Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Sampling Stroud

Over the last few months I've been working with Stroud International Textiles (SIT). Lizzi Walton SIT's Director very kindly invited me to think up some ideas for bringing sampler-cultureclash to the annual Festival, which takes place each May. Check the festival website or their facebook page for updates for the 2011 Festival which runs from 30 April to 21 May, and their year-round programme of activities.

We were successful in getting support from the Arts Council England through its Grants for the Arts scheme to help me carry out a week of research in Stroud. I wanted to meet and talk with a wide range of people, to find out what was happening there already, to learn more about the area and its textile heritage, its contemporary textile scene, and to see what textile industry remained, and explore how the concept of sampler-cultureclash might work in Stroud.

I wanted to explore a range of options for bringing some of the ideas we've been exploring through the project: sampling, experimenting, trialing, improvisation, collective making, sharing, "commons", mixing things up, word, sound, stitch, and performance, and to make new work, but to make this relevant to the place and to involve artists and different communities living and working in Stroud. I'm particularly interested in how audiences move from passive recipients of cultural activities to being active participants - making and contributing to the work. I think this is a particular strength of sampling culture.

“Sampling culture allows us to engage with, respond to, and re-use information. We become processors and creators of culture, rather than passive consumers.”

Of course, first off I had to see if people were interested collaborating.
Over the next few posts I'll give a brief overview of the research and the people I've met, and how plans for sampler-cultureclash's involvement in the Festival are developing.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Catching Up

Well I've been away from the world of blogging over the last month or so, as we've been focusing on developing the sampler-cultureclash group on facebook, which now has a growing membership of over 300 members from across the globe. So, I thought it was about time I returned to the blog to update what's been happening, especially for those of you who don't use and/or can't stand facebook.

The last month has been hectic with research, workshops, travelling and talks, but all good fun, with interesting collaborations and of course getting to meet and work with some great people of all ages.

A few weeks ago we were invited to run a one-day workshop in partnership with the Embroiderers' Guild and Central Foundation School for Girls in Bow, East London. This was a short workshop to explore how each partner might work together to develop opportunities for the students at the school to learn about both embroidery (historic and contemporary) and sound sampling. Also, for the students to think about the connections between different art forms and how they might use this inter-disciplinary approach to create new embroidered, sound, and spoken and written work. The Embroiderer's Guild is interested in how it can broaden its work with young people, particularly those who might not ordinarily get involved in its Young Embroiderers' activities.

For this workshop we also invited Lauren Steeper to get involved in working with the students. Lauren is a recent graduate for the BA Embroidery course at Manchester Metropolitan University. I was particularly impressed by Lauren's latest body of work, where she has created a series of text based hand stitched embroideries based on a system she had devised from playing the Lottery each week. We're delighted that Lauren has got involved in the project. You can find out more about that project and her other work at Lauren's blog: Lauren Steeper.

So Jason, Lauren and I were joined for the day by 8 students from the school, many of whom were also involved in a music workshop during the week. We started the day by looking at and talking about a group of historic 18th and 19th Century embroidered samplers from the Embroiderers' Guild's collection. This was the first time that any of the students had seen historical pieces of embroidery like these. It's great that the Guild loans out such pieces, so that you can get up really close and examine the stitches, the colour of the threads in their current state, and you also get a much better idea of how they've been made. The students were impressed by the fact that the pieces had survived and were in such good condition, and of course by how intricate many of the embroideries were, particularly given the age of the girls who had created them. We then had a very interesting discussion about who made them, the time and the context in which they were made, and the types of stitches used. This led onto discussions about samplers and sampling. One student commented that her dad says "a boy is just a sample of his father" - sadly we didn't have time to debate that one fully!!

To start the creative process, we had chosen the text from the following embroidery, typed it out and cut up all the words and put them in a jar, continuing our work with cut 'n' paste text.

We then asked each student to pick a word from jar.

