Saturday, 29 September 2012

Something for the Ears

No Extravaganza is complete without a soundtrack, and so we've made one. In a unit on a converted farm Chris Fort and Joe Donovan of Conjunction Studios were the sound technicians and producers that helped make our Sewing Sounds Symphony a reality. We wanted to create a piece of 'music' or a soundtrack made up entirely of the noises that would have been heard when each piece is made, a sewing machines, scissors cutting fabric etc. However, trying to record sounds as subtle as a pin drop can be very tricky as simple amplification makes them sound like an avalanche of boulders, needless to say the boys had a hard task before them. We spent an afternoon recording using different sewing machines to get different sounds and experimenting with big scissors and snippy scissors for different effects. Chris and Joe then put it all together making rhythms and patterns. There was a fine line between wanting it to sound like 'music' but for all the instruments to be recognisably sewing based. The boys at Conjunction Studios rose admirably to the challenge and we think we've got a real chart topper on our hands!

We also recorded a sample of the wonderful and compelling stories that accompanied the Unfinishable pieces. It was very hard to choose which ones to record as there all so interesting but in the end we chose a selection that represented the different reasons for peoples Unfinishable's. The stories were read by Eleanor Lord, Katie Caldwell, Linda Pateman, Claire Fletcher, Mary Baker and Felicity's daughter Harriet. Whilst they were waiting to record we got them making pom poms, tassels and Berkshire roundels. We do like to keep people busy. The stories will be heard over the soothing sounds of the symphony to help bring the Extravaganza to life. We're very excited about the finished result and look forward to everyone hearing it.
Here are some photos of us all at the studio.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Art in Action and the on loan Unfinishables

Kimberly Jones loaned these Dresden Plate patches to the Project. Made out of material from old flour and sugar sacks she inherited from her great-grandmother. She writes of them.........

'My great gran had started a quilt for my cousin. When she died I said I would finish it for my cousins 16th birthday – then 18th, 21st, wedding, baby, second baby, twins – forget it! Then decided to make a wall hanging. Made two blocks….they looked awful. I didn’t have the skill or knowledge to make them look good so I gave up. Also difficult to find flour/sugar/grain sack fabric to match in the 1990’s.

Now I have the skill to do it – but although the fabric can be found the colours are too bright- I worry about the original blocks falling apart.

They are the only thing I have left which her hands held. So when I hold them it’s like holding her hand again.  I have an idea for reworking growing within me – I’ll let it marinade.

I feel I have let her down by not finishing them.'

Maggie Jackson let us borrow her landscape piece of the Rollright Stones, made in memory of her friend. Her husband was exhibiting in the Printmaking tent so the whole family came to see her piece on show.

'My old friend died that I taught with from 1973 – 75 before I was married and moved from Oxon to Norwich. She was my daughters ‘fairy’ godmother. When we visited her we always visited the Rollright Stones. On Millennium night she spent the night there, so it seemed appropriate to make a piece of work to remember Joan.

The piece of work was emotionally charged and incorporated a lot of memories and strong attachment of love. Initially I said  I’d stopped work on it because I wanted to look at the lichen. I knew despite spending a lot of time on the work that if I finished it somehow my contact with Joan was finished.

The work is unfinishable because of the love and contact of 40 years. I have some wool that Joan spun and dyed which I could use to incorporate into the piece but all I do is open the packet and handle the contents and then return them to a special envelope. I could so easily finish the work.'

Clare Woods grandmother started to knit a baby garment. She writes.....

'My Nan, Jean Slater, enjoyed knitting. She made most of my baby clothes over 30 years ago. In 1970 she decided to knit for me as I was expecting. Katy Woods was born on 19th April that year. The cardigan was never finished.

My Nan suffers from vascular dementia. We think she may have suffered a stroke that affected her ‘knitting brain’. She never picked up her needles again.

