Wednesday, 17 December 2014

MA-Ness - Term Overview and Actual Last Week Of Term.....

It was very odd on Monday this week - for the first week in ages I wasn't sat at my desk reading or writing or poking about in a darkroom or a library and instead of that I was poking about the kitchen cupboards with a damp cloth, bleach, a bin bag and just generally giving it a proper top to bottom pre xmas clean. And frankly it felt a bit odd - I'm taking it as a good sign though as it's proof I am really enjoying what I am doing but it is already making me think about how I'm going to fill my time post MA.....Phd perhaps? I'd quite like to be a doctor of something......not sure what though....

But anyway last Monday and Tuesday I'd been sat at my desk writing the first academic essay with footnotes and Harvard references I'd written in 25 years. And my how things have changed in that time - back in the day it was handwritten in biro (with occasional use of tippex) and left in a tutors pigeonhole, the sides slightly curled up such was the furious pressure of my handwriting. These days it's all written on computer, printed out, and signed for and time stamped - here's hoping my essay is okay. It seems much more official somehow.

A chum of mine read it when I'd finished it and said it made sense so that at least is something....it was on professional context, had to be 2,000 words long (word count is *so* much easier with computer software as opposed to doing an average of handwritten words per line and then working out how many pages it needed to be) and it took me two days to write. Well two days of sitting in front of the computer - the first day I kept thinking I'd never be able to get it finished as I just couldn't seem to get it to coalesce plus I spent most of the morning writing up the bibliography for my research journal aka this blog and doing some last minute bits of research before finally getting the opening paragraph and the bare bones of it on a page. It made me feel quite overwhelmed and stupid at times too - like 'argh I'll never be able to get this finished/done/ and then alternately when I found a good quote to support my argument 'oh this is okay/I can do this/it might not be brilliant but it won't be completely dreadful' and the next day I just ploughed my way through it, then I had it checked by a chum, checked a couple of things with my tutor about how to put quotes in it, had help from a lovely chap in IT who I later rewarded with some flapjack to convert this blog into a PDF as that also needed to be handed in and then I went back to the essay and polished it off on the Thursday and printed it off ready to be handed in on the Friday.  


I still can't quite believe that as a postgraduate I gave myself lots of time to do this and wasn't at all like my undergraduate self who if the deadline was midday on a Friday would either stay up into the early hours of Friday morning to get it done or get up really early Friday morning to write it then....but I'm glad I did as it meant I had breathing space to sleep on it, refine certain points, come back to it with fresh eyes and just generally not be a coffee and adrenaline addicted stresshead about it. Here's hoping I can maintain this approach through the rest of the course.......

Oh and the stuff I've handed in is okay too - but I won't find that out until the end of January.....and in the meantime my personal tutor has said very complimentary things about my research work so far this term so fingers crossed I'll at least be in the right ball park so to speak......

I'm also glad that I got into a fairly good habit of writing up each week what I'd been up to as that made the research journal side of things easier to catch up with, I did do a couple of extra posts of pics of my desk and notebooks but otherwise this didn't take too much extra effort aside from the pdf and printing bit of it - the eco-part of me thinks that is a waste of paper but that's how I was asked to do it so I have - plus I wrapped it up with some recycled pink(!!) ribbon so it wasn't too wasteful.

So what have I learnt this term? 
  • I adore pootling about in libraries - but I already knew that....
  • some powerpoint basics - essential really, especially as I have a couple of talks and teaching things lined up for 2015 already (this is both exciting and scarey)
  • lots more re victorian death practices 
  • possibilities re my own work - liquid light for instance
  • that I need to make time for 'doing' as well as researching and getting to college early for a pootle round St George's Fields or having my sandwich in there is a good way of doing this - it recharges my creative batteries so to speak
  • if I get into a habit of harvard referencing it'll become ore second nature......hopefully......
  • lots more re other artists who also use death a lot in their work - namely Joel Peter Witkins, Sally Mann
  • more about local and national possibilities of showing my work
  • that although I might feel like I'm dying with nervousness when public speaking - I am not dying and I have had good feedback about this aspect of my work 


What do I want to do/learn next term


  • get in the dark room more
  • create more images
  • do some embroidering
  • work on projects - details will be revealed once they are a bit more formalised
  • try out some cyanotypes - including making some of my own so I can have more control over the size of the paper
  • make more time for exercise - walking to and from college (about 3 miles each way) is good but am missing the gym (never thought I would write words like that)
  • not be afraid to try new things
  • stay in habit of writing this blog - even if I don't have to do it for research journal handing in purposes anymore 
  • make more local collaborations and connections
  • feel less like an imposter and not let Capt Paranoia (who to quote Rik 'is a bastard and votes Conservative) get the better of me and work on my self confidence
  • enjoy it just as much as I have this term


So not sure if I'll write another one of these before the 25th of December or not so if I don't - Happy Xmas and all the best for 2015 and thank you for reading :-)

I'm going to give myself a well deserved rest though I might do a bit of reading too.....

  

Monday, 8 December 2014

MA-Ness Last Week Of Term....



Desk looks like this 


 Brain feels a bit less organised......


But look at these gorgeous mourning clothes which have been lent to me by a colleague - keep looking at them and thinking who wore these, where they wore them, what they did while they were wearing them, were they comfortable to wear, did they resent having to wear them, who made the repairs to them, exactly how old are they, where were they made, did they cry each time they put them on and goodness me they were *so* tiny.


Saturday, 6 December 2014

MA-Ness Week 15 or is it 16? Really should learn to count properly one day.....overview and this weeks musings

This week I have been slightly panicking re handing stuff in - I have to hand in a 2,000 word essay on professional context and my research journal - which is mostly this blog along with an explanatory piece about it - namely why and how I use it. It's mostly a reflective journal as I look back over the events of the week and think about what I've learnt, seen, thought about, or what I want to see or learn about. It has changed from being a general purpose one - I set it up in 2012 and at first wrote mostly about things which interested me (usually oldy worldy postcards and seaside stuff) then it became more about the history of St George's Fields when I became part of the Place and Memory Project in the summer of 2013 and since September this year it has exclusively been to do with the MA in Creative Practice - either directly about what I've learnt on the course or my ongoing research into death culture in general and victorian death culture in particular.

As I already had a blog set up and blogs were an acceptable format in which to submit your research journal and after a chat with my personal tutor I decided to keep it as it is and use this format as a kind of overview of what I've been up to - not least because it gives me time to think things over but also because I doubt my tutors could read (or would even want or be able to) or make sense of the handwritten scrawlings in my various notebooks.

So this week I have also been watching other people's on the course presentations which was really interesting - not least because I only saw half of them last presentation time as I missed the second half due to being poorly and I have also been:

  • thinking about accessibility - especially with regard to academic guidelines and protocols, audiences in general and how to engage their interest,
  • the practicalities of making cyanotypes in winter when the sun isn't very strong (going to experiment with a lightbox and see if this works as ours is uv light at full on sunshine strength) 
  • being grateful to a lovely course colleague who has lent me a couple of victorian mourning blouses - gosh the women who wore these were *so* tiny, 
  • the general reverence of people when looking at art - see also what another colleague described as 'the sanctity of the gallery space' 
  • and also what format my work is going to take 


and I have also been finishing one of the most absorbing books I have read in a while - Viv Albertine's autobiography Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys (Albertine,V,2014 Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, England Faber & Faber)  (as an aside I have to use the Harvard Referencing system in order to meet the course rules but I wonder if it aids or decreases accessibility - on the one hand it means people know exactly what book I'm talking about and so can find it themselves but I wonder if it makes look too 'academicky' and so makes it feel exclusive.........mmm will continue to mull over this....) anyway one section in particular really struck a chord with me - she's writing about 1983-1988 when she gets a place on the film making course at London College of Printing:

'Over the next three years I learn a lot of new words and expressions...and read texts...I learn to deconstruct. I'm out of my depth, but so is everyone else on the course. I'm daunted by the essay writing but get a great piece of advice from Laura Mulvey: 'Think what you want to say and then say it as clearly as possible.'. I work hard, I never miss a lecture. I try and overachieve, like all mature students. People given a second chance know the value of their reprieve.'  (p261-262) 

I feel like I'm in quite a similar headspace......

