Archive for the 'Objects' Category

I sit

I sit in my new Drawing Room. It’s not for drawing in, although I might choose to do so at the old white melamine desk. Drawing happens in my Work Room (previously known as the Dining Room). Instead here I can withdraw and sit. Private, quiet. Not busy.

I sit in Grandma Goodyer’s dining chair. The two carvers are here. The other chairs, and the table, are going to my nephew. I have no Dining Room for them. My father’s bookcase is in here. My mother-in-law’s needlework. Some of my sons’ toys and books. So much from my mother and generations of her family. It could be deemed a Family Room of sorts.

I sit here reading, the morning sun fractured through the faceted glass of the east-facing wall, brightening the yellow walls. It is lovely in the morning, although I worry about the treasures in mum’s display cabinet, the delicate old books, the textiles, the fine leather gloves held in walnut shells. A Morning Room then – except my mind goes immediately to Mourning Room. I may mourn in here at times, but now I sit as if in a nest of nourishment and love, a place of joy and light. A Sun Room. My son’s room. The plaque is still on the door – Kenneth’s Room: Happy Memories Brighten Quiet Hours; the image a small boy sitting, fishing.

I sit with a folding wooden table beside me – a wedding gift to my parents. It holds my morning cup of tea, my book. On my lap this chilly autumn morning is mum’s cream blanket which I darned with coloured wools. My drawing board, complete with smudges of charcoal, lies across the arms of the carver – an improvised writing desk. I am comfortable. There is lots to do outside this room, lots I want to do, but it is not demanding my attention. I can remain in stillness a bit longer in this Sitting Room.

I sit and consider possibilities. It’s not a State Room, Salon or Parlour. This is not a public space. While there is a bed for guests, especially visiting sons, it is not a place for lounging.  The built in wardrobe holds my art supplies, but it would be a disservice to call this a Store Room.

I sit and let my eyes and mind wander. I reflect on my life, the people I love and who love me. This room, containing so much of others, reflects my tastes and interests, my place in life. A Reflection Room? The light glinting off glazed cabinets and mirrored wardrobe seems to echo my soft chuckle.

I sit beside one display cabinet, another is on the opposite wall. They were joined in my mother’s home. By the door is her corner cabinet, a fake antique – my brother has its match, the real one. It welcomes me to the room, showcasing all the vessels of cloth, resin and clay I have made over the past fifteen months of mourning. Mum’s skirts and blouses, my hands and heart. At the moment the other cabinets are a jostle, but over time I plan to curate an ongoing series – my life, my work, my family. So a gallery or museum – an Exhibition Room.

I sit in my Drawing Room. It is a place to rest, to reflect, to read, to write, to stitch, to withdraw to, occasionally to sleep in. It is a place to simply sit. A place from which I can venture forth.

February Daily Balance

A near-daily exercise, the rules gradually refined and occasionally broken over the month.

Artifact

Definition of artifact

1a: a usually simple object (such as a tool or ornament) showing human workmanship or modification as distinguished from a natural object
especiallyan object remaining from a particular period
b: something characteristic of or resulting from a particular human institution, period, trend, or individual
c: something or someone arising from or associated with an earlier time especially when regarded as no longer appropriate, relevant, or important
2a: a product of artificial character (as in a scientific test) due usually to extraneous (such as human) agency
b: an electrocardiographic and electroencephalographic wave that arises from sources other than the heart or brain
c: a defect in an image (such as a digital photograph) that appears as a result of the technology and methods used to create and process the image
Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artifact (my highlighting)

I’ve been wondering what I’m doing here – a question so big and so vague it’s close to useless. Part of the answer is that I like making: the process of working with my hands and mind and skills, tools, materials; to create something that didn’t exist before and in its small way is unique; to express myself; to connect with myself and others; to help me think. The thinking part keeps growing in importance. There’s the meditative aspect, especially with the rhythm and repetition of my preferred additive processes, keeping the hands and front of the brain busy while the mind quests. Plus there’s a focusing effect, with a conscious effort to use making as a way of extending my research, and the attempt to express abstract ideas in physical form. More and more an object at the ends seems to be a by-product of the process rather than its goal or purpose.

