Sounds like progress...
At the initial meet up in Huntly, with previous project participants and fellow new non-textile designers, I feel that we quickly took on quite a momentum of our own, with everyone sharing their experiences of the first stage and getting excited about the possibilities of the next stage of the project. Building on the aural aspect of the project, our new larger cohort will also play with the variable of collaboration and cross process / material outcomes. Just being introduced to everyone's practice and approach is inspiring, to hear all the different ways of making and perspectives. My current range of statement earrings for Nmarra came from a cross pollination of the industrial acid etching process and my graphic style, so I am looking forward to exploring new processes and influences in this project which offers a greater opportunity for experimentation.
My initial realisation, was that as a designer, the seen, visual environment has such a large impact on my design process, which I never questioned. However, as soon as I began to consider sound as a source of inspiration, everything I heard around me immediately sparked off a visual manifestation in my minds eye of it’s abstract form. Tapping into this in moments when I hear an unusual sound has become quite inspiring as it takes me out of my usual reality, honing in on how I visualise sound is bringing new shapes and patterns together. Armed with a strong connection with rhythm, pattern, balance, weight and tension, I have gravitated towards exploring repetitive and rhythmic sounds and pulling from these as a source of inspiration.
Using spectograms has been an interesting way to visually map and quantify these natural rhythms over time, such as the pitch and repetition of wailing seagulls, or the various clunks of machinery, however I am trying to hold on to jotting down the visual manifestations the initial heard sounds evoke in my minds eye in order to inform my design process as this feels like a stronger natural connection to sound to me.
Although my jewellery pieces are worn in pairs, their geometry and batch production process mean as the maker I am used to seeing them in multiples, nested efficiently for production to minimise waste, and am interested in playing on this in developing a pattern based outcome that exploits repetition and rhythm as well as using the nested negative as part of the final outcome.
The structured, mathematical processes of positive and negatives involved in weaving really interests me and got my brain ticking, so I was very glad to pair up with Cally Booker to explore the first stage of the project. Cally’s super logical statistician’s mind and highly experimental approach to creating new weave patterns and colour combinations is very inspiring.
Cally and I have had a few opportunities to meet up in Dundee to make a start on some collaborative exploration and discuss the project. We met in May at the McManus Art Gallery for a catch up as I prepared for a screen printing event at Dundee Design Festival, and quickly became excitable about combining textiles and metal elements in a way that may create their own sounds. We got talking about the possibilities of combining weaving and repeating metal parts to create a wearable outcome, and naturally found ourselves taking influence from ancient forms of armour, chain maille, ceremonial dress and body adornment. We may create a full head to toe attire, who knows?
Our second meet up in July (I left a scorching Glasgow to arrive in a very soggy Dundee!) allowed me to visit Cally’s beautiful studio space in Dundee’s Meadow Mill. Her highly organised set up, beautiful hand dyed colours and catalogue of experimental samples was a real treat! As we began to test a few ways of weaving in metal pieces we started to find the potential limitations of this idea, with particular scales, size and shape parameters becoming more apparent. Cally’s technical troubleshooting mind is on the case… We have found a commonality in sound tastes, both taking influence from sounds connected with water, and the undulating call of seagulls that we both frequently hear whilst working in our respective studios.
I have a real interest in the strength and visual structure of the basic twill weave. Used in denim and tartan, its diagonal structure makes it super strong and utilitarian. Cally explained the basic weave form of a twill to me, which has led to the basis of my first few sketch ups of design ideas that I will further explore… On return to Glasgow buzzing with thoughts and rough sketches I tried to work into a few of them. Taking inspiration from the way Cally weaves, in that she sets up a rigid framework, and then has particular sections which she allows freedom to play around and experiment with different combinations within that structure, I have started to manipulate patterns to see what new patterns they form... we shall see where this goes!
Next steps for me are to keep recording and visualising sounds in different ways, whilst prototyping some repeating shapes and chain maille ideas in a way that can be incorporated into a woven structure perhaps with a negative that can be woven into to start some technical experiments...oh and tidy my studio for a visit from Cally! All in all, so far it's been great to have a collaborative partner to bounce off and a reason to try to develop our crazy notions in a way that is totally outwith my day to day activity and usual design practice.