Silicone experiments on wool

So annoyingly I am still having trouble trying to cast wool samples and get it to release.  It’s frustrating as I have tried all sorts of release agents, other stuff like epoxy to harden it, it never seems to go right.  I have to cast the toilet dolly at some point soon too and unless I find the right thing she’s going to be stuck in their forever!


Heavy leather (Wet moulding suitcase)

I tried this as an experiment, because it felt the right thing to do.  I had build the box base and sanded it down ready to make the lid, but it felt too wooden….So I decided, having some 4mm leather in stock (I think I bought this by accident a few years ago) that I would spontaniously, at 10pm at night try wet moulding.  I had done this in my MA, albeit with thinner leather, but the way leather goes when it is wet is amazing.  Veg tan as a natural leather goes floppy.  It allows you to manipulate it round curves or moulds and sets in that position.

Using the base I soaked the right sized leather in warm water for about 10 minutes.  I then patted off the majority of the moisture and positioned it over the top of the wooden box (wrapped in cling film).  With my hands I moulded the leather around the curved edges of the box and smoothed it into place.  Wrapping the whole thing in clingfilm and securing the edges down with masking tape and adding pressure using wood and tape I left it to dry for 48 hours.

Being a thicker piece of leather than I normally work with, I used my friends stitch markers to create the stitch holes as mine would be too close together.  It punched out well and is now ready for stitching.  The side pieces were cut in relation to the curve and stitches again were marked ready to be sewn.  These are not all teh way through, but an awl was used to create a 45 degree angle on them to do a box stitch on the leather.  I have ordered thicker linen thread so I am looking forward to stitching this as soon as it arrives!

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.