Category Archives: 03.6 Unit 1 reflection

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


Bridge over troubled waters

There is a gap which needs to be bridged between finishing up Unit 1 and starting Unit 2. There is sunshine on the far side of the bridge, but sharks are circling beneath it that will eat you if you fall. Coming out of the assessment, I had thought I knew what I wanted to aim towards for the final show, something which would push forward some of the elements of my practice I want to develop and would also tick the required boxes for finishing the MA. After getting my Unit 1 feedback and our Unit 2 Briefing, I’m now not so sure.

I really need some help from the tutors here. I know we have a post-assessment meeting on Monday, so I thought I would step through my key pieces of feedback & concerns first so I can use my 30mins as efficiently as possible. I don’t want to ramble and waste the opportunity to get some direction.

1. Your recent proposal appears to have lost the element of identity in relation to space/place

Well this was the opening point and the most worrying, because my proposal certainly hasn’t done this, so did the tutors miss it? or have I not been clear? I think I will send Maiko a copy of my un-edited project proposal introduction which at 900 words (for a proposal with a word limit of 1000) was way too long and hence cut in half. Something has clearly been lost in translation.

2. Gap between theoretical work and development of practical work.

Hmm….well, yeah that’s undeniable really….

3. Lack of confidence

Easy to comment on, incredibly hard to fix. How are you supposed to get more confident? Maybe if I sold something, or had someone independent tell me I had some promise? Maybe if I genuinely believed I was any good?

4. Not letting the material take the lead / concepts ‘wedged’ into objects

Well, this one will always be a slight point of contention with me, as concept always, always comes first – the object doesn’t even need to exist and you could still have a perfectly valid art work. However, that being said, I do want whatever object/work I make to speak honestly about itself and (ideally) this should echo my objectives without me saying much about it. Figuring out how to do that is the crux of it really.

5. Role of textual language in my work 

Hmm. This is my big dilemma of the moment. See point 8.

6. Not enough ambition / risk, work all too safe 

As per my last post, I agree this is a reasonable and fair comment. However, I have no idea what to do in order to be more risky. I don’t know what classes as risky and what is just stupid – and I still remember trying stuff and being told off for making things with no relevance throughout last year. I worry about falling into the same trap.

7.  More in depth experimentation 

I am keen to do this and want to confirm that in Unit 2 I can do this as experimentation on all points: about the concept, the material, about the experience of the concept through my making, or through the process of viewing or both or some other as of yet undefined thing I could do. At the moment, I want to focus on the idea of the artist as cartographer – looking at the edges of the map as a way into understanding the limits of our own identities. The heterotopia is a place which exists simultaneously outside of all places, a place both real and virtual, but which is a place from where we can view ourselves in our entirety, understanding our past, present and future selves as they superimpose to form the fleeting, momentary construct that is our identity. Ok…so I know how to use the words, but I’ve got to make this physically manifest somehow. This part I am excited by.

8. Unit 2: working towards your practice 

For my future practice, I know that I want to position it as contemporary drawing. I know that I want the core of what I do to be around my abstract calligraphy and drawings (either on paper or textiles or both). I do quite like the idea of making object based poetry as well and I really do fancy making an artist’s book. What I am really not bothered about is making objects as objects. (Is that heresy for someone on a Designer/Maker course?). I am bothered about the material and process obviously – I believe this is critical – but I have no interest in making stuff just for the sake of it, or making stuff which “does something”. I don’t like the idea of social engagement either (I’m much too introverted for all of that frivolity). I quite like the idea of making art installations which have a sense of materiality about them (i.e. playing with the concept of a drawing in real 4 dimensional spacetime), but these will need to have an alignment of medium and message. I do like the idea of immersive, large-scale as well (immersive or interactive??) and even little ol’ terrified me has had ideas for what I could install in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.

The problem is how I reconcile all of this future vision with what I have been doing for the last year. How on earth do I move forward? Can I really find a way to do this all as one coherent concept? Is that even possible with the hole I have dug myself into?

Is that what Unit 2 is really about?

Unit 1 Assessment Feedback

We got our assessment feedback today. I feel like I really want to write about it – to process it – but can’t figure out what to say or what to think. The unit was essentially just pass or fail, and having passed (yay!) that’s great. Once HB gets home I will be seeking out that bottle of rather nice Pinot he sneaked onto the wine rack last week. Celebrate your successes and all that. On second thoughts maybe I won’t wait for him….

What I’m not so sure about is the written feedback. I can’t tell if it’s incredibly critical and condemning of my work or if its really helpful and hopeful that I can improve. Maybe it’s both. We have a chance to discuss it with Maiko on Monday so that should give me some time to reflect on it properly, but my initial reaction was to have got upset about it.

I think I’m just really tired, it’s been a really long term, and I’m frustrated that the tutors still don’t get what I’m trying to say with my work – neither in my project proposal nor in the work itself. I wonder if they are trying to say its actually me who still doesn’t understand what I’m trying to do. The other thing that frustrates me, is when they say “be more ambitious, take more risks”. What does that actually mean? What do I need to do to take more risks? I must be missing something as I just don’t know what they mean by risky. Should I know? is that what my problem is?


