A bit of info…

A bit of info…

For those of you who can’t get over to Sheffield to see my current exhibition her is the blurb for your perusal…

 

An Attic of Curiosities’ is a frivolous yet thought provoking foray into the world of women. Using objects that immediately evoke femininity to create a range of cyanotype prints coupled with overheard snippets of conversation a narrative is constructed. This narrative will probe the personal memories of the viewer and speak of how as women we need each other to share our lives.

Sarah is a collector. She collects objects and ephemera along with a plethora of related stories some truth some imagined narrative. Her practice is about documenting, recording, collecting and sharing stories. The process is important especially if that process has some element of surprise in the outcome and ritual becomes part of the process especially when it comes to drinking tea. Tea is also used in the process of making the cyanotype prints. Experimentation is vital and mark making in its broadest sense provides the tool to search and discover ways to document, catalogue and interact with these objects unfolding layers of narrative.

Sarah works with artist’s books, found paper, cyanotype and found boxes as there is something so delightful about collecting ideas whether thoughts or marks and encasing them within a protective exterior.

Throughout the centuries groups of women have stood together through all sorts of situations side by side sharing their lives, supporting each other, sharing stories and drinking tea. Sometimes these groups create something; either from necessity or simply for pleasure. How many knit and natter, stitch and bitch or similar groups have we seen advertised in recent years? There is something special and powerful about the collective strength and support of women. These groups have also been a place to share stories and remember important events and the objects created soak up those stories and exude something of their creators.

The Gee’s Bend community in Alabama is one such group. A group of black women living in one of the poorest areas of the United States from the mid 1920’s who began sewing quilts and creating beautiful pieces of practical art for their homes using remnants from clothing that were to hand. Early examples are often a range of blue tones as they were made from denim trousers often not fit for wearing anymore so the useable areas were cut out and reused in this way. These creations echo an earlier tradition born out of necessity in Northern Japan. Japanese Boro (Boro translates as ‘scraps’ or ‘rags’) is the art of mending and patching garments and household textiles to make them last throughout the generations. These were also made with blues, blacks and greys as vibrant colour was reserved for the rich. The cycle these creations have experienced, from necessity in poverty to the expensive and prized collector’s pieces they are today, is fascinating.

The cyanotype process echoes the colour of both Boro and early Gee’s Bend. The paper has been found and collected over a number of years much of it left by family and used out of necessity for this project. Each print is soaked in tea for different lengths of time to create a wide range of tones and, also to echo Sarah’s own addiction to the drink, there is nothing that cannot be fixed with a good cup of tea!

The objects represented were all once owned by women. Some of these women are family and friends and some are unknown, as the objects were searched for and discovered in, people’s drawers, charity shops, car boot sales and flea markets. Each tells a story of its own and adds to the collective narrative. The snippets of conversation were overheard by a wide collection of women all keen to help with this project, which in itself echoes the many generations of women before us who have rallied around each other, encouraged, and lent a helping hand.

Matchbook number eleven

I had been keeping this particular matchbox for this particular place as it is a little bigger than most of the others and is quite sturdy and well made. It really didn’t need much doing to it. I acquired it from a lovely evening dinner out in Mysore celebrating the birthday of one of my travel companions. My rubbish collecting apprentice (mentioned earlier on in these posts) saw the opportunity to get me the box and I think even from that point I knew it would have to be used for a book about Mysore Palace.

The outside cover of the book was created by using some more of the biryani lid collected on the train journey the day after I visited the palace. Its sleek silver surface echoed well the opulence oozed from the palace and somehow makes the whole little book feel extra special encased in silver. The gold is the inside of a cigarette box, not quite as salubrious but out of context I think it works. The inside is made from three layers of paper each serving a different purpose. The first two are cut-outs mimicking the shape of some of the arches inside the palace layered up to give some depth. The back layer is more of the silver foil backing from the biryani lid this time peeled away from its cardboard surface as it becomes opaque and lets the light shine through whilst retaining the shimmery opulent quality.

The paper used for the top layer of arches comes from an envelope given to me on the first day of this trip and the second layer is part of a register book I bought in a supermarket in Mysore I liked the colours and grid lines with bits of text and numbering. I also decided to make this one a self fastening book so the book itself creates a little box when closed. I’m really pleased with this one I think it has managed to capture a little of that special something I felt walking round such a beautiful and special place in a very simple way.

Matchbook number ten

This little box of delights was a lot of fun to create. It came from quite a large selection of ephemera collected on an eight hour train journey from Mysore to Chennai. During the trip we were given various refreshments which came in interesting packages, so of course I saved it all. Each time something came I squirrelled the bits and pieces away into a bag by my side along with other peoples bits and pieces that got passed down the row! From this selection I created a box/draw for the matchbox cover and two books to fit inside.

The first book was simple and came from one of the tea bags I used on the journey. The cover of the book is made from the label of the Taj Mahal Tea. The inside is part of the teabag dried out and emptied after use and some of the paper cup I drank the tea from.

