Power of performance

I got home from work last night and found BorderlineStraggler doing the ironing halfway through watching a documentary on the performance artist Marina Abramovic. He went and saw this film as part of  Borderlines Film Festival, loved it so much that he wanted to watch it again. I walked in 40 mins into the film and was instantly captivated. The documentary follows the lead up to a retrospective Abramovic had at MOMA in 2010, the centrepiece of which was a three month long performance where audience members could sit opposite her interacting only through an intense shared gaze. The intensity of her performance work is overwhelming and I found myself in tears more than once. I missed a lot of the build up about the show and the relationship between Marina and her ex partner Ulay as I came in 40 mins into it so when I saw footage of their works together I was responding only to the relationship portrayed in their silent contemplation and it was beautiful. 

Performance art is something that I don't have a great deal of experience with, but what I have seen has always had a profound impact on me. I am attracted to intimate, personal art which creates a connection between the viewer and the work, and performance has the capacity to do this in a way a lot of other mediums don't. In the summer I went with SilverLining to see Tino Sehgal's installation at Tate Modern's Turbine hall, which has been affectionately termed the Swarm. It was a hypnotic, beautiful, intriguing piece which we sat with for over an hour, first from above, and then later on right in the heart of the swarm. This piece involved accepting and sharing stories from the people in the piece who moved around the hall in a swarm formation which built from a slow walk to a frenetic run. We emerged from the experience blinking into a grey sky in London both moved and energised by the unexpected intensity of the piece. 

Part of my final collection is going to include creating an interactive element in my quilts. A key element of my work is the interaction between the viewer and the piece which means I am going to need to do more research into performance in the next few weeks. I came away from the documentary last night ready to pare back my designs which have been creeping into colourful and restore the relationship which invites the viewer to look closer and spend time engaging with the subtlety of the pieces and having confidence in the importance of that quiet.


Around here

Things have been very quite around the old blog for a while. This has been due to a number of secret projects which have been taking all my time as well as third year has been kicking my ass. I wrote a while back on the problem with third year blogging and this has certainly been the case. I announced one of my big projects yesterday, but the others are of the gift variety so sadly I am going to have to wait a while until they can be shared.

At the moment I am in full on final major project mode. I am really happy with the way my designs are going and the first quilts are starting to appear.

Several quilts that are at what is affectionately known in this house as the 'stabby stage' Which means they are quilted, the bias binding has been machined sewn onto one side of the quilt but the back side needs hand stitching down. Quilts have been known to live in this state for quite some time in this house. Friends have fallen victim to my too late warnings of "that's not quite finished yet" just after they have found the pins holding the binding in place. Thankfully I have found a whole new stack of addictive tv shows on Netflix so these stabby quilts will only be dangerous for a few more hours!


The Red Suitcases

My house is slowly being taken over by vintage red suitcases. Well not taken over, but they are definitely multiplying. You may remember one of these cases as my Craft Cwtch case. It comes along to our meetings and hold spare wool, needles, books etc that everyone can dive into and use. Don't worry I am not planning world domination through beautifully styled pop-up craft events, no the reason these bad boys are multiplying is because I am running an arts project. Yep. This is the big SECRET project I have been working on for ages. I haven't wanted to blog about it until it had started because I was very nervous it would go horribly wrong. Despite some teething problems in the early stages it has taken off and come next week it will be go, go, go Red Suitcase Project.

Is this a project where you just fill your house with luggage because that sounds crazy I hear you ask. Well no, it is an intergenerational quilting project being run collaboratively between The Courtyard - Herefordshire's Centre for the Arts and Hereford College of Arts Contemporary Applied Arts course. We are taking a group of 10 students out to three care homes in south Herefordshire to make quilts. These quilts will then be displayed at The Courtyard in the Autumn and entered into this years Festival of Quilts.

Each group will be taking out a suitcase filled with inspirational pictures, fabrics and quilts to help inspire residents in making their quilts. So far we have been doing lots of prep sessions - though all of the students could sew very few of them have ever quilted before so it has been a great opportunity to share ideas and techniques with them.  Next week we are going out for our first sessions in the homes. There will a dedicated blog for the project being written by the participants once we are up and going. Click on The Red Suitcase Project link in the side bar to keep up to date with what we are doing.

Before these suitcases fly off with the students I have been enjoying having them round the house reminding me that I am actually doing this. I'm running an arts project. Me. It is actually happening!      And this is the main message of this post, if I can do it you can do it. I had an idea, wrote a proposal and approached The Courtyard who were really excited to get involved. All it took was the confidence to send that email. Hopefully the success of this project will encourage other students to think about approaching arts organisations with ideas, you don't have to wait till you're a 'proper' artist. Do it now. The amount I have learnt from this experience has been phenomenal. I should probably add a disclaimer to my 'do it now', this has been a lot of hard work but I know that it is these extra curricular activities which are going to be some of the most important experiences of my time at Uni when I graduate so for me the effort has been worth it.

So Red Suitcases; inspiring, reminders of what is possible. That and they are holding the laptop so I can watch an obscene amount of Netflix on the telly but that doesn't sound nearly so inspiring...


The Joy of Handmade

I turned 30 last year. This was a fairly traumatic time filled with end of twenties angst, too much wine for some people at the dinner and botched dental surgery. One of the shining points of this birthday was a chunk of money my parents gave to me with the specific remit of spending it on something I would not think to buy for myself. Two weeks ago I finally got the second part of my present.

This is my beautiful new bag. It was custom made by Gosia Weber Handmade. Her website is currently having a facelift but you can check out pictures of her work on Facebook. I have been an admirer of Gosia's work for years. The profit of my first ever etsy sale went on a wallet from her that I still use today, and the thought of ordering a bag had been ticking around in my mind for quite a long time.

Initally I wanted a backpack. I am still at college and so this would be the most practical for me. Also I have never really been a handbag kinda gal. Don't get me wrong I do own a couple of handbags but they aren't exactly my go-to luggage. Trouble was I couldn't find a backpack design that both Gosia and I were inspired by. I have a hatred of backpacks with a drawstring closure (a dreadful hangover from my 80's childhood I guess) and the other options just weren't right. So I gave up on ever owning a custom made bag and got on with my life. But I just couldn't get the idea out of my mind, handbags had crept into my mind and they were taking hold.  I started looking at them online, in shops, looking at my friends bags and they all left me a bit cold. With the edict from my parents to buy something I wouldn't buy for myself still ringing in my mind and the days ticking down to my 31st birthday fairly rapidly I went for it an ordered a bag.

Buying a custom made bag is not something that takes ten minutes. There were lots of emails back and forth with fabric samples, questions about number of straps, closures, pockets, all sorts. I have to admit that at times all this waiting got me down. I am not a patient lady. And I had been thinking about this bloody bag for years already - why couldn't it just be magically here? Because it is one-of-a-kind just for me. I am so glad I waited. This beautiful package arrived on a day I was full of cold and grump. The perfect pick me up, and so pretty.

We had a lecture last week about defining your market as a maker. Part of the lecture which resonated with me was the fact that other makers are an important section of your market. These are people who appreciate the value of the time and effort that goes into producing handmade goods. I felt really happy to be a handmade customers and the results are more perfect than I hoped they would be, which really is the joy of bespoke. 


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