So what else this week - one of the tutors kindly showed me how to convert these musings into a pdf which hopefully I'll be able to remember how to do it when I'm next in college as sadly we don't have the neccessary software at home - I had hoped we might do as my husband is a software engineer and so we have all sorts of software but annoyingly not that one.

Earlier today I got my arse in gear and went to see the Grayson Perry exhibition at Temple Newsam, I was in two minds about it as I had initially boycotted it as it was being held in an inaccessible building (some chums set up a rival exhibition at Inkwell as a response (details here) and I still feel a little bit bad that I have taken advantage of the fact that I can access such a place - both physically and financially but I did and here are my initial thoughts on it:

The tapestries are sumptuous and so much more impressive in the flesh so to speak as opposed to seeing them on a screen or as a postcard. They have a solidity about them which just isn't conveyed in flat 2d representation of them. The vivid colours are wonderful. I especially enjoyed the mug with Class Traitor by Chip E Prole in The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal and the meat raffle in The Agony In The Car Park.

I found them darkly funny and satirical plus I am a fan of Hogarth too and it was also lovely to see The Rake's Progress prints on the busily wallpapered walls of Temple Newsam Hall - so much patterning!!! and it struck me whilst we were there - would they look as impressive or even be overpowering in a more traditional white gallery space? but in amongst the general chintziness and semi aristocratic clutter of Temple Newsam Hall they do look amazing. I also loved their nod to various religious paintings too - in fact the quasi religious-ness of the whole experience struck me - there was an air of reverence and quiet awe as people shuffled through with the exhibition leaflet held firmly in their hands like a prayer book and how they stood in front of them in quiet contemplation and the ushers spoke in awed tones of the methods used to make them and how you couldn't touch them (which is fair enough as they are easily damageable objects) but all in all it reminded me of benediction services when I was little and we all had to stand around and look at the consecrated host as the priest processed it through the candle lit church.

Maybe galleries/exhibition spaces are spiritual spaces in our increasingly secular lives. It made me feel slightly uncomfortable though....... plus Temple Newsam Hall is full of the overblown sentimental religious type paintings that I contrarily love - I completely fell in love with one from the spanish school of Saint Sebastiane being nursed back to health by nuns after being pierced with swords (only for him to then be beaten to death and thrown into a sewer) which was in the corner opposite the first of Grayson's tapestries. I might have to go back for another wander round the house when it isn't so full of head bowed before Grayson acoyltes and have a look solely at the paintings - there were some stunners, but the irony of having to pay (£4.50) to see amazing luxurious objects which whilst lovely in themselves in turn remind you of your comparatively lowly status and inability to ever afford such luxurious items (4 metre high queen anne bed draped in red velvet anyone?) is not lost on me.

What else? conscious of the fact that I've doing a lot of thinking about doing and not much actual doing I took my camera out with me today (though photographs are not allowed to be taken inside Temple Newsam House but I may or may not have sneaked a snap of the written details of some of the paintings on my camera phone so I can investigate them further....) loaded with *whispers* colour film. I am an avowed monochromist* who believes colour is a distraction so this is a bit of an experiment for me really - well more of an experiment than my usual picture taking is. It was ISO 200 Kodak Colour Plus which was a present from the chap in Headingley who develops most of our colour films (we can do them in the garage in our pop up film developers aka meth lab if you talk to the neighbours but chap in Headingley - his shop is opposite what was the Lounge Cinema on North Lane does them much better) so I shall take it back to him when I have finished the roll - I concentrated upon dead and dying flowers today and might make them black and white when they've been developed - that along with cropping/adjusting balance and brightness is the extent of my post processing as I feel if I have to do more than that then I didn't take a good enough picture in the first place.....

I'm starting to ramble so think it's best I finished this for now - but it'll be back to work for me tomorrow as bibliographies and 2,000 word essays sadly don't write themselves..........

*but as I always say I have never claimed to be consistent.....










Monday, 1 December 2014

Ma-Ness Week 14 (possibly - am really not good at counting) Presentation Blues........

I'm still getting to grips with this presentation malarkey - it was a steep learning curve for me powerpoint-wise but I've now got to grips with resizing images and keeping the size of the overall presentation down so it is easy to email through as it is without having to resort to the horror (for me anyway) that is googledocs it's not so bad - at least in terms of actually putting it together on a slide.

Contents wise this one didn't include any images of my own but appropriately appropriated ones from the tinternet - including stills of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, Baron Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Dracula meeting a sticky end on the end of some stakes in Dracula AD 1972 (one of my favourites from the Hammer Dracula series even if in many ways it is execrable) and a still of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes too - I did say that other Sherlock Holmes were available but that those were the best or rather my favourites. 


I didn't start off too nervous but as I was about halfway through I could feel nervousness rising in my throat....but that didn't show apparently. I have spent a lot of the weekend though thinking over it and my learning points from it are: if you want to do as well as possible academic hoop jumping-wise then keep the learning outcomes next to you as you write it and tick each outcome off as you cover it and maybe do that in each one - instead of a different emphasis in each one. For instance I did mention ethics in this one but only in passing (as in when taking inspiration from facebook conversations around the role of photographs in peoples everyday lives asking permission of those involved in the conversation to save it and quote from it and the legal requirements to be upheld when getting permission from a chum to use their bones in artwork after their death) whereas I went into a lot more depth on the ethics of my work on the first presentation but that was seen by different tutors....plus I hadn't quite grasped that we were being marked on each one and had in my mind that the bulk of this module's marks were going on the essay. I suspect this is just as well though or else I'd have been even more nervous plus I was reassured that it isn't so much a straight pass or fail and you can re-submit if necessary though your marks are capped.

But I did get lovely feedback from my peers who said it was great and one said he really enjoyed it and he likes the conversational tone/approach I have when speaking. Oh well it's all a learning curve.......


This week I need to concentrate upon the research methods essay and try and get my head round this topic properly. I think part of the reason I struggle with this is partly because I spend so much time researching - reading, thinking, experiencing spaces, questioning and so far this term this hasn't translated as yet into much making but it will do. I guess I have to decide what kind of methodology my approach fits best into and then write about it. I am trying not to flap too much re this essay and I am very pleased I got into the habit of writing up each week what I'd been up to coursewise as I'll (hopefully) just have to do a kind of overview and say which post deals with which aspect....I did think about moving all the posts onto another blog but then decided not to - I shall keep it here instead.

I've been in touch with West Yorkshire Archive and have got an appointment to go and look at the Leeds Photographic Society (the oldest photographic society in the country) setting up books and archive from the 1850's onwards and the John Rylands Library and the Thoresby Society so I'll be visiting them in the New Year.


