Friday, 31 May 2013

Looped and Found

Collaborations between potters and basket makers seem to be quite popular at the moment. Last year I participated in  Duos Potiers Vanniers and this year Nathalie Du Bernard of Poterie des Chals invited me to partner her  in Osier la Terre an open submission exhibition which is now on at the Ecomusee de Bresse until the 30 Septemeber.

Because I was in Shetland at the time when we needed to be working on the project it wasn’t  really feasible. But, when I went to Roussillon to teach in March, Nathalie showed me a large terracotta head, that she had made, and asked me if I would like to work on it. She was hoping that we might be able to squeeze our joint effort into the exhibition at the last moment, but the opening was very close and we had to get the very heavy head from Isere in east France to west France for me to work on. Nathalie had relatives returning from their easter break in the Alps who were cajoled into squeezing it into the boot of their car and I made a trip to Poitiers to fetch it from them. Despite our best efforts the opening of the exhibition came and went but once I finished the work it went back to Isere, this time with the assistance of a potter, Patrick Rollet, who was attending a pottery market in the Dordogne.

Nathalie assured me he would be amenable to this idea but when I arrived at his stand at the fair with the one metre high scaffolded head he seemed less keen, but graciously allowed me to leave it with him! I have heard nothing since….. Whether it will ever been seen publicly is still all a mystery to me.

When I first saw Nathalies piece, in the very special and ancient pottery that she works in, the idea for my contribution came almost immediately. I wanted to do  something that was about thoughts and memories of ancient pots.  I wanted to use a mix of materials  to create something that was extremely light in appearance as a contrast to the physical weight of the terracotta. Looping offered the lightness and could also suggest pathways of neurones and I still had a sack full of used green wire, given to me by the electrician next door, to loop with.

Whilst gardening  I often dig up little pieces of old earthenware. Over time I have collected these fragments on my windowsills and now this project seemed to present the perfect opportunity to make use of them. I enclosed each piece in a looped structure of fine copper wire and subsequently they were incorporated into the vase-shaped form that grew out of the head.

I have previously discussed the phenomena that I have called ‘the law of material sufficiency’  it happened again and when I had finished this piece the sack of green wire was empty, I had needed no more, or no less.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

El Costurero de Aracne

Last August I was invited to participate in a project organised by Angel Sanz Montero of the Department of Art Textiles at the University of Granada. The brief was to make 40 'identical' works that would become part of the 6th edition of El Costurero de Aracne which translates as Arachne's Sewing Box. 

Arachne was, according to Ovid a superb, but mortal, weaver in Greco Roman mythology who picked an argument with the goddess Athena. Being, among other things, the goddess of weaving, Athena wasn’t too impressed when Arachne boasted that she was a much better weaver than the goddess. A mega spat ensued and Athena used her superpowers to morph Arachne into a spider! The tale, it is suggested, explains why spiders aren’t bad at weaving either. 

The brief didn't mention any of this, it just said the works should be of a textile character that measured no more than 3x3x2,5cms!!!  Que horror!  Anyone who is familiar with my work knows that  I do not normally do small, let alone miniature. I like to make sculptural objects that occupy some space. Also, as a consequence of handling a lot of wire, my finger tips have become quite desensitised which makes working on a miniature scale difficult. However, even with only the promise of receiving a copy of the final work as recompense I decided to take on the challenge and today my copy of El Costurero de Aracne VI arrived in the post.

I was determined that I would make a basket and that it should use recycled materials and not be too labour intensive as I had to make 40 of them. In the end, after considerable experimentation, I decided to make small frame baskets. I used plastic bottle tops to give me a standard size for a circular frame that would not exceed the limitations. I then cut rings off the plastic lids and looped telephone wire onto these rings making small hemispherical baskets. Once I had the formula it didn’t take too long and I just made a few a day in between other jobs. The colours are different but technically the baskets are identical.

At the time of designing the baskets and whilst I was making them, I had not looked up the myth of Arachne so I hadn’t consciously considered making any references to the myth. I was too busy worrying about what I could possibly do on such a tiny scale! So, it was a pleasant surprise  when I had finished them and laid them out to photograph to see that I had made 40 little spiders webs. This phenomena is happening so frequently to me now when I am making that I am beginning to lose all sense of what is a conscious thought and what is not.....

In total 15 artists took part and each little box has 15 compartments containing a miniature art work. There is also a DVD with details about the works and the participating artists. It was produced in an edition of 50 examples so the other 35 boxes will go to other places and people. Tomorrow at 11.00  El Costurero de Aracne VI is being publicly presented at the University of Granada.