project development

C9 & Moving Forward

Having agreed to the content of a new project, a series of 9 email exchanges alongside 34 text messages over 16 days has enabled us to take some steps forward.

Decision making began with the organisation of all found fragments as a labelled photograph which was shared by P via email. This enabled the individual selection of 4 pieces of china each to be represented in the book. Whilst we both later admitted to making this selection without using any pre-determined system or pattern, interestingly one choice overlapped and C9 was chosen by both of us.

The exchange of written conversations has enabled a different form of decision making to take place, and the thinking through of ideas has been undertaken as questions inviting comments. This open ended approach has resulted in the shared clarification of design decisions and technical details. The use of photographs within emails from P has very much supported this process and mock ups of the final books were presented alongside written ideas. This aided decision making around choice of scale and presentation of the final 2 books. The final email decision centred around choices connected to the positioning of each fragment within the book. In response to this a tracing will be made to document the arrangement of fragments so that both of us work to the same format.

P has sent me the selected 8 fragments so that I can explore the positioning of each piece to document their discovery within the ground and make tracings which we both can use. I am keen to develop my own printmaking practice and will take on board compositional formats seen in A Slice through the World, the recent exhibition at Modern Art Oxford (https://www.modernartoxford.org.uk/event/a-slice-through-the-world/) In particular I will draw upon the ‘floating’ compositions seen in the work of Lucy Skaer and ‘overlapping’ compositions seen in the work of Kate Davies within the construction of a drypoint background for the fragments.

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Unearthing a New Idea

p china

Our main focus in recent months has been the forthcoming SPF and the opportunity this offers us to exhibit new work. Whilst we were both keen to pursue the button box idea, the project had been progressing slowly and failing to gather momentum, it was during this interim period that some chance findings led to a potential new project.

Whilst digging a large proportion of garden in a recently purchased property, fragments of china started to be unearthed on a relatively regular basis – the natural reaction to these findings was to remove them and save each piece. When researching further it seemed that these garden discoveries were not uncommon:

http://daughterofthesoil.blogspot.com/2008/01/things-we-dig-up-in-garden.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/jan/26/leadersandreply.mainsection2

As the collection began to grow, it seemed that these fragments could form the basis for a new book.

The idea was proposed to T, who was immediately enthusiastic about the idea, and had unknowingly found similar relics within her own garden; it seemed that this was the break-through we needed in developing our next collaborative project, and a FaceTime meeting was arranged.

t china

T started the discussion by putting the time schedule (until SPF) into perspective, this was followed by a proposal that addressed both the desire to produce new work for the London, alongside our previous aim to produce a book which enabled us time to develop and experiment with visual style and structure.

The proposal – which was readily agreed – was to produce two books.

Book one will be a simple concertina fold, with both structure and medium being inspired by a recent visit to an exhibition at Modern Art Oxford. As the discussion developed, it was decided that a pair of simple books would enable us to both work individually on an edition that when seen together would work as a whole. The books will be informed by some aspects of previous practice, cataloguing for instance, and we are interested to explore how archeological finds are recorded and displayed.

For book two we will use a different method of research gathering– namely the Small Publishers Fair event. T recognized that such events always provoke conversation and discussion around specific book themes. Therefore the aim is to engage with friends, fellow exhibitors and the public to seek their reaction, response and comment to book one. It is hoped that these findings will inform the content for book two. In preparation for SPF we will explore a range of possible questions.

 

 

 

327 Buttons. 7 Categories.

sorting buttopns

I chose to categorise my button box by materiality; this was an immediate and intuitive response to the task – and only when I began to sort through the buttons did I consider the various other options available.

I was able to divide the button box into 7 categories: wood, metal, seashell, cloth-covered, leather, clear and plastic, the latter was the largest category – and therefore it has a sub-category of colour. In addition there were a few oddments that could be considered miscellaneous. It became evident that each grouping could be broken down further, for example of the 24 metal buttons 9 were gold and 15 silver; or 14 were engraved with a pattern, 10 were plain etc.