The students then worked with Jason to translate each of the words into sound, using Reaktor software to create a collective sound piece.

In the afternoon the students chose another two words from the jar, and we each created a sentence containing all three words. Lauren then worked with each student, so they stitched one of the words from each sentence, so we ended up with a selection of words that we used to create a collective stitched word collage.

Many thanks of course to all the students for taking part, for making the day fun and for their excellent contributions to discussions and debates about embroidery and sampling. And to everyone at the school and the Guild for helping us to make the workshop happen, and especially to Hopal for all her hard work, helping to bring the partnership together. We're looking forward to developing the next stage of collaboration, building upon this first workshop.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Interlace Conference

I'll be speaking about the sampler-cultureclash project at the Interlace Conference In Nottingham, which takes place next week 9th and 10th of September. The talk will be part of a series of presentations and discussions about some of the multi and inter disciplinary practice happening in contemporary textiles, alongside other artists and curators who have been collaborating with musicians, mathematicians and scientists.

Check the flyer below for more details. Looks like it's going to be a very interesting two days. I hope to see you there.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Changing Arts and Minds

A couple of weeks ago sampler-cultureclash was invited to deliver a workshop as part of Craft Month in Northern Ireland. The workshop was a partnership with Leitrim Design House in southern Ireland and the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast. We were invited to work with a group of women from both the Supports For Women project in Leitrim and the Draw Down the Walls project in Belfast. The Supports for Women project has been a year long initiative taking a group of women on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth while also challenging the old negative beliefs that have been inherited as a result of the conflict in Ireland, south and north of the border. The Draw Down the Walls project is a cross-community project working with a wide range of people who live near some of the controversial interface walls in Belfast.
You can find out more about each project here:
Changing Arts & Minds
Draw Down the Walls.

So, with much excitement and nervousness Yusra Warsama and I arrived in Belfast at the Golden Thread Gallery, to a very warm welcome.

As part of Craft Month, the group from Leitrim were showcasing a selection of the work they had created over the year in their exhibition Changing Arts and Minds. So, it was a very special occasion for them - a moment to celebrate and reflect on their individual and collective journeys and achievements. Both Yusra and I felt very privileged to have been invited to share such an important day with them.

To kick start the workshop we asked everyone to introduce themselves. Each of the women spoke with such passion, openness and humanism about how much being involved in each of the two projects had meant to them and how it had changed their lives in hugely positive ways. It was a very powerful, inspiring and moving twenty minutes, and a re-confirmation of the importance and the transforming nature of creativity, and of people working together to help each other when life is difficult and through times of conflict.

For this particular workshop we wanted to explore the process of crafting physical objects and people's relationship to particular objects through the written and spoken word. As with all our workshops we wanted to create an environment where we could work collectively to create new work. To turn the visual and material into written word, spoken word (sound) and then back into the visual.

We asked everyone to choose an object from the exhibition, but not a piece they had created themselves and to think about that piece and how it made them feel - what thoughts, emotions and ideas it raised.

Yusra then lead the group through a series of written and sound exercises and experiments to create a collection of poems, each containing the line "I stitched this sampler". I'm always amazed at how powerful this process is. How what seems like a simple act of choosing and exploring an object can result in such moving pieces of writing exploring loss; memories of and thoughts about close friends, mothers, fathers, families, lovers, children, the home; to moments of happiness and excitement about the future. I think all of us taking part experienced a whole range of emotions during the day from moments of fear and sadness to laughter and joy.

We then recorded each of the poems and played them back through an oscilloscope, thus turning the written and spoken words back into a single continuous moving thread.

Here's a short film of one of the poems created.

After Belfast, the exhibition returns to Leitrim and will be shown at the Leitrim Design House from 19 August until the beginning of September. Alongside the existing work, we're delighted that the exhibition will include the audio recordings, oscilloscope films and the piano player pixel drawing piece we created together during the workshop.

