Sunday, 7 November 2010

Museum Of Childhood, Bethnal Green

Picture of a picture from the Museum of Childhood, love the necklace/shawl.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Ballet Russes

Yesterday I went for a brief trip round the Russian ballet at the V&A, very inspiring.  So many beautiful colours and patterns.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Foundling Museum Textiles

I just visited the display of textile tokens at The Foundling Museum.  Many children were left at the hospital and all of them had a token of some form as a piece of identification should their mother come back for them.  Although some of these were not textile (coins or half coins, jewellery, keepsakes etc) most were textile, not least as many of the mothers would not have had the money for a keepsake to leave. 

At this time most childrens clothing was made from old pieces of their mothers clothes and as such they were often left little scraps as their identification.  Some embroidered with names initials or a heart, some written on, some folded into cockades (a sort of rosette that denoted a male child) and some which were simply a scrap.  They were fascinating, not least for the cloth itself which could show your class (printed or hand-embroidered pattern on silk - wealthy, plain cotton - poor etc), and the era from its patterns or fashions but also for the threads of familial emotion that these scraps hold.  From some the pain of parting is palpable - a stitched heart cut in two so just one half is left, the carefully sewn initials even though each foundling was given a new name.  Each one is pinned to a page on which the child's details are scribed, this seems almost clinical given the nature of the token.

A textile token holds many parallels - threads of family, lives interwoven, stitches in time etc and this added metaphorical meaning means this exhibition holds a certain weight to it.  However it also holds a lot of hope - each token is there to identify the child when their mother comes to claim them, and love - something left to be remembered by, and so there was a lot of pleasure to be had through viewing these tiny pieces - a touching reminder of attachment and love.

When I was small my mother embroidered a sampler for me, and also one for my brother when he was born.  Although these are much bigger than those tokens left with the foundlings and made much later (the hospital opened in 1739 and closed in 1954) I think they, at a mere 30 and 28 years old respectively are an interesting modern day version of these tokens, and ones that we still own today.  The time and effort made by my mother to commemorate my and my brothers births in stitch is a testament to the parallels spoken of before, as is the fact that we still own them ourselves.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Louise Bourgeois: Fabric Works

Very excited about this upcoming exhibition at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery London:

It opens 15th October.

Think I might treat myself to the book as well :)

Monday, 27 September 2010

Slow Practices/Processes

Slow processes and what Slow means to me:  A partially finished series of ideas

In my opinion Slow is a thought process or philosophy rather than a time reference – just because a task takes a long time does not mean it is a Slow task.  I feel that Slow can be defined as taking appropriate time compared to our perceived normal 21st century way of living (seen as Fast).  A Slow process to me is one that has been well considered and thus decided upon due to its appropriateness.  This consideration may only need to be undertaken once as the resulting information could be held in mind for future projects, or it may be that the thinking needs to be done every time a process is used.  Slow and working in a Slow manner is about appropriateness, in terms of material choices, process choices and intended outcomes of your processes; in this sense Slow relates to time because, by working within a Slow framework one allows oneself the time to consider the available options, regardless of the scale of operation.

I feel that the following things should be considered as part of a Slow working process:
What is the intended outcome of the process?
What is the intended outcome for the series of processes, what are you intending to make?
What impact does the process have environmentally, both small and large scale, and if negative, how could this be reduced?
Also post-consumer use and recycling of the end product.

This should lead to a list of ‘needs’ for the outcome, which should help determine which process is most appropriate.  I believe that Slow relates to processes in a decision making format – why use that process?  Is it the most appropriate for the intended outcome of the process?
 I feel that one does not need to be personally involved in the process itself to consider it and its implications, also I feel that processes can be considered on an industrial scale.  One does not need to be an individual designer maker to work within a Slow framework/context, nor does one need to be a professional designer.
Personally when deciding upon a process I use my STEER theory, developed to offer a framework for Slow design.  I take a few moments to consider what I need it to do (STOP), I then consider whether it will do that to the standard I need it to, be that finished perfection or experimental designing stages (THINK), I then might ask around or look online to see if there is any other way of doing it – is there a way better environmentally or more appropriate aesthetically (EXPLORE).  I then go ahead with the process I have decided upon and involve myself in my making process (ENJOY).  I will at some point look over what I have done and how I did it in order to establish if I was happy with it, practically, environmentally and aesthetically and how I would do it if I were to repeat that process (RETHINK).  Part of working Slowly is being willing to rethink, revisit ideas to rework them.  Particularly as someone who is concerned about the environmental impact of my work I find the ‘re-‘ stages of my work very interesting, and often they offer a lot to learn from.


