Category Archives: 03.4 Tutorials and seminars

Symposium II

I remember very clearly the Symposium held this time last year, watching the then second years floundering under the pressure of presenting and responding to difficult questions. How quickly the world turns and it was our turn!

I went in the first group, a mix of people doing more functional, art based work with personal and poetic based content. It was a good grouping and I think all of the presentations in the group went well. I was pleased with how mine went, I did what I set out to do, although it is hard to tell how it went down with the tutors. I didn’t get any direct questions either – there was only one question about communicating emotions to the audience asked to all four of us. Perhaps no-one had anything to say to me, or couldn’t engage with my topic? Not sure.

The rest of the day was very intense but ok, most of the presentations weren’t too bad – most people had been a little more interesting than just a straightforward chronological catalogue of what they had done. As with last year, those who clearly do not understand their project nor their context stand out a mile. Also painfully standing out were those who are doing the course ‘just because’ and have no intention of building on it later. Perhaps people should just be more honest: saying that their MA project is just a one-off to build skills and they are going straight into an ordinary job afterwords. It would be much easier than experiencing a mauling under questioning. Overall, my main takeaway was about use of language, and how easy it is for someone to make sweeping statements and assumptions about people using their choice of words. You must be aware of how people will interpret the messages you put across. Also, there is no such thing as “Eastern” or “Western”!

First assessment box ticked!

Show: T-6 weeks
27 days until show build

How to build an installation

So then. It is decided that I am doing an installation for the show – large scale for me, although perhaps small scale in absolute terms. I must consider there will be a dozen other students showing in the same space!

I have been going back over my research notes looking at the range of things which are possible, trying to see what resonates with the fundamental concepts I have come out with for what the installation is seeking to do. My thought is that I am using the map yarns in a way that each thread unravels a fragment of identity formed or remembered – a story, a choice, a path, a longing. The binding of the threads together perhaps can then offer a glimpse of the fleeing whole sense of self.

There are many artists working with fibre installations, and each offers a different perspective on how their materials can be transformed spatially, texturally and through form. How do I want to create an expression of my different experiences? Do I want to represent the size of impact each place had on forming my identity?

I also need to consider the number of map yarns it will be possible to make in the time we have left, and how many I would go to in an ideal world. There are not an infinite number of places in my life, so which places am I choosing? Those which have made the strongest impact irrelevant of time span?

My plan now is to do some testing which plain paper yarns in a space in the studio – check what a hanging installation could look like, what the lengths of my yarns will look like on the floor and options for building the individual strands into one whole. Oh and continue to make endless amounts of map yarn!

Show: T-8 weeks

Crit on work-in-progress show

The work in progress show closed yesterday, leaving the next show on the calendar as our graduating summer show…Arg!

We had a couple of opportunities for feedback before taking down our work, firstly from a group crit during the morning, and then from visitors at the show closing party after hours. Slightly mixed feelings about my feedback. I heard at least three sets of visitors comment on my work saying it was “amazing” and “wow! look, they are maps!”, but the response from the tutor was at best tepid.  We had quite a lively discussion in the class when I introduced my pieces, and I was pleased to see the group arguing amongst themselves about the meaning of my work – just the sort of debate you would hope to achieve.

The crux of their question was to the level of my specific personal experience which is on display in the work. Some thought they related better to the work because it was more universally human (mountains, sea etc), while others felt I myself was less present – an outside observer of the places being constructed. Suggestions such as making my own maps, using photographs or recording paths etc to personalise the materials. [Some of which I have already tried, some of which I have mixed feelings about].

My concern, is that Maiko seems to think my experiments have not broken away enough and I got the distinct impression from what she said that she didn’t seem to be keen on me doing more weaving. I’m hoping to clarify this before the end of term as I’m not very clear as to what her expectations are – how can I just drop my plan so close to the end? to do what else instead?

Being positive, I do see a couple of key points in her comments: certainly on the inclusion of personal experience into the work, and perhaps also on the safety/comfort of the technique. My worry is that I don’t have enough skill to go anywhere else with the method, or not enough creative vision to figure out what possibilities I’m missing. With only 15 weeks to go, how much have time do I really have to keep experimenting?


Map weaving tests I

I’ve had two ideas for the final show based on my initial map weaving sample. After talking to Susan, I decided I had just enough time to do a quick test of both ideas before the work-in-progress show in March.

First idea test is now complete, and I showed this at a group crit this morning. With this test, I wanted to pick out one aspect of place identity, and let the form of the weaving be interpretive, based on my response to the place shown on the map, and my feelings of how that place infuses my own identity. This seemed to be completely lost on everyone, and the focus was more on the shape (“is this some sort of sea creature?”) than on anything more conceptual. They didn’t seem to get the idea that the piece was made with all one aspect of the map which I had deconstructed, nor the significance of the data on the label. Disappointing, but I have to remember a) this group is not the audience I am targeting with my work, and b) it was meant as a test and I did ask for the feedback after all.


