Wednesday 30 November 2011

The Butterfly Net & The Bottle Cage

During one of my Snibston visits I brought my friend Sarah with me as I though she would really enjoy the diverse nature of the collections to be found in the museum. 
Together we tested out all of the interactive elements we could find. The skeletal cyclist and the plasma ball were particularly enjoyable.
On the same visit we spoke to John on the front desk and asked him to tell us more about the work of the miners and the nature of the community that existed before the pit closure. He had been in the navy and when he left he became a miner. He told me that it was “the best, the funniest, the hardest job” and he had loved the camaraderie he shared with his workmates.
He told us about an old mining tradition – when a young man started in the mine he would cut a piece of wood from a beam and take it home as kindling. This kindling was known as cock wood. I was curious about the role the women played in the community and he said they really ruled the roost as they looked after the money, kept the home and hearth going.
This made me think about the male and the female, the mining and the fashion collections and also of the symbolism of the Earth Mother which Encyclopedia Britanica describes as follows:-

"Earth Mother,  in ancient and modern nonliterate religions, an eternally fruitful source of everything. Unlike the variety of female fertility deities called mother goddesses, the Earth Mother is not a specific source of vitality who must periodically undergo sexual intercourse. She is simply the mother; there is nothing separate from her. All things come from her, return to her, and are her.
The most archaic form of the Earth Mother transcends all specificity and sexuality. She simply produces everything, inexhaustibly, from herself. She may manifest herself in any form. In other mythological systems she becomes a more limited figure. She becomes the feminine Earth, consort of the masculine sky; she is fertilized by the sky in the beginning and brings forth terrestrial creation. Even more limited reflections of the Earth Mother occur in those agricultural traditions in which she is simply the Earth and its fertility."
At times I have I felt as though I've been moving through the museum like a child with a butterfly net, capturing ideas. Some thoughts are half-formed, slipping away as soon as I try to net them, whilst others shift and change  making different strings of meaning, leading me to more thoughts and ideas.
I am intrigued by the idea of connecting the male and the female, the mines and the corsetry, lightness and weight, fragility and strength. Coal and corset are also potent instruments of change and transformation. 
I've been contemplating layers, above and below, inside and outside (garment / mineshaft), power (mining, heat, energy, finance, status), tunnelling through - from soft surface to hard hot darkness. The pipes that carry heat, air or water have also been on my mind.
Then there are thoughts about the corset as support structure – like beams inside mines – holding the body up whilst creating a confined space inhabited by the body. I have been making visual notes to myself, trying to retain every spark that has been ignited by this journey.
The shift is still important, it lays beneath the corset giving the memory and illusion of freedom. Once the corset is removed, movement is freer but support is diminished. The mine shaft and the work of the miners share a similar dichotomy, the work is dangerous, the spaces are confining, yet the money earned, the skills required and the closeness of the workers offer certain freedoms. 
When I asked John what effect the pit closure had on Coalville and he said without the pit work the miners no longer bought their twist of tobacco from the tobacconist, their quarter of sweets from the sweetshop, their loaf of bread from the baker, it wasn’t only jobs that were lost, many other businesses were wiped away as livelihoods were intimately connected. 

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Snibston CPD - On Site Inspirations- Connectivity?

On my second visit to Snibston Discovery Centre as part of my CPD investigations I found myself wondering whether there may be any visual, historical or emotional connections to be made within this "House of Collections". I am still very interested in the idea of the Shift with all the resonances that word creates but I've been wondering about the energy that drove innovation and industry and the way that the railways might link coal, corsetry and location. I've also been thinking about pipes, tunnelling, layers, strata, money, power, corsetry and constraint. 

Monday 28 November 2011

Snibston CPD Inspirations - Pipes & Ducting

This set of images were taken on my second visit to Snibston, on my day of collecting connections. In my mind there is a visual link between the ducting, what travels trough the pipes, the idea of internal and external spaces, expansiveness and confinement which is leading me back to corsets, bustles and bottle cages as sculptural forms.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Floating Columns

