Friday, 17 January 2020

Singing Quilts:All the things you are not yet

My Singing Quilt, ‘All the things you are not yet’ features a mobile phone photograph of two pre-implantation embryos digitally printed onto cotton.  This fabric has been embroidered with conductive threads to make fabric speakers that play a sound file of those embryos, now 5 years old boys, singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’  The soft circuits have been designed that the sound file is triggered when the quilt is touched.  Because the speakers are made from fabric the sound has a faint, ghost like quality and you need to put your head near the quilt to hear it.  This means the experience for the viewer is both interactive and intimate.
This was made with the help of the Centre for Robotics Research, Kings College London.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Recovery Quilts: The path back

Recovery Quilt 3 : Out of the dirt, 2019, approx 180x120cms
I’ve been on a bumpy road lately.  Challenging things have happened to me and those around me.

It left me in a dark place.  

Whilst I have been working, it’s been on project work.  I hadn’t done a piece of personal studio work for about two and a half years.  In the past my studio practice has always been the safety valve; a way to vent the pressure.  But this time I couldn’t work; I was blank; I was empty; I lost my way.

As part of the journey, back I decided to make a quilt; a comforter.  It was the action of making that was to be the important bit.  It was a private thing.  There was no ‘story’ to tell. I wasn’t thinking of you, the audience, just myself as a maker.  Think of it as a displacement activity.  The main criterion was it was to be joyous.  When faced with a design choice I had to choose the more joyful option; to go for a trumpet blare of colour rather than the sludgy monochrome I have been submerged in.
And I wanted it to be technically slick.  Contained, flat with very accurate stitchery.  Some might say it’s out of character.

But at the same time, I don’t want these ‘Recovery Quilts’ to be bland ‘fridge magnet’ quilts with insipid inspirational quotes.  The words are very personal to me.  The texts have been chanted in my head the whole time; my mantras for getting through.

The piece above is Recovery Quilt 3 : Out of the dirt.  It has been shortlisted for the Vlieseline Fine Art Textiles Award, one of the most prestigious textile competitions in Europe.  It will be on show at Festival of Quilts NEC Birmingham 1-4th August.  I can't explain how great that has made me feel.  

Recovery Quilt 3: Out of the dirt.  detail of digital embroidery and applique.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

How do you show a 100m long piece without a 100m long plinth?

You might remember my piece '1 hours production = 1 ½ miles = 15 lengths' that a created for Lesley Millar’s show 'Cloth and Memory 2' at Salts Mill, Saltaire, West Yorkshire.  The piece contains my biometric data recorded whilst running in the Spinning room at the mill as a metaphor for woollen cloth production in the 19th century.  I made the piece specifically for the space but have been thinking how I could also show you in other venues.  Its 100 m in length and whilst I had the luxury of a plinth that long at Salts Mill I know that is unlikely to be repeated.
So I have been thinking how I could show this piece again in another venue… without an enormous plinth!  

This year I will be showing the piece at Festival Of Quilts, NEC, Birmingham 1st - 4th August.  We will hang the piece from the ceiling letting it drop from the 15m ceiling and letting it rise again before wrapping it around the stand itself.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Doing the hand sewn hack sessions

The workshop at the Science Gallery London was extremely well attended, indeed oversubscribed with lovely enthusiastic people; a real mix of sewers and those with a keen interest in robotics or e-textiles.  It was quite a challenge for them as we wanted them to stitch sensors using a couching stitch.  It’s a tricky technique where you stitch down a thicker thread with a second thinner thread.  Some really struggled.  One man spent the whole morning really persevering and managed to stitch two sensors.  At the end of the session he pulled me to one side.  He said “Well that was really tough…..”  and I thought ‘Oh dear’ but then he continued “I have such a sense of achievement……I am off for cocktails to celebrate!”
We wont really know how successful the sessions have been until Sam Pitou has spent months testing them off, however what we do know is that initial results show that they are comparable to machine stitched ones.  Positive news.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Hand Sewn Electrode Hack

Mediators training to embroider sesnors at the Science Gallery London

You might remember that I have been working with the guys at the Centre for Robotics Research, Kings College London.  We have been working collaboratively developing embroidered sesnors that can pick up electrical muscle impulses off the skin

You can read about the start of the project here

Sam Pitou at KCL is particularly interested in developing embroidered sensors for low cost robotic prostheses in developing countries and we have been creating hand stitched sensors to investigate their suitability.

We are asking people to drop into the exhibition Spare Parts at the Science Gallery London  Great Maze Pond, London, SE1 9GU before 31st March 2019 and join us in creating sensors for a live research project.  

On Saturday 23rd March we are also running a Hand-Sewn Electrode Hack
In this workshop and research project, participants are shown how to use stainless steel conductive thread and embroidery techniques to craft electrodes which can detect muscular activity (electromyography) and enable prosthesis wearers to control the moving parts of their artificial limb.
The Hand-Sewing Textile EMG research project investigates cheap and effective alternatives to industrially produced electrodes which can be prohibitively expensive.
On the day take on the challenge to sew 10 electrodes in 3 hours, and feed directly into live research. Bring busy fingers, a patient frame of mind, and good chat!