What else - went to a craft fair at Inkwell on Saturday and caught up with lots of lovely chums, bought a couple of xmas presents, really enjoyed myself at the Brudenell Centre on Friday night watching The Fall. A band I've seen many times since I first saw them way back in the midsts of time in 1987 at Leeds Poly (as it was then) and yesterday I went to see Mr Turner at the Cottage Road. I enjoyed it - partly because I love his paintings, partly because I wanted to see how Mike Leigh would portray victorian society and I especially enjoyed Mr Turner having his daguerreotype taken and lamenting that painters would be replaced by a box and Queen Victoria casting scorn on one of his paintings and describing it as a 'yellow mess'. Wonderful stuff.

And here's some pics of my desks at the moment:





So onwards and upwards - essay here I come.......
  

Thursday, 27 November 2014

MA-Ness Week 12 or is it lucky 13 not sure anymore......

This blog has changed from me just wittering about whatever took my fancy (usually lovely oldy worldy postcards or Sooty) but since I started back at college in September it's become completely MA-centred as has my life really - I spend a lot of time working directly on it - or rather doing reading for it as I haven't done much directly creative work in a while. That isn't a complaint - I am loving it but I'm not doing nearly anywhere near as much 'art doing' as I did before I started the course. I did take some film pics when I was in Whitby, and some colour digital ones in London (as an avowed monochromist I'm still wondering about this but suffice to say wine was involved...and I'm still mulling over the results and what to do with them - one in particular I am thinking will make a lovely fabric print) and the fact that this isn't preying on my mind is preying on my mind if that makes sense. Part of me thinks you've spent precisely one day in the dark room so far this term - that isn't enough but equally I've not made anything yet that gives me cause to be in the darkroom at the moment. But that's not to say I'm not thinking about the work I hope to make because I am and my notebook is filled with notes regarding the three projects I want to start lifting from the pages of my notebook into reality in the new year.....

I'm not going to say what they are here until they are a bit more realised but suffice to say they involve cameras, film, objects, fabric and memory and memories...and I am thinking about them A LOT!!

And because no post looks right to me unless it has an image here is one of me after having met my beloved John Waters for the third time (I'm still beyond thrilled about this as he is one of my all time heroes) and my lovely husband took it on a camera just like the one Pecker uses in the film Pecker.


My work is so inspired by victorian death culture that that is what I am mostly reading about each day. But I have also been attempting to read books about research practices with little success as so far they remain stubbornly incomprehensible.. I say they, what I actually mean is Art Based Research by Shaun McNiff. But I'm going to have to pull my finger out or rather my library card and get reading more as I have to write an essay about this for the second week of December.....I think I'll also have to do a separate blog post listing all the books, websites and what have you I've been reading and looking at and properly harvard reference them.....which is a habit I'm trying to get into and I'm kind of getting there, in that I know the things I need to note about each piece I look at (like date accessed, title, author, publisher etc) but still not got into a habit of writing them down in the right order...

This last week I have mostly been reading and finishing (hurrah!!) Mourning Costume by Lou Taylor, Death in the Victorian Family by Pat Jelland, Introducing Barthes by P Thody and P Course before I tackle Camera Lucida by Barthes himself) had a tutorial, watching Ways of Seeing by John Berger (really interesting thought provoking stuff) and put together my second presentation for the course so far. I really enjoyed putting that together as I decided to shoehorn in as many pictures as possible of my screen heroes so it contains stills of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Basil Rathbone from some of my favourite Hammer films including Dracula, Dracula AD 1972, Curse of Frankenstein and The Hound of the Baskervilles  Though I have scripted this one as I still don't feel comfortable in a college setting without planning every word I want to say as I don't want to be stood there going 'um, er' and forgetting points I want to make.

I didn't pre-script every word for the talk I gave to a girl guides troop about victorian funeral customs and cemeteries in Leeds last week though. I wanted that to be more of a two way thing with them interrupting to ask questions and me asking them questions so I just made notes to go with the slides I put together. I also said right at the beginning if I used any words they didn't understand to interrupt me and ask what it meant - they didn't but they were a very quiet well behaved group and they did eventually answer some of my questions and a couple of them did have a go at trying on some black voile so they could get an idea of what it might have felt like to be wearing a mourning veil, but as they were leaving one of the older ones (they ranged from 12-17 years old) said in front of her friends that 'it was actually really interesting' - I'm taking that as a 5 star review.

Last week I also saw an amazing film called The Creeping Garden at Leeds Film Festival (though it was a bit uncomfortable having to share a sofa with a stranger at the Everyman even if there was a bolster between us) which was all about slime mould and the artistic uses that it is being put to and the research being done on/with it. Fascinating - that in turn has given me an idea for my work which would take time and possibly permission too........

I also went to an artists talk at the Tetley which mostly left me cold as it seemed to be a kind of 'profundity olympics' amongst the participants and they used the kind of 'artspeak' which in my experience puts people off and makes it even more exclusive. I'm still mulling over this though.....and how to use language in such a way that doesn't make it so exclusive and so self reverential.

I also haven't talked about my interview with two morticians/undertakers the week before - partly because I promised I wouldn't say anything that would make them identifiable and partly because I'm still mulling over what we talked about, they gave me lots to think about including sad things like how some people don't stop and let funeral processions pass uninterrupted  anymore and cut them up and they also gave me a copy of the Funeral Directors Monthly magazine (it contained a really interesting article on photography at funerals) and I discovered that you get a seat to yourself on the bus if you read that magazine on the way home....

I've also been in touch with two archives today - West Yorkshire and John Rylands Library to see about making an appointment to go in and see what victorian photographic delights they contain, and to see if they have any victorian diaries with accounts of either going to a photographers studio or a photographer coming to your house, or going to or arranging a funeral.

I've also been in touch with a group of artists based in Birmingham whose work is also inspired by death and been asked if I want to take part in work with them next year - to which I of course replied yes please!!

I think that's just about catched up most of the things I've been doing over the last couple of weeks - here's hoping my presentation goes okay tomorrow, at least this time it emailed through okay without my having to resort to the horror that is googledocs, now I have learned the trick of resizing images......

So keep your fingers crossed for me tomorrow that it all works out okay.......



 


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Ma-Ness Week 11 Corporeality (!)

At least I think it's week 11 plus my plan of always writing up after a college session has gone somewhat awry due to life and being busy so I'm not sure what week I'm really.....

But I thought I'd best get some of my thoughts down here before I forget them plus this blog is going to be one of the things my tutors look at when it comes to assessment time which is creeping nearer and nearer and frankly I'm still not that wise about what I have to submit - or rather I am in terms of dates and amounts of words but not in terms of what those words need to be about...needless to say this is top of my list of things to discuss when I next meet with my personal tutor. In particular I need help to flesh out what theoretical contexts I want to situate my work in....

Plus my work - I have been doing lots of reading, lots of looking and lots of thinking which is all work (especially as my work is so historically informed and inspired) but I haven't been doing much work of making - though I did take some photographs  on our recent trips to that Whitby and that London (Whitby was mostly on film) and that London was entirely on digital - not because I've had a digital conversion as to paraphrase Charlton Heston 'you will prise my film camera out of my cold dead hands' but because it's much smaller and lighter and the whole point of the London trip (aside from seeing my beloved John Waters and Terror and Wonder at the British Library) was to travel light - so much so I didn't take a paper book with me.

