project.


I am now trying to re-focus on my literature and so have done a breakdown of ‘love’s terms of how this fits in with my making and my data collection that I have already done.  This has shown that child for parent and grandparent is the most submitted, followed by romantic love.  Love for a lost child has not been submitted at all.  This might be because it is too emotional to talk about.  Other areas lacking were that of friendship.  This may be due to it not being considered ‘love’ as such.  I’ve then got to compare to my making.

Better get on with it!

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

IMG_6256I’ll start off with a picture.  This is a picture of the wall I look at when I’m sat at my desk trying to write things for my PhD or if i’m making things at my desk.  I don’t ‘do’ photos or people around the house or in frames, so it is all condensed to this one wall in the spare room where only I come.  It’s a little collection of all the ‘loved’ ones I have or had in my life, mum and dad, grandpa and granny, Tim, the dogs and other things like a Russian Beatles Yellow Submarine picture given to me by a boy (Tim Fox) at school who shared the same birthday as me (he’s actually in a really cool band now) and a Joe Cool patch that came from my mum’s sewing box ( I love Snoopy).  All stuff that reminds me of things.

I’ve sat here today having received my report back with a few big changes I have to make.  It feels so hard to try to write what I’m supposed to say as I’ve ‘written’ all my life, letters, diaries, stories etc: But trying to write for this PhD seems so hard and frustrating.  It’s annoying the way academia strips the enjoyment out of things that you love.  Making has always been my first and foremost favourite thing.  Always wanting to try new things (at the moment, rug making, candle making, using a lathe, sewing a bag and making some shoes are all on the to do list).  But when framed in an academic context and having to do it for something rather than myself seems to take away the pleasure in the doing.

My supervisor has been great and I’ve probably had way more support than I should have had.  He sent my report back this morning with changes and we spoke on the phone about what I need to do, I just find it very hard.  It’s an odd time of year too as academic skills tutors and other staff aren’t about to ask so I feel a little bit like I’m struggling through this with not much clue as what should be…As much as I am told, I just can’t seem to frame it right.

Right so now for the onwards and upwards bit…I am going to first print my report out so I can see it in front of me.  I’m going to take it to the coffee shop and read through and scribble all over it and try to make some sense as I find this easier on paper.  I’ve downloaded an Ebook called Visualising research, but I think I need to get the real one out of the library tomorrow so I will do that then.

This afternoon I’m going to focus on the literature review re-framing.
OK just needed to get that out. I’m sure this is what happens with the highs and lows of the PhD process and I’m sure i’m not the only one and I’m also sure that this is not the most important thing in my life…it’s the people in pictures on the wall 🙂

The N-exlace and Taking on the burden of other lost loves.


The N-exlace was created in response to how the emotion of a lost relationship could be processed through the creation of an artefact.  Before working with other peoples stories I wanted to use my own experience of a lost romantic relationship to analyse and experiment with making techniques that felt appropriate.  Love letters and photographs were sourced, reread and looked at.  Diary entries found the time period were used to provide a contrast between what I’ve deemed the ‘public’ and ‘hidden’ side of the relationship.


He gave me a locket as a gift was used in casting experiments and this produced a negative ‘ghost’ silicone sphere, which I have kept as a memento of the relationship.
The making process used traditional handcrafts that were labour intensive and physical allowing each stage to be thought through thoroughly whilst actually making.

What I also discovered was when printing the leather, I thought of the times within the relationship, receiving the letters and writing my diary and analysing continuously.  The emotion that was felt whilst making the piece was quite intense.  I wasn’t entirely sure whilst making what form it would take.

Printing on the leather was experimentation and the acetone left the letters distressed and faded in parts, adding to the feel of the memories being faded.


The piece took the form of a necklace, very literal to the cast locket embedded within it but the leather began to symbolise my own skin that had been imprinted with these memories, but that had now been processed and could be removed from round my neck.  The making process allowed for therapeutic analysis to a certain extent.

Whilst collecting the stories from other individuals I have concluded the most expressive and emotional way of this is the written word.  I have interviewed a number of people verbally, but the emotion is not conveyed as intensely as through the personal letters.  This may be due to people being able to think and write what they are feeling rather than feeling pressured.


As a maker, reading these collected stories has been a harder experience than I anticipated.  Each one is filled with heart-felt emotion for lost loves and it has felt like I am taking on other peoples emotional burdens.  Through the making process I hope to relieve myself of these burdens as I create a new lost love artefact.