I love the work my Nan completed as it shows her love for me and Katy. The unfinished piece marks a sudden deterioration of her illness. A little piece of my Nan ended and is shown in her unfinished work.

I can’t discard it as I want to show it to my daughter when she is older that my Nan’s good intention was there. I don’t want to finish it as my Nan’s work would be concealed and hidden.

I have fond memories of my Nan trying to teach me to knit when I was young. Her knitting reminds me of this. It shows how knitting can pinpoint moments in people’s lives, and bring back happy memories of years ago.'

In the Best of the Best tent we exhibited a set of applique panels which Gienia Bartlett had kindly lent us. They were to form part of her Accident Quilt begun in hospital following a seriously damaging car crash. They provoked a lot of interest and admiration both for the technical skill displayed and the courage and humour shown in the story which accomanied them.

'I had intended the quilt to be shown at the International Quilt Show in 2009, but was gripped with fear as my previous work was in the 2008 show and I never saw it. I had spent a few days with my mum in Bath and was on my way to the quilt show when I had a serious car crash, causing disabilities to my right arm and legs, which I have permanently.

I did find it hard to get going as I was on a strong cocktail of painkillers and struggled to concentrate, feeling very demoralised, however, once I did start I was determined to finish, working in short bursts due to pain and my mobility issues, until the final construction, when I chickened out. I was scared of putting the squares together as the effect was too powerful for me to handle.

I could not bear to throw it away as it was a huge achievement, but it was too emotionally charged for me to look at. I tried edging the pieces to hang them individually, but still cannot bear to have them out, so they languish, parcelled up at the back of a high cupboard. I have not looked at the sketchbook or the quilt pieces until now as I am trying to move on with my life even though I am still emotionally and physically fragile.

Now I have had the opportunity to review my unfinished quilt I am amazed at the amount of work I managed to produce with the determination and sheer bloodymindedness I managed to find at such a dark time. I must thank my mum for the stubbornness gene. The colours on my unfinishable definitely reflect how I felt at that time. If I did one now it would be lighter and less oppressive, reflecting my thoughts on family friends, college and my new life path. My outlook on life is definitely brighter.

My unfinished is dedicated to my husband, Richard, my children, Emma and Chris and to all my friends, particularly Karen, Hafifa and Sellwood, who kept me going over my long recovery. I could not be where I am today, without them.'

Monday, 10 September 2012

Art in Action

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to take the Unfinishable project to Art in Action in Oxfordshire. Art in Action is a wonderful event which started in 1977 'inspired by the simple principle that people are fascinated when artists and craftsmen openly demonstrate their skills and discuss their work.' Its a 4 day event seeing approximately 25000 visitors. We had initially planned to camp but thankfully decided against it as the heavens opened up and let rip whilst we were setting up the exhibit. Luckily for us and our one bucket the rain eased up and there was glorious sunshine by the weekend.
We had some new Unfinishables, the five pieces that we showed were all on loan as they were all too precious for their owners to part with permanently.  We gave each the full works- in lovely gold frames for both the piece and the story. The project caused quite a stir, it was suggested that we should supply tissues on the stand because some of the tales were so moving .

 Ann Humphreys contributed a wonderful dressing table set and this is her story.

Ann Humphreys 

This dressing table set was given to me by my mum when I was learning to embroider. 

The needle got left in the middle and rusted, so when I came back to it after my uni years and wanted something to stitch I sort of lost heart and did get a bit bored of blanket stitch!
I will never use this, so don’t see the point of working on it even if I could remove the rust. But it is a record of my teenage stitching. I am impressed – there is some neat work here. Having filled in the Unfinishable Project questionnaire I realise I cannot part with the actual piece. This is part of my sewing story!

Josie Ireland

We met Josie at Art in Action and she was very interested in Ann Humphreys piece and story as she had inherited the finished version similar to the dressing table set that Ann Humphreys had started from her Grandmother. So here it is, an Unfinishable finished.