Sunday, 9 October 2011

Click on the link for a selection of photos from our recent workshop and performance as part of Textile 11 - International Textile Biennial, Kaunas, Lithuania.
sampler-cultureclash photos - Textile 11.

Photos very kindly taken by Kristina Čyžiūt.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Textile 11 - Kaunas, Lithuania

sampler-cultureclash head off to Kaunas, Lithuania this week to take part in the Textile 11 Biennial. I hope to meet up with old friends and meet lots of new folk. If you're there please sign up for the workshop on the 6th Oct and come see our performance on the Friday evening.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

In Search of Berlin Wool

Follow my new research project exploring 19th Century Berlin Wool work embroidery, as I take a collection of printed and hand painted patterns from the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery's collection back to Berlin. The patterns were originally created in Berlin and I hope to re-trace their histories, their makers and make some new work inspired by the research and see if Berlin has any sheep. I'll be posting updates on the journey on the In Search of Berlin Wool blog. The research project is very kindly supported by Artquest and ACAVA through their 3 Months in Berlin residency programme in partnership with Milchhof Studios in Berlin, where I'll be resident. Also, with the very kind support of Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery who have given me fantastic access to, and advice on, their wonderful collection of original Berlin Wool work printed patterns.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Paper Orchestra

Berit Greinke and I will be taking part in the Connected Communities symposium next week 12-14Sept hosted by Culture Lab in Newcastle. We've been developing the Paper Orchestra idea, which we first tried out at Future Everything in Manchester back in May, now taking it to the next stage. We're running two workshops where delegates will be invited to play and test this model. They will be broadcast on Culture Lab Radio, hosted by Ko-Le Chen and Rachel Clarke. Monday and Tuesday 12:30-13.20 (GMT). Expect loud and messy.

We'll also be talking as part of the Wednesday session about co-creation.

We're looking forward to seeing and hearing what the other delegates are up to aswell.
Should be a fantastic three days. Maybe see a few of you there?

Monday, 11 July 2011

FLOW: Interchange

FLOW: Interchange - From Cosgrove to Wadenhoe and back again!

Three artists, two weeks, one boat!

Well tomorrow I'm off to take part in a two week residency on a narrow boat with Simon Woolham and Jo Roberts. Invited by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art we'll travel along a section of the Grand Union canal and river Nene in Northamptonshire knowledgeably led by our captain Jim. He is actually called Jim and is very knowledgeable.

Amongst other things like steering, avoiding crashing into other boats and trying to work locks..we'll be making work tracing our journey, collecting sounds, songs, words, books; and debating and possibly even singing in waterside hostelries; inviting folk to join us on board and on shore to create together and to share stories about the canal, its people and learn some traditional making skills, such a cabin crochet.

On the 23rd July I'll be joined by Jason Singh for a live sound performance as we travel through the 2 mile-long Blisworth Tunnel.

If you happen to be in that area, please feel free to come and say hello and join us for a cup of tea on board. You can follow our progress on the FLOW website, where we'll be posting regular updates of the journey.

Here's an extract from a great song to kick the journey off, courtesy of the wonderful Songs of the Inland Waterways website. Captains of the Waterways by Jon Raven, taken from the Bold Navigators: the story of England's canals in songs.

Fingers crossed that the weather holds out and that three artists sharing a small space for two weeks doesn't end up like an episode of Big Brother.

I'm looking forward to being on the water, slowing down, taking our time, being in the moment, exploring the environment, having time to think, reflect and make, learning more about canals and the people and cultures surrounding the waterways, and sharing the experience with other people.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Re-cap of May in Manchester - Part 2

On the Saturday following the Pairings Conference Jason, Berit and I headed down to the truly wonderful Victoria Baths to take part in FutureEverything's Handmade event.

Handmade aimed to celebrate and showcase the new maker community that is emerging, "connecting the culture of traditional skills and materials with modern-day digital production, distribution and interaction techniques." It explored digital hacking, interactivities and DIY culture in a new forum for Crafters, Hackers and Digital Innovators. A place to share ideas and practice with each other and the wider public. Alongside the sixteen or so stalls at the all new Craft Fair, there were performances, workshops and installations.

Led by Berit, we presented our Paper Orchestra prototype, which involved hacking a beatbox stylophone. We wanted to explore the idea of creating a social instrument that could be played by more than one person, so we turned an instrument normally played by one person into an instrument that could be played by a group of people. We wanted to test this out by seeing what would happen when different people who did not know each other came together to form temporary groups to play the instrument.

