Friday, 24 October 2014

the fabric of Stave Hill (part 1)

What with the excitement of working outdoors last weekend at Stave Hill Ecological Park and thinking about the two sculptures to be installed there in the next few weeks, I forgot to write about yet another project.  The plan is to grow a willow loom in the park and to use it to weave plant material found on site. 

Knowing near to nothing about looms, I asked my friend Jess who is an expert weaver to come help me make a trial one at the studio.  The result was the Scandinavian style rigid heddle illustrated here, onto which we threaded the warp and stretched it between the studio wall and a piece of wood strapped to my waist. The heddle itself was using a bunch of cocktail and willow sticks, straws, electrical tape and slats from an old blind. These materials are a luxury compared to what we’ll find in the park, but having made this one, we’re now better prepared to think of how to make the loom on site. We're curious about how it will turn out, as well as what the fabric of Stave Hill might look like in the end. We'll keep you posted on this...

Monday, 20 October 2014

Brancusi baskets

Last Saturday somehow felt life the first day of the rest of my life. It was the first official day of my artist’s residency at Stave Hill Ecological Park (see also First Moves post) and I spent the day there working by the water, with Chris, cutting brambles in order to weave with these.

We made twined constructions,inspired by my recent project in Darlington, with view of stacking these vertically to create a tall column. Conical in shape and joined tip to tip and base to base in a repeated abstract pattern, the woven piece would some kind of homage to one of my favorite ever sculptures, Brancusi’s Endless Column.

This project didn't exactly go to plan as we ran out of time to produce enough of the twined pieces and install these, skewered on a large pole, in what seemed an ideal spot in the middle of the pond. I did I take off my shoes, rolled up my trousers and waded in, but couldn’t get the post to stand up securely. Luckily Chris missed in the opportunity to record the whole messy business on camera, so my dignity still remains intact, for now. It's only a matter of 'chose remise' however as I’ll have another bash at it next week. I can’t wait, especially as the trees have started changing colour and did look glorious in the autumn evening sun. A gorgeous sight indeed!

In the meanwhile, I did try other ways of installing the woven pieces, but couldn’t decide on where best to place work, this probably on account of not having enough of them to stack up. What we need it seems is another 50+ items to achieve a sizeable height for the sculpture. As there is no shortage of brambles on site, this could easily be done. The great thing about stacking these as illustrated above, is it will allows viewers to peek into holes in through the centre of the weaving at different heights and in different directions, framing the view of the park, its surrounding and the sky above.

As we are yet still to see the Brancusi inspired column emerge from the water, it seems a second project at Stave Hill is already on it way. Keep you posted on this…

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Darlington Post

Here is a visual account of the installation at the Festival of Thrift and some of the twined baskets produced by visitors at the event. 

Three kilometres of sisal twine, a few days to stitch the installation, heaps of green materials, more sisal and yarn still to twine with, involvement from numerous, help from volunteers and well of course as the assistance from the Festival of Thrift's great team and Home Live Art, is all it took to achieve this! A fantastic experience all round and I certainly look forward to going up there again in a few weeks for another outdoor project in the making...

Highlights of the Festival of Thrift weekend? The Disco Bingo girls, thinking about landscape gardening courtesy of Nu-urban Gardeners, hearing but not having to dance the Lambeth Walk lead by Ida Barr during her now world famous Mash Up and meeting all those friendly Darlingtonians to name but a few things. Last but not least I have to add scything reeds and bulrushes in the nature reserve near Lingfield Point when foraging for materials to weave. This was done with the help of Peter and Tim (pictured below). Thanks to them and also to Stella, Alex and David who brought in clematis, willow, crocosmia and peony stems, as well as all the kids fro the nearby school who contributed their gorgeous twined constructions for the occasion.

Friday, 17 October 2014

basket bonanza

Forget loom bands, baskets were in at the Festival of Thirft in Darlington a couple of weeks ago (see previous and forthcoming posts). Here are some of the baskets and makers of them, and the director of the festival grabbing a few at the end of the event. She more than deserved them!

part of the installation stripped bare of
its twined hanging baskets

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Bobbin Dance #4 @ Yan Tan Tethera finale

Mad week last week, and I'm still recovering from it. Reason for the exhaustion was creating a site specific installation for the Festival of Thrift in Darlington, leading up to two days frantic making at the weekend with some of the 40,000 visitors at the festival. This happened at the same time rehearsing and performing Bobbin Dance #4 for the final event of Yan Tan Tethera at Cecil Sharp House last Thursday.

Luckily I am very than happy with the outcome of both projects, making the week's hardship -  the numerous train journeys up and down the country, the days spent stitching with the help of my lovely assistant Jake, the late nights of prep and one day teaching at University thrown in the middle of it all –  seem all very worthwhile in the end.

Bobbin Dance #4, the last one created for Yan Tan Tethera, involved 5 dancers, a fiddler, 4 wooden sticks and 4 wooden bobbins and ribbon (attached to the fiddler’s waist). What made this dance significantly different from previous bobbins ones was to have dancers lead the music as much as the reverse. 

No diagrams or graphic scores were used for developing the dance on this occasion - see previous posts. After only three rehearsals, where elements of previous dances were reworked and moves developed, I handed the written score below to the dancers. The picture above however, with the four sticks placed in something close to a windmill plait, goes a long way in illustrating the turns and crosses in the latter part of the score and I might have saved myself the trouble of writing all of it. Reading objects instead of writing scores might be the new approach for creating yet new dances... Now there's a thought!

Score for Bobbin Dance #4 (Weaver's Delight & Winding the Bobbins)

a.    Dancers walk in to the dancing area one by one, four of them holding a stick, followed by the fiddler playing Weaver’s Delight
b.    Dancers meander freely, gradually stepping in synch to the rhythm of the music
c.    Dancers form in a circle, walking equally spaced around the fiddler now standing in the middle of the performing area
d.    The dancer without the stick (dancer [A]) does a U-turn, walking in the opposite direction and weaving between the others (dancers [B] to [E]), collecting sticks as he/she passes by each of them, by left and right shoulder alternatively, and then hands the sticks back to them in the same way. This is repeated 3 or 4 times.
e.    Dancer [A] walks one final round collecting all the sticks and places them in cross formation at the feet of the fiddler and then rejoins the circle. All five dancers circle in the same direction around the fiddler.
f.     Dancer [B] pick up a bobbin and ribbon from the fiddler, unwinding it and taking position in front and to the right of the fiddler
g.    Dancers [C] to [E] follow suit, each raking place to the right of the previous dancer, spaced approximately 1m apart, forming an arc of a circle in front of the fiddler
h.   Dancers [B] to [E] each raise and lower their bobbins and ribbon to allow dancer [A] to walk underneath them for a few more rounds (Mexican wave effect)
i.      Dancer [A] then takes the bobbin from dancer [B] and starts all dancers weaving with the bobbins: a number of 'turns' and 'crosses' are performed (see previous post), with one floating dancer exiting and re-entering the set of four bobbins/dancers with each 'turn' and 'cross'
j.     Music fades as the weaving becomes more rhythmical and mechanical, eventually stopping while the dancers weave on
k.    Music picks up again, dancers still weaving
l.      Dancer [A] then collects bobbins and circles around the fiddler as the tune played changes to Winding the Bobbins
m. All circle around fiddler as dancer [A] ties bobbins around the fiddler’s waist
n.   Dancer [A] rejoins circle giving dancer [B] a cue to lead out
o.    All exit, last to leave is the fiddler, still playing
p.    Music stops, clapping, walk back in, bow and exit

Fiddler's woven sash, wound up and
ready to be strapped up again