This has to be one of the most moving and inspiring days I've spent working on the sampler-cultureclash project to date, and we've had many. I hope we can continue to work together in some shape or form in the near future. A wonderfully inspiring group of women, both the women taking part and the women facilitating the projects.

I wish all of them the very best as they move forward.

And a huge thank you to Orlagh, Ruth, Anna-Marie and Deirdre for working so hard to enable the workshop take place.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day 4 - Playing Reaktor live

After the morning session hacking the Stylophone, we worked with Jason Singh exploring various software programmes that turn pattern into sound. If you've been following the project you'll know that one programme we've been working with is Reaktor, developed by Native Instruments.

Here's a snippet of the workshop where we start using the software to draw and play live, rather than just creating an image then storing that sound to use as a sample in future compositions.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Day 4 - Hacking a stylophone

Led by Berit Greinke: 7 artists, a stylophone, a screen and squeegee, some binder, graphite powder, cloth, pencils, conductive thread, and live sampling, to create a new prototype for a collectively played textile sound machine.

Here's a short film of us hacking, making, and playing the new machine, with live sampling by Jason Singh. All the noises you hear are created by us playing the stylophone using the newly created textile buttons to control each button of the original stylophone. Jason is sampling, distorting and looping these live, then introduces a drum break underneath. The advantage of using cloth is that you introduce much more flexibility when controlling the stylophone, for example you can play and distort a note for longer, and you turn it into an instrument a group of people can play together, rather than it just being for a solo performer.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Day 3 - talking, sharing, making

Our first day at MNAC (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest). MNAC very kindly helped to host the week and allowed us to use their Media Lab for the week's workshop.

The Museum is housed in the Palace of the Parliament building, built in the 1980's and the infamous former residence of the Ceaucescus. Raised on a man-made hill the building dominates Bucharest's skyline. It seems like wherever you are in the city the building looms in the background, out of the corner of your eye, or on the horizon. A conscious decision one thinks. A whole area of the city was demolished to make way for this monstrosity of a building, apparently the second largest in the world. The surviving buildings around the Parliament show how beautiful and productive the area must once have been, with a mixture of factories, warehouses and houses. It's definitely worth visiting these parts of the city, away from the usual tourist route.

MNAC is housed in a part of the building that was never finished, the rest of the building now being Government offices. The fact that there is a contemporary art gallery in this building is bizarre - a place for expression and creativity amongst a sea of bureaucracy inside a former dictator's palace. I wasn't sure how the building and the spaces within it would affect the collaboration, the creativity and the resulting work. Oppress or inspire? But that's one thing I like about Bucharest, it's full of these sort of contradictions and tensions. You can't take anything in this city for granted.

Given that the museum is housed where it is security is super high for all visitors. Even more so when you have seven artists with all manner of electrical cables, strange machines, liquids, etc turning up. Trying to explain that it wasn't bomb making equipment, but materials for an artists' workshop took some doing, but eventually we were let through. I wondered how Tate Modern would cope if they introduced this level of security checks!!

There's a cafe terrace on the top floor with amazing views of the city, so we sat, gathered our thoughts, drank coffee, smoked cigarettes (oh yeh you can still smoke indoors in Romania, which takes some getting used to again, after the smoking ban in the UK), and looked out onto the surrounding area - a barren, overgrown wilderness, although I hope a haven for wildlife and the dogs. There's a growing movement to get this area opened as its currently blocked in by security walls, to create a new walking and cycle route into the city without having to go around it. Let's hope they succeed as it's currently a waste of what could be a great new and much needed green social space for the people of the city.

In the morning we each introduced and presented our work, as a way of us starting to appreciate each other's individual creative practices and some of the connections between our work.

In the afternoon we started the first collaborative workshop. In the afternoon, we created a 10-metre collective pixel drawing on a roll of grid paper, based on patterns and iconography of Romanian embroidery from the Peasant Museum, and other images in our heads at that moment in time.