The dual meanings of artifact fit well. And what I’m doing here in the blog, in part, is documenting my artifacts – the objects, ideas, and making. The ratios will vary of course. This post, as you’ve already seen, is on the wordy ideas side.

Layered grief
It looks better in person

Background

A year ago mum had been discharged from the palliative care hospital. Just a few days left, with a lot of laughter and love mixed in with the rest. I still think of her through each day. Sometimes it’s the stab of loss. Or relief that she had most of what she wished for when diagnosed – a final summer with family and friends; to die at home. I’m glad she didn’t have to go through the winter of lockdown. I miss chatting with her – her advice, her opinions on all things large and small, gossip. She was my most vocal and unstinting supporter. And I miss the sense of purpose and value and meaning of supporting her. I hate the lurch when I vaguely think that I haven’t phoned her in a while, then remember why. I miss her smile, the pleasure it gave her, when she opened the door to me. I miss the example she gave of taking simple joy in the world, curious and interested – watching children playing, chatting with workers on their smoko, enjoying the joke of chalked signs in the park.

I’m glad to miss mum. I’m glad to grieve for her. I’m so lucky to have experienced such love, to have known such a person. It’s right and human to honour her and our relationship.

Ideas

Perhaps with time and distance I will see some pattern, some kind of stages in grieving. At the moment I see – feel – complexity and change and repetition-with-variation and layering and unexpected connections. Perhaps a rhizomic rather than linear thing (“structure” seems too strong a word). Is that something I could express in clay?

Memory is an integral part of grieving. My most recent attempt at expressing that was shown 14-Jan-2022.

My notes when beginning to plan this new experiment:

  • extension of distorted memory
  • clearer use of stencil
  • ?dark “Victorian mourning” cane
    • use as background
    • simplified stencil in gloss (?? possible?) black?
    • don’t like link of black to mourning, but works visually
    • peering into the past, overlaying present.
  • a larger, mixed bowl, or a series of cupped hands?

Making

The clay. Once again I used leftovers and oddments from previous work.

Victorian mourning
28-Sept-2021
including build-up and mop-up material
Grief, hope, energy, renewal
28-Oct-2021

I focused on using as much of the clay as possible, laying out slices in a pattern, then filling in the gaps with a cane of scraps of the scraps (a Fiona Abel-Smith technique)

In the photo above the burnished disc of clay is on a sheet of Agreena wrap. Made of silicone, it’s sold as a non-toxic, renewable, recyclable alternative to clingfilm. It’s heavy enough to be able to carry the weight of the clay, thin enough to peel off easily, and is oven-safe. All very handy working with polymer clay.

I didn’t like my placement of the feathers cane at this point, but hoped it would be toned down in the next stage.

Stencilling. The John Chester Jervis jug stencils were used again (last seen 14-Jan-2022) – there is a strong link to the Victorian mourning conventions work. My largest  handheld round embroidery frame was slightly too small. On my larger ThimbleLady lap quilting frame the fabric was not held as firmly, and it was difficult to access everywhere, but worth it I think to avoid moving a frame around and having edges rest on the print. Stencilling was done in opaque black liquid clay.

stencil placement
improvised silkscreen
Left: paper cut stencils in place. Right: stencilled clay

A high level comparison shows the stencilling worked quite well. I’ll go through some caveats later.

Baking. The clay was lifted and placed in a metal bowl, in a “sling” of agreena wrap. That is, it didn’t touch the bottom, the bowl acting as a general support rather than forming the shape. Sausages of foil were used to create an unevenly undulating form, to suggest the distortions and selection that creep into even our most precious memories over time.

Fresh from the oven. The clay slipped down slightly during baking, but didn’t touch the bottom of the metal bowl.

