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.

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