I did have stuff to read on my husbands kindle  - it's very easy for me to be a luddite in todays highly digital world as I have a very technical husband who understands all that kind of stuff and who is compared to me a very early adopter indeed but the lack of a physical paper book was nagging away at me. Anything longer than an article I don't feel comfortable reading online - it's just not the same, the weight and the feel of it in my hands isn't right (in spite of the kindle being quite heavy) and it just doesn't smell right either - I have loved books in their traditional paper form ever since I can remember - I could just about manage without my music collection (provided I had a radio to hear R4 and R4 Extra on) but the thought of not having my books fills me with horror. But an electronic copy of something - it doesn't feel real to me or that I own it somehow unless it has some kind of corporeal presence. I don't download music  - all the tunes on my at least 8 year old MP3 player is from a CD I own and have ripped to it. Even doing Jane Eyre for WI Bookclub - I preferred to buy a physical copy rather than download it for free....

Even though I knew I'd probably be buying books in that London - I still felt uncomfortable going on a long journey without a book ) I never go anywhere without a notebook and rarely go anywhere without a book, or my knitting in my handbag. The books I got in that London were Photography A Very Short Introduction by Steve Edwards in the Tate -  it's small, light and nicely filling in lots of gaps in my knowledge about photography as an art discipline and fits nicely in my handbag and isn't too brain taxing and Camera Lucida - by Roland Barthes which also fits nicely in my handbag but I have yet to begin to read it. That came from a whistle stop almost drive by shop in the Wellcome Collection Bookshop (along with an oven glove with a hand x ray on it and a black skull moneybox) so I did come home with books - plus my husband bought the Terror and Wonder Exhibition catalogue from the British Library.

But I still felt uneasy about not having a book in my handbag before we got there - so imagine my delight when we were walking through Southwark en route to Southward Cathedral to see some of Andrew Logan's work (all of it wonderful, all of it for sale and sadly all of it beyond my budget) when there was a bookcase outside an office with the instruction to take a book and pass it on - and further imagine my delight when there was a copy of the collected Mapp and Lucia stories by EF Benson. I adore them - so much so our cats are named after them: Lucia is the black and white fluffy one and Mapp is the white and tabby one.
So I think it can safely be said I have a book fetish - a paper book fetish that is, an electronic copy of the same words in the same order, in the same typeface just wouldn't have the same appeal for me at all. Books don't just transport and inform me but they always give me something to do - not just with my hands but with my brain. You're never a complete Billy No Mates if you have a book in your hand....

So with all this reading I am learning new words though it is a struggle to get them to stay in my memory sometimes - I have had to look up some more than once - but I think I've got to grips with empirical, heuristic and pedagogy now but this isn't just a struggle because it makes my brain hurt but also because it makes me think it makes art and artiness exclusive. The more I learn about visual art and visual art techniques the more I realise it's not so much the visual as the language. But I still worry re the language - partly because I am not yet fluent in its jargon, but more importantly I think the rarefied language of the aesthete and the art world makes it inaccessible and exclusive and I don't like and am uncomfortable with this aspect....

I hope I don't get too caught up in this jargon and forget how to speak down to earth easy to understand english. I did a talk for a troop of Girl Guides last night on the history of cemeteries in Leeds and victorian death customs and I said in my introduction please ask me if I use a word they didn't understand to interrupt me and ask me what it meant - they didn't but that could just be because they were incredibly shy and quiet (v different to the troop I tried to teach how to knit a while ago) but one of them told me at the end 'that was actually really interesting' which I'm taking as high praise indeed....

But back to the words....words, words, words.....I've nearly finished Mourning Dress by Lou Taylor, Death In The Victorian Family by Pat Jelland, have finished Memento Mori The Flats At Quarry Hill by Peter Mitchell, Alexander McQueen Genius of a Generation by Kristin Knox, but still have Photography and Death by Audrey Linkman, the exhibition catalogue from the British Library Gothic Exhibition, Death,Grief and Poverty in Britain 1870-1914 by Julie Marie Strange, The Gothic Subculture by Roberts,Livingston and Baxter-Wright, The Art of Gothic by Natasha Scharf, Dissection by John Harley Warner and James Edmondson.....to really get to grips with....

Other things I am mulling over are why I like the things I do - especially fiction-wise  as they are so placed in upper class pre second world war social circles and the upper and middles class death customs of the victorians - a more class ridden socially exclusive society you couldn't wish to be in and in reality that kind of social restriction is one of my all time least favourite things......a bit of a dichotomy there.......mmm back to the list of required reading for college - but they will no doubt make my brain bleed and my nascent class war hackles rise......

Thursday, 13 November 2014

MA-Ness Week 10 London and That.

Am torn between thinking I haven't done much college-wise this week as I'm still struggling to to get to grips with some of the theoretical stuff about arts based research. I read an article by Shaun McNiff twice and it still makes as good as no sense at all to me. Though I have learnt what heuristic means and the most useful definition for me is:
an educational method in which learning takes place through discoveries that result from investigations made by the student or allowing students to learn things for themselves.
Which could also be boiled down to what my Dad often says - 'you learn by doing, not by reading about it'.

I also feel a bit behind as in spite of my best efforts to negociate the e-reading system at college it remains as clear as mud to me so I'm going to ask in the library tomorrow for some help with this as I'm clearly missing the trick to using it. But this is feeding into my Captain Paranoia/Imposter Syndrome voice of 'you're not intellectual enough to do this course' which I know isn't true but I am struggling a bit with that at the moment...

But on the plus side - I have been lots of 'doing' - took lots of pictures on our recent trips to Whitby and London and whilst I am still taking pics of graves, I am also taking more pictures of abstract patterns - reflection of different coloured lights in sides of vehicles and  which I am thinking about blowing up and applying to fabric as I can never get my hand with a paintbrush to make the marks on paper that I would like it too......plus I have had the fantastic inspiration of the Terror and Wonder Gothic Exhibition at the British Library (not enough Peter Cushing but a James Mason voiced short film made up for that omission from my lust list) and an evening with John Waters who was just WONDERFUL and who laughed when I told him about the documentary I'd seen on C5 which featured 'anal bleaching' - before you go thinking I am even worse then he is, he had asked in his show if it was real. Whoever said some things cannot be unseen was right.

There was also a powerfully thought provoking exhibition at the Imperial War Museum called Truth and Memory which was intellectually stimulating, depressing, and had some wonderful for that read visually impressive paintings. It featured the work of artists like CRW Nevinson, Paul Nash, William Orpen and Percy Delph Smith. Overall though the effect was depressing - at the risk of sounding naive - war is just so horrible and so repellent and it made me feel quite powerless in how to respond to it. War I mean - not the paintings which made me respond in a mix of 'that is a really powerful/depressing image' and my usual envy when seeing any kind of figurative painting which I admire which is 'I wish I had that kind of skill with a paintbrush/pen' plus Delph Smith's rendering of Death as a robed skeleton was just visually stunning. It raised all sorts of questions about the ethics - eg one of the most to my eyes realistic looking paintings of a wound station turned out to have painted by a man who had never seen action on the front but had spent the war innoculating soldiers in Blackpool. Plus it did make me think about voyeurism on the part of a viewer too.

AGH SO MUCH THINKING AND NOT ENOUGH TIME TO GET IT ALL WRITTEN DOWN.....

We also had time for an impromptu trip to Tate Britain where I  fell in love with the photographic work of Karen Knorr and had a restorative half an hour amongst PreRaphaelite splendour - I'm a sucker for a Pre-Raphaelite painting though I'm not entirely sure why though some of it is simply envy at such skilled and incredible brushwork and use of colour and just such wonderful over the top lush-ness plus the fact that they were painted in victorian times - one of my favourite periods in history also has something to do with it, though the irony that a fair number of them feature classical or medieval mythology is not lost on me - an artist who creates work 'now' but who is inspired by the 'past' so much.