At least they liked my blog  🙂

Thoughts on a year of learning

I’ve been putting together some bits and pieces for the Unit 1 assessment which is now only a week away. This has been a great opportunity to reflect on the last year (and a bit) as a whole and see what I have learnt in that time. Reading back though my blog from when I started last September was quite something. At least the quality of my blog writing has definitely improved!

I wanted to capture some of my key learning points, things I think I understand now which I didn’t before:

On motivation 

  1. You have to OWN IT
  2. You must follow your own path – you can be inspired and collaborate with everyone, but you must walk alone.  It doesn’t matter what your colleagues do or don’t do, you direct your own learning.
  3. I see people I admire and am fascinated to listen to and others who I don’t get inspired by at all.  This is fine – we do not have to click with everyone and everything.

On the art process 

  1. Intent: something made when you know why, what and how, can be so much more powerful than making on the go. Improvisation can still be intentional, but winging it will always show.
  2. You cannot separate your process from the object being made
  3. An object must be understood as more than a thing in itself, it must be placed within its whole system – its surroundings, history and context all change the way the viewer will interact with the object
  4. The making process is at the heart of turning concept into reality; process and material go hand in hand
  5. You can declare something ‘ordinary’ (such as a humble sheet of paper), but in the act of drawing attention to this aspect of its nature, you change that nature, generating an extra-ordinaryness about the object
  6. Fundamentally, I think I look at the world differently – or perhaps I just see things I would have otherwise missed before.
  7. However important I think the concept of an art piece is, I also value craftsmanship and quality; I think both need to work together.

On materials

  1. Just because something is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it; just because something isn’t in front of you, doesn’t mean you can’t find it
  2. What is everyday to you may be brand new to someone else
  3. Even the rain means different things to different people
  4. I finally understand the agency that the material itself has in generating meaning
  5. Designers do not create meanings – they create form; it is users who create meanings

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…..!!!

A matter of A or B

In the list for the Unit 1 assessment is an updated project proposal, which I have neatly put on one side while writing my research paper. Well, time is nearing, as too is a decision on what to take forward into Unit 2. I have reached a point where it is becoming critical to have a clear vision on what I want – as I can’t efficiently work towards an ambiguous cloud of ideas. So what experiments do I do next??

A. Wheat/willow weaving.

This would allow me to do some contemporary sculpture using basketry weaving techniques. As well as the British willow artists I posted the other day, I have found the elegance of Japanese Bamboo weaving quite inspirational, it itself being a technique which embeds cultural and material locality very well. (Some info on this to come soon). With this I could use to do some site-specific / site-reponsive work as per the test of my wheat ring in this experiment. The intention of this was to show a juxtaposition of old ‘rural’ heritage traditions and the grit of urban reality. Not entirely convinced of this, but haven’t shown anyone the pics yet to discuss – taking this further could end up contrived or a bit staged, but could be great if done well.

B. Map weaving

The second option, is to go back to develop my ideas with the map yarn from the interim show – a contemporary cartographic language of sorts. This could nicely combine my ideas of time and place (the past as an alternate reality) and psychogeographic processes. Using different maps, city maps, or an interpretation of maps are all possible here. But, it is just too literal to use recycled maps??

How am I supposed to decide?

Desire Line: what next

So then. In between finishing my research paper and the collaboration project, making has taken a back step this week.  I have done some thinking about my last weaving experiment and need to now decide what next steps to take with it. Three categories for reflection came to mind: concept, material and process.

  • Can I make the concept any stronger within the piece?  I think it is a rich idea so I should stay with it for a while and try to improve it, rather than switch to a different premise.
  • I think the piece embodies a sense of local history and culture within the process of making – in terms of the history and customs of weaving with this material. Does this resonate as well with the concept though? What about a different material?
  • What about the choice of weave? Its traditional and some people have commented that it resembles DNA slightly. I don’t mind this comparison I think it fits with the overall idea. Is there any other weave (or mix of) which would add to the piece though?
  • Should I continue to use ‘serendipity’ to shape the weaving structure of should this be planned beforehand based on something?

This last point got me thinking about sculpture based on real data. Having come across the history of the aboriginal songlines, my thoughts went to the idea of translating different sounds into the 3d form – the beat of different footsteps on the path for example. I did some googling on different art sculptures based upon real mathematical data. Hmm….most were interesting, but I didn’t find any of them particularly engaging – they seemed more like pretty 3d infographics rather than anything with artistic intent. One notable exception was this piece of work from Daniel Sierra, a digital artist who created this video “Oscillate” as part of his MFA. Completely captivating:

My goal with “Oscillate” was to visualize waveform patterns that evolve from the fundamental sine wave to more complex patterns, creating a mesmerizing audio-visual experience in which sight and sound work in unison to capture the viewer’s attention.  The concept of universal building blocks that can be assembled to form complex structures is something I find very exciting and alluring. Sound follows this concept in that any sound, for example a snare drum or a human voice, can be deconstructed as the summation of varying sine waves

I have a tutorial with Maiko tomorrow, the first one since before the interim show, so perhaps her feedback will help me decide which avenue to explore next – or it may just give me a bunch of completely new things to think about!