Here are the findings.
Clear = 13 / Cloth-covered = 15 / Leather = 12 / Metal = 24 / Seashell = 33 / Wood = 11
Plastic = 219 and within this category there were 63 black, 60 white, 28 brown, 13 blue, 13 green, 11 orange, 10 grey, 7 purple, 6 red, 6 yellow and 2 striped buttons.

The orange plastic buttons were the only group made up of identical buttons.
The reverse of the cloth-covered buttons also reveals two names – Astor and Trims. Astor appears to be a German company, whilst Trims has been difficult to identify.


As my button box is inherited, many of the contents reflect buttons of a specific time – the metal buttons look particularly dated, as are some of the fabrics of the cloth-covered buttons; others are timeless.

stripey buttons

My favourite buttons are the pair of black and whited striped conical-shaped ones… what were they part of…?

And finally (in the spirit of the Vera project) the miscellaneous section:misc

Reading, Researching and Reminiscing

bb1
Our joint task for August had been to read Lynn Knight’s book ‘The Button Box – lifting the lid on women’s lives’ – having read about two thirds of the book it is clear that whilst some of the buttons have a particular memory attached to them, the contents offer an opportunity to explore and discuss the social history of women in a far wider context.

The Foundling Hospital – and subsequent Foundling Museum resonated strongly, with stories of tokens, such as decorated fabric pieces being left with children by mothers (mostly unmarried) who were unable to care for the child, but would leave the token not only a token of their love, but as proof of whom the child belonged to, if the mother was able to return at a later date and claim the child back.
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2010/oct/09/foundling-hospital-museum-threads-feeling

I found buttons and button boxes to be rather limited in terms of primary research, although more enlightening were discussions with family members; Ruby my paternal grandmother had entered a tailoring apprenticeship somewhere in Hampton Court when she was 14 – this was considered a good position and later she worked as a cutter for a company in Staines.
https://cvhf.org.uk/history-hub/rationed-fashion-victory-rolls-womens-fashion-in-the-1940s/

Granny would also make clothes for her four children – including stage clothes for my father and his sisters’ – their claim to fame being that when very young they played in a band with guitarist Julian Bream (and his sister Janice) and performed to the Italian prisoners of war. ‘The girls wore red velvet dresses made from old curtains, with hand-crocheted, by her, collars and cuffs. Tony’s band trousers were made from blackout fabric, with red stripes down the sides’. She also made my Dad a bomber jacket out of an old blanket of which he was very proud. Whether or not she was involved in any war-time activities such as sewing circles (Sew for Victory) or the W.I. is unknown (further research required!)

Similarly sewing was part of my maternal great grandmother’s life who, when widowed during the Great War, and with three young children to support, sewed shirts for a living – common practice during those times. These would be sewn at home by candlelight.
the war widows’ pension […] was devised to confine the woman to the domestic role of idealised mother whilst refusing to pay her sufficient money to keep her within the home.  At around half the “minimum wage” of £1 a week, the payment was more of a token gesture. http://www.warwidowsstories.org.uk/history/the-world-wars/

Finally I started to consider the receptacle in which we keep buttons – mine include an inherited cigar box of Granny’s, and a wooden (lead-lined) tea caddy where I keep spare buttons that are attached to garments in plastic bags. Growing up in the 60s/70s, my mother’s buttons were kept in a small blue and red tartan silk draw-string bag; however this theme appears limited.

It was at this point that a Facetime meeting was arranged. We started by discussing our individual opinions of the The Button Box book, and whilst we both identified themes that had interested us, we were aware that we were gravitating towards sewing themes rather than the button/button box. This was an issue as it was a theme already covered in our previous edition Sewing Secrets. Another discussion centered around whether or not the content should be personal – and relate to our family members, or whether we draw content from a wider source – although the issue remained of what the content could be!

With a time limit to our discussion, we decided to go back to an earlier idea – in the first instance we will both categorise our individual button boxes. How we choose to do this (at this stage) is up to the individual, and we will share our findings on the blog within five days, this will be followed by another FaceTime meeting.

