Monthly Archives: July 2015

The first year is done

How quickly the end of academic year has arrived. The last month has been a non-stop whirlwind of preparation and running of the show, last minute classes and tutors setting up assignments for the summer. I really need the summer break!  We will have more work to do over (the very short) summer break than I was expecting – but I really need some time to do some proper thinking, and more importantly have a rest!

Reflection on the interim show

The biggest piece of learning I will take away, is how you cannot overestimate how much work is involved in setting up a show. We started preparation way too late, but no-one had any idea what was required – and we were all surprised how much we were required actually sort out by ourselves. We got there in the end of course, but there were a few too many things being done (and work being finished!) just hours before the show opened.

I was impressed and surprised by how many people came to the private view, it was actually quite an event! I realise the vast proportion of visitors seemed more interested in drinking the beer than looking at the work, but I suppose that’s part of what a PV is about. There were some genuinely interested visitors as well though. Feedback wise, I had a number of people ask about what the work meant, particularly the Starfield piece, and quite a few people commented on how they liked the map basket. I even had a lovely discussion with Stella Harding (basketmaker), who took a few photos for her Morley students, and great comments from an unidentified member of Camberwell teaching staff – that’s the sort of feedback which motivates you to keep going.

So far, I have had three parents, one husband and a next-door neighbour come to visit me. So great to get so much support. Oh and nearly all of my business cards are gone already!

I have also taken the chance to quiz some of the second years before they disappear into the mist. One of my friends on the MA Book Arts course (with a mesmerising installation in the show), had some of the most poignant wisdom. Like me, she spent her EFT 1 year wandering though a range of very different experiments trying different concepts and different techniques, and ending up confused and overwhelmed with ideas. Her final success she believes, came from entering the second year with a new sense of purpose.

  • You have to OWN IT
  • Come back with FOCUS
  • BELIEVE in your ideas
  • Know what you want to say with your work / what you want your work to say (and the difference between the two)
  • INDEPENDENCE: you need to lead your own project
  • Listen to advice, but only take from it what is relevant to you
  • Ensure the work stays true to yourself

MA Designer Maker Interim show

We are about halfway through the show as I write this, while sat in our gallery space awaiting this morning’s opening time. In the end, there were a few iterations of my display before settling on the final collection of pieces.  At first, Maiko suggested I was in a no-man’s land: not resolved enough pieces for them to stand alone, but not enough exposure of process to show a proper work in progress. I’m not sure I completely agreed with her, but I understood why she wanted to show more of our processes – and to make a clear distinction between our ‘work in progress’ show and the MA final show – all shiny and finished – downstairs.

At first I tried putting all of my recent samples on the table

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Which I decided looked confused and untidy.  After a few goes re-arranging this, we settled on just showing one aspect of my latest experiments and adding another one of my fabric drawings:

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I also dropped a quick hand with some calligraphy for one of my fellow students in need!

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The view from the door…

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Nearly show time

The day for the interim show opening draws nearer, and it’s all a bit manic in the show space as last minute preparations continue. I think I am pretty much done now, having spent most of the last two weeks working on two new experiments for the show. I have decided to go with three pieces.

(Calico, found steel wires, wild flowers, graphite)
My rust dyeing and drawing experiment. I think this nicely captures the ideas of microcosm-macrocosm and using local materials with non-local symbolism.

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You Were Here
(Steel cable, out-of-date GB road map)
The first of my basketry experiments, using steel cables to echo the importance of iron to human life, both on a micro-scale (human society itself) and a macro-scale (the core of the earth and the core of the dying stars). I like the way the map is out-of-date – showing you a place which does not physically exist, only now an impression of place shaped by memory and experience. The twining was a lot of fun, but making the map yarn took a lot of time. I have the technique sorted now at least!!

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Show me the way to go home
(Steel cable, out-of-date GB road map index)
A follow-on from the first twined piece, making more of the connection between the steel and the earth’s magnetic field. The form of the basket was inspired by a compass rose, where the human impression of place, signified here through a twined yarn made of place names, is what we overlay onto the physical world in order for us to understand it.

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This is my final text for the show guide:

How do we understand our sense of place in the world beyond the constraints of community and culture?  These works explore different aspects of the interaction of local and non-local, the physical and the meta-physical; I use steel wires as a physical manifestation of a material critical in human, planetary and stellar lifecycles. Upon this core, I am experimenting with different weaving and drawing techniques.