Artifact

The final outcome is one of the largest vessels I’ve made in the past year of mourning – around 19 cm in diameter, and a pleasant weight in the hand. I love the layers of connection – to mum and our family history, to various lines of research, to my ongoing life and explorations. I like the sinuous edge, and that the bowl is open – inviting, accepting.

The underside came off the agreena wrap with a pleasant shine. It’s bright and busy, but in my eyes visually coherent. Even those feathers look better, in their place like a trim on a skirt, linking clearly with the canes in the middle section above.

The interior is more complex. It is intriguing when held in the hands, moved around to catch the light and to follow lines of pattern. However…

  • the areas of liquid clay are very textured, even after light sanding and polishing. I think this is a side effect of the slightly looser organza screen, moving up and down as I dabbed on the liquid clay. I didn’t want to sand further and start losing stencilled areas altogether.
  • in most areas the “opaque” black still allows the shadow of changing pattern below. Very on theme. However there is a lot of black in the base layer, leading to a visual muddle on what is foreground and what background, impacting the integrity of the silhouettes.
  • The pattern of cane placement is obscured, creating a visual jarring effect in places where different input canes join.
  • on the plus side and ignoring those limitations, the boundary between foreground and background is crisp in all but the smallest detail areas.

As it is, with all the associations it has for me – I am satisfied, happy, when I handle, examine, spend time with the bowl. I’ve learnt in the process. There’s still a way to go in making a stencilled pattern on a busy cane ground work, but I’m getting closer and I have ideas for more tweaks.

Reimagined Memory

This post has been sitting in draft form for longer than I’d like. It’s changing, but I wouldn’t say improving. There are so many chains of thought, so many intentions. So much I’d like to say, but when I type it seems … overblown? underwhelming? And yet this piece is deeply satisfying to me. Words fail.


In general, too facts do not explain values. And in works of the poetic imagination, values bear the mark of such novelty that everything related to the past is lifeless beside them. All memory has to be reimagined. For we have in our memories micro-films that can only be read if they are lighted by the bright light of the imagination.

Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Space

Bachelard has a poetic and beautiful response to memory. I have returned to this a few times while reflecting on memories of mum, new and renewed. In contrast, Bessel Van Der Kolk wrote of an experiment in The body keeps the score: “We deliberately tried to collect just isolated fragments of their experience – particular images, sounds, and feelings – rather than the entire story, because this is how trauma is experienced.” This darker perspective resonated with my recent jury experience – the conflicting and imperfect recollection of the various testimonies.

Could I show / explore that in clay?

Memory malleable, distorted, overlaid, mistaken, subverted, integrated, enriched.

Held

A few weeks after making this I was moved while reading Laura Marris’s “Atmospheric changes: on meteorology & Camus” (https://thepointmag.com/examined-life/atmospheric-changes-camus/). How do I filter enough to see without being overwhelmed? or too narrow? without skimming the surface? immerse without being lost?

It helped to hold this bowl. Here is a concrete thing that “memorialises” past thought. I love that it settles into the palm of my hand. Is held, stable. I sat, holding the bowl, mind wandering. More and more seeing distortions that somehow carry meaning. I sit with it, resisting ideas of where to go next.

Background

Memory hexagon

I wanted to return to and reimagine memories. A previous post shared some reading on the malleability of memory, the way we edit and reshape history in our recollection.

28-Oct-2021

Left overs of that cane were combined with the distorted end sections, then forced into the conformity of a hexagon. Imperfect mirroring over mismatched seams.

JCJ’s jug

Memories are overlaid, combined, misremembered. I used monoprinting with liquid clay to suggest this.

A faint flower, followed by a butterfly with some opaque black added to transparent red to darken and reduce transparency.

Further deepening and enriching the experiment, the paper stencils used were originally cut and used in a design on fabric for an OCA course.

26-Apr-2012

The imagery came from a family heirloom jug, and has already inspired other clay experiments.

31-Jul-2021

Glyph

I wanted to add more imagery, more layering of ideas. This time I turned to the glyphs I developed as part of my notebook practice. An infinity symbol was used for “memory”.

15-Oct-2019

Once again I was able to use existing and personal stencils.

