14 June 2017

Installations , contexts and scale

There has not been time to write about the work that has taken up all my waking hours for the last few weeks.
My work is never made is isolation and always has unpredictable exchanges with people and places. seeing scale and material change depending on contexts is always a refreshing experience.
On Wednesday 31st May I spent some time thinking about Slow Making and installed work in the Prickwillow Phone Box Gallery it felt like a rest from meeting deadlines and demands, time spent with lots of other people is always stuimulating but needs to be balanced with space to reflect.

On Sunday 11th June I was in the Bishop of Ely's garden as part of the Open Gardens Scheme. a great day meeting friends and making new ones in the context of these beautiful, peaceful surroundings, which I am privelaged to use as a workshop. The work on show in the gardens has been made on site, travelled to other venues and returned to be stored or sold from here.

On Monday 12th June I spent the morning putting work in place ready for the showcase event in London. It will take place on Saturday 17th June at Instituto Español Vicente Cañada Blanch, a good place to show the collaborative work with Ana for the first time.


Such different places, each with its own way of affecting the interaction from the community that uses it regularly. I need time to reflect on how all these places and people will interact with the work and maybe how the work will change the community view of familiar and commonplace.


31 May 2017

Slow Making reminder

The reasons to work reflectively and consciously are often distracted by realities of making for a client, site or project.
Over the last few weeks I have had opportunity to work on both new and familiar, meetings with new clients, older colleagues and friends have reminded me that work is always made in context of relationships and sites.
I am installing some work in the Prickwillow Phone Box Gallery today and decided it would be  been a good opportunity to remind myself about the conscious process of Slow Making.

In the nature of Slow Making, the installation will develop over the month of June. 
Back in the studio the work for SRUK is making progress, it has been great to remind myself of skills, techniques and materials that I haven't used recently. In the nature of Slow Making, I find there are always closer relationships between projects and I manipulate and understand more than I anticipate. 

16 May 2017

Out of the studio, making links

So today is the start of a week of completing and installing work for two very different projects. 

One for the Science Festival in Ely Cathedral, where a group of artists from OuseLife have been working with teachers and schools in Cambridgeshire to make very large scale work for this prestigious festival.

One for interior designer Giovanna Ticciati at Clekenwell Design festival, where I have been making the stand to display her work in the crypt of St James Church. I am really looking forward to placing work in this very special venue in the centre of London.

These projects have, as always, extended my knowledge of people and places and introduced me to new ways of seeing and may be included in the next chapter of the Slow Making process.

This entry has no images but lots of links to follow. It will be worth taking a journey in the physical world to visit them in person!

12 May 2017

Cross-curricular or intergrated?

Developing craftsmanship is an essential part of practise and practice. It is in the nature of all projects I am involved with that there are similarities in materials and knowledge, as well as imagery and metaphor.

For both artist and scientist the skills needed to make work have to be learned through repetition, having success and control in the same movements until results are perfected. I started manipulating yarns at a very young age, I am enjoying the years of knowledge and skill that provides but still it is challenging to produce the results exactly as planned. 

The scale of pieces I make varies widely, I have found myself working to smaller and smaller scale, this does not mean less work. Becoming a miniature or model maker takes time. For this collaboration I decided very early on to make small pieces that can travel easily as the exhibition will be going to at least three places.in contrast to another current project, where pieces are up to 4 metres long and made in an outdoor setting.

The scale also relates to the materials and tools that Ana handles on a daily basis, she spends a lot of time looking into a microscopes, handling things that are almost or completely invisible to the 'naked eye'.

03 May 2017

Expectations and risk

Working on a new collaboration is always a risk, for all parties. For me there is always the risk of trying to achieve too much when the project is so interesting.

This collaboration with Ana is relatively straightforward, we knew the budget and time frame from the start, so it should be easier to estimate the time to spend on it. But no, after our proposal had been accepted I had to keep referring to it, to make sure I was working to my own brief!
I included a drawing in the proposal for our collaboration, it was  while we had initial conversations about overlapping nature of the work we do.

Expectations and assumptions about how an artist or scientist might work, unless overtly stated, can and will be misunderstood by both parties. The skills and time it takes to produce, find or resolve results and the number of people involved in producing work for publication or exhibition, they all have to be taken into consideration.

So many times I have heard 'you just have to be inspired and creative, it must be great to have no restriction'. That may be true of some artists, though I have yet to meet one! For most artists there are restrictions and limitations, often essential to actually achieve anything.
The truth is that working practices are all a combination of skills, time and resources available. It is not possible to make or research anything without knowing what materials might be available and have the skills to understand and manipulate them.