What else? well got a to do list as long as your arm and a reading list that I just don't seem to be getting to grips with so I'd best crack on with that hadn't I? Afraid I cant add an image of the new more abstract direction my work is taking me - I could lie and say it's because they're not finished yet but it's more that I haven't worked out how to use the new card reader properly yet.......and yes they were digital as opposed to film and that was because the trip was a 'travelling light' one and so I left my heavy film camera at home and used the lightweight digital one instead.....but have no fear - film remains and will remain my firs love for non abstract pattern type photography.

Plus must add before I forget I got a reply from Exeter Museum in response to my query about the 'smothering' cap, and information and offer from Vivid Project based in Birmingham which sounds very interesting indeed....









     

Thursday, 6 November 2014

MA-Ness Week 9

At least I think it it's week 9 I'm writing about whilst actually being in week 10. Oh it's all just a tad too confusing but hopefully getting less so as the weeks go on.

This time last week I was trying not to get too anxious at the thought of having to give my first presentation - it was first time I'd used powerpoint and I think I've just about got the hang of it thanks to both tutor and chum input  and it was the first time I'd stood and talked in front of my fellow students and tutors. It took me a good day to put the presentation together - I knew what areas I wanted to cover, what quotes and pictures I wanted to use and I think I'm just about getting to grips with this harvard referencing malarkey, what monochrome colour scheme I was going to use....but the lessons I have learnt for next time are - resize pictures before inserting them into the presentation or else it'll be too big to email and you'll have to faff around with and get very stressed by using googledocs instead and googledocs doesn't have the lovely copperplate gothic font you'd decided on either and the instructions on how to use it aren't clear when you're stressing........ so thank goodness for the ever patient and ever tech savvy husband who came to my rescue to email it in or else I'd have been walking to the college with it on a memory stick to meet the deadline. Thank goodness I was ahead enough of myself too as if I'd left it til the following day to email it I'd have been in a right state - even though I'd finished it the afternoon before the deadline. I'd completely forgotten re resizing pics but then part of me was also thinking it's an art college - they'll want the best quality image possible but no......

But the good news is - it went okay (PHEW!!!) and I got good and useful feedback to work on for the next one, I can't tell you how relieved I was when it was done and dusted - plus I was then whisked away from the college by my lovely husband (who is not a goth at all) to Whitby for the Goth Weekend which was as always lots and lots of fun - had a gothblood* milkshake,won a prize in the Bunker 13 raffle, chatted about death customs and issues of consent with lots of chums, made some new chums including one I might collaborate with on some artwork, drafted a talk I've been asked to deliver to girl guides on history of Leeds Cemeteries, finished Jane Eyre, got a new pinstripe skirt, and whilst I didn't do any course reading whilst I was there I did do lots of thinking and I bought a new book entitled The Art Of Gothic by Natasha Scharf and I did take quite a few photographs too, 2 rolls of Ilford PAN 400 which I need to develop and some digital ones too - see below for view of Ruswarp railway line taken from the iron bridge, took some film ones in Staithes too - and had the best crab sandwich I've ever had in the Royal George Pub.



And home to 2 cats who were pleased to see us, a mountain of laundry, a lot of unpacking, and some very exciting post from Vivid Projects whose current  exhibition  A Record of Undying sounds marvellous but alas I won't be able to make it before it closes, and a reply from the Pitt Rivers Museum regarding my request to see a Conical Death Cap as mentioned in Lou Taylors Mourning Dress from a book entitled Women Of Al Nations from 1908 - I will track down an image of said item if it kills me.......as sadly it was reputed to do to widows.....

So much to be reading.....so I'd best crack on with it or else I won't be ahead of myself when it comes to the next presentation hand in......

*does not contain actual blood of goths....as far as I know that is.....

      

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

MA-Ness Weeks 7 and 8

Me and numbers are not the closest of friends -in fact wherever possible we have as long a distance relationship as I can get away with as I'm not that keen on them at all. Any kind of maths recalls the anxiety and dread of maths lessons though I did have one teacher who had no eyebrows who magically made maths much clearer for me for the year she taught me. I wish I could still call on her. But hey ho - I just had to look back at previous blog posts and count on my fingers to work out that though I am in week 8 I am writing about week 7.

I felt like I didn't do much MA-wise last week as two days of it were taken up with the Love Arts Festival Love Arts Conversation which was about the links between mental health and creativity and I had been asked to speak at it. Two years ago I'd have laughed in your face if you'd told me I'd say yes to something like that. But things can change a lot in two years and I said yes - partly because I'm much more about stepping outside my comfort zones these days plus I wanted to give something back to an organisation that has given me so much - if it wasn't for Arts and Minds I wouldn't have taken part in Place and Memory and if it wasn't for Place for Memory I wouldn't be at Leeds College of Art now - and of course the others who I must thank for helping me get there include my lovely patient supportive husband and the lovely Jon Eland ex Exposure Leeds and numerous lovely supportive friends who have helped me too.

It was very interesting and I met some fab people and had some very thought provoking conversations (including the ethics of someone wanting to donate their ribcage to me for use in my artwork which then led to me emailing the Human Tissue Authority and I'm still awaiting their reply) and I also helped put up a tippee, saw some wonderful dance and the presentation re portrayals of mental ill health in films by Michael Flexer was v v good indeed - participatory and revelatory and also very funny.

But I digress - something I am very good at, though it does feel like my brain is like a search engine or tinternet provider with anything from 10 to 20 pages open at any one time.... I did plan to go to the library earlier this week as I could do with some of the peace and quiet and learning vibe of the Brotherton Library but I got distracted by shopping for new camera lenses (got a super wide angle one now) and I ended up using the college MAC suite instead but now you see I'm talking about week 8 when I should be writing about week 7......so in order to solve that issue as I suspect I'll be too busy next week to post again if I make the title weeks 7 and 8 it doesn't matter - bingo!!

So big chunks of week 7 were taken up with writing my speech which I managed to read out in front of about 90 people at Leeds Museum whilst images of my artwork and the others from the Place and Memory exhibition from Trinity Church played across the screens above my head and though I felt like the nerves twitching in my right knee might make me look as if I had St Vitus Dance and my voice did wobble a couple of times I got through it and got cheers and a big round of applause. And afterwards both the head of Leeds Mind and the head of Leeds and York NHS Partnership Trust told me how inspiring they'd found my speech. My goth armour of very very big boots indeed and blood red lipstick held firm.....here's hoping they will do the same for me this week when I have to give my first (thankfully formative as opposed to actual hand in mark assessment type) presentation. The fact that I have to do it on Halloween I'm taking as a good omen as Halloween is my favourite time of year - the shops are full of wondrous skull emblazoned tat and this makes me very happy indeed.

So at times last week I was feeling not quite on top of things homewise let alone collegewise so I set Saturday aside to do things like shopping and washing and tidying and Sunday I started work on the presentation and thanks to both a bit of input from a tutor and a chum I think I've just about got to grips with this powerpoint malarkey, and thankfully the Leeds Uni website has a good clear how to harvard reference page and as I'd been thinking about it on the back burner all the time it kind of came together fairly smoothly - though of course whether or not it makes sense and is what they're after I won't know til I deliver it on Friday.  It's about professional context so I have been researching 'gothic' (it's really rather wonderful timing that the Gothic Season on BBC4 is on now) and 'neo gothic' artists and the ethics of my work. Lots and lots of thinking and lots and lots of 'mmm which images to pick to go in it'....