22-Jan-2020

Recurring theme

I can’t recall (ho ho) if I’ve previously shared this page of related notes.

Finishing

Much of the liquid clay colour was lost in handling while I stretched and prepared the clay for baking.

Based on a suggestion from Ruth Hadlow I wanted to take advantage of the properties of clay to further suggest the changes of memory over time. I put the disc on clay on an improvised donut of foil, hoping for slumping and distortion in baking.

Fragments

Straight from my notebook, some further thoughts on the result:

  • violet liquid clay not visible
  • red visible, but pattern hard to see
  • blue – or actually, protected areas – visible but a lot of colour lost.
  • bottom surface rough from foil
  • doesn’t seem to have drooped in oven
  • no gloss on any of the liquid clay areas.
  • the form is satisfying. It sits well. It spins and wobbles when touched.
  • good to have cut thick and rolled out. Expanded motif size and get good variation.
  • Lost colour on back – didn’t allow long rest + impact of sitting on glass tile when rolling.
    -> ? focus on one side??
  • tried running water into / over it – as a bowl and as an umbrella. pretty. Different effects depending on rate of flow of water.
    –> ?? attempt an indoor water feature?

The space between orange and turquoise

I’ve been using kato clay, a brand specifically encouraging colour mixing with 8 “spectral” colours and a detailed colour mixing page (http://katopolyclay.com/index.php/tips-techniques/color-mixing/mixing-chart). But that only circles the colour chart. I love the colours in between as well.

With my first packs I made colour chips of blends with white and black for each colour. It took a little longer, but I now have a set of samples for every pair of colours. For each pair three strips – 100% colour, adding in half as much white, and adding in the same amount of white.

28 pairs mixed with the same amount of white.

If I want green, I could start with the clay labelled green
or the olive green hidden between yellow and black
or yellow mixed with greens or blues

just the beginning of greens

or I can start being a bit more adventurous. In fact the “green” clay turns out to be a very exciting mixer.

some of the green mixes

Green and magenta looks pretty. For each of the light strips I have the same colour pairs with 50% and zero white.

green and magenta

They are a great head-start when trying for a particular colour.

The “Skinner method” (named after the woman who developed and shared it) is a core polymer clay technique. As well as making the colour reference chips I used some of my results when attempting some kaleidoscope cane building.

These are enormous fun, created in a very free and exploratory way. Each set shown above uses just a pair of colours plus white. These are based on videos from Fiona Abel-Smith and Teresa Pandora Salgado.

On an aside, the power of the reflection/mirroring of the kaleidoscope and the pattern-finding of the human eye is amazing. I gave my husband a little clay demo, talking and fairly randomly grabbing scraps on the worktable. The end result:

Yellow and violet were used in a tutorial from Alice Stroppel

Purple and violet
Blend in progress
cane pretty much done

Actually that colour mix was a blast from the past – some silk thread dyeing ten years ago (27-Jan-2011 and on, concluding with final gamp shawl 20-Feb-2011)

A lot of the experiments remain in cane form, with just a few slices taken to make the kaleidoscopes, however I did have some fun combining an earlier Alice Stroppel experiment with some basketry techniques. The central clay medallion was baked with wires already in place.

OK, full disclosure – some earrings appeared too.

Leftover clay from pair mixing blends was used to make a cover for my latest research notes.

The research is around poignant / evocative and objects / things / stuff / sculpture… so I found it amusing to make the folder/holder of readings and notes into an object in its own right. (obvious future making note is to consider shrinkage).

Back to colour exploration, I should have mentioned making a series of chips showing values from white to black.

samples ready for baking in the oven

For that I somewhat laboriously cut out multiple squares.

In most mixing I’ve used the cutter while developing a colour, but when replicating in bulk a mix that was 1 part Turquoise, 32 parts Orange, 48 parts White and 16 parts Yellow I baulked. Happily the graph paper under my glass allows for more efficient cutting of sheets of clay. A 4 x 12 cm rectangle of white takes a matter of moments to cut.