The second book began with a label from the delicious biryani we were served, I cut it out from the box lid and as a bonus the back of the lid is very shiny silver which adds a bit of sparkle and a different surface to the book. A nice touch is that the label has the date stamped on it which always makes me happy…simple things. The accordion fold bit of the book was made from the place mat we had on the tray of food (I saved mine before it got any spillages on it!) As an aside all the labels for each matchbook is typed on this paper. Then i used various other bits of packaging to create the other elements of the book everything from ice-cream lids to sugar bags. Finally I used the rest of the teabag as the books tie to hold it together.

As I said at the beginning I had much fun with this creation mixing, matching and folding packaging. I have plenty of bits and bobs left so I expect something else will happen to all of that one day and another creation will be born.

Matchbook number nine

This little book was inspired by a visit to the Chamundi Temple area in Mysuru. It was a public holiday the day we went so was ridiculously busy, the queue for the main temple was enormous and the heat of the day was intense. So after some discussion we decided to visit a much smaller and older temple behind the big one and then wander down the approaching three hundred steps to the monolith of Lord Shiva’s Bull.

I found the steps to be the most beautiful of places. the view is amazing right across Mysore city. And the aesthetics of the place are stunning. The steps are chalky white and gently meander down the side of the hill. Visitors to the temple have used red and yellow to touch the edges of each and every stair as they have passed by. There are also white chalk patterns and rangolis drawn every now and then. It was quite magical.

So this little matchbook was born from this experience. I collected about five matchboxes on my walk down the hill from the scrub at the side of the steps. The gold was the inside of a cigarette packet discarded along the way along with a packet for some kind of stimulating drug apparently! We were also given a red and yellow thread bracelet as a blessing at the top of the hill that I platted together to form the tie.

The main body of the book was a piece of an envelope I received on the first day of the trip and the yellow (turmeric) and red powders were bought from a different temple on another occasion but fitted this purpose perfectly. It is possibly the simplest little book so far but I think maybe the most elegant? Well I am pleased with the result it captures my memory of that experience beautifully.

Matchbook number six

This book was inspired by a trip to the Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai.  On a previous trip to India I had visited the Gandhi Museum in Mumbi called Mani Bhavan. As a child my dad used to talk about Gandhi often I think he was something of a hero for him and he made sure we kids knew all about his life and what he had achieved. My dad was a pacifist and I think saw many commonalities of ethos and conflict resolution. So now on two occassions I have been fortunate to visit places this man had been or lived and learnt about his life first hand. Both times I have found it moving and had a sense of my dad over my shoulder telling stories of this great man of peace.

The start to this book was a receipt I collected when I donated some money to be able to take photos inside the museum. I didn’t want to chop this up to much so used a modified zine fold to create a little book that still has the ability to open out to become one sheet again and at the same time creates the accordion fold to hold the rest of the sections together. From there I created two more zine fold books from a ten rupee note. I thought long and hard about using actual money as a book (I’ve been toying with the idea for a long time). I feel that Gandhi would have disapproved because although to me as a westerner this note is worth the equivalent of about twelve pence to many people in India it could be a meal. To a great extent it felt quite frivolous to cut it up, but I felt on this occasion it was warrented. It symbolises the struggle for fair wages and prices for cotton and the fact that it bares the face of Gandhi goes to show how important he is to this country.

The cyanotype prints used were made by a piece of fabric I found on my journey and the detail of the weave reminded me of the simple cloth that Gandhi chose to wear, some of which was on display in the museum. I had a little bit of the original receipt left over so made a second zine fold book covered with more cyanotype print. The matchbox used was found in Madurai and seemed appropriete with the symbol of a light bulb on the front. Gandhi was most definitely a light for India.

With this book, as often happens, it has become a tiny sculpture as much as a book. I love how many shapes it can make just by opening it in different ways. This one more than most!

Matchbook number five

 Matchbook number five was actually a concept that came to me very quickly and seemed quite an ovbvious thing to do. It is created from a collection of receipts aquired after an evening meal in Madurai up on the roof of a lovely resturant. The food had been great as was the company and being on the roof gave the whole evening a rather lovely ambience so I wanted to create something to remember that evening. I had previously played with the round stamp the resturant use on each reciept and used a flower fold (instructions in a previous post find it here) to see how it looked. It worked very well and I liked the idea of little bits of information about the meal being hidden in each little folded square of paper. I cut out thirteen little identical squares making sure each one contained some piece of information about the meal i.e. time, date, choice of food, drinks and snipets of the address. There were thirteen because there were thirteen of us eating dinner together. Then it was a simple case of creating a structure with my thirteen little bits.

I am particularly please by the vesitility of this one. It can become all sorts of different shapes depending on how you open it up. I get a tad over excited at how a small little thing in a matchbox can fold out to create so many forms, it REALLY pleases me! I could fiddle with this for hours. As you explore the structure you glean little snippets of information about the evening and it builds up a picture of an event. For this one the matchbox draw was lined with some of a local newspaper from that day and I left thirteen of the waxmatches in the box that were in there when I found it.

Matchbook number four

For me this little book is a real treasure. All the pieces that made it were found on the ground literally in