Here's a video of us creating and then playing that piece through a player piano machine.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Dancing and Dogs

Here's one of my favourite embroidery patterns from the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. A group of dancers and dogs. My favourite embroideries are the most graphic and the simplest, using repeating iconography with either red or red and black thread on a natural cotton or linen.

Here's a link for more information on traditional romanian dances, including chain dances as depicted on this embroidery.

Dogs are a constant feature of Bucharest, and at night alongside the sound of cars, a major sound of the city. Packs of dogs hanging out together on street corners, disused parts of land, behind garden gates, outside fast food chicken joints waiting for a scrap of food, wandering the streets alone, and risking their life as they wander across or sit in Bucharest's roads. A living reminder of the results of Ceaucescu destroying much of the city, evicting residents and thus setting their pet dogs and now their descendants free to roam the streets.

One day, one particular dog joined us for a stroll across the city, before disappearing under a gate, easily avoiding the high security surrounding the Parliament building. During the week we've sampled many of the dogs' barking for use in future recordings and compositions. They seemed only too pleased to help out.

An obvious soundscape of Bucharest, but too significant a one to ignore.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Day 2 - Visiting the Museum of the Romanian Peasant

Day 2:

Gathered at the Museum of the Romanian Peasant - Muzeul Taranului Roman. I've written about the Museum before in previous posts, but if you haven't visited, you really must.

The idea for the visit was for the group to learn more about traditional Romanian textiles and embroidery as part of wider Romanian rural working life, to see the work in real-life, and to get inspiration for the week ahead.

The Museum is ordinarily closed on Mondays, so very very generously they had agreed to give us a special tour of the museum and its archive. Ion Blajan, Head of Collections at the Museum, guided us through the collection. I've visited the museum on a number of occasions, but it makes such a huge difference having an expert to explain and guide you. Ion was incredibly passionate and of course knowledgeable about the collection. The collection is overwhelming, particularly the textiles- there's so much to absorb. I always find it a very inspiring, but at the same time draining, experience.

The highlight of the visit was being taken behind the scenes into the archives. We were shown some truly amazing embroidered sample books. I could have stayed all afternoon looking and finding out more about these books and the embroideries contained within them, but sadly we had very limited time. You can by arrangement with the Museum go and study the archive, so I plan to go back and really research their collection at some point - the iconography, the techniques, the histories of who made them, where they were made and their social significance. At the moment it seems like I'm barely scratching the surface, only really being able to appreciate their aesthetic value, and a tiny part of their social value.

A huge thank you to Ion and everyone at the Museum for their warm welcome and for giving up their time so generously.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Back from Bucharest

Well, I'm back from an inspiring, challenging, fun and creative week in Bucharest. So over the next week or so I'll post events of each day.

Day 1:

Arrived late sunday. Then Jason, Berit and I met up with the Romanian artists taking part: Carla Szabo, Catalin Matei, and Cosmin Tapu. Sadly and annoyingly the Turkish artists Pinar Basoglu and Gozde Ilkin couldn't fly as the airline had overbooked tickets for the plane..nice one Turkish Airlines. Finally some sun and a warm evening after the wet London weather. Off to an open air bar in a park for laid back club night Sunday Scoop, which Cosmin was dj-ing at. Eating, drinking, chatting, meeting people and even playing Wii. Somehow, with luck more than skill, I even beat Berit at Wii bowling, which was sadly the only time over the next couple of weeks that the English were to win against the Germans! Great DJ-set from Cosmin.

