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.