And before I forget I have booked a time to talk to morticians re changes in funeral practices over the last few years and what if any hark back to victorian times (which in turn harked back to the glorious spectacle of medieval aristocratic funerals) and how many 'paupers' funerals are done today and what they feel about photography at funerals......I'm still not sure how I feel about that beyond my initial gut reaction of 'NO'..... I had to chase them up about interviewing them and I felt a bit bad about doing that - they are busy people doing a very important job not flibberty gibbet artist types so I did feel a little guilty and almost silly interrupting them and I know it might sound daft but I had to take a deep breath before I dialled the number but they were lovely and their first words were - 'oh we're so sorry we forgot to call you back - right when would you like to come in?' PHEW!! plus I'm so glad I haven't lost my tenacity or badgering skills.....


I also got my first inter library loan - Death and the Victorian Family by Pat Jelland has come to me via the wonder of the British Library and I intend to make good headroads into it over the next few days, I also made time to go to St George's Field prior to lectures on Friday and took lots of photographs. It made me feel good to be 'doing' as opposed to 'thinking about doing' plus as I was using a digital camera as these were more research shots I could see what I was doing as I went along (once I'd got back out of the habit of raising the camera to my eye to look through the non existent view finder) and so move into different positions better but I've yet to look at the pics I took on computer screen as I've been too busy doing other stuff to properly look at them.....

Time eh? but this week (again I'm getting my weeks mixed up but never mind) I'm feeling a bit more on top of things again - research plan coming along nicely, presentation done ahead of hand in as opposed to working right up to deadline and pulling an all nighter and I've planned food-wise so I can eat a bit more healthily and once that pile of ironing is done and I've tidied my notes up I'll feel a bit better plus I made time to go to the gym last night and that has made me feel better too.




And apropos of nothing other than it makes me smile every time I see it - here is a phone camera picture of a picture of a sand sculpture of a Blue Peter dog from a sand sculpture place in Weymouth. It in turn makes me think of the That's Life badly taxidermied cat and that always makes me chuckle. I have a print of it on the wall above my desk, along with a Man Ray portrait of Lee Miller, a couple of Atkinson Grimshaws - well 3 actually but one is partially obscured and a picture of Whitby - my spiritual home.



Thursday, 23 October 2014

MA-Ness Week 6

Have spent today being shown the amazing and at times contrary properties of liquid light (a photo sensitive emulsion you can paint onto surfaces) saw it being used on stones today and oooh it's beautiful if tricksy stuff. Felt like I was in the company of John Dee and I am now mulling over the possibilities of using it in my own work though I think I'll need some more dark room practice first as I struggle with the technicalities of printing from negatives at times - I wear glasses and find the focus finder a bit difficult to use and me and numbers have a difficult relationship at times. It doesn't help that in photography the numbers for things are (in my head anyway) counter intuitive to how maths normally works - eg a 100th of a second is less than a fiftieth of a second and F16 though a bigger number is a smaller hole (aperture if you want to use the correct term) than F8.....I'm an intuitive rather than technical photographer and this side of things makes me slightly anxious. Massive thanks to Lesley for letting me watch the magic happen.

The other thing that makes me anxious is what I have talked about before - namely 'artwankspeak' which the more I think about is unfair as oftentimes it isn't wank at all but is highly specific language - though this change on my part could be because I am both starting to understand it better and speak it too. This week we were asked to think about our bias and I have many but I've been really thinking about this one and my worries about it are:
  • I worry it is terribly exclusive and cuts out and cuts off people who have with artistic skill and appreciation but not the language from taking part in art in whatever way, be it being too frightened to pick up a pencil to not wanting to go in art galleries for fear of ignorance showing.
  • That it over academicises (there I've made up a word if it doesn't already exist which seems to be the vogue amongst certain of the papers I've been reading) what for me has been up til now more of an immediate response to an artwork - either 'ooh I really like that' or 'that leaves me cold' or 'wow, I really don't like that. I found it difficult to read literature after doing an English Literature A Level as picking apart pieces like that so minutely was both tortuous and torturous after a while.....
  • I fear my inability to speak it is not ignorance but stupidity on my part as I grapple to get to grips with some of the papers and books I've been asked to read.
  • that the more I learn of it the more I'll lose my instant response of 'ooh I really like that'
  • I am however loving the books I alone have chosen to read - Lou Taylors Mourning Dress is an especial favourite and I have finally got my mitts on a copy of Photography and Death by Audrey Linkman - these two tomes in particular will be my research bibles. I am also immensely impressed with my first purchase with student discount of The Gothic Subculture by Chris Roberts, Hywel Livingston and Emma Baxter-Wright which has such an excellent starting point definition of goth that I intend to use it in my first formative presentation in a couple of weeks.

But all this thinking and reading made me realise I hadn't done any 'doing' and I was really missing it so on Friday morning before college started as I had the time I went for a wander around one of my favourite places in Leeds and in some ways the cause of all this over thinking art malarkey St George's Fields. I took some pictures on my phone, thought about other research possibilities into the history of some its communal grave stone occupants and just generally drank in its peace and quiet and then found (not that it was lost but I hadn't noticed it before) the most marvellous standard victorian exhortation for a grave 'be ye also ready' (to be fair they weren't being melodramatic as they surrounded by death in a way we aren't) in a marvellously modern font which shall attempt to replicate somehow.

It made me feel lots better and I think I shall try and make time each day before college to go for a pootle round there - it's good for my soul.

And because I had so enjoyed pootling round there I made a conscious effort to do the same on Saturday - when I went along Otley Road. It was lovely to load up my camera (Ilford Pan 400) and 'just take some pics' except of course now I consciously think of all the things I do as I 'just take some pics' - the way I frame it, the angle I decide to take it at, exactly what bit of urban decay am I asking the camera to focus on. Following a discussion (first proper one to one with my personal tutor which was really good - both energising and thought provoking plus she hugely reassured me by saying what I was doing already was 'excellent' PHEW!!!) in which I talked about my love of film. I have been known to paraphrase Charlton Heston by saying that 'you will have to prise my film camera out of my cold dead hands'. 

There is no romance in an sd card.

I didn't just take pictures though - I bought a couple of graphite pencils (the big chunky ones) from the college shop and also took rubbings of various surfaces along Otley Road - I liked the rusty metal security gates and the temporary but clearly been there longer than intended thick chipboard. I'll take pics of my rubbings (which the juvenile part of me just wants to snigger at) and post them once I've worked out how the new sd card slot thing on the computer works, we've had a couple of issues with sd cards becoming corrupted and a new slot thing (I bet there's a proper technical term for it) has been fitted but I want to check again with my lovely patient thoughtful husband who fitted it how best to use it.

It felt lovely to be being physically creative again - even if I did garner strange looks from passers by as I rubbed away and even my lovely patient thoughtful husband looked at me askance whilst I was doing it.

I started this post on Monday 20th but I've not had chance to finish it til now Thursday 23rd as have been so busy attending a two day event on the relationship between mental health and creativity. I was asked to speak about my experiences with the Place and Memory Project and it was quite something to stand and speak in front of about 90 people in the arena room of the Leeds Museum. My voice wobbled at times and my right knee kept shaking but I had on my armour of blood red lipstick and very big stompy goth boots and I got a lovely round of applause and was told afterwards by a couple of people how inspiring they'd found my speech which was lovely and worth the nerves.

Here's hoping I don't feel quite so nervous when I have to do a presentation next week......

In other news some brief points to put here before I forget them - art isn't just about the visual it's about language, just what are the differences between Art with a capital A and creativity.......


and as it doesn't seem right to do a blog post without a picture here's one of the mourning stationery on display at the Beamish Museum.