This brings me to the question as to whether my second idea may be ‘easier’ for people who aren’t inherently conceptual to engage with. Do I want to broaden the appeal of my work a little and make it more accessible? I don’t want to dumb down, but I don’t want it to be completely uninterpretable either. If only I get anything from it, that slightly defeats the point of the artwork. This beings me back to the low relief sculpture I mentioned in the last post. Removing the challenge of form (I would be weaving on the map grid) would mean I can focus solely on texture and colour….

I’m going to see if I can get a final test of this second idea done before the WIP show…but with only a few days left spare, I’m not sure if that’ll work in time!! Then it will really be time for a final decision and to start making the summer show pieces.

Practitioner lecture: Merel Karhof

Interesting visiting lecture from Studio Merel Karhof who talked to us about her work. She described herself as revealing the unnoticed and creating awareness of obvious things such as the colour of water, or the urban wind. There is a strong emphasis on the process which I really liked.

She started by talking about her wind knitting factory which came out of a class exercise while she was studying at the RCA. An interesting premise for a production process: a wind powered knitting machine which creates raw knitted materials she uses to form textiles, for fashion and upholstery.


She was very interesting to listen too, although I must admit I’m wasn’t entirely convinced by the wind knitting idea. I felt she isn’t pure enough with the process to make it capture the full serendipity of wind – instead, manipulating the outputs in order to make more commercial products (e.g. felting the knitting afterwards to reduce the holes/impurities in the wind knitting, or using chemical dyes mixed in with natural dyes as the colours are brighter). Is this really a business model, or just a gimmick? If it makes money, does it matter – or is that part of the different between art and design?

What I did like however, was her description of her process as an experience of visualising the intangible. Her other works were more interesting, and she showed some work from a month long residency in Italy. I particularly liked the scarf made to reflect the different colours of the water in the Venice canals over the course of the 30 days.


Narrative weaving

Catching up on new making and a couple of days of tutorial ups and downs…

After doing the colour experiments a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try doing a bigger piece which would show me what a larger piece of the paper weave would look like. So, last week I made a piece which incorporated the narrative materially into the weave; I based it on the idea of ‘origins’, and used of-place materials which spoke of one aspect of my place identity. Although this sounded like I knew what would come from it, looking back now it was clearly an early-stage, slightly unplanned experiment. Looking at the finished piece, there is something in it…but it’s a long way from being anything resolved. And perhaps not a final show worthy idea after all.



After making this piece I tried to figure out what I didn’t like about it. More than anything else my choice of materials is perhaps the biggest question: paper, map, wheat and white willow. I know I wanted “English” materials, but this set doesn’t really fit together very well. Let’s not even discuss the fact that the paper is actually Japanese. My favourite pieces have all been ones which have had a single material propagated throughout, and this is a long way from that. Still, I thought there was something interesting in it….but I’m no longer sure quite what that was.

I had a catch-up with Maiko yesterday and unsurprisingly, she didn’t like it, and seemed unnervingly happy that I wasn’t pleased with it also. In fact, Maiko didn’t really think there was anything in any of the paper weaving samples I’ve done. Perhaps I see alone see something lovely in the coloured weft weave in particular, but that isn’t related to my current project. Something to file in the new ideas book I think?

So what next? Well, before I went in for my tutorial I imagined a mini-Maiko on my shoulder asking “Why? Why?” and went back to my project objectives:

I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.

And this brought me back to the idea of using map weave and the ideas around the heterotopia – in Richard Long’s words where the sculpture and the place are one and the same. I was quite enjoying the deconstruction and reconstruction of the map back over the holidays (and the echo in constructing and deconstructing the sense of self). Time to revisit the map mini-project!

This was my new test piece done using plain 2-ply paper in place of the more time-consuming handmade map yarn:


I really liked the vibrancy of structure in this piece and could envisage a really large, topological (topographical?) low relief sculpture made completely of maps. Something echoing the ups and downs of the evolution of one’s own sense of self across a lifetime?

When I showed Maiko these she went straight for the thread made of north sea blue, and seemed fascinated by this as an object in its own right. Unlike the restricted loom weaving, there is a lot of potential in this idea and we had a lively chat about some things to consider. Maiko suggested I had come full circle, arriving back where I started the course process-wise but with a different idea of making and the development of my ideas. [I certainly hope I have moved on after all this time and effort!??] I definitely had no clue about materiality and the agency of object (and process itself) when I started. I think this idea, although not yet fully resolved, can contain all the lessons I have learnt about making over my time at Camberwell.

