An Exhibition

Having applied for an exhibition at Dean Clough, I met with the Art Director and showed him a few of my artefacts.  He liked the concept and the idea and offered me a space in the converted bookshop that is currently hosting another small exhibit.

It has encouraged me to finish the pieces for a deadline, which is something that is helpful to me.  If I have something to work towards then I can plan my time accordingly.  I have now three of the larger objects to complete, each involving a large hand stitched or cast element with skills that are my own but need to be developed from the level I currently have.

Having viewed the space I came up with some ideas to have sections of the story on the displays, however in discussion we touched upon the 1960s art and language movement.  This is something I need to do further exploration into.

Thinking about my work involving distillations of stories into artefacts, or stories to inform the making process I have to be careful not to be too literal when displaying this.  The text could eclipse the artefact first and foremost, meaning that the viewer would read the text and only take away ‘my’ version of it, rather than thinking of their own story about it.  It may invalidate their experience of the artefact.  They may have their own story and emotional memory that links to brass shoes, or a football or rolling pin that they remember when looking at the pieces.  It is the job of the artefact to convey their own emotion and memory as much as the people who told the story in the first place.  What the audience contribute to the piece has its own validity.  This will be important to capture other peoples views on the work and their own experiences.  May be a box or wall to pin thoughts….?

I must remember that my artefacts are not simply a distillation of the story, but they open up other concepts.  A couple of diagrams that I have thought about to explain how the work is viewed are below.

The first shows how a story could be told including many different elements, but the core details are distilled down and utilised in the making process.  Some of these details are things that are recognisable and can be visualised in the finished artefact, others are elements that aren’t seen but inform the making process.  Out the other end, the artefact then has the core details embedded within it but also disperses other meaning to the onlooker where they read into their own ideas and concepts, memories and emotions of a particular person or object or experience.


The second shows how the artefact is in the middle and onlookers have totally different experiences of that same object, so like a venn diagram, elements of each persons experience overlaps at the point of the object but then different ideas, thoughts and stories are felt and experienced from it.


From the exhibition I would like to see how participants see the exhibition and ask them to comment on what they felt seeing the object and what they felt, but also see what other people say about the objects and how they feel, if they can relate to them as well.

I’m excited but nervous!!!!


Why I Stopped Filming

At the beginning of my PhD journey I felt that I wanted to record the journey in film and create little film montages for each object of the process.  This was for one reason, because I like the idea of being able to witness the process but also because my project was trying to capture whether emotions could be embedded within the object I wanted people to see this too.

Having discussed with my supervisors and thought about this, the filming has wained and dropped off.  Not completely, but partially with the latter objects.  It hasn’t felt as necessary to capture the process.  I still take still pictures of the different stages that I will utilise, but the moving image somewhat hampers the experience.  With filming I am always conscious that I need to make sure that my hands and the thing I’m working on is in shot and people will be able to see what is going on.  Kind of framing it for an audience.  This is something that doesn’t link with my PhD idea of transmission of emotions and so actually creating the videos doesn’t feel fully part of it.  Also creating the videos means I have less time to spend on my making and when the objects are displayed in an exhibition I want people to look at these and spend time contemplating the finished pieces rather than looking at the videos, that with my skill may not be as well produced as they could be, meaning again that it takes away from the overall finished feel of the exhibition.

Therefore I am just focussing on my making and the stories that I have to transfer into the pieces at the moment so I don’t get distracted by the camera.  I may set it up in the background for some things but not in a way that it is invasive to the project.  I’ve found it interesting coming to this conclusion as a thing that I thought would be integral to the project actually has ended up being something that could have hampered the project in the end.


Bag Stitching continues…..

When I decided to create this bag by hand I thought it would take a while, but I hadn’t anticipated the amount of thought and desicison making that goes into the construction of a hand stitched bag.  When machining I just ‘go for it’ but the position of the stitching, making sure all the stitches fit in place, making sure the thread doesn’t get spliced all has to be thought about.  The bag stitching takes time but it’s amazing to look at it now and see that it’s starting to resemble a 3D shape and a real bag!  The lining, as seen above is a patchwork of pages of the participants mothers RAF training note book.  She was a keen make do and mender and utilised all sorts of things after their first life was over.  Including making patchwork bags out of old clothes.  The lining is a patch work to symbolise that and the bag resembles the style of bag her mother used to carry.  She remembers it smelling of fountain pen ink and leather.

So I reckon a few more nights of stitching (I watched the whole Back to the Future trilogy whilst stitching the lining and the flap).

It’s really given me time to reflect on the story and think about the participant in this piece.  I’ve really enjoyed the hand made process so far.



Forging the drawer handle

Today I learned a new skill from someone.  I have frequently visited the blacksmith over the road and he (Richard) and his friend (John) have always been amazing at helping me, making me tools, inspiring me to do my own craft and believe in my own work.  A few weeks ago when I visited we talked about a number of different things that can be read here When things just fit into place…

Basically the drawer was left outside the blacksmiths shop, I needed a drawer, I used the drawer, John offered to teach me how to forge and make a handle for it.  As the PhD is all about passing on stories and knowledge, this was a great opportunity to learn and talk (my two favourite things).