Monday, 13 October 2014

MA-Ness Week 5

I've not been up to much this week as somewhat annoyingly I have succumbed to some kind of cough/cold/flu lurgy which put me out of action earlier in the week - though I am fortunate in that I can afford to make an active choice to not do very much at all for a couple of days but it has now made somewhat of a resurgence and has resulted in me having to use my inhaler a lot.

Thankfully though I was able to to rally my forces so I could be fit to go into college for our first 'show and tell' of a piece of our artwork and the second (but first for me) lecture on research methods last week.


And barring one coughing fit which resulted in me needing to use my inhaler I was okay but completely knacked by the time I got home, though I did go via a bookshop on the way home (en route) and bought a book on gothic subculture. First time I've used my student card to get discount too - that felt good and the book has a good overview and catergorisation which I think will help me with my first presentation which I think will be in a couple of weeks......

But in those days when I took things easy I did do a bit of reading  - am most of the way through an Introducing Cultural Studies book, made an attempt to start North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and I have pinned a lot of links and articles on my pinterest board - some about photography, some about body snatching and I did make a phone call to try and set up an appointment with some morticians too and I have been doing a lot of thinking.....about the differences between observers and participants,objectivity and subjectivity, different types of research and how best to further my studies and just generally basking in the fact that I'd been organised enough the week before to have done all the ironing necessary for the week and that there was enough food in the freezer and some home made soup in the fridge to see us through without me having to leave the house to go to the supermarket.




photo taken by husband on b+w 35mm in basement of John Rylands library - somewhere whose archives are on my list to peruse...

I also did quite a bit of knitting - I usually have two types of knitting, one which is easy 'comfort' knitting which I can do whilst watching Corrie, or some other inane but fab rubbish which doesn't take too much concentration - this often takes the form of booties which is handy at the moment as lots of chums are about to have children or more complicated follow a pattern or stitch I've never done before which is done as more of a rewarding challenge. Anyway I now have two pairs of booties which just need sewing up, the start of a cowl and a couple of experimental brooches which may become xmas presents......and I need to keep this up as I find knitting relaxing.....
........but back to academic-ness:


I had a brief chat with my personal tutor and set up one to one times and she said it was good to have thinking time too - especially as I'd been doing a lot of running about in the sweetshop style reading and thinking will help me focus on exactly what it is I both need to do in terms of fulfilling the course requirements but also what I want to do too.

I am still all about victorian death culture, trying to recreate post mortem photographs but also looking to explore more fully the class and death system in victorian times and how much of that still echoes into today.....mmm still got some thinking to do about this and some research and some experimentation and I intend to enjoy doing just that.

My brain did bleed a bit during the research methods lecture though - unfamiliar words and phrases and a general not so much over-thinking of things but what I see as 'over academising' of processes which I find hard - not just because I don't (yet) have that vocabulary down pat but also because I think it can be so exclusive and not for nothing can academics rightly be accused of being in ivory towers....by its nature it excludes those who don't have that vocabulary. My flippant and exasperated  shorthand for this is 'artwankspeak' and though I think you have to be able to speak it - partly because that's the nature of the academic beast and the course I have chosen, but also partly because I think in order to be able to effectively argue against something you have to be able to do it in its own terms and partly because of my own back story and history (meta-narrative if you like) ........but argh it is difficult and cumbersome to learn.

Hmm, like I said though lots of food for thought, lots of opportunity and lots to be doing over the next few days......and most importantly of all I am still loving it :-)

Tasks for this week include:
A proper analysis of Mourning Dress by Lou Taylor
Follow up call to morticians if I haven't heard back from them by Friday
Organise notes made so far into something a bit more coherent

Prepare for first 'proper' one to one with personal tutor later in the week
Get head round the 3 different modules of the course and exactly what is needed for each one.

Not so exciting tasks include: washing and ironing and getting over this bloody lurgy!!

Monday, 6 October 2014

MA-Ness Weeks 3 and 4 - Learning So Far....

I am loving this MA malarkey - even if at times it is making my brain bleed and my arm ache from reaching for a dictionary (well looking the word up online but it's roughly the same thing) but I am also doing my other favourite thing - namely poking about in libraries.

Last week I went to Leeds City Libraries to look at the trade directories from 1851 onwards - in particular I was looking for details of Frederic Forsters aka The Leeds Mourning Warehouse 12 Briggate which sold all manner of mourning paraphernalia including mantles, cloaks, head dresses, bonnets, shawls, widows caps, silks, dresses, hosiery, gloves, ribbons and jewellery and Mr Forster in his advertising 'begs respectfully to call the attention of Ladies requiring Mourning to his large and and well assorted Stock, as he has devoted his entire premises exclusively for the sale of Mourning Attire thereby ensuring them not only every Novelty of the Day but great economy in prices'.

They continue to be listed in either Kelly or Robinsons Trade Directories until 1923, I couldn't find a copy of either directory on the shelves for 1924 and they are no longer listed in 1925, the address being taken over by Flather and Co Ltd Electrical Engineers and Reynolds and Bransom Chemists. Their phone number in 1923 was 22840 though I suspect you would have had to ask the operator to connect you rather than dialling them directly.

They weren't the only mourning providers on Briggate as at 168 there was S Johnson who 'begs to inform the public that her Stock is always large, well assorted and warranted of Genuine Manufacture' and that S.J. 'gives especial attention to the FAMILY MOURNING DEPARTMENT, where Family, Complimentary, and Servants Mourning may always be had to any extent, and of the very best description'.
(their capitalisation) 

I love that Forsters is appealing directly to women and assuring that their wares are both economical and fashionable and that S Johnson is a woman and her goods are not counterfeit. Evidently serious concerns of the time.

It is a wonderful book full of all manner of useful information, including details of churches and cemeteries and a wonderful full page advert for Leeds Royal Park which apparently is the 'best place in Yorkshire for healthy recreation' - I doubt the same could be said now. It was a red jacketed book that smelt beautifully of 'old' and its pages were loose and it left red dust marks on my fingers and on my skirt - which an archivist chum tells me is very normal for books from these times.

I am inspired by the wording of these adverts and of their typeface and setting - I hope to use the marvellous print facilities and the expertise of the print technicians to try and create work that looks similar to this, though as yet I'm not sure what form it will take, I'm still mulling over that.

The other thing I've been mulling over and changing is my studio space - and by studio what I really mean is back bedroom. So with the help of my ever lovely and supportive husband it has been rearranged,  wall space-wise a couple of pictures have been replaced with cork noticeboards and we sent a lot of books we no longer want to the charity shop (4 bags worth) thereby clearing up 4 shelves which are now solely for my MA use - how quickly will they fill up I wonder........

I'm also mulling over a lesson I learnt regarding this sculpture which as a piece in itself leaves me cold but the ideas behind it I think are really interesting so I think I need to learn to look at things a bit more in depth before I dismiss them in future.


I've also managed to read a paper online - no mean feat as I much prefer paper and don't get so distracted by online nonsense when reading a book in the library and finished an article by Audrey Linkman on Post Mortem Portraiture in Britain 1860-1910 which detailed not only the aesthetics of such a practice but also some of the unpleasant practicalities...I will never look at a teaspoon handle in the same way again.

So much wonderful food for thought....so much inspiration for artwork.....  

The British Library has opened it's Terror and Wonder Exhibition details here and I am really looking forward to seeing it - not least because the contents are right up my alley (or should that be right down my graveyard?) and also because last April when I was in Whitby I met one of my photographic heroes Martin Parr who was there taking photos for this exhibition and he very kindly let me take this picture. 