First off, visitors created a folded paper shape: which became their control button for playing the stylophone, and using graphite pens, pencils and powder made contact marks on their folded shape. The graphite marks act as conductive points. Using conductive threads we attached the control buttons to wires that controlled each key of the stylophone. As a result each player was responsible for a single key and therefore beat of the stylophone. It was fascinating to see what shapes people created and which of those worked best.

Groups came together at varying points during the day to play, and it was really interesting to see how people started to construct rhythms with each other. Whilst people were playing Jason was sampling the sounds live, using Abelton Live, then looping, distorting and composing. The players then responded to Jason's composition adding new beats and layers as the sound built, Jason responding and so the circle continued. There were moments of chaos and some magical moments when the whole thing came together.

People seemed to really get into it, inviting their friends to come and have a go, and it did work as a social instrument. People were playing, laughing, chatting, constructing and composing together.

You can check out a review of the day, what other people were up to, and see photos of the baths on Crafts Magazine's blog.

Our plan is to develop the idea further. We'll be presenting the Paper Orchestra prototype no2 at the Connected Communities Symposium organised by CultureLab in Newcastle in September.

We had a blast. Thank you to everyone who came along and took part. All in all a great day, meeting great people, with great ideas, in a great venue. What more could you ask for on a rainy saturday in Manchester.

Re-cap of May in Manchester - Part 1

Well we had a fun packed few days in Manchester in May.

To kick things off, we took part in the Pairings conference organised by MIRIAD at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU): The conference explored the three themes of Conversation, Collaboration and Material. On Thursday, I spent a wonderful morning in the embroidery machine room at MMU recording sounds of students and staff working on various machines. The machine room is such a fantastic resource that should continue to be cherished and developed. A huge thank you to Jill, Ben and Laura for helping out playing the machines.

I then took time to sample and loop extracts of the recordings. The plan was to include these sounds in our performance. We gave a 30 minute live performance on the Friday evening to mark the end of the two day conference. Four members of the collective worked together: Jason Singh, Yusra Warsama, Berit Greinke and myself.
We wanted to create an improvised piece based on the themes of the conference:"conversation, collaboration and material", so we could present a live piece that was a collaborative conversation between the four of us through using voices, analogue and digital machines, needles, threads, microphones, samplers and loop pedals, and physical material such as cloth. The themes also gave us the idea of exploring threes (even though the conference title was Pairings! and there were four of us.)
I've been re-reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau recently, and in one of the chapters he talks about three chairs. He says that one chair is for solitude, two chairs are for friendship and three chairs are for society. Thoreau's quote seemed a perfect way of summing up the nature of different people meeting in different contexts and some of the potential strengths and difficulties of collaboration. We used the quote from Walden as the start of the performance. So at different points throughout the performance there are single conversations, two people conversing and three or more. We start and end with the solitude of one.

You can listen to the performance on our soundcloud page here:

Thank you to Alice, Helen and everyone at Miriad and MMU for inviting us to take part, for making the conference a great success and for helping to make the performance happen.

Friday, 29 April 2011

May in Manchester

During May, we'll be camped down in Manchester for various collaborations, workshops and performances.

First off, Jason Singh and I will be working with a group of textile students from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) on a collaborative sound project.

Next up, also at MMU, we'll be performing as part of the Pairings conference: conversations, collaborations and materials. The conference is on Thursday 12 and Friday 13th. All being well, we'll be doing an improvised performance at 5pm on the Friday as part of the finale to the two days. You can find out more info on the conference and how to book tickets here: Pairings.

The next day, Sat. 14th May, we'll be taking part in Handmade at the wonderful Victoria Baths as part of FutureEverything. There will be sixteen stalls all exploring how crafting, hacking and DIY are informing the development of digital technology. Please come down, see what people are up to and take part in our collaborative paper stylophone orchestra experiment.

Hope to see you at anyone of these events.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Textile Music

In December last year I was very kindly invited by Becky Earley to take part in the University of the Arts, London's Textile Futures Research Centre's event Textile Music. You can find out more about the Centre's previous and current research by clicking on the link above.

I was asked to run a short one hour workshop with various members of the research group, exploring the question "what does our research sound like?" and to put together and play a DJ set of music referencing textiles and textile related words. Songs and band names were suggested by members of the group, some of my friends, and members of the sampler-cultureclash facebook group. This included traditional songs, songs sung whilst making textiles and, well anything connected to textiles, such as the theme tune to the TV series "Are You Being Served". You can listen to a selection of the songs via my you tube page: It's eclectic to say the least!
Textile Songs

My favourite was "anything by Fred Astaire"!! thank you Mr Gates for that one!
Please feel free to add suggestions. There's a page on the sampler-cultureclash facebook group in discussions.