That mix recipe neatly segues to my title topic. The beautiful space between orange and turquoise. It’s dawn or sunset, not mud.

A raw patchwork clump

became a beautiful little dish, about 7 cm across.

There are plans and experiments for making it into some other things,

possibly in combination with a cane made of leftovers, based on Alice Stroppel’s signature method

But I got distracted by a Clay Zoo tutorial (making a tree leaf necklace) using colours in this space, but with some very clever techniques along the way. One is the use of 3 colours in the blending, which has the effect of emphasising the turquoise end and reducing the oranges. The second is creating a leaf cane with colours changing down through it, meaning thick slices cut give leaves of different colours in the final cane.

This meant I needed to revisit my blend samples to get more precise mix ratios for my start colours.

The numbers are drawn into the clay before baking, and index to my colour mixing note recipe book. Across the top is a controlled set of mixing steps, at the bottom, the colours I eventually used.

Yesterday’s end-of-day results

Going to what attracts

Last month’s post had a rather cerebral, methodical, contemplative tone. I was faced with input, reading around it, developing responses. There was a similar, sedate follow-up post planed and partially written.

This morning I was overtaken by a kind of creative hunger. An overwhelming mad rush – try this, no try this, OK not good what about this, or this, or… And I ended with this:

It was important that this photo showed the bracelet on skin. My mini-photo booth was partially dismantled, one arm stuck through the side seam – but this is not an inert object. It demands warmth, insists upon its tactile nature.

I’m in the eerily quiet calm after the storm, trying to piece together what happened. Afterwards I walked through warm Sydney sunshine, held by my new bangle. My first use of memory wire, it gently presses the double-cone shaped beads into my skin, they roll against me – an embrace, holding me together. The swirl beads are polymer clay, made with leftovers from my latest project, baked in the oven this morning. No sanding or polishing, the simple matt finish left by the touch of my hands as I formed them. They feel warm against the skin. I have a sense of repletion, satisfaction, looking at the variations in scale and finish. The blue/green beads have a faint striation in them giving a glow, reflecting the striations of the cones.

I walked in warm winter sunshine, the air not quite still. Welcoming. Coffee sitting outside a local café, back to the sun, by my special request ceramic rather than takeaway cup. Today some of Sydney went into lockdown – both my sons, given where they work. At the moment I’m clear, but a friend who paused to chat as she was walking her dog went to her CBD office last week so will be in lockdown from midnight. Her husband is already in the mountains, on their planned weekend getaway.

I walked and sat and read and chatted and all the while felt the bangle. Felt a warm, active embrace – not exactly of mum, and not of memory of mum, but that new relationship or internal understanding or that kind of good hurt that isn’t tearing or scary but somehow a confirmation of being alive. I was thinking of mum, aware of missing her desperately, but also – well, at times I’ve felt a void, lost in emptiness, then more recently I read Gaston Bachelard: “The word vast, then, is a vocable of breath. It is placed on our breathing, which must be slowed and calm. And the fact is that always, in Baudelaire’s poetics, the word vast evokes calm, peace and serenity. It expresses a vital, intimate conviction. It transmits to our ears the echo of the secret recesses of our being. For this words bears the mark of gravity, it is the enemy of turmoil, opposed to the vocal exaggerations of declamation. In diction enslaved to strict measure, it would be shattered. The word vast must reign over the peaceful silence of being.” So I’ve been thinking – not of filling the void. Seeing instead my own internal vast. Inhabiting it. Making connections. Open to correspondence. Letting go a bit, so my relationship is strengthened, developed.

Let’s backtrack a bit on the making. The polymer clay beads were made from leftovers from this:

The making and baking completed yesterday. This morning off the glass bowl I used as a form. Still needs some sanding and buffing.

The design is based on fabric from one of mum’s skirts. Other variants were in my last post – a coiled vessel; a resined vessel; a resin bangle.

Just before sitting down to attempt to capture all this, I took a “family” photo.