B+W 35mm taken with Minolta 7000
 A lucky chum who got to the opening said that my photos of Whitby are better than his. High praise indeed as I think his photos are wonderful. Leaving aside the highly subjective nature of what makes a 'good' photograph I wondered if it is also something to do with the fact that he is an outside observer as opposed to an active participant in the festival like myself which then led me to think about the differences between observers and participants.

Anyway I haven't seen his photographs of the Goth Festival yet and so I asked my chum for more details as to why she preferred mine and I'm just going to bask in it for a while as she said  
 "his portraits bar a few were just that and in such a good space (including a stunning mourning dress) it's a shame they weren't something more. Not saying they aren't good but Having seen your body of work I reckon they would have looked great on the walls"

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Kind of Cake Related Thoughts....Week 2

I signed up to the #AcWriBloMo September Edition on Facebook - the challenge being that you would write a post each week in September on your research blog.

I started this blog in 2012 and til now this blog has been a mix of whatever takes my fancy - mostly meanderings down memory lanes via lovely old postcards and my enduring love affair with tacky seasides and proper oldy worldy black and white films and of course my love of Hammer films and Peter Cushing in particular, though in 2013 it concentrated much more upon my work for the Place and Memory art project and the history of St George's Fields in Leeds. I also set up a sister blog then to sit alongside this one - the sister blog concentrates upon images whereas this one concentrates more upon words.

Being part of the Place and Memory Project reignited my love of delving about in libraries and rooting about in archives which had lain dormant since I did a history degree at Leeds University many many moons ago. In turn the research led me down different ways of expressing myself - though it's true to say it almost always begins with a photograph.

Last year it was photos like this


That then turned into objects like this:

which then formed part of the Place and Memory exhibition at the Trinity Centre last October and then at Inkwell in April of this year.

I had always been interested in victorian death culture but during the course of the project it became more of an obsession with a particular interest in victorian post mortem photography. I enjoyed the process so much that I set about trying to find somewhere to do an MA so I could pursue these somewhat morbid but fascinating to me studies and I went to various open days, I considered the MA in Gothic Studies at Manchester Met but whilst I could have researched my passion I would have also had to do a lot of literary modules too and it's too long since my English A Level and it would have been far too much of a stretch to get back up to academic speed on that score for me to have fully engaged with it. The pluses just would not have outweighed the negatives. I also looked at Leeds Met and Leeds Uni to see if I could do one by research there - I could have done (or rather could have applied to do so and the folk at Leeds Met did seem really lovely and enthusiastic too) but it still didn't feel quite right. I signed up for the Open Day at Leeds College of Art for their MA in Creative Practice and almost didn't go as I was still umming and arring about it but I am so glad I did go because when I got there and heard what the course offered I thought yep - this feels right, this is the place. So I applied, had an interview and got a place.

And so good so far - yesterday was week 2 of induction and I got to meet my personal tutor - albeit briefly but she's already given me lots to think about - namely about how best to structure and plan my research as at the moment it's still mostly a list of books and me ferreting about looking at them in no particular order.

So I know I need to focus more on my end result - what I want, what I need to do to get there and also what they need from me along the way in terms of assignments but I'm not going to worry about that too much at the moment as first of all I'm going to enjoy the kid in a sweetshop feeling and revel in my albeit somewhat scatter gun approach. I love following links and reading other people's bibliographies and finding new avenues to wander down.

But the 'new input' I've had this week which is really floating my boat research-wise is the BBC series the Beauty of Anatomy which I watched on catch-up, half read an article by Audrey Linkman on Postmortem Portraiture in Britain 1860-1910 amidst the splendour and temple to learning that is the gorgeous Brotherton Library - a place which as an undergraduate overwhelmed and scared me but which now I have claimed as my own  and the discovery amidst the somewhat tattier but still very beautiful indeed Leeds Central Library that in 1861 on what is now Lower Briggate roughly where the Viaduct is now stood a Mourning Warehouse next door to a Photographic Appliance Manufacturers and that photographers weren't listed as such then but rather as Photographic Artists. Next week I plan to finish the Linkman article and find out more from the trade directories( the 19th century equivalent of the Yellow Pages) and in particular I want to see when photographers started being listed as such and artist was dropped from their title.

Mmm maybe that's a title I should be trying to bring back to describe myself and my work......

And as for the cake side of things -  as part of  #AcWriBloMo  it was suggested we portray our research via the medium of cake but alas my cake drawing skills are somewhat lacking and my attempts to conjure up a piechart are also lacking so I'll just have to describe this week as a rather hearty flapjack - slightly claggy in places as I did have a 'OMG who am I kidding I can do this moment yesterday' but overall substantial and heartening and I want some more.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Yet More Oldy Worldy Postcard-Ness - This Time It's Whitby


And here's another one of the postcards I bought from my jaunt to the lovely island of Jersey and the fabulous little antique shop on the edge of the covered victorian market in St Helier.

I picked it because - I like its colour and composition and most of all because I HEART WHITBY.

I've been going to Whitby for a long time now - I first went in the early 90's, very early one morning and the sea was rough and the spray splashed my face as I stood at the railings to the left of the pier. It was so cold my hands almost froze to those railings but it was also completely invigorating and energising. To warm up I went to a little cafe to have a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. It's called Arbuthnotts now but not sure if it was called that then but I remember that bacon sandwich as one of the best I've ever had. Thick white bread slathered with butter (not margarine) with a bit of brown sauce and slabs of crisply cooked bacon - my mouth is watering just as the thought. I've had many bacon sandwiches since them and many have been delicious but none have been as delicious as that one. Like the bacon on the grill - it is seared on my memory.

I fell in love with Whitby that day - its kooky side streets, old world charm, tea shops, cake shops, chip shops, two penny falls, lucky ducks (though it's the letters from grateful recipients that make me smile the most) kippers, cottages, Abbey ruins and of course last but not least the Dracula connection and one of these days I will stay in the house that Bram Stoker stayed in....and who would have thought that in years to come I'd be getting my engagement and weddings rings made there or meet and take the picture of one of my all time favourite photographers - none other than Martin Parr who was there to take pictures of the goth festival for the upcoming Terror and Wonder Exhibition at the British Library.

Since that first magical trip I've been back to Whitby many many times, sometimes for daytrips, sometimes for Valentines Day, sometimes with family and if we can afford it twice a year for the Goth Festival though me and my non goth at all husband are quite jonny come latelys to the goth festival side of things as we've only been going to that for the last 9 years or so.

I have not been able to kick my adolescent addiction to black hair dye and eyeliner and rather than continuing to try and resist this addiction and be a so called 'grown up' I decided to re-embrace and recapture my lost goth youth a few years ago - it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. Happiness comes clad in black and pinstripe and on big stompy platform heels with blood red lipstick and nails for me with a bonus soundtrack of bleepy industrial nonsense on occasion :-)

Whitby is a place where I feel instantly at home and happy and I hope to continue going there for many years to come and this postcard reminds me of what it looked like when I first went as just visible on the left handside of the picture is the rickety bridge down to the other pier. That bridge is not there now and nor can cars park along that bit of road anymore, I think the whalebones has been replaced too. That cliff face has changed too - thanks to heavy rain and coastal erosion more of it has ended up in the sea over the last few years.

Judging by the clothes on the people in the picture I'd say it was taken late 60's but if any of you know a more definite date then please let me know. It doesn't have a date on the back - just the description 'The Whalebone Arch on West Cliff with St Mary's Parish and the Abbey on East Cliff'.

Sadly this postcard was never written on and who knows why it was bought - most likely it was a souvenir of a trip but I'd love to know how it ended up unwritten and unposted in an antique shop in Jersey....