My personal interest is traditional textile songs from Lancashire, where I grew up, which I've been researching over the last few months. Many of which I've discovered via the English Folk Dance and Song Society's amazing library and archive at Cecil Sharpe House in Camden, London.

For the workshop, participants discussed and explored the Centre's four themes:
1. Design-Science Textiles
2. Digital Textiles
3. Sustainable Textiles
4. Identity; Reflection

They then came together to create a new collective pixel drawing inspired by these discussions. In the evening the pixel drawing was played back through the piano player as a whole piece, and then played again this time sampling and looping sections using a loop pedal over the top of various drum breaks to create a new improvised piece of music. The "performance" was filmed so I'll post it when it's ready.

In the meantime, here's the piece in full

and here's a sound recording of the piece played in reverse, which I actually prefer.

I'll be experimenting with the piece, sampling and looping sections to see what else I can create from it.

A huge thanks to Becky and everyone at the TFRC for inviting me to take part and to everyone who suggested music and songs, in particular Helen Carnec, David Gates, Mark Alder, and Deirdre Nelson.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Nottingham Lace Part IV

As promised here's a short film comprising looped samples of sound recordings of various embroidery machines in action during the workshop. I've just used a simple audio visualiser to turn the sounds back into visuals. I particularly like the looped section where the machine starts to sound like a human breath. I'd advise listening with headphones to get the full range of sounds.
warning: the film contains repeated flashing images.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Nottingham Lace Part III

In the afternoon session of the workshop we camped down in the University's fantastic embroidery workshop, which is packed full of all manner of wonderful embroidery machines, from the hand and foot operated to the latest digital technology. The purpose of the session was to translate elements of the work we created in the morning into embroidered samples. To record the sounds that the machines made as we created each piece. For many people it was the first time they'd worked with several of the machines, so it was interesting to see how people threw themselves into that opportunity, grappling with each machine and learning about what was possible.

I'll post a sample of sounds in the next update.

I'd like to thank Katherine and Tom for inviting me up to Nottingham, and to everyone who took part in the day; for bringing such a wonderful selection of objects, sharing their stories and their imaginations and for throwing themselves into the workshop with such enthusiasm. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what we can do next with some of the ideas, work and connections we started.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Nottingham Lace - part II

Just before the afternoon session, we created another collective pixel drawing piece. Each person drew an element of their object, in pixel form, on the roll of graph paper, and within a time limit of 2 minutes. They then moved round to the next drawing and continued to add another element from their object to that existing drawing. This continued until each person had contributed to each drawing. The result was one collective piece, comprising of thirteen collectively made drawings.

The idea was then to take a sample of this and re-create it with the digital embroidery machine, turning the drawing into a new embroidered piece, and taking the hand made into the machine and the digital. And to take sound recordings of the machine creating the piece.

Here's a short video of the digital embroidery machine previewing how the piece will be created, turning the drawing into an animation of process.

And here's a video comprising extracts of the piece being created. I love the fact that at some points the machine is creating sections in 4/4 time, the tempo increasing or decreasing depending on the length of stitch.

A huge thanks to Tessa for all her expertise and assistance helping us to translate and create this piece.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Nottingham Lace - part 1

As a result of taking part in the Interlace conference in Nottingham, at the end of last year I was very kindly invited to run a one day workshop with the Centre for Advanced Textiles Research Group at Nottingham and Trent University.

The idea was to create a space where academic staff, technicians, and students could take time out from their usual daily responsibilities and routines in order to share, to create new work together and I hoped have some fun along the way too.

Given the importance of textiles to Nottingham, particularly the lace industry, I asked each participant to bring along a textile object related to the city. We had a fantastic selection of objects, including parts of a lace machine, wages ledgers, note books from a hand-frame knitter, a bearded needle, images of possibly the last Schiffli machine in production in Nottinghamshire, photos of closed lace centres and soon to be demolished factories and buildings, place names, pieces of lace and cloth made in Nottingham (several by participants), punch tapes, technical drawings and nursery rhymes about lace making.

As we talked about each object, several recurring themes came to the surface. Change, closure and loss featured heavily: mourning the decline of an industry, of old machines and buildings, the recognition of changes in industrial textile processes and the re-location of production and what that means to a place and its people. But also there was a great sense of joy and pride in the city, in technology, in the architecture of industry and commerce, in technological development, in the processes of making, and in the lives, skills and knowledge of the people involved in cloth production. And perhaps most of all the power of textiles to connect different people.