The final part of my Back To Books New Vistas / Wider Horizons involvement was to create the Floating Columns installation. The idea was inspired by the concrete columns in the Chamber Foyer and each column was the same diameter as the originals. After cutting all the strips of fabric I had to take all the drawings, make a selection and create stencils for screen prints. In this I received invaluable help from Andy Eathorne & Sarah Stringer and was able to make the photo stencils and print the fabric in the print room at Tresham College. It was a mammoth task and I would not have got it done without help from the students and Lubelia Watkin-Wynn.
Each tube was made from nine strips of fabric, each seam was sewn twice for strength and neatness and as there was no heating in my studio I had to bring everything home to sew in the living room - maximum thread everywhere! 
After all the tubes had been constructed each one had to have a metal hoop sewn in by hand - many thanks Kate Dyer, who joined me back in the studio on the Saturday before installation to help with this time consuming task.
Even though the project took many more days than I was paid for I felt pleased with the end result, especially when I saw people moving in and around them during the Private View. If there is no further call for them in their current incarnation I may add more to them - images from other palces, in other colours, overlaid and over printed, after the exhibition is finished. Then they could be installed in other places and have an extended lifespan.
Floating Columns


During a few brief moments October I gave myself permission to draw, I have been heavily involved with Back To Books Big Draw activities at the Cube in Corby. The Family Drawing Days were great fun, with a steady stream of adults and children coming to make drawings in and around the building.

 This is an uncannily accurate portrait of me by Oscar Cullinan!

As it had been quite some time since I'd allowed myself the pleasure of drawing I just made quick sketches in between the activity of others, trees in the car park, pebbles on the roof, people sitting waiting for a bus, a family exploring the view from the top of the spiral staircase.

I wasn't trying to be accurate, I just wanted to enjoy the soft bite of the pencil on paper, the longer it is between one drawing and another, the more timid one is likely to become, that's why the Big Draw is such a life enhancing proposition and it really does encourage all sorts of people to pick up some sort of drawing equipment and start making a mark. 

It allows you to go back to the joy of looking, thinking and exploring what is seen and felt in the bustling world around us, tracing the shapes people make inside the space.

During half term we visited Compton Verney  spending a really enjoyable day walking in the gardens and visiting the exhibitions. There was an exhibition "Larger Than Life" of work commissioned by hospitals, made by Quentin Blake. The Circus series was a wonderful set of images created for an older adult's mental health ward depicting a range of older people showing off their circus skills to younger participants, a lovely way of exploring age and skill, youth and experience, fun and games. It was also great to see the real marks and washes on the paper, reproduction doesn't entirely capture the energy and humour, or the way colour and form are captured inside well practised lines & marks.
There were Big Draw activities throughout the building and the most fabulous exhibition of the history of fireworks and fire festivals, I love graphic design and the packaging and posters were gorgeous. Another exhibition made a host of fascinating juxtapositions between artworks from their British Folk Art Collection which has been cleverly placed in amongst other collections and peppered throughout the building. The artists involved included:-Tasha Amini, James Ayres, Daniel Baker, Sir Peter Blake, Sonia Boyce, Faye Claridge, Simon Costin, Jeremy Deller, Carolyn Flood, Jenny Gordon, Antonia Harrison, Susan Hiller, Juneau Projects, Alan Kane, Paula MacArthur, Mike Nelson, Martin Myrone, Paul Ryan and Sarah Woodfine.

Artist Laura Ellen Bacon is currently Maker in Residence and has made these intriguing structures amongst the trees in the gardens.

In the same week The Fishmarket Gallery in Northampton was a hive of activity as artists took part in interventions and activities for Northampton's Light Night Run. Artist and Queen of Cup Cakes, Tamsyn Payne offered artists the opportunity to make a sketch using EL wire. I made four small heads which were sited outside the Royal & Derngate (for one night only and they mysteriously disappeared) but here's a very very short clip of them blinking!

When I dropped the pieces off at the Fishmarket I had a chance to see The Seven Spires by Steve Massam which had been visiting many parts of the county as part of Northamptonshire's Cultural Olympiad project "Flow"
The were land locked in the small courtyard outside, soaking up the weak October light and dreaming of their travels along the Nene.
I was reminded of Steve Massam's Spires when I spied the roof line of the St Pancras Hotel from the courtyard of the British Library during our Pilgrimage to London. We took a brief tour of the Treasures From the British Library after an inspiring day in the British Museum.

There had been so much publicity about Grayson Perry's "The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman" I was worried that it might not live up to to all the praise. It was totally a totally fabulous exhibition and I think I might just need to go and see it again. The thought behind the selections, the clever balance of artefacts, the energy and intelligence of the artist combined with the sensitivity and humour of the texts made this a filling, thought-provoking day. Oh yes, and there was lots of drawing - on pots and from history. Luscious!