‘The moral significance of work that grapples with material things may lie in the simple fact that such things lie outside the self’ (Crawford, M; Shop Classs as Soulcraft; 2009; p16)

 ‘…severing of the cognitive aspects of manual work from its physical execution’
(Crawford, M; Shop Class as Soulcraft; Penguin 2009; p31) – I think Slow can help reconnect the two.

‘As to the hope of the product, I have said that Nature compels us to work for that.  It remains for us  to look to it that we do  really produce something an not nothing…’ (Morris, W; Useful Work Versus Useless Toil; Penguin 2008; p3)

 ‘We shall not, therefore, be concerning ourselves with objects as defined by their functions or by the categories into which they might be subdivided for analytic purposes, but instead with the processes whereby people relate to them and with the systems of human behaviour and relationships that result therefrom.’ (Baudrillard, J; The System of Objects; Verso 2005; p2)

slow quote

"A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life."

Friday, 24 September 2010

Is Slow an outdated word, no.2

Is Slow an outmoded word in Design terms?  More musings on this topic here, brought about after reading about the origin, meaning and implications of words, also after watching Helvetica and wondering about the implications of text and graphics.  What imagery does Slow bring to mind? 

When the word Slow is used in design terms it instantly brings to mind slowness, timescales and lengthy jobs (ie tedium and ennui).  In this world of go go go thinking, instant information and high-speed living would this philosophy benefit from a more appropriate name?  Using my Slow theory to discuss this goes as follows:

Stop Think Explore Enjoy Rethink

STOP:  What does Slow instantly bring to mind?
THINK: What do I want Slow to mean?
EXPLORE: what other words (if any) are more appropriate?
ENJOY: Are any of them totally appropriate?  If not can I word-play with them?  Can I make a neologism?
RETHINK:  Will this word be appropriate in a weeks time?  A years time?  etc

First blog post on this thought here

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Stroud Textiles - Slow Textiles Event Review

This is a good review of the Slow Textile event at the Stroud Textile Festival 2010, with a quick mention of me right at the end!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Slow Playgrounds

An interesting article sent to me by a friend about Slow Design in relation to playgrounds.  I think the diagram is particularly informative about the crossovers of Slow Design in different disciplines.  I am working on a Slow Design diagram for textiles and also on a general one at the moment, I will publish them here when they are done.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Slow as an outdated word

Is Slow as a word misleading or outdated?  How up to date are words to do with sustainability ?  is there a comfort or familiarity with words such as green and does that lessen their impact?  These are questions I will be looking at further.  One of the many things that has got me thinking about these words, their true meanings and their implications is this quote:
'I ... prefer to use the term "trade" over "craft" to emphasize the prosaic nature of my subject (though I won't observe this distinction rigorously) '      p5-6 Shop Class as Soulcraft; An inquiry into the value of work, Matthew B. Crawford

Also a conversation had in the TED office about the greenwashing of green terms.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Slow Textiles, Degree Show

This image is of my degree show.  It is on at Chelsea College of Art and Design, Pimlico, London until Saturday 26th June.

I created my final pieces by hand, while applying my Slow Design theory (some of which I posted about here) to my work to ensure that it was both environmentally sound as a final product and also as a series of processes and material choices.  Wood is not a material generally associated with textiles however when I thought about the materials I wanted to work with and the results I wanted to achieve it seemed to be the most appropriate.  The resulting rug is threaded and can be reshaped to fit any space, entirely biodegradable and the wood used is offcuts from a timber yard.  Wood is a durable and tactile material, it has a warmth which is pleasant underfoot.  I printed some of the pieces using non-toxic inks and they are threaded on a 100% cotton rope.  I feel that working in a Slow manner enables me to make sound choices and feel confident that the decisions I make are the most appropriate for my work at the time.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Critical Mass

Friday night saw London cyclists gathering and going for a slow cycle ride round the city. I caught up with Critical Mass when they were in the banking district and joined them for a couple of miles.  As I have an interest in Slow living and thinking I particularly enjoy this free-for-all slow ride.  With no leaders and no direction the mass rolls its own direction, with the occasional splinter group breaking off.