Met music journalist Iona Moldoveanu, who publishes the website freshgoodminimal
. If you're into experimental sound and electronic music it's a brilliant site. Ioana has just started a new record label BuzzRo, supporting new electronic music from Romania. Their first compilation BUZZRO! 2010 features a track from one of the artists taking part this week - Catalin
Matei aka Silly Conductor.
The complilation is published with a Creative Commons licence.
Listen here: BUZZRO!2010

A perfect, relaxed start to the week ahead.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Sampler Facebook group

Join us on Facebook
for the latest news and photos and film clips from our first international laboratory in Bucharest.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Sampler hits Bucharest

Well after a year of planning, we're finally off to Romania for one week for our first international laboratory. We've pulled together a really interesting line up of designers, dj's, textile artists, sound artists and curators to take part in the workshops: UK - Jason Singh and Berit Greinke; Romania- Carla Szabo, Cosmin Tapu and Catalin Matei, and from Turkey - Pinar Basoglu and Gozde Ilkin.

Over the next week, we'll be posting some highlights of the laboratory as we work together exploring the connections between textiles and sound.

The project has been developed in partnership with electronic music pioneers Rokolectiv, MNAC (the National Museum of Contemporary Art), and the Museum of the Romanian Peasant all in Bucharest, and c-u-m-a (Contemporary Utopian Management Agency) from Istanbul. It's very kindly funded by the British Council's Creative Collaboration Project Fund, which supports collaborations between the UK and south east Europe.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Tom Dice - new UK Hip Hop

Tom Dice, long time friend, dj, rapper and music producer, fellow crate digger extraordinaire and sampler-cultureclash collaborator has just released some new tracks. New UK Hip Hop. Check them here at his myspace page and give him your support.
Tom Dice

Monday, 24 May 2010

Video of Craft Rally performance

Click on the link below to watch a short video montage very kindly put together by Holly Stead, of us preparing and performing at the Craft Rally event back in March.
Thanks so much Holly for coming along and filming for us. Enjoy.

sampler-cultureclash at the Craft Rally

The other week I had a great day looking at students' work back up in Manchester. I was really impressed with each of their projects and how they'd responded to the project brief. I'm hoping to profile some of their work over the next month or two, so watch this space.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Oscilloscope poems

We've been using oscilloscopes in several of our live performances to translate sounds into visuals (thanks to the fine Mr Rob Rainbow, ex Light Surgeons). I particularly like the visual resemblance of the sound waves to threads. For more information about how oscilloscopes work, click on the link above.

Here is one of Yusra's poems created during our first workshop, way back in May 2008, played through the oscilloscope. The left and right audio channels have been combined into a single channel, so it's as though the piece starts with two twisted threads, which depending on Yusra's delivery unravel and re-form throughout the piece.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

VTS Sound experiments No1 & 2

Here's the first two sound experiments from the audio pieces we recorded at the Visual Thinking Symposium workshop. Neither are supposed to be finished pieces, I'm just playing about to see what might happen.

No 1 is the drawing sound loops, gradually layered on top of each other every 4 bars, until you end up with 8 layers at once, then reducing down to one layer of sound.

No 2 is constructed only with samples of the spoken word pieces, where I've started to chop up words and elements of their breathing between words, to create tiny samples to form very different noises and rhythms.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Sounds and Words - Visual Thinking Symposium

As promised here's a couple of sound pieces created by the participants in our workshop.

For the first piece, we invited participants to play their collective drawing using Berit's sound pencils and then very simply by using the loop pedal, recorded and layered six of these random sounds.

The second piece comprises a selection of the written / spoken pieces about the participant's favourite tool for making. Needless to say, given that the vast majority of the participants were textile artists, needles and sewing machines feature highly, although in the mix there were pencils, a mouse for your computer, and a tea bag. I love the fact that a tea bag featured as someone's favourite tool for making - very important tea to the creative process. Also, there's a common theme emerging about the temperamental nature of tools and machinery - one of their frustrating but also endearing qualities is the fact that they don't always work all of the time. Also, once they've stopped working for their original purpose, how they can be used for another?

Using garage band for ease at the moment, I've just started a series of simple sound experiments, layering and sampling both the noise and the spoken word pieces and seeing what happens. I'll post a selection of these experiments in the next post.