Today, I followed up this chat with a tutorial with Susan J from the Book Arts course. We last met last June before the interim show – so much has come on since then! Really great chat and lots more ideas to think about. Nicely different yet complementary to the comments from Maiko. Importantly she reiterated that there is still time to experiment. I can a have a “plan for the show” right now without needing to know exactly to the mm what the final object will look like.  She said not to pin everything down too early, there is still time!

So a summary of my reflection from both discussions:

  • Colour will be a key factor to manipulate in the final object…
  • …as will tension – does the tension in the weaving echo tension in the landscape / geological or identity crisis?
  • Investigate the relationship of the grid as the basis of weaving and the grid as the basis of mapping
  • The form of the final object need not adhere to the grid, subversive weaving? Be wary of not making it look like a ‘basket’ though
  • It also doesn’t need to be a really big piece which contains every concept in one – I can focus it down, specific ideas to specific pieces, and show a series of works
  • Since I’m obsessed with words and this is conceptual art, use the labels to add extra layers of meaning to the work. I can make the display of the final pieces work to my advantage here – labels, libraries, context etc.
  • The weaving is a condensation of all of the information of the map into a new object, and this is quite a powerful image I can play with (e.g. this one piece of textile is made from 10 individual 1:25000 O/S maps etc). This is not only true spatially but temporally as well.
  • The map is normally a folded object so what am I saying by showing it in a non-folded form?
  • Do I want my pieces to be touchable, will you be able turn them over? OR do I want people to see the underneath but not be able to feel it?
  • on this point, a map it a two-sided object. The back either has a new map, a blank space or an index/legend of some kind. How will I make use of this or acknowledge this in the work?
  • Remember eggs and baskets!


Feedback tutorial with Maiko

This is what I took away:

  • Try making without thinking so much
  • My research paper was good, so use the learning found in it to help guide your making
  • Proposal seems to have been re-focussed to try to make it more objective – you don’t need to do this. It is ok for work to be subjective and about your journey as other people can still relate to this. Recall the context you uncovered in the research paper. It is fine to keep updating it though, the Unit 1 Submissions wasn’t a final draft.
  • Consider talking to others about how their sense of self is shaped by a sense of place – more than just words, you remember things with all of your senses (although everyone remembers differently)
  • Try to do a mini-project which is material led, this doesn’t have to be part of the bigger context, just something to help me work differently
  • Re: Unit 2 / future practice, it’s time to start thinking about your future audiences and channels – if you want to exhibit etc, who is your audience and where would you want to sell / show your work
  • Consider other definitions of locality – locality can be within a person (you make your own place within your self). My work has always been about place: the human narrative, history, impressions and memories overlayed onto a physical space is the key within my project, it’s not just about experience of a space


Orientation and map making workshop

We had the chance to drop into a workshop the lovely Bridget was running for the first years this morning, the aim of which was to essentially make a giant context map for the whole MADM cohort. I was taking part primarily to observe and document the process, seeing how the mind mapping process was approached by the participants and how we went from blank page to completed map.

The first stage was creating a physical map by standing people in groups according to their future vision (get a job, run a studio etc.). We then started to join people according to what materials they use in their practice.

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One of the key things I noticed was the fluidity of the map – what Bridget was doing was essentially changing the projection method and watching what happens. The links and points stay the same but the arrangement of the network moves. This is something I will be very keen to look into more.

The second half of the exercise was to create a mind map using cards/pictures for the context of the entire class. This was very interesting to watch and see the overlaps of everyone’s work. I did feel a little isolated sadly though, as my work still seems to drop of the very edge of the group – even more so in comparison with the first years as they seem to be very design / product heavy. This is something I have to just accept as it is more critical than ever for us to be true to our own practices – and do the work we want/need to do for ourselves.

This was the resulting map:
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Overall very informative and fun, as always with Bridget’s workshops. Lots of thoughts to take away.

Group Tutorial w/ Maiko

Our first group crit of the second year! Fascinating to see the difference between now and a year ago: everyone sounds so much more certain, more involved and simply more excited about their work and their plans for the future. If you look at the members of the class who haven’t done as much development (perhaps through simply not making or testing enough ideas) you can’t help but feel for them – seeing a frustration and a confusion that we’ve felt all year but have finally started to leave behind.