This also shows some extra beads and a “backdrop” of some print-making play, but not all the notebook images exploring the fabric motifs and planning the various responses.

Back to the experience of today. The blue/green beads were from a double-stranded necklace that belonged to mum. I repurposed it as an arm wrap, but one of the strings broke so for the past couple of months it’s been sitting in a little box while I considered repair versus re-use possibilities. Today, in my flurry of activity, they called loudly. The little silver beads are stash – but for the sake of emotional completeness I’ve decided I got them when making earrings using family heirloom mother of pearl gaming chips from mum’s great-x uncle (July-2018). The memory wire is a recent purchase – but come on, it’s memory wire.

I wanted to finish with a photo of mum, wearing the same skirt and a shirt of similar colours to the blue/green beads. To be honest I don’t recall seeing her wear the necklace, nor any kind of bangle. Her standard was wedding ring, wristwatch, pendant. But that matching of the patterned, moving skirt with a shirt of that blue/green – classic mum. Perhaps that’s part of this morning’s frenzy – playing with materials and components, following emotion, going to what attracted. I wasn’t thinking, I was feeling.

It’s a different skirt. But you get the idea.

April making

April has been a quiet month of slow and gentle rebuilding, with more making than thinking.

Last post (22-Mar-2021) I showed examples of 3D writing, resin bangles, and coiled vessels using fabrics worn by my mother. This month’s variations:

WIP coiling completed, and embellished with a “family heirloom” hatpin. 19 cm diameter
A small, chipped jug, gifted by mum as material for re-making a few years ago, was broken up…
The base was repurposed in a tiny nest – around 7 cm diameter
Another fragment formed the centre of a shallow, saucer-like form (slightly over 16 cm diameter).
More fragments remain in the “to be considered” queue. I’d like to use every skerrick of the jug eventually

Feeling that some of the character of the prints was lost in the wrapping and coiling process, I experimented with embedding swatches in resin. All of this series so far start with a circle of fabric around 19 cm diameter.

First attempt – the resin+fabric, supported on a silicon sheet, was draped over a form too soon.
Attempt 2 – still too soon.
A free-form bangle while I considered my next move
Getting better, but this was with waiting 8 or so hours before draping. Brushing silver-coloured pigment over part of the resin before draping is effective. This shows the patterning of the fabric used in the top photo – the bowl with a hatpin.
The bangle has a few wraps of the same fabric in it.
Drips under control! I didn’t want to move to a different resin if I could avoid it, but Sydney temperatures in my unheated, single brick garage are a bit marginal. This time I followed the manufacturer’s suggestion of pre-warming the resin bottles in a water bath, plus put the setting resin on a warming tray repurposed from mum’s flat.
The vessel had gold coloured pigment brushed over the back. The same fabric is in the bangle, plus the broken-jug vessels above.
Thinking I had the resin-curing more under control, I tried pre-cutting slits in the fabric, wanting to spread it out like a lattice pastry top as the resin was setting.
It was a nasty, sticky battle and a disappointing result. Not sure if this is worth pursuing.
The bangles top and bottom in the photo are repeats already shown above.
The centre one had two new ideas, aiming to display more of the original fabric pattern – silver-coloured pigment brushed on the inner side of the mould before adding resin, and the fabric a single bias-cut strip (left over from making its matching vessel). This sample is a bit scruffy, but I think there’s good potential here.
This bangle uses some of the 3D writing of Anne Carson’s text seen in my last post.
The text had a tendency to float up in the curing resin. I quite like the effect of it almost escaping at the top, so only sanded the edge the minimum needed to remove sharp edges.
Very happy with this, and lots of possibilities to take it further.

In March I did an evening class in making silicon moulds (yay Sydney Community College!). The plan is to make my own bangle designs that better showcase fabrics. The tutor suggested I make my initial form in polymer clay, use it to create a silicon mould, so I can then cast the resin.

I haven’t got to that yet. Instead I wondered if I could use polymer clay elements to neaten up the beginning and ending of a coiled vessel.

My very first attempt at using polymer clay. 9 cm diameter.
The great thing about first attempts is you can look forward to improvement.