During the workshop we recorded 30 of the written pieces onto cassette, which at the end of the day we then chopped up into 30 sections - and which now look like this. hmm!!

The plan is to randomly put these back together to re-create a new sound piece - old skool cut n paste. Ah, brings back not very fond memories of my youth endlessly trying to fix my cassettes after they'd got mashed in the tape player.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Visual Thinking Symposium

Well, Berit and I had a great day at the Visual Thinking Symposium organised by the Textile Study Group and the Hub. It was a pleasure to spend the day discussing different ideas and approaches to the creative process. There was a good range of topics (from the inspiration and use of native materials such as scottish peat, to the creative journey through re-configuring a road map of the British isles, and touching on the visual language of people with Alzheimers: a subject very close to my heart. I liked the fact that there were a mixture of voices from makers, curators and philosophers. I particularly liked the talk by Dr Matthew Kieran (professor of philosophy and the arts at the University of Leeds) which explored the ways in which character and motivation are crucial to artistic creativity. He presented really well, but even then I struggled to keep up with some of the concepts he discussed, so I'd really like to see him talk again, so I can get to grips with and start to question his thinking, and explore the subject further.

Following the morning session of talking, listening and questioning, we hoped that our workshop - "Looping Something From Nothing" would provide a space for continued discussion but in a relaxed, creative and fun way. The workshop aimed to explore one of the central themes of the symposium: "what processes do we use to make something from nothing?" and also our continued approach to creating social spaces for collective making.

We started with two DIY loop tables we'd constructed during lunch. One holding a loop of blank paper, the other a loop of blank rug canvas. Our other materials were some pencils, graphite powder, some needles and a pile of old cassettes I'd dug out from under the house, and a blank cassette to record onto. 30 people took part.

To kick start the thinking we asked each participant to choose a favorite tool they used for making and then to describe what they do with that tool when they first start to use it. We then asked them to imagine that tool as a person, and to describe what kind of person it would be.

Each person then took it in turns to record their thoughts onto the cassette tape, through a loop pedal. It still amazes me how beautiful and moving some of these written pieces can be with something as simple as describing a making tool. Also, how the human voice, through intonation really brings these words and objects alive.

With the two looped pieces, we asked people to start with a word from their written pieces and then to freely move on in any direction with their marks, whether through drawing or stitching with the tapes. For the drawn piece we gave people a selection of sound pencils that Berit had constructed. The pencils make sound as you draw, using your body and the graphite in the pencil to generate and connect the current. With the fabric piece we were randomly sampling pieces of tape and thereby stitching sounds directly into the piece. Every ten minutes we rolled the fabric and paper round and asked the participants to continue working on their neighbors piece, until everyone had contributed to both the stitched and drawn loops. There was lots of chat, debate and laughter during the making which was great.

At the end of the afternoon we then played the drawing back using the sound pencils as amplifiers. We asked the group to join hands whilst one person held the pencil at one end of the drawing and the last person played the drawn marks. Using our loop pedal - as a simple way of recording, looping and composing live, we recorded and looped some of these sounds to create a collective sound piece.

When we're doing these workshops it's always interesting to see what works and what doesn't, and I like the fact that we don't know what people are going to create, which allows room for lots of surprises.

Here's a couple of short film clips of the workshop. I'll try to post the sound piece later.

A huge thank you from myself and Berit to all the participants for throwing themselves into the workshop with such enthusiasm, and to the Hub and the Textile Study Group for inviting us to take part. It was a great day.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


There are two sampler cultureclash related events taking place this weekend.

1) Berit Greinke and I will be running a 3 hr workshop as part of the Visual Thinking Symposium at the Hub - the national centre for craft and design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire. The symposium forms part of Visual Thinking Unpicked an exhibition by the Textile Study Group exploring the influences and inspirations behind the creative process. 30 people have signed up to the workshop, so it's going to be a packed but hopefully enjoyable afternoon working together. Our workshop "looping something from nothing" explores the connections between sound, word, drawing and stitch and the process of collective making. Our starting point is a group of people, a blank cassette tape, a roll of blank paper and a roll of white fabric. Let's hope that's not our ending point.

