Friday, November 16, 2007

Urban Field Symposium

Urban Field was a series of exhibitions exploring the relationship of makers and their environment. Rurally based willow workers showed in urban London, makers from London and the rural south-west showed in the market town of Farnham and urban interior design was shown on the edge of Dartmoor at Bovey Tracey. The Symposium was an opportunity for reflection on the outcomes of these experiments.

Deirdre Figueiredo spoke about the work of Craftspace who build links between urban artists and audiences by involving them with crafts activities. A recent project was Transforming Crafts at Elsmere where they brought together Junko Mori an urban blacksmith working in cramped conditions in Manchester and Chris Stokes who runs a large forge in rural Oswestry. Their exchange of practice and dialog showed the breadth of techniques associated with blacksmithing in their collaborative work 'Bindweed' shown above.

Love Jonsson introduced the audience to the way Sweden had tried to integrate its crafts people into the international community by inviting overseas artists to work in Sweden. One of the eventual results of this was the Swedish group 'We Work in Fragile Material' exhibiting at Happy Campers in New York in 2006. Individually the members work in glass and ceramics (hence the group title) but for this exhibition they produced a giant fabric Troll, this was a representation of the way crafts people are seen as Trolls who live in the countryside and shun modern technology. The piece was an affirmation of the joy of making by hand and testament to the crafters ability to move across disciplines.
After lunch we were treated to a brilliantly illustrated talk on the 'subversive' knitting scene in USA by Sabrina Gschwandtner of the publication KnitKnit. Amongst other things she showed the work of the group Knitta who are known for their knitted graffiti, they regularly 'tag' areas of cities by wrapping objects with brightly coloured knitting. Trees, lampposts, railings, car antennae and door handles have been tagged from Los Angeles to Paris and the group regularly get requests to work in peoples hometowns or on specific objects such as bicycles.
She also explained the work of Microrevolt who are a knitting group trying to change attitudes by involving large numbers of people in small, passive, protests that grow to into huge movements that have loud voices.
The afternoon was rounded off with talks by Dr Ian Hunter and Celia Larner from Littoral Arts Trust, a Rochdale based crafts charity. Dr Hunter was keen to make us aware of the agricultural changes that are coming and how they will impact on our lives. Agricultural policies are in place that will change our landscape with willow taking over as a major crop for bio-fuel. This will produce an ideal opportunity for the crafts to re-engage with agriculture and for the core skills of willow work/basketry to lead the way by adding value to agricultural produce/waste. The work of urban basket maker Lee Dalby is firmly based on traditional methods but he also works in modern free-form structures.

Celia went on to tell us about her trip to 'Sheep is Life' the Navajo celebration of the sheep in USA. Whether through felt making or weaving the crafts women are adding value to very poor quality wool and their work is in high demand by both private collectors and museum curators.

November 11th- Brighton

Steve and I don't need much by way of an excuse to take a trip to the sea, so bad train connections saw us heading for Brighton to collect our daughter who was staying with friends. We arrived to an amazing vista of four separated rain clouds emptying themselves on the horizon at sea whilst we watched from bright sunlit beach. The other thing that immediately struck me was how lacy the ruins of the burn-out pier looked.
We took a walk through the Narrows, where there are a wide variety of small independent shops and managed to buy a couple of Christmas presents before lunch. This was followed by a walk to show Anna the outside of the Brighton Pavilion - It's a long time since I was last in Brighton and I'd forgotten what a wondrous confection it is!
As we made out way back to the car I spotted these amazing gates at the entrance to a fairly new complex of flats about 100meters from the seafront.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Textiles Collection

Linda Brassington introduced us to the on-line resources at the Visual Arts Data Service these include the Textile collection of UCCA, slides of students work from Goldsmiths College and the shoe collection from Cordwainers at London College of Fashion.

The Textiles Collection includes Coptic textiles from 800 - 1000, Kashmir shawls, African strip weaving and lace as well as more recent works by Peter Collingwood. (right)

I found the slides of students work from Goldsmiths fascinating, they are arranged chronologically and include Diploma, BA and postgraduate levels.
The piece shown is by Susan Tabor.

It was also interesting to learn about the Cordwainers shoe collection (which is in storage) as my daughter is studying Footwear there and knew nothing of it's collection.

Sculpture at Goodwood

The Cass Sculpture Foundation displays over 70 specially commissioned monumental British sculptures in a landscape of woodland and grassy glades. All of the works are for sale and each year approximately one third of the works are replaced with new commissions. Through the winter months many of the works are repositioned meaning that they can be viewed against a different backdrop, an enclosed woodland clearing shows a piece quite differently to an open grassy vista. Being an open air site also means that the works are affected by the weather conditions, bright blue skies affecting the works quite differently to dark brooding clouds.

One of the pieces that I had gone to see was System No 19 by Julian Wild. This abstract work explores line, space, maths and the essence of form and shape. I was lucky enough to visit on a sunny day and so see the shadows that it forms which, although difficult to capture on grass, add an extra dimension to the work.

Ellis O'Connell's Loop is a beautifully sinuous piece which shows strikingly different shapes as one moves around the form.

It also provided some hauntingly broody shadows from the surrounding trees.