Thrift & The Button Box

IMG_4633

With first research around the theme of housekeeping completed individually, a pre-arranged Face Time conversation enabled the joint consideration of these. Emerging areas of interest were identified, and further detail exchanged through free-flowing conversation and recalled anecdotes. As research sources were discussed, we spent some time reflecting upon how content gathered to inform this new project may enable challenge to our working methodologies and individual practice alongside the avoidance of repeating earlier projects located within similar themes of social history and domesticity.

Drawn to the notion of specific moments in time, we reflected upon the marriage bar, changing roles within the household and the identification of specific tasks assigned to these for our parents, grandparents and self. The routine and rotation of household tasks through the fortnightly turn-out were discussed and linked to some extent to our own experiences. Some consideration was given to taking this theme forward through the collection of data from friends and their families.

Continuing to explore notions of thrift, we discussed the teaching of domestic skills and the saving of buttons from old clothes within the button box. The button as an evocative object was considered through the research and writings of Lynn Knight, and the potential for collecting our own real and imagined stories considered.

With some consideration of potential timings and deadlines for this project, we agreed to spend August undertaking further individual research around The Button Box through reading and the collection of real and imagined stories. This will form the content of the project and enable September and October to be allocated to design and production.

To Bordeaux and Back

IMG_3296

A pre-arranged visit with friends presented the opportunity for a face to face meeting to make sense of first ideas in response to our new project. The time afforded enabled free flowing conversations, in which we questioned content and context with a particular focus on overlaps with previous projects and our interest in continuing to challenge working methodologies and individual practice. Object led memories were discussed as we exchanged stories around childhood, parents and grandparents, and similarities were noted with ideas beginning to be formed linked to keepsakes, evocative objects and the house and home. Interests in family photographs, clothing and shoes emerged as we spent some time sharing details around favourite items and specific moments in time. Keen to establish our next step, we considered potential timings for research,decision making and realisation and began to construct a series of first points of enquiry focussed around the selection of evocative objects connected to our grandparents. As we discussed these in more detail, common themes around keeping house emerged and we became interested in the notion of housekeeping, ‘housekeeping money’, and routines and rituals linked to these roles across generations. In response to this, we agreed to each undertake first research around the theme of housekeeping in order to clarify our question of enquiry prior to gathering stories and memories.

New beginnings

In the past two months work commitments have impacted on any opportunity to discuss our collaborative pratice; however a pre-arranged FaceTime meeting offered us the chance to
reflect on what is important to us individually and to bring these thoughts and ideas ‘to the
table’.

The discussion started with what could be deemed as the ‘failure’ of our most recent collaboration, The Blue Book, however it was clear that we could take some valuable lessons from the project; it re-iterated the fact that the ‘altered book’ is not our favoured genre and starting a project with no particular purpose, or emotional (or personal) attachment to it, hindered our commitment to the process. Therefore our first decision was not to explore this type of project again!

T expressed concerns around returning to known practice, and producing books that, although may have commercial appeal, may limit our making to repetitive/expected outcomes. We both agreed that it was important to continue to challenge our working methodologies.

We articulated the need to address a particular aspect of our individual practice – whilst T had enjoyed the research and process element of previous projects, she felt the development of imagery had not always been as successful, therefore it was important for her to address this. P recognised that recent projects had led to an emphasis on book content rather than book structure, and therefore it was important to explore and develop this further. We recognized that this could be the starting point of the project and started to discuss a range of themes which included: the ‘Hear her’ radio series, keepsakes, hidden messages within garments (inspired by the Phantom Thread film), cataloguing aspects of our meeting in the middle project, inheritance, domesticity and MA practice.

It became clear that with our new individual aims, we could still explore our joint areas of interest without compromising the integrity of our practice; therefore we will look to develop a body of work based around the idea of evocative objects and the memories we attach to either the object or the original owner of the object (namely grandparents).

Cataloguing colours within my Blue Book revealed 127 individual references to just 10 colours with black and white being the two colours used most frequently. In the majority of instances each colours is used as a metaphor, with references to age and emotional states being the most common. I have become interested in this symbolic approach to using colour linked to a specific parlance through time and place. Perhaps this is an approach to making with meaning which could be applied to stories and subject matter concerned with domesticity and the everyday?