2) Whilst over in Romania, our friends Rokolectiv are holding their annual electronic sound and music festival in Bucharest this weekend. Check their website for further details of the line up and venues. You can also follow them on facebook

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sampling Tunbridge Ware - Day 4

Today we started to refine some of the content we've created over the last three days. Also, how we might present some of this work at the end of project showcase event on Friday.

During the day, Jason worked with three of the participants, all budding musicians, to create a new audio track based on Tunbridge Ware patterns.

A couple of the participants brought in guitars and other musical instruments which we sampled to experiment with later.

We continued stitching and Yusra worked with a couple of participants to create a word collage of all the written pieces we've created so far. Which we plan to cut and paste to turn back into a spoken word piece.

Friday's the big day tomorrow and there's still lots to do, and as all the participants haven't been here for the last two days it feels as though we're a day behind. But that's cool we'll see how it all comes together tomorrow.

PS. Thanks to J for the great photos in this post.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sampling Tunbridge Ware - Day 3

Today we had less people attend, which is inevitable when you're running a session over five days during the easter holidays.  But it meant we had a relaxed day.  Two new participants Anne and Helen who are friends of the museum joined us for the day.  They both took part in stitching and worked with Yusra to create and record two new written pieces, again based on a piece of Tunbridge Ware.  We found out that Anne also loved singing, so she wanted to sing her piece.  Her piece is based on these two objects from the collection, part of a seamstress's tools.

She stood up to the mic and seconds later a beautiful voice emerged floating across the room.  Jason and I looked on and listened in awe. That takes some doing, to stand in front of people you'd only just met and sing something so beautifully, with words you'd only just written a few moments before.

Earlier in the morning, Kathie had introduced the day explaining the links between berlin wool work embroidery and early Tunbridge Ware designs: showing a selection of berlin wool work samples she had created herself.

Guided by Kathy's embroidery skills and expertise we started to create our own embroidered samples based on a sample of the visual work were started yesterday.  We hope that by the end of the week that everyone will have contributed to a collective sampler, which will be donated to the museum's collection.

Alongside the stitching, participants continued to work with Jason to create a sound piece using the sampled patterns in Reaktor they created yesterday.  One of the participants brought in two friends to work together to create a collaborative track - the result I'll post later in the week.

It's great.  After only three days we're already starting to build up a diverse collection of written and
spoken word, sounds, images, stitch, patterns and now song.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Sampling Tunbridge Ware - Day 2

Today we focussed on visual sampling and turning some of these visuals into sound.

To kick things off and wake us all up, Yusra asked participants to write their first thought of the day.  Yusra will be using a selection of these words, weaving them into a poem she's working on during the week. 

Them, we started to work on two 10 metre rolls of graph paper to create our visual samplers.  We took black and white photocopies of the objects we had selected yesterday and using cut and paste techniques started to create new designs from them.  Various people worked directly onto the graph paper with pens to create patterns, images and words, again all inspired by the work we started yesterday.  With this exercise I like the fact that everyone works in very different ways and people's personalities start to emerge as a result of the process they use to create these images.  Some people are very particular and precise, some work small, others large, some are very freestyle and deconstruct patterns, whilst others work with letters and words.  The pieces will continue to grow over the week. 


In the afternoon, Jason led a session where he got us thinking more about sound, counting, cycles and repetition, based around learning an Indian classical ten beat cycle. Watching everyone's concentration as they followed Jason's lead and hand actions was beautiful.

Then the group started to take samples from the large visual sampler drawings we were were working on in the morning.  Using Reaktor software each of us took it in turns to create a sound from each image.
I'll post a film of the images with their sounds later in the week.  These initial sounds will be the building blocks from which to create our sound pieces.

