Tweed swiggle

tweed4

I’ve started another swiggle piece (here’s the original design, the first swiggle jumper and its progress – one, two, three), this time a birthday present for my mum, who will be sixty in September. I went for Rowan tweed yarn in a mossy green and cream. Since the yarn is a bit thicker than what was used for this design before, the design is bigger and I’m reworking my original ‘pattern’ (I say ‘pattern’ because it’s shamefully strewn between various notebooks and sheafs of paper, many of which have uncertain whereabouts).

This time I’m making sure to remember exactly what’s already been done by literally attaching notes to the knitting on luggage labels. It’s the only way.

Thursday’s paradigm knit

Having been a bit lax about posting lately, I’ve given myself a pinch this week. I started this blog and want to continue it because  a) I want to post things that I think others would find interesting/ inspiring/ helpful and give something back to the huge online pool of amazing talent and work that I dip into so much, b) I have a poor memory and need an easily accessible archive full of images to remind myself what I’ve been doing and making and c) my self-motivation varies hugely from obsessive and hyper about getting something done to chewing nails and staring into space – I wanted a long-term project that would keep both it and me going. However, being in that uninspired, flat state of mind makes it difficult to write or photograph or DO anything.

So.. the point of this particular post is to have a regular feature that I have to post every week because ..otherwise that bomb on the bus*/ milk float** will go BOOM!! and Bruce Willis*/ Father Ted** won’t be around to help this time.

Anyway.

Every Thursday I’ll post a new design with a little bit about its source of inspiration. The design might be taken directly from a historical piece of knitting, adapted from another medium e.g. ceramics or emerge from the jelly-like substance of the sea on the surface of the planet Solaris.

Here, like this:

Oak leaf design

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A new knitting pattern, taken from a piece of embroidery in Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire. The yarn is Jamiesons of Shetland spindrift in ‘moss’ and ‘scotch broom’.

Detail of a framed cushion cover of crimson silk worked in long-armed, cross or tent-stiches with various types of oak leaves. From the Paved Room, Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire.

leafdesign

*popular culture reference for the general readership

**popular culture reference for Aunty Penny

The Weekend

millfete02         This weekend I helped out at my local community centre’s Midsomer Mill Garden Fete. With the theme of Midsummer Murders in mind, I put on my most saccharine sweet flowery dress (no pictures of that, thankfully). millfete01millfete06millfete03millfete04millfete07millfete05millfete08millfete09millfete10millfete11millfete12millfete13To the tunes of The Moodswingers, we sold plants and knitted goods, ate cakes, drank tea, painted faces, blindfolded local police officers (yep – and charged them 20p for it) and generally felt like we lived in a sweet little village. Thanks to Kate and Isabelle for masterminding the day!

Dieter Roth at the Camden Arts Centre

Notes on a visit to the Camden Arts Centre’s exhibition Dieter Roth: Diaries, 17 May – 14 July.

Dieter Roth (1930-98) was a Swiss-German artist known for his varied range of mixed-media artwork, often using found materials.

© Camden Arts Centre, London

The first gallery has a library-like atmosphere; on one side stand five bookcases, interspersed with lamp lit reading desks. There are five shelves on each side of the bookcases, each housing fourteen carefully dated ringbinders filled with the detritus of Roth’s life – photos, letters, medication packets, cigarette ends, bus tickets and numerous sundry scraps of paper. His one criteria for candidates into these files was that objects should be no thicker than 1/4 inch.

Roth seems to have had the understanding of an archaeologist that it’s actually the objects we use daily to the point of being unconscious of them, the detritus that usually ends up in rubbish pits and landfill sites, that reveals the most about us. These give a more honest portrayal of an individual or society than any official biography or collection of high-end artefacts, through sheer accumulation and by the very fact that they tend to be overlooked and underestimated. The piece raises the question Why keep everything?, but then again, Why keep anything?

© Camden Arts Centre, London

In the second gallery, a series of wooden boards covered in stains, notes, paint and doodles reminds me of long-suffering school desks and the kitchen table of a friend whose children have free reign to scratch and sketch over its surface. These, along with the shelves of ringbinders and the journals in a nearby cabinet, are just another kind of diary for Roth, a record of his life.

Gallery 3 houses Roth’s most extreme and ambitious project of documenting his life. He set up video recorders in rooms in his house and studios and for two years captured his daily life. A wall of television sets simultaneously show Roth sleeping, eating, washing up, making phone calls, going to the toilet, and, largely, working. The last video impassively records the empty studio on the day he died.

Later, flicking through the exhibition catalogue, I chanced upon this telling quote by Roth:

D.R.: For me, it’s…it’s like a cancerous tumour, it’s basically an illness. An illness that I have. Now.

I.L-H.: This compulsion to represent your entire life.

D.R.: Yes. That’s my terminal illness. It’ll probably be the cause of my death.

Extract of interview with Irmelin Lebeer-Hossmann, Stuttgart, 20-22 June 1979, published in ‘On Keeping a Diary’, Dieter Roth: Diaries, ed. Fiona Bradley (Yale University Press, 2012), p. 158

I wonder what Roth would have made of social media and blogging had he witnessed the current culture of recording daily life on a massive scale? The questions raised by his pointedly indiscriminate recording and archiving seem more pertinent than ever.

Is the desire to be heard and remembered a terminal illness that we all suffer from to some degree?

Dieter Roth: Diaries runs from 17 May to 14 July 2013 at the Camden Arts Centre, London. Free entry to all.

Museum of the Year

wmgalleryEarlier this month, the William Morris Gallery officially became Museum of the Year.