Desire Line

With the bits of test corn weaving I have been doing, I had an idea about combining them together into a sculptural piece. I came up with a mock up construction using the three pieces of weaving.

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Now I want to try to make a coherent, well-finished sample – and not just shove things together, so I thought I would take some more time to see how I want the form to look. I had been doing some line sketches in my note book based on the idea behind this piece (now under the title Desire Line). This is based on the idea of the local path (our individual movements) as an echo of a larger, deeper human drive and ‘universal path’. I got thinking about how in my head I see this as a overlay of different paths (past, present and future) all condensing into a single moment as we pass along the way.

So, some more considered drawings:

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I think what I need to do is ensure the finished piece is all one continuous, connected flow of weaving – it needs to be one path and many paths at the same time. (Not in other words, made by winding the pieces round each other and hoping no-one moves it). I will need do some tests on how to combine the different weaves together – as interlocking or intersecting – before moving on.

Pleased with my thought process so far though, I definitely have taken Sandya’s farewell words to heart: OWN IT, FOCUS, BELIEVE, LEAD YOUR OWN PROJECT

Life is a reflection of what we allow ourselves to see

The incredibly short summer “break” is already nearing its end. I have taken my head out of my research paper for a few days to see where I am on the practical making side of things, and start with a plan on where to go next. I want to go into my second year with a clear plan – the unit 1 experimentation has been fun, but it is time to stop floating about and focus down the processes and concepts I’m looking at. Well, that sounds decisive doesn’t it?

My hesitancy has been understandable I think: I enjoy using a range of different techniques and have never been particularly over-attached to any specific materials. How do you then start to narrow the field once you have been specifically encouraged to make it so wide? I got started thinking again about ‘my practice’ and what this means to me now – almost exactly a year since I walked out of my desk job and into the studio.

  1. Quilting

I like making quilts. I like making functional quilts that you can wrap yourself up in on the sofa or the beach on a cold winter’s day. Or as cushions. Surprisingly to myself, I have ended up liking the slow, hand-stitching techniques, particularly old english patchwork, paper piecing, hand-quilting, (although I like a pre-cut as much as the next person). What I feel though, is that ‘art quilts’, are not the best way for me to say what I need to say. I realise I am not a natural textile artist – fabric does’t automatically come first for me as a design medium, however well I can manipulate fabric and stitch. I want to just make quilts because I want to. Actual old-fashioned usable quilts, not just something destined for the wall.

2. Calligraphy

Aside from cross-stitch, poetry and calligraphy were probably my first ‘art forms’ as a child. As someone who loves words and the expression of feeling through words, this is no surprise. What has surprised me is that I think I am quite good at it, and that I can get better at it with more practice. Paper and ink are always the first things I will reach for if have spare time in the studio to play….and as for all of these small books / book forms I have made on courses lately….definitely, definitely need to do more. I’m not excluding fabrics and stitch here, but I want it to be there because the work demands it, not as a precondition.

3. Basketry

My new discovery – basket weaving, in an almost infinite variety of forms. I love the freedom you have to create sculpturally with these processes. What I also like is the raw human-ness of the making processes. Basketry has been around as long as people, they have a place in every aspect of our lives. If you extend this out to weaving in general, it is rooted in locality more than any other making process I know, a harmony of harvested natural (or processed!) fibres and human craft skill. Ok, I admit, I’ve been a bit taken by this! The one thing I have realised though my essay research (particularly into Chris Drury) is how the engagement with local can provide volumes of context to understanding your making process: A craft skill originating to a specific region (such as Cumbrian dry-stone walling) or a native material grown and used in a particular area (e.g Japanese Bamboo). Basketry is a naturally 3-dimensional medium, and if you can look at the fibres in the right way, they will tell you what to make with them.

So where does that leave us?

Well, for the purposes of my MA I am going to start to focus primarily on processes associated with basketry/weaving, looking also at how to incorporate and develop my existing textile/drawing practice. As part of my overall ‘professional practice’ I will continue to work on my calligraphy drawings & 3d poems, it will be nice to think they may eventually overlap anyway. My surface design skills and techniques can translate directly over into working with paper.

As a current statement of practice then, focussing on material and process (note, not the concept for once!) this is my first draft:

Predominantly, I like to work with fibres, combining the delicacy of natural plant fibres and papers with the cold hard edges of iron and steel. This embeds a strong sense of dimensionality, both in my drawings and 3D structures. My work balances the tension between here and there, between order and randomness: combining precision basketry and textile craft techniques with processes which bring serendipity and wildness into my materials.

More tomorrow on what experiments I have been doing lately…

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!