I love the fact that everyone so far has just thrown themselves into each session or exercise we've done with open minds. I hope people are starting to understand why we might be doing some of these sessions? It feels like they are.  It was another fun and inspiring day.  It felt like everyone started to bond with some great conversations and discussions, and the work continues to grow in unexpected ways.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Sampling Tunbridge Ware - Day 1

Well today was Day 1 of the Sampler meets Tunbridge Ware project.  Four of the sampler collective (myself, Jason, Yusra and Kathie) headed off to Tunbridge Wells this morning to start a week long workshop at the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, working with residents from the town and surrounding areas.

On the way there we still weren't quite sure who was going to be taking part, but we were delighted to be welcomed by a group of 15 or so participants of all ages from 11 yrs old upwards.  A great bunch of people to kick things off.

Over the week, we'll be collaborating to create new sound pieces for the museum inspired by its amazing collection of Tunbridge Ware.  Click on this link to find out more about Tunbridge Ware and its history. We'll be showcasing a selection of the work we've created together in a performance this Friday night from 6-8pm at the museum.  It's free so please come on down.

In true sampler style we'll be mixing up the visual, pattern, word, sound, movement and performance and with this particular project the innovative woodworking techniques used for making Tunbridge Ware.  More on that in a future post, as I still can't quite get my head around all of the complicated processes involved in its production.  Here's a link to the museum's website giving a brief introduction to the process: Making Tunbridge Ware.

Like some of our previous sampler workshops we're exploring how we can create new collective work inspired by traditional techniques and historical objects.  One of the ideas informing the project is to explore how the museum can get visitors, in particular young people, to spend more time exploring the Tunbridge Ware collection, perhaps looking at the some of the objects in a new light.  And hopefully to get more visitors to understand how unique, innovative and significant it is.  I remember the first day I visited the museum, I spent the afternoon sat in the room watching with slight confusion and bewilderment as visitors walked through barely glancing at any of the objects.  I'm certain that isn't true of all visitors. There I sat almost bursting with excitement at not only how technically complex and visually inspiring they were, but imagining the creative possibilities of working with the collection.  Perhaps many visitors have got so used to seeing it, that they no longer see it?  Do people think it's old wooden objects in a darkened room?  That's one question I'll be asking people over the week.

Having learnt more about embroidered samplers for the last couple of years, one of the things I like most about Tunbridge Ware is its connection with Berlin wool work embroidery . Much of the early Tunbridge Ware took its visual inspiration directly from Berlin Wool work embroidery designs, with makers recreating these patterns in wood.

So it's incredibly exciting to think that we are now going to take these wooden objects, inspired by embroidery into another art form - sound - and then perhaps even turning those sounds back into embroidery and new Tunbridge Ware.

Like all the workshops and events we've done so far we started the week with a blank canvas and a group of people - many of whom hadn't met each other before; some objects (fantastic objects - it has to be said!); open minds and our imaginations.  Not knowing what we're going to have produced by the end of the week, but thinking of it as a playground for ideas.

To kick things off, we spent the first part of the day exploring the magical place that is the Tunbridge Ware room in the Museum.  We each chose a favourite Tunbridge Ware object from the collection.

We then took it in turns to explain why we'd chosen the piece.

I chose this piece: a wooden letter box for the hall.

After lunch, Yusra then led a session using the objects, that everyone had selected, as the starting point to create both written and spoken word pieces.

We started with ten words describing the object and then created written pieces where we imagined the object as a person.  That particular exercise delivered some moving, dark, funny and beautiful prose.

We then recorded each of these pieces.  So at the end of day one we've started to create a library of images, words, prose and sound recordings to play with further over the week.

At the end of day, as we all sat round reflecting on what we'd done and created, one of the participants said that she'd had a great day.  It had been really good fun and that she made made some new friends.  I couldn't have asked for a more perfect start.  A huge thank you to everyone who took part today.  Looking forward to tomorrow.