In order to combine page 99 of both Blue Books, I began by alternating sentences. Whilst not altogether successful, this did get me started, and I began to see the body of text as individual pieces similar to that of a jigsaw. By cutting out words, and smaller phrases I started to group similar words and look for potential stories within the text. Small sentences began to emerge, almost as extracts from some bigger story. Whilst these are a combination of words from both books, I struggled to make one sequential piece of text and instead made 10 short stories taking inspiration from the reference to chapter 10 within P’s book.

Counting and Cutting

As I undertake the two set tasks, I am still finding it difficult to connect with this project. There is no set outcome at the moment – but this isn’t the problem, it’s more that the project seems to lack depth and I wonder if we are trying too hard to find a solution to something that just isn’t there; should we have considered our book choice more clearly and selected a topic around domesticity? Would this have given us a clearer sense of direction? However, there is the realisation that if we DO manage to produce a body of work from this project, then this method of working could enhance our current collaborative practice and become a foundation for developing further work.

Despite the negative comments above, I am enjoying the process of discussion, and the subsequent setting of mini-tasks to advance the project. In terms of the current tasks – listing the colours, although a little tedious, is easy, my final tally is approximately 380; however working with the texts from our respective page 99s is proving to a lot harder than I expected. I have tried various methods of combining the texts and at one point even resorted to an online story generator, which also failed! I am aware that this could be an abstract narrative and so I looked at the work of Raoul Hausmann and Dada poetry – including the Tristan Tzara method of ‘How to make a Dadaist Poem’ – and although this uses a very basic system to produce a narrative, I didn’t like the methodology or outcomes that it generated.

dada sound poem

However, I was interested in the idea of applying a system, which is something that began recurring in our work during the Windham Papers. I began by looking and analysing the texts, noting similarities, highlighting pronouns, and isolating specific aspects of the narrative until I developed a system that enabled me to produce a new text. The finished piece doesn’t use all the words as the task required, but I could keep going through the text and apply different systems until they are all used up!

 

The Blue In-between

We have had a month to catalogue our respective blue books using the categories we developed through discussion and debate. A FaceTime ‘meeting’ enabled us to report our progress, along with our findings and reservations. We have both found the process of cataloguing rather tedious and repetitive, and have started to question the purpose of the exercise; this meeting came at an opportune time and enabled us to voice these concerns, and subsequently talk through the issues that the process has highlighted.

P: I felt it was important to start by questioning what we wanted to achieve with this project. Was it to further challenge our collaborative practice and working process, or merely an opportunity to produce an edition of ‘sale-able’ artists’ books? Also did the book have to have a purpose? As we started to talk through these topics it became evident that we were both struggling to find a point to what we were doing. T suggested that this could be because we had no personal connection with our particular books, which had been purchased at random, and subsequently we were struggling to relate to the subject matter. Was there then a way forward that would enable us to find an area of common interest?

We discussed and rejected various methodologies, including producing a haiku version of each book; of the 10 categories that we had mapped, we had both gravitated towards ‘colour’ – therefore it was decided to take a more abstract approach, and to start listing each colour with its corresponding page number and any relevant descriptor attached to the colour. In conjunction with this we discussed a project that I have recently completed called Page 99 – there is a theory by English writer Ford Madox Ford, that if you open a novel at page 99 then ‘the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.’ Using this premise we will both use the final sentence on page 99 as the title of our respective books. To enable us to consider a narrative, T suggested that we send each other a copy of page 99, and both attempt to combine the text of these pages to form a new ‘story’. This is not dissimilar to the work of Graham Rawle who wrote an entire novel using words from vintage women’s magazines.

http://www.grahamrawle.com/womans-world-book.html

These decisions will now enable us to take the project to the next level, and hopefully by undertaking this set of instructions we will start to gain a greater sense of what the book may become. Without knowingly setting out to develop our practice using a new methodology, by default the nature of this project – and our disconnect with either the text or author – appears to be leading us in a new direction.