Re-structure

Following the “making reading” shown previously (22-Dec-2020) I wanted to take it further. Anne Carson’s work “Wildly Constant” in Float felt a good subject.

I slowly wrote the entire text.

Then I played with my new object(s).

As well as rearranging the text objects, I attempted a series of digital transformations – scanning the objects then optical character recognition (OCR); scanning the printed page and OCR (very accurate and boring); recording voice then automated transcription… Basically trying every relevant app on my fairly new tablet and seeing what distortions or misinterpretations I could generate.

Nothing very exciting emerged, plus priorities changed. My mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness, my father was seriously unwell at the same time, and then my husband (his not life-threatening). Five months, three patients, a total of nine hospital admissions to four different hospitals. My normally quiet, reflective life was turned upside down. One of five siblings, I took lead for mum with the various health professionals, while my sister took charge with dad. We were fortunate to be in Australia – Covid complicated things, but it was always possible for at least one us to visit and provide support. Mum’s hopes at diagnosis were for a final summer with family and friends, then to die at home. The five of us, together with a lot of professional support, were able to achieve that for her.

Life, creative practice, was restructured to new necessity. Not too mentally demanding, fitting into small fragments of time, supporting and nurturing me so that I could support and care for others. Reading changed – Kyo Maclear Birds Art Life Death was a great standby. There was a lot of reflective writing. Making – well I came up with a new project, as I explained to some friends who were e-discussing earrings:

I got my ears pierced in 1977 – went travelling after school, was living in York (UK), and it was a low-key assertion of adulthood. Lots of my earrings contain memories – of travels, or gifts, or connected to an exhibition, or that I made myself or bought from friends. Selecting them each day was part of checking in with myself – how do I feel? what am I doing? what message do I want to send? But over the years I’ve come to like dangley and for me they just don’t work with masks.

During mum’s illness I started wearing bracelets and bangles. Partly that same checking in, planning for the day. More important was as personal armour. One link is once knowing a child with behaviour problems, who wore an elastic band to snap if they were feeling stressed. Another from some sci-fi show where they wore wrist-lets that could produce a personal force-field. I rub them to centre and slow my thoughts and reactions – echoes of rosary beads, or maybe worry beads.

Extra fun – you get to “curate” collections of arm ornaments in different combinations. Plus I only had a couple of “proper” bracelets so I started improvising, wrapping chains and neck-pieces around my arms – stuff I haven’t worn for decades or maybe never (weight makes neck sore). I even dragged out some wire and beads to make a few bits, and in the last couple of days have played a little with resin. All very minor demands on time and focus and energy, when I don’t have much of those. It’s felt like my one reliable piece of self expression as everything else creative fell by the wayside.

What does that look like?

More experimentation with resin is planned – perhaps combined with 3D text in some way. With luck this will be a low-key project that recurs over time.

Since mum’s death I’ve begun another small increments, potentially recurring project. She used to love wearing brightly patterned cotton skirts – often Liberty prints. With the permission of the siblings I’ve been using the skirts to make small coiled bowls. Stitching them is quiet and meditative, or I listen to podcasts or an audio book. I’m on my third, and it feels a gentle expression of love.

Reading Candor

Reading||Making has continued. Again I visited Candor, Anne Carson’s text, looking for guidance in transformation of the monoprints (25-Feb-2020). “If you are not the free person you want to be, you must find a place to tell the truth about that… You could whisper down a well. You could write a letter and keep it in a drawer.” Jane, wife of HG Wells, made faint pencil marks on the letter of sympathy she received from her husband’s mistress. Jane – born Amy Catherine – fulfilling her husband’s domestic expectations.

A square of one print became a folded envelope. It is named – “Jane”. Bound by net, by woolen skein, by the trappings of domesticity, by the stones of the well. Inside, hidden, her name – scratched, mis-written (my oops), torn.

I like this little object very much… except that in the end it is so literal. As I worked at reading the text I found it more and more full of imagery, of the material, the specific.