I went into the session still harbouring my A v B quandary and wondering how to combine or choose between the two ideas. First off I presented my (Experiment A) corn circle and the accompanying photos to the group. Responses:

  • Corn is heavy with ritual symbolism, even in a simplified form compared to my desire line this is still evident. This is fine if that’s what I want the piece to say, but….do I? (No)
  • Can’t escape the context of folk traditions / folk craft with this either. Now this is true partly of any weaving I do, but the corn weaving makes this much more manifest through the material.
  • Do the photos do anything? I’m not convinced and the group didn’t sound convinced either – Maiko picked up on the alien geometry of the circle standing out against the urban backdrop (pure circles aren’t that common). This is exactly what I wanted but…. I’m now not sure I like the idea at all

We then went on to discuss a few other general ideas. The main points I noted were:

  • The land artists such as discussed in my research paper generally use elemental materials – wood, stone, earth, water etc. I could consider creating my own elemental language, perhaps if not literal then metaphorical
  • I explained that I think I finally understand the agency that the material itself has in generating meaning, so perhaps it is time to let go of my current ‘fixations’ and reflect on my material use across Unit 1. My material choice is always symbolic – this is important to me – and will be a core principle of my Unit 2 project. I want every material I use to be there for a reason and nothing should be replaceable with something else.
  • Text, words are important to me and always have been – am I going to consider bringing this into my work somewhere?
  • We taked about Experiment B – the map weaving – and what I planned next to do with it (if anything). I commented on how I thought the most exciting thing about the maps is that they bring with them a co-existing alternate reality of the past embedded within them

What next?

Well first off, I followed the suggestions of the group (incl. Maiko) of trying my corn dolly weave with my maps. This was incredibly fun and satisfying to do – and much to my surprise gives an incredibly robust structure. I didn’t risk standing on it, but you could probably rest a brick on it at least.
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I have been thinking over my options for a week or so now, but after making & thinking today a giant lightbulb clicked on somewhere in my head. This lightbulb combines my current direction with some of the very BIG early concepts I had back last year but couldn’t deal with at the time; however, it is also focussed enough to be achievable – at least I think so!!

More to come in a future post, I need to rewrite my project proposal first, but…..I think I may have found the project for the final show…..!!!

Tutorials with Maiko / Shane

I was in on Wednesday for a tutorial with Maiko. Definitely feel like I am finally able to discuss sensibly what my project is trying to do. It’s nice to be less tongue tied when talking to Maiko at last!  I was pleased that she seemed happy with progress and also found the weavings that I have been doing interesting. This was followed by a sneaky chance tutorial with Shane this afternoon, who I was keen to discuss my weaving with given his background and knowledge of basketry. Between the two of them there are a few things to consider:

(1)  Have I finished experimenting directly with the road maps? 

Well my first reaction was to say yes, I’m done, I have been trying to get the expression of my concept directly into raw materials, with the traditions and connotations within them broader and more accessible than the already provided representation of place through formal mapping. I did like the ‘woven fabric’ I made with the thin map yarn and wires during the interim show, but I would naturally treat this as a textile, so not really sure what I would do with it usefully for now.

(2)  How much of the ritual associations of straw do I want embedded within the piece? 

Both Shane and Maiko saw the local traditions (corn dollies, harvest rituals etc) that the material spoke of straight away and questioned how much I wanted – particularly since I had been generally keeping the ears on the pieces so far. Shane commented on the rural-ness of this as well, and asked how well this resonated with being displayed on the blank white of an art school wall. Maiko also suggested I look more into artists/craftspeople working with straw weaving.

(3)  There is still time to experiment with new materials 

I mentioned that I felt like I had been ‘anxious’ at trying out using willow to weave with (possibly as I felt that I wasn’t skilled enough as a basketmaker to do so). However, we are still in experimental phase, so why not try out a new material. This would remove the heavy ritual symbolism, but still keep the ancient (local) basketry traditions and rural aspects of the history inherent in the material. An order is now placed with a Somerset willow grower… we’ll see soon!

(4)  How do you create form?

This was more of an unanswered question, as this is what I had been asking myself already. I don’t want to dictate the form from data, but neither do I just want to make an expression of how I’m currently feeling without planning some better intent. I am wondering if I should explore the idea of footsteps as form. A sculptural dérive perhaps?

(5) What about site-specificity?

This has been something on my list which I have been avoiding, as it seems quite difficult to get right. Shane brought this up (and rightly so) and it’s probably time to get to grips with testing it. He commented on how important displaying the piece is, and even wall v table v installation is critical. You will get a different response in different places (straw seen in an urban environment compared to a wheat field for instance). Shane suggested some Goldsworthy type temporary installations, which I have wanted to do this anyway, having started to get excited about my new (however foundational) photography skills.

(6)  There is no box

A few thinking outside the box ideas from Shane (as always!) including the idea of locality and the body (wearable weaving) and performance – perhaps of making in action.

Overall, I was pleased in particular that I do finally understand some of the points Maiko has been making all year, and that I am getting much more focussed down on what I am doing. Shane commented on the simplicity/purity of materials I’m using – only one material in the weaving (even down to the string), and only one colour and line of ink in my drawings. I like this type of aesthetic in my work: elegance, emergence and authenticity. (I will need to define these some time!)