Despite volunteering at the gallery for nearly a year and being fully aware of how genuinely well-curated and engaging and mind-nourishing the place is.. the news still came as a fantastic shock.

Here’s what the judges said: “This truly is Museum of the Year. Its extraordinary collections, beautifully presented, draw the visitor engagingly through Morris’s life and work and through the building itself. Setting the highest standards of curatorship, and reaching out impressively to its local community.”

Read all about it here on the ArtFund website.

Group Knitting Project

This morning I’m busy sewing together our Softer Light group knitting piece. Over the past couple of months us knitters at The Mill have made squares for this ‘stained knit window’, to be featured in an upcoming textiles exhibition, Softer.

To do these beautiful squares full justice, I’m knitting a mile (well, not quite) of i-cord as ‘leading’ to hold the ‘panes’ of knitting in place.

The i-cord was made on two double-ended needles by casting on two stitches, knitting them, and, after knitting the second stitch, pushing the stitches from the left to the right-side end of the needle, transferring the needle back to the left-hand and continuing as a round by bringing the working yarn around the back. This forms a very tiny tube of knitting with four sides formed by the two stitches.

 

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Some thoughts on the Bangladeshi factory disaster

mibOn 24th April 2013 an eight-storey building in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, trapping thousands of factory workers inside, injuring about 2,500 people and killing 1,127.

Fifty-four days on, the disaster has mostly slipped out of the headlines and from the attention of the media.

What, if anything, has changed?

I found myself struggling to work out my own complicity in the disaster. In my wardrobe I found four t-shirts bought in British high street stores with the label ‘Made in Bangladesh’. Of course, the fact that these t-shirts were made in Bangladesh is not the issue; the main problem is a lack of ethical/ humanitarian constraints in the clothing market. The clothing companies who sell us cheap t-shirts can do so because they source their products from suppliers in countries where minimum wage standards, working conditions and building regulations are not as developed and/ or regulated as in economically better-off countries such as the UK. But the label ‘Made in Bangladesh’ is the only thing on this plain, unremarkable t-shirt that reminds us of the complex chain of events that has placed it in our hands, on our backs.

I feel as though I’ve got too used to buying things – whether clothes, food or toilet paper – without considering how they were produced. A brand new t-shirt appears so clean and complete that it seems even harder to think about the many hands it’s passed through to reach that wearable state we tend to take for granted.

The latest factory tragedy shows that this untroubled consumption can’t continue – it’s already coming apart at the seams.

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There’s an interesting report on the factory disaster here, on the Democracy Now website:

http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/11/striking_workers_bangladeshi_activist_challenge_walmart

Square Dance

Remember that commission I mentioned aaages ago? Well, I finished, wrapped and waved it off in April.

Now, two months on, having allowed any suspense I may have hoped to build up to whither and die (sigh), here’s a post to tell you (and remind me) what it was exactly that I made.

Ready?

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Ta da!

blanket1blanket

An excellent friend commissioned this blanket for her friend’s first baby. We settled on bamboo wool in cream, yellow and grey, and simple squares in garter stitch so it would be the same on both sides. Before sewing it together I photographed different patterns to help decide the layout, and ended up making this stop motion animation film in the process.

Sunday afternoon in Donetsk

I’m already halfway through my two weeks in Donetsk. Until today, I’d only ventured outside the hotel to go to work or out with friends, always driven or escorted to a specific location with no danger of getting lost or need to attempt any Russian beyond ‘spasiba’.

However, this afternoon I found the time and courage to explore a little of the city by myself. Here’s something I wrote halfway through my adventure into the unknown, enjoying the feeling of not having to be anywhere in particular and not knowing exactly where I was anyway. The blazing sunshine helped.

I’m sitting in a garden of scented roses overlooking a lake, surrounded by kids eating candy floss and strolling lovers. Arms drape over railings and be-heeled feet flick for lakeside portraits. Beneath the rose bushes, invisible against the dark, manure-rich soil, hundreds of sparrows tweet a continuous high-pitched beat, giving themselves away to the passersby.

How did I get here?

Out of the hotel – sunglasses descend onto my nose, held in place by the bony ridge therewith – left onto Boulevard Pushkin, down shady steps all the way to the bottom, right, past stalls selling dubiously sparkly-looking amber necklaces and black-and-brightly-coloured Peruvian shoulder bags, under a bridge, doughtily/ doubtingly across a disused railway track, through a cloud of candy floss and roller blades and over another bridge guarded at either end by sagging-bellied, strong-willed babushkas selling nuts.

Afterwards, I walked around the lake, enjoying the challenge of trying to discover the source of the amplified squawks and rasps at the edge of the water (answer = big, green, noisy frogs). On the way back up Boulevard Pushkin I happily play up my naive tourist status with two more babushkas, who press The Watchtower into my hand but give up after a few minutes of courageous glossalalia against shoulder shrugs and an inanely good-natured smile.

Back to the hotel, safe and a little more sound, to type up my blissful wanderings so as not to forget.

Animation

This week (and next) I’m in Ukraine teaching art. Amongst drawing, painting, photography, art history, printing, T-shirt design and a multitude of games, one of my favourite activities so far has been making animations with my pupils. We used stapled booklets of tracing paper, and, starting from the back, drew a picture on each sheet, changing it a little each time. Try this once and you’ll realise how much work went into the old Disney films (24 frames a second to be exact).

Here’s the demonstration piece I made before I arrived. There are 16 different frames in total (numbered in the corner), edited in iPhoto and iMovie.

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And here’s one I made earlier.

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(шутка!)