Playing with printed card, finding shapes, became more abstract.

As reading the process has worked. There is familiarity, and I still find more. Slow. Attentive. Absorbing and making connections. Can I claim that in these photographs the work of reading is made visible???

Eavesdropping at a half-open door

“one has to teach the skill of reading even to those who are no longer illiterate”

“uncultured readers… with a vague knowledge that there is something else here, and enjoying the text like someone eavesdropping at a half-open door, glimpsing only hints of a promising epiphany.”

Umberto Eco, on literature, pages 171 and 219.

Some days I have the confronting feeling that I’m a beginner in something I’ve practiced daily for almost six decades. Then I tell myself to stop being maudlin and self-indulgent, and just get on with it.

I have tried to make visible the work of reading. I have complained bitterly when I found reading challenging. I have made reading the foundation of every day. I write about attentive reading, focusing on every line and word… but lately I’ve wondered – am I getting all I can from all this effort? In particular, am I making connections, building usable knowledge. I note correspondences as I go, and the use of indexing glyphs in my notetaking has been useful in later consolidation around particular ideas. Possibly I need to be more alert to the need to extend my glyph set.

In my last post (7-Jan-2020) I tried to link books and authors with fabric swatches. That was step one in an experiment.

The previous data viz experiments were generally useful, giving me space and time to think, seeing from different angles, generating some surprises… I decided to look at where I was spending time reading, and to search for rhythms and flows in the mix of reading. Keep mine-ing the existing tool set and stash. The brief developed:
* Start recording time spent reading.
* Repeat the scarf form. This time with weaving.
* Begin simple, with options to elaborate as the process continues. So plain weave. I put a 2 metre warp of black cottolin on the 4-shaft table loom, a straight threading.

The result is a record of four weeks of reading – 30 November to 27 December. Information encoded:
* Length of weaving is proportional to length of reading. Four centimetres = One hour.
* Beginning of day is marked by 5 picks in cotton – white on Sunday, then darkening greys reaching black on Saturday.
* Indicate book by weft – torn fabric strips.
* Most reading was done in my workroom. If outside the house, a supplementary fine coppery weft was added (“sunshine”). If bedtime reading, a supplementary weft of silvery white was used (for the moon).
* When a book or essay was finished (not many were), mark by 5 picks in red cotton.

Detail – Wednesday 18 December 2019

In the detail above you might just be able to see the cotton picks at the beginning and end of the day. The book swatches all look quite different when squashed down and used for weft.

Umberto Eco on literature

John Berger
Selected Essays

In the morning I read Umberto Eco for 45 minutes. John Berger accompanied me on the bus, and in a cafe waiting for CPR training – a total of 50 minutes and a glint of sunshine.

Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

At that time I was reading Jane Hirshfield before sleep – hence the loops of white rayon. I wasn’t taking in much, just trying to find the flow, to get an overall sense, hoping to learn enough to be able to read it again with more understanding. Thirty more minutes, and a total of 8.3 cm.

Classic uses of a data visualisation are discovery (learn something new) and storytelling (communicate ideas). I can’t claim either here. Using standard viz software I would have waited to collect all the data before even starting, then probably run a variety of statistical analyses, experimented with multiple chart types, maybe colour themes and scales, transformations, brought in other data sets for context or comparison… There’s the faintest hint of this in the fringes.

By amazing chance, the number of warp ends was precisely four times the number of days woven. So each piece of fringe is one day. The fringing shown above records the total amount of time recorded reading each day (range from 0.67 to 2.75 hours). At the other end of the scarf the number of books read is shown – from 1 to 4 each day. Note the same information is already encoded in the weaving. This is simply a different chart type.

plump folds, showing more of the fabrics

Despite the proportions, the resulting textile can’t really be called a scarf. It does not drape softly and warmly around the neck. However while it sat on my desk over the last week, I came to love its edges. And to appreciate that “not drape-able” could also be described as “sculptural”

reading scarf sculpture

So perhaps wearable sculpture.

Click for larger image


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