Following the format of previous sampler-cultureclash workshops, to get people to start working together, we then created a series of collective written pieces. Each person wrote a sentence about their object, then passed it onto the next person. That person then wrote another sentence about their object, using the last word of the previous sentence as the first word. This process continued until everyone had contributed to each piece. We recorded each poem, through the spoken word and song, hence turning the written word into sound.

Then, each person selected a word from their collective poem and drew this in pixel form onto a strip of grid paper and punched out holes so we could play it through a piano-player.

Here's a sample of my favourite sections. Each section has been looped in order to introduce repetition.

And here's one of the poems read by Tom Fisher combined with a looped sample from the pixel drawing piano-player piece. I love the way that Tom brings a series of seemingly disconnected lines alive through the rhythm in his reading. In thirteen lines this piece manages to encapsulate many of the themes we'd discussed earlier in the day, whilst also taking us into the realms of fantasy: will we ever discover what the needle was hiding behind its beard?

In the next post I'll cover the afternoon session of the workshop, where we camped down in the embroidery machine workshop; making, playing, and recording stitches, machines and sounds.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Berlin Part 3

Following the Berlin workshop I've been experimenting with the collective pixel drawing we created. I've been sampling then looping some of the sounds the piece made when it was played through the piano-player. See the post Berlin, Berlin Berlin for the full piece.

Here's a selection of my favourite parts played back through an oscilloscope, so turning sound back into the visual.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Berlin Part II

As promised in my last post, here's one of the collective poems we created during the workshop.

Whilst the process of writing is quick and in a sense they are nonsense poems, constructed of random sentences and thoughts joined together, I often find that within them there are always some magical lines.

I particularly love the start of this poem, and the lines
"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" and
"Sharing Thoughts..Thoughts are free"

Here's a selection of my favourite lines from some of the other poems, and listen out for the several song lyrics that crop up.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Berlin, Berlin, Berlin

Just thought I'd bring you up to date with some of the collaborations that we were involved in at the end of 2010.

First off Berlin, I was invited by Linda Florence and Prof. Zane Berzina from WeiBensee Kunsthochscule Berlin, to run a one-day workshop with their textile and surface design students.
Here's one of my favourite tracks about Berlin by Heidi Bruhl just to set the mood.

For this term's project brief, the students had been asked to look at collecting and collections. So with this workshop I wanted to work with them to explore the idea of collective making, and see what work we'd produce by sharing and working together for a day.

To start the day, all the students brought an amazing selection of food and drink so we could have breakfast together. Food has become a key part of our workshops, as it's a great way for people to relax, get to know each other and share.

We'd asked everyone to bring a photo of an object from a collection they'd been exploring, so we could use these as the starting point for creating. We went around the table with each person talking about their object and explaining why they had chosen it.

For our workshops it's important that people let go of being precious about their work, and to enjoy being spontaneous. This is essential if we're going to experiment and create together. It's not about the final work rather the enjoyment and process of collaborating.

For the first stage of collective making, we started to change the visual images into the written word and then into sound through the spoken word. We asked everyone to imagine their object as a person and write what kind of personality it would have and what that person was doing at that moment in time. I love the strange and beautiful images people conjure up as soon as the object is given a personality. Each person then passed their sentence onto the next person and wrote another sentence using the last word of the previous sentence as the first word. Each poem circulated around the table until everyone had contributed. The idea is to create collective nonsense poems.

In my next post, I'll put up one of the collective poems from the 30 or so we created.

Each person then chose their favourite word from one of the collective poems, and we drew each word using black-maker pens in pixel format onto a grid paper tape. Then we punched out holes in each black square so we could play this through a small piano player. Again turning, the word and the visual into sound.

Here's a video of the strip being played. I think there are some really interesting moments of sound within this particular strip.

In the afternoon, we created two further collective pixel drawings, this time using a variety of coloured pens and pencils. We gave everyone 3 minutes to draw a pattern based on their object, then when the time was up everyone moved one place to their right continuing the pattern created by the previous person, until everyone was back in their original place. I love the two pieces created. Not sure what we'll do with them yet. I'd love to turn elements of them into embroideries and further sound pieces.

To round the day off, I created a quick sound collage with samples of all the work we'd created, and played this sound piece back through an oscilloscope. Turning sound back into visual, so we'd come full circle by the end of the day.

I'd like to thank Linda, Zane and all the students for their great hospitality, and for participating in the workshop with such enthusiasm, and for being great fun to work with. I had a fantastic time, and I really hope we can take a sampler-cultureclash performance to Berlin in the very near future.

Photos by Linda Florence.