Lighting the forge at 9am the smoke was beautiful, like an early morning mist.  Story telling of jobs and experiences past flowed freely and so did the cups of tea!  I learned how to lengthen a piece of steel, the rhythm needed for the hammer to get it even, straighten it out and mark the middle.  I learned when to take it out of the fire, how to use the bellows and how to brush off the oxidised muck before hammering.  How to hold the hammer, work the anvil and then how to put it back in again.  The next part (and with a very achy arm) I twisted the hot metal in a vice with a pair of pliers to create the twist on both ends.  Then hammer into right angles to create the handle shape.  Fitting it into the drawer was easy, just a little bit of a drill and it pushed in like it had been made for it (it was made for it so I suppose that’s why it fit!).  It was cleaned up with a wire brush to get rid of the muck and tada!   The experience was exciting, interesting and exhausting.  It made me feel a real part of a team and learned something that I would like to know more about.  Again this project has built friendships and told stories along the way.

The Rhythm of Stitching

The flap over bag is the last story I collected and so technically the newest in design and production.  It has been a slow process so far as stitching the handles has taken a good few weeks down to being not so well and also the pain hand stitching leather exerts on your fingers.  Its like learning to play the guitar…until your fingers have got used to it it blooming hurts!

Today I set aside to get something of everything done.  I didn’t have a plan as such but things just happened as they usually do.  I glued the hinge on the bottle piece so whilst the room was smelly I thought I may as well glue the base of the bag into place.  Then once i’d glued it and left it all to dry I thought I might as well punch in the stitch holes.  A nice rhythmical job.  Then because I’d done that I wanted to check if the needle would go through the different layers so started stitching.  I sat with my legs either side of my tall lump of wood I used for stitch hammering and had the bag draped over.  The needle glided through as I’d waxed the cotton well before stitching and although I sat in silence I started tapping my foot as I was stitching, then I realised I was singing San Quentin by Johnny Cash!  Thank goodness it was only me in the house!  I thought about it and I think it was me getting lost in the work.  It reminded me of the women in the mills weaving or stitching.  I would like to look up work songs or something.  I re-found Illuminations as well so I’m going to have another read of it.

The other thoughts were of the mother who the story was about.  Her make do and mend culture and how she cut a bed sheet in half and sewed the outside edges in when they wore out in the middle.  It made me think about this as I’d opted to do all the stitching by hand rather than using machine which also gives me more attachment to the piece as I feel I am investing time and thought in it.



The Drawer

The drawer that was found outside the blacksmiths shop was made of hard wood.  It was too long at too tall but the circumstances of its appearance fit in with my work so well that I had to use it and adapt it.  It already had its own meaning and its own memories embedded.  It had once held someone else’s treasured possessions.  An archive of something that I would never know.  But already built into the wood was the history of someone else life, passed on to me from someone else ready to store its next memory.

So I took the drawer to pieces and played with the location of where the watch could go.  On the back of the drawer or on the bottom.  The bottom seemed more fitting for a natural location for the object.  instead of just placing it into the drawer I wanted to embed it so I drilled and sanded the shape for the object to fit.  I then cut down the length of the drawer, but it felt too high, so I then cut the tops of each piece down and the front panel and glued them back together, clamping so it fit properly.  And it did!  It just worked being this size.  I sanded the tops down and thought about the story with the rhythmical motion.  Then the front piece was cut glued and screwed into place on the front of the drawer awaiting its forged handle that is yet to be made.  The handle will give me the opportunity to learn the skill of forging.  Hopefully this will happen next week.

The drawer felt the right finishing touch to the watch.  It needed something to sit in rather than the strap or something around it.

When things just fit into place…

Having recently completed the first half of the watch piece, I set about creating its ‘surround’ which I thought was going to consist of the strap.  I’ve always thought this was a bit too literal so I tried to adapt slightly.  However making it in paper it didn’t fit the proportions of the watch and looked odd and it didn’t feel like it fitted the story.  Referring back to the story, the place where the participant keeps it is in her dressing table drawer, where she keeps all the odd objects you only need at certain times, so I went back to it’s house and where it should sit.  I came up with the idea that it should be sat in a drawer made of hard wood.  A part of the story discussed how her father was always good with numbers and converted plans from cm to inches when moving house to make sure all his furtniture would fit.  I therefore want to measure and convert, leaving the measurements present so these can be seen as an homage to his skill with numbers.  The silicone also signifies his support for water aid making it look like a big bubble of water in the surface of the drawer.

Having decided to change the design, reality then hit as to how I was actually going to make the piece as I would need to source hard wood and work out how to make a drawer.  This was because I felt I needed to make it as part of teh process.

On a trip over the road on friday to visit the blacksmiths I found Richard and John working away on some railings.  I had taken bits over to show them and just to have a general chat.  I mentioned I needed to make a hard wood drawer to which Richard mentioned he had a dove tail cutting jig.  We mused about this for a bit and then he mentioned someone had left two hardwood drawers outside the workshop the day before.  He told me to go and have a look.  There were two long drawers, but the wood was exactly what I’d envisaged.  I took one down to the shop and started thinking about it.  I suddenly felt this was teh right thing to make the drawer from.  Re-measure and cut it to fit what I needed.  And working alongside craftsmen is what my project is all about.  AND a found object that needed a home.  Richard hadn’t wanted to burn them as they were good wood, but this is why people leave wood for him.  It felt complete.  the only thing that was missing was the handle.

John who is a whizz on the forge and anvil has recently been teaching me basics of ironmongery.  He mentioned we could make a handle and he could teach me to forge it.  Everything seemed to just fit into place.  The story combining more elements of the participants memory and my relationship with craftspeople and new techniques further developing.