I started by looking at the materials in my workshop and studio to find ones that will express similarity with the process and research Ana is involved with.

Our proposal focused on recycling and regeneration so I have gradually selected a range of yarns, fibres, wires and containers. I have owned them for many years, maybe the result of previous projects, or collected when walking on beaches or fields.

28 April 2017

Selection of materials

The process of selection takes time, it includes bringing materials together in the same physical space. I had fun looking into containers and on shelves that have been neglected for a while. It is often surprising to find new ways of working with materials that have not be partnered before, much the same as the collaboration between the people involved.

There is so much potential for explorations into all the materials and relationships between our work practices that I found it hard to know where to make a real start and what to limit it to.

27 April 2017

Origins and potential of materials

I found  myself working with materials that I have owned for nearly forty years, dating from when I designed yarns for commercial use. This is in character with Slow Making, where the pace of a project is not dictated by immediate demands, but by a combination of skills and resources brought together for the task in hand.

Almost all materials used in this collaboration were considered a waste material in another setting and have been given an adapted use or form. Depending on resilience or adaptability of the materials they may be re-formed and used again in future.

I had not taken advantage of some of the yarn properties until now, the effects of natural or Ultra Violet light on artificial and natural fibres. The UV light is used in the lab to reveal changes that take place in cells as they deteriorate, I am using it to change the viewers perception of what is visible, the fibres sensitive to UV light are almost invisible in natural light.

The wave length of Ultraviolet light falls between 'visible light' and X-Rays, the human eye lacks colour receptor adaptations for ultraviolet rays. Polyester and polypropylene are made from processing oil and petroleum based chemicals, they reflect more UV light than natural fibres which is why the human eye can see them as brighter than other white yarns when the light is shone onto them

26 April 2017

Lab and studio exchanges

On my first visit to the lab where Ana is doing her research I was struck by the similarities with my studio. Almost haphazard and slightly chaotic, so many things to see that it is difficult for the outsider to discern what is relevant to the particular work process or project in hand and what is just characteristic of a busy workspace environment.

I was fascinated to watch how Ana handles the early stages of zebra fish life, the eggs are kept at a stable temperature to ensure successful development. She is obviously very familiar with her tools and materials and enjoys the process, much like I am in the workshop or studio.

In our collaboration I aim to exhibit the similarity of work processes and motives for artists and scientists exploration, the curiosity and determination to achieve new and previously unimagined results.
There is elegance in watching skills being demonstrated, and a beauty in results that are achieved. I hope the resulting artwork will express some of this.

18 April 2017

New projects, new collaborations

I met a group of scientists earlier this year, with 8 other artists I was invited to a networking event in Cambridge.  They were all Spanish speaking as the event was organised by SRUK. It was like a speed dating event! We were introduced to the scientists and had to select potential work partners to produce work for an exhibition, not much time allowed and they were all very interesting research projects.
I was most intrigued to work with researcher Ana Lopez Ramírez who is working in the dept of physiology, development and neuroscience in Downing College Cambridge. Her research into Alzheimer's, observing Zebra fish has the potential to transform lives,.I don't even start to understand it, but each time I have been to the lab I learn a little more.
The link between our work is through recycling of materials, which the cells of zebra fish can do in remarkable ways. I hope to express something of this in using my recycled materials and am starting to look at my making process in a more systematic way.

16 April 2017

A long pause after going too fast

It seems I have had no time since January 2015, this pause has come after far too much doing and travelling.
Today I am trying to sit and plan very little and achieve a bit more.
Life is never as planned when working with living, growing, natural materials or people.
The long gap is because I have been working with people in many different settings and demands. I have had no time to reflect or sit and watch.
Here's hoping that life will be less frantic, no guarantees tho and I still have regular journeys to make and demands to answer.

After 18 years the willow 'Fedge' seen below has been cut down. A combination of disease, beetle attack and fungus meant there were only about a quarter of the trees still living. It was a feature of the garden, conversations and learning have happened because of it. Removing it has brought a light and openness into the garden that is needed for other plants. I am taking this approach into studio work.

Remove old, damaged pieces that aren't helping me to see or make new work.


I am aware that habits of short attention span of screen and social media don't help with making or relational activities, in fact they prevent both from developing well. In the world of Slow Making the tools and techniques are controlled by being responsive to seasonal products, natural materials and cycles. This means that conditions are available for a short time each year, with preparation and skills in place to achieve and create the best results possible.

This season I am focussing on preparation, making myself aware of the potential both of materials and tools in season.