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Private View this Thursday night (16 July) at 6pm, Camberwell College of Arts!!

Contemporary Cartography

Looking back over the last couple of weeks making and essay research, I have begun to develop more of a focus on exactly what aspect of “place” I want to explore.  In my last reflective post I said:

I could look at place its most grandest incarnation – how we make sense of our place in the vast unknowable depths of the universe? Moving past the awe and mystery into tangible, physical understanding.

Meaning: looking at a sense of place beyond borders, beyond cultures.  So! I have started a new set of experiments. Going back to some of my experiments from January, I am returning to the idea of basketry – and weaving more generally, after the delight I found in the frame weaving we did with Alice Fox last week. I am also returning to the idea of hand making paper yarn using old out of date maps (which I first tried in March and promptly abandoned!). I like the symbology of using an old map as a physical record of a point in space and time which no longer exists – as our memory of place also does. We take our interaction with places and twist and warp them through our own mental filters, creating our own personal map of the world.

This was my first construction test:

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Test 1: Steel cable, paper yarn, handmade vintage map yarn (1976 Bartholomew Map Dorset)

A few obvious things to change to make this better (including getting rid of the commercial paper yarn and making my own finer map yarn), so test 2 is now underway.

Although there is an obvious connection between map and place, this seems like a good time to explore fully the extent of meaning about working with maps.

What is a map?

Cartographic language is intrinsically linked with identity and the spaces we inhabit. Every map is framed within our representation of the world, defined by ourselves, our communities, our nations, our planet and beyond. Mapping allows us to locate ourselves in the world both physically and psychologically, the map of ‘imagined’ just as potent as the map of the ‘real’. Maps can be a simple scientific tool leading to familiar or unknown destinations, or to home or displacement, be turned upside down and inside out, connect to an interior mind or an exterior world.

Every map however is a projection, a representation. Maps produce new realities as much as they document existing ones. Projections are constructed, configured and underpinned by various assumptions about people – about place. A map, like a place is seen from the inside, with all of the inner workings of its visual field laid bare. But how can you know the full extend of any territory without surveying the entire space from beyond its borders? How can we know the size of the universe without stepping outside it?

Tom McCarthy [Mapping it out, 2014], described the Kafkaesque challenge of seeking to free yourself from the boundaries and see yourself from the outside as cartopsychosis: “I propose this is the truth not only of geography but also of identity tout court – that is, of Being. We live in the gaps, the oblique, morphing interzones between perspectival regimes that themselves are anything but stable

A slightly less oblique view comes from Maddy Rosenburg, Curator of the Central Booking Art Space in New York, who said the following about art-maps: “We are accustomed to looking at maps in attempts to find direction, our relationship to a physical interpretation of the land. But that land can be more than a city or country, it can help us to navigate our bodies, to understand our environment beyond its physicality into the realm of cultural space, and to grasp an understanding though the visceral. Cartographers can tell us more than just the routes from one point to another, they can map terrains of landscape or psychological space, that amorphous state that adds up to a sense of a place beyond mere cataloging. They can also reduce all to the basic, the pure essence of line and plane. We may glide across the surface but there always seems to be a rumble below it, roaming around a skin that is, as skin is, porous and organic.” 

Artists working with maps

There are a lot of different approaches to working with maps and map forms across applied and fine art. I searched for some people looking at the map as a way to explore place, predominantly sculpturally. First up, Shannon Rankin. Her work explores the relationship between physical place and intangible experience. She describes her use of maps by the following

Maps are the everyday metaphors that speak to the fragile and transitory state of our lives and our surroundings. Rivers shift their course, glaciers melt, volcanoes erupt, boundaries change both physically and politically. The only true constant is change.

Using a variety of distinct styles I intricately cut, score, wrinkle, layer, fold, paint and pin maps to produce revised versions that often become more like the terrains they represent. These new geographies explore notions of place, perception and experience, suggesting the potential for a broader landscape and inviting viewers to examine their relationships with each other and the world we share.”

Her work is an array of different sculptural and diagrammatic works using manipulated maps. These were some of my favourite pieces from her portfolio

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Second is one of my essay references Chris Drury, who uses maps as a way of making comparisons between places and as a way of exploring a place through which he has walked in a more reflective way. He uses maps in various ways, including cutting the maps of two places into strips and weaving them together to give both places a common context.