Corsets and the Scottish Highlands by Karen Alderson

Just before Easter I spent a week in Mallaig in the Scottish Highlands, I went alone and daily found myself sitting at the backpackers hostel window observing the comings and goings of the small port.

View of Mallaig harbour from the hostel

A waitress from a nearby restaurant accompanied me on a day trip to Skye, it was interesting to hear her feelings of disappointment at the lack of tourist shops and cafes on the island.

Skye

I had been reading “CounterTourism” by Phil Smith and remembered his assertion that tourist guide books only focus our attention on constructed dialogues about place.

My aim was to drive aimlessly on the island, do an initial reconnoitre before returning again for a focused visit, my aquaintance proposed we visited “The Faery Pools”. We managed to combine both, but when we arrived at the tourist hot spot, miles from anywhere, it was full of other people looking at one particular spot in the landscape and ignoring the rest of the vast expanse of land surrounding it.

The journey to Scotland did me good, getting out of the studio and my usual environment helped me to come alive by becoming aware of different sights, sounds, smells.

Will Self proposes that modern day society moulds us into the micro environments of home, work and consuming echoing the Situationists slogan of “Work, Consume, Die”. It is only 200 years or so ago that we only had horses or bicycles or our feet by which to travel on land, therefore since evolution began we have orientated ourselves in space by walking so that by not walking, i.e. travelling by car between these micro environments, and by the use of sat navs, a sense of disorientation comes upon us, we become easier to manipulate and to look outside ourselves for markers for how to be i.e. advertising.

Walking without a map in a new environment or the local environment without a goal in mind helps us to sharpen our senses to what is happening around us, to begin to look at things that we do not normally see, to break the hold of the illusion that media has over our construction of the world (The Spectacle), to wake up. This really came home to me as I walked around Mallaig, a tiny town but teeming with new sensations.

On the basis of this trip I have returned and considered walking the route again, taking notice of the surroundings without a video camera just to see what my experience would be a second time, I have a need to zoom out again, to research the history of the area, I have contacted the Halifax Antiquarian Society.

Meanwhile, in the studio I have been working on finding out how to make a corset from scratch using the drawing of the fence as a base shape. Firstly I traced the shapes, cut them out, enlarged them, traced around them onto white cotton and then sewed them together and put wire in between the base shapes.

For the first mock up I drew the shapes onto a piece of white cotton, backed it with cotton batting and put a sheet of cotton on the back then used a straight stitch to sew the shapes. I placed wire in the galleys between the shapes

For the second mock up I cut the shapes out of cotton and then sewed them together, I wanted to see if it altered the shape at all. It didn’t, what it did do was to make the process of making three times as long as I had to sew each shape to the other making sure I left enough room for the gully for the wire.

My plan is once I am happy with the mock up I will make another with hand dyed fabric, I am considering using the colours of the iron railings that look onto this fence than the light grey of the actual fencing. I have this sense that I want to incorporate other elements from the location. Time to get my walking boots on.

 

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The Unfinished by Jane Pugh

The Unfinished

I have continued to explore the idea of The Unfinished as I started to describe in my last blog; thoughts set in motion by the unfinished figures in the embroidery then moving on to my own unfinished projects. I have discovered a few facts about unfinished projects including the Zeigarnik effect. Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik (1900 –1988) was a Soviet psychologist and psychiatrist, who conducted a study on memory, in which she compared memory in relation to incomplete and complete tasks. She had found that incomplete tasks are easier to remember than successful ones. This is now known as the Zeigarnik effect.

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Thinking more about my unfinished patchwork quilt led me to add to my collection-of-ideas page. I am recording ideas as small paintings, sketches and collages using watercolours and mixed media and have included some of these in my previous blogs.

I began the patchwork quilt during the 1970’s and I have returned to it during different stages of my life. I began to wonder if it could be hanging around, unfinished, ‘to infinity and beyond’.

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Relating it to other objects from Bankfield, could I use it to make a basket based on the small painting which continues to intrigue me?

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Or a cloak of many colours…

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The eight pointed star which I used in the patchwork is also used in the collaged tea cosy, on one side only, so I took this and used it as a basis for another idea. Using masking fluid at different stages in the painting, and experimenting with methods of application, I explored the idea of it becoming alive and magical.

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References to the work of Karen and Julie keep occurring to me, affecting my own work. Fences and baler twine spoke to me as I was fixing a fence at the allotment, and a friend showed me a beautiful nest she had found in her garden.

Bale band and jewellery wire by Julie Turner

 

Bale band secures the bales of hay, haylage and straw enabling them to be moved about securely without risk of the bale falling apart until the bale band is cut and ready for use. The ones we have are usually red and yellow for hay and haylage and this year we have blue for straw bales.

Bale band to farmers and smallholders is a fantastic resource. Once released from holding its cargo it can and is often used to tie up and hold together a variety of items around the farms buildings and fields.

This selection of photos indicates some of the uses we have found for it. To keep a field gate closed, to securely hold open a top stable door which is often battered by strong winds, to fasten closed a jacket which the original fasteners have broke, to tie hay racks to enable sheep to ‘graze’ in the stable whilst lambing.

I wanted to use this coarse manmade fibre to create a welcoming nest for this project. After cutting the knot out I was a left with a decent length to work with. I chose to free form crochet with a large crochet hook. As I created the stitches to suit the look I required for the end piece I was not happy with the way it was working up. I felt it was too thick and dense. I decided to abandon this attempt and split the thick one length into several finer pieces. You can see this first sample in a picture below.

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Continuing with the largest crochet hook I started to create stitches using this finer more delicate – if a coarse fibre like this can be classed as delicate – into what turned out to be a beautiful natural, fine and delicate looking nest. I had intended to weave in the ends for a neater more finished look, but found I liked them as they were. I felt they added to the ‘naturalness’ of the piece. It reminded me of straw I wonder if I had done this in red or blue it would still look appealing with the ends left in situ?

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Following on with my newly learnt basketry skills (thanks to Joe at www.creativewithnature.co.uk) I thought about what materials I had to hand to try a smaller nest. Using the same processes only on a much smaller scale I dug out my jewellery wires and pliers and got to work.

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Wow this was fiddly and I couldn’t have managed without the pliers for weaving some of the thicker wires, but it was well worth the effort as the nest I ended up with is fantastic. As with the small willow nest from my last blog post I intended to remove the handle once completed however it looks great as it is, so I will leave it and see how I feel about it as I continue with this project. So far everyone who has seen this cute little basket wants one! I may need to stock up on jewellery wire again!

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