When the mass reaches a junction some riders will cork it, blocking the oncoming traffic for the mass to pass.  I find the reaction of motorists very interesting - some turn off their engines, sit back and enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of cyclists pottering past them and some get very irate, shouting, getting out of their cars and sometimes trying to drive through the mass.  This kind of aggression feels odd to me as generally the mass will pass in under 10 minutes and to me 10 minutes does not seems like a critical amount of time to 'lose'.  However sat in the comfort of a vehicle a sense of (unnecessary?) urgency or disempowerment (as the motor vehicle is normally king of the road) seems to overcome some of the corked drivers and they become angry.

Within Slow principles is the thought of enjoying time to sit back and relax, and this unexpected moment of enforced stillness appears to me to be the perfect opportunity for those motorists to take a surprise break from their day.  Slow Food UK says "May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency."  I think this little break from everyday motoring qualifies as a sensual pleasure, both for the driver who waits and watches and for the cyclist who can enjoy the ride in comparative safety and good company.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

bike riding

Heading into work today I ended up riding for a bit with 2 of the guys from Howies, in London for the weekend at the sample sale.  Cycling is one of the most pleasant and environmentally friendly methods of transport around, but the thing that pleases me most about it is the choice you have in how you travel.  You chose your own speed to suit your mood (or time constraint), chose your own routes and distance and also how much you actually ride, be it one day a month or every day, every journey.  I have cycled approximately 80 miles this week and been on public transport for about 9 and about 9 miles in a car.  The bike-based journeys (mainly commuting) have been the ones where I have had the most constructive time to consider my day (ahead or behind me) and have also been the most efficient for my needs.  I believe bike-riding for ones commute to be a truly philosophically Slow way of travelling (and occasionally just plain old slow).
This Slow method of transport is well documented for many reasons but for me it is special for the time it allows me just to be.  My ride today slowed considerably when we started chatting and was all the more pleasant for it.  The photo above is one of the first from a series I took all the way from Hackney to Knightsbridge a few months ago, a commute I did daily for 18months about 5 years ago, and it makes me feel, looking from a bikes-eye-view, excited about the start of a new journey and about how fresh the day looks. 

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A postcard of my Slow Theory

It's a hard life in the fast lane...

Cats are, in many ways, the pinnacle of Slow living!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Hand sanding

This weekend I will be sanding by hand 8 of 31 maple tiles for a new flooring idea.  I enjoy the process of sanding wood by hand as it allows the mind time to work through other ideas and thoughts, whilst physically working towards a beautiful finished piece.  While mechanical sanding is a lot quicker and very useful for shaping and precision lines etc I have not been able to get the organic shapes I want only with a machine.  I also love the connection that the hand work offers me.  As someone who loves the sensory stimulation gained by touching and feeling materials, the tactility of handwork like this offers immense satisfaction.  I like the way my hands and arms feel tired after this work and the occasional blisters!  I feel that it also offers me a small insight into the times when machines weren't so readily available, if at all for this kind of work and for the effort that went into producing a fine finish on old furnitures etc.

The tiles in the picture are maple, although they are not the tiles I will be working on this weekend.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

AR in textiles

Listening to an old Veganfreak podcast with Gary Francione talking about how demand from the public leads to bad meat production made me think - does demand for wool and silk lead to the harsh farming methods used in fibre production.  I think so.  This isn't just limited to protein fibres (wool, silk) but also in cellulose (cottons, linen) as farming for cellulose is also environmentally harsh, and does not include leather or fur production as they are a whole different ball game, both as processes and in ethical terms.  However as wool and silk directly use animals they could be seen as being as morally wrong as battery farming. 

Does consumer demand lead to bad farming practice - I think the answer is yes.  Demand for cheap woollen clothing leads to practices such as mulesing and to sheep being treated as commodities rather than as living beings. 

Silk is a tougher question as it is not known for being cheap.  Silk is produced by boiling cocoons to release the fibres the silk worm has spun aound itself.  However, if the cocoon is left until the worm has morphed into a moth (which chews its way out) the fibres are damaged so the worms are boiled inside along with the cocoons.  Personally I see this production method as highy unethical, however as poorly fed and housed silk worms produce poor silk they tend to be kept in slightly higher conditions than a lot of other non-humans used to produce things for humans.

More about this when I have thought about it further.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Textiles from the Burrell Collection

A recent trip to the Burrell Collection, Glasgow brought these embroideries to my attention.

Also these 3d embroideries, amazing gold work.

And this lovely beaded leopard. 

The stitches in all of them were tiny, the beads also tiny, and all done by candle or day light, I find that incredible. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Ulla Von Brandenburg


I went to see Ulla Von Brandenburg's work (pictured) at the Pilar Corrias yesterday.  Based on old railroad quilts these super-sized details were both beautiful and inspiring.  
Quilts were often made from old work clothes and other well worn clothing, nothing went to waste when it didn't need to.  
I saw another quilt exhibition at the PMA about 18 months ago, again hugely inspiring.  The Gees Bend quilts appealed to me both for the care and time taken to make them, the irregularities where different fabrics met and off-geometric shapes that resulted and also in that so little material was binned.  Spent clothing became quilt panels or innards.  This lack of waste and full use of existing materials is something that is not always thought of, however some designer-makers are pushing their work as far in that direction as possible (and many include green thought processes in their work).  
Bespoke quilter Katherine May said 'what is the point of me selling this very considered product if I just wrap it in plastic which will just get thrown away - I wanted to lessen the landfill not add to it! So at the moment I am thinking of ways that packaging can be reused.'  This is a train of thought that leads down an interesting path - in my mind it starts with Japanese furoshiki (cloth gift wrap) which can be reused afterward the gift is opened.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Even Weave as Metaphor, first thoughts on feminism in textiles

In Thinking Through Craft by Glenn Adamson (p152) it says:
'For Jefferies and other Feminist artists of her generation, the notion of a flexible, evenly dispersed weave has itself come to seem like a model for a more democratic and egalitarian social "fabric" '.

An evenly dispersed weave is a visually pleasing thing, comfortable to touch and be around; potentially a more evenly woven society also offers these sensory pleasures.

(Jefferies refers to Janis Jefferies, an arttst with a particular interest in feminism and fibre)

Friday, 29 January 2010

Animal Ethics update

I have been hearing quite a lot about the meat that is being grown in labs recently.  There have been textile and food rumblings about this for a few years (growing your own leather jacket for example, BBC article about meat from 2005), however the latest thing that I read is that the science involves taking cells from the muscle of a living animal and then growing it in a solution of blood from animal foetuses - if this is an accurate explanation of the process then another ethical question arises here.  Can it be considered ethical to grow meat like this?  I don't like to pit one stance against another like this usually but here goes - is it more or less ethical to eat grown meat than to eat farmed meat?  And thus the questions comes - is it more or less ethical to wear grown leather than farmed leather?  Feasibly leather as a meat-industry by-product could become sparse if we  eat more grown meat, could this lead to demand for grown leather?

Feminism in Textiles

Can textiles be feminist? 

Can they be political beyond the sense of cloth banners with written messages?
There is a lot of debate surrounding appearance and womens rights.  This has started me wondering if cloth has anything to do with these debates, or is it only when transformed into a form that it takes on 'personality' and, as clothing, becomes a discussion point.
Hobbies or skills associated with cloth have many messages:  Originally embroidery was a pastime used to occupy the minds of women in rder to prevent them from getting distracted by sex.  This was then twisted back onto itself by women being seen to do embroidery to show that they had sexual thoughts that they needed distracting from.
The exhibition at the Women's Library in east London at the moment focuses in part on the clothing and craft skills women used during the first and second waves of feminism.  Here now in the third wave, running concurrently with a resurgence in interest in handcrafts, it can be harder to tell what relates to feminism and what doesn't. 

Can cloth be considered gendered at any point?

I will continue on this point later...