Saturday, 24 May 2008

Public Enemy

Well, I've just come to the end of the first workshop for the Sampler project - it was an amazing experience. I'll post highlights from each day over the next week. My head is too mashed to write about it now.

Last night I went to see Public Enemy at the Brixton Academy, the perfect way to end a fantastic week. Chuck D, Flavor Flav, the Bomb Squad and crew (sadly no Terminator X). 20 year anniversary of arguably the best Hip Hop LP of all time, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back.

Click here for (still after 20 years) my favourite Public Enemy track: Rebel Without A Pause

Somehow managed to get into the after party at the Dex Club in Brixton....and the highlight of the night..Chuck D freestylin' over Coldcut droppin Cross the Tracks.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Open Source Embroidery

Last friday I attended the opening of the Open Source Embroidery project at the HTTP Gallery for Networked Media Art, a great little space tucked away in a small industrial estate in Manor House, north London. It's off the beaten track, but it's definitely worth making the effort to search it out.

Open Source Embroidery is a project facilitated by Ele Carpenter that
explores the common characteristics of embroidery alongside other textile practices such as quilting and knitting with open source computing, in particular the collective process of making and sharing knowledge and experience.

Check out the open source embroidery link below, which aswell as fantastic information about the project, includes some great links to other interesting embroidery projects.

Here's some links related to the project and the gallery:
Open Source Embroidery
HTTP Gallery for Networked Media Art

Sunday, 11 May 2008

back to back

"So how's the embroidery comin' along?" I hear you all shout (not!).

Well, I've been laid down with flu all week, and there's only so much daytime telly you can watch before you start to lose the plot.....that Goldenballs quiz with Jasper Carrot..I ask you??? So I thought it was an ideal time to get down to business and learn.

So here's the result so far. Embroiderers look away now!

Yeh I know it's not very good and not very straight, but hey it's a start!
I learnt the back stitch, which apparently is a good basic stitch to start off, and used for straight and curved lines and fine detail. I don't think much of the type face that came with the kit, but at this stage I'm just focussing on learning, and trying to perfect, the stitch.

Click here for a clip on learning how to Back stitch . Check out the funky drummin' at the start of the clip

That got me thinking about some of the basics of dj-ing, and one of the first things you learn is playing two records back to back - dragging each record back to repeat the same part of a record on two (or more) turntables to form a continuous loop.

Check this clip for the equivalent of the back stitch - dj style.

What I love about both music and embroidery cultures is that willingness to share show other people how to learn the skills involved in both art forms. For example, there are hundreds of videos on You Tube, showing you how to learn to stitch and how to learn to DJ. I'll feature a few of my favourites (including some truly bizarre ones) as we go along.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Paradise Garage

Last night I was scrabblin' about under my house and came across an old video "Pump up the Volume" about the history of house music. It documents the rise of dj and dance culture from the clubs of New York and Chicago into the world wide phenomenom it has become today.

Anyway it features another DJ legend Larry Levan, who used to play at the infamous Paradise Garage in New York. So having featured DJ Kool Herc earlier, I thought I ought to pay respect to another key figure in DJ-ing culture - this time from the D.I.S.C.O side of town.

click here for a short clip of Larry Levan on the decks at the Paradise Garage
and on the links below for a fantastic documentary on Larry Levan and the rise of Disco and clubbing culture, which highlights the role of dj's as innovators in music production and sound engineering, and the importance of those new york clubs as places for different cultures - gay, black and hispanic to get together and feel free to celebrate their identities and of dance to amazing music.

Larry Levan 1/9
Larry Levan 2/9
Larry Levan 3/9
Larry Levan 4/9
Larry Levan 5/9
Larry Levan 6/9
Larry Levan 7/9
Larry Levan 8/9
Larry Levan 9/9

Sunday, 4 May 2008

The New Embroidery Group

Last friday, amid all the London mayoral election shenanigans, I had the great pleasure of meeting some of the members of the New Embroidery Group. The New Embroidery Group was founded in 1967 by the late Ione Dorrington and was supported and inspired by their first president Constance Howard MBE. So, it was particularly apt that we met at the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles at Goldsmiths.

The idea for the meeting was to find out if any of the group's members would be interested in taking part in the Sampler project, and for me to find out more about their work. I have to admit that I was slightly nervous about presenting the idea to the group. I didn't know whether they'd think the whole thing was just bizarre, and run a mile.

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that they didn't run...and we had a really interesting and lively morning discussing embroidery, music and sampling. The more we discussed the shared language and the processes involved in both art forms, it was great to see the group start to make those connections. We looked at a selection of textile samplers and other pieces of embroidery from the Centre's collection, which led to a fantastic discussion about the techniques and stitches used. It was at this point that I started to fully realise the high level of expertise and obvious passion for embroidery within the group.

The group then showed, and talked about, some of their own work - the inspiration behind the pieces and some of the techniques used to create them. This is one of the things I love most about textiles, when people start to talk about work, when they can handle the pieces - turn them over, look at how they've been made and share their knowledge, inspiration and ideas.

Over lunch, we listened to a selection of music the group had brought with them. I'd asked them to bring along one of their favourite pieces of music. This ranged from opera (Maria Callas), choral (Magnificat by Giovanni Batista Pergolesi), and a clarinet concerto (Finzi) to Rhapsody in Blue - Gershwin, cuban (Buena Vista Social Club) and Amira - a female Bosnian singer I hadn't heard of before. I'm not a classical music head, so it's great for me to be taken out of my comfort zone and be challenged to listen to new stuff. If you click on the names above it links to musical extracts from each piece or artist(s).

Music clearly plays a significant part in each of the embroiderer's lives. All of them talked about listening to music when they were stitching, and a couple were singers. As the music played we sat and chatted about why they'd chosen each piece - which led to discussions about the ryhthms, dancing, the love of a particular instrument, a particular singer's voice, the communal activity of singing in groups and the power of choral music, the ability of music to transport you to other places, to help you to relax or to invigorate you, and the links between sound and colour.

We were hoping to start sewing during the day, but sadly we ran out of time. The group left with embroidery hoops, dj imagery, threads and a square piece of linen with which to design and embroider a Sampler logo for the project. I'm hoping they'll all take up the challenge and I'm looking forward to seeing the results.

A huge thank you to Jackie, Liz, Pat, Gillian, Kate, Kathy, Janice and in particular Liz Ashurst, for all sparing the time to travel over to New Cross and for their interest in the project. It was great to meet everyone.

And last but by no means least a huge thank you to Jan, Margaret, Julie and Janis at the CHRRC for all their work helping me to prepare and deliver the session and to Srdjana for helping to film the event. I'll post some clips when I've had a chance to edit the recordings.

I wait with baited breath to see if any of the group take up the challenge of participating in the project. I really hope some of them will get involved.

If you'd like to find out more about the New Embroidery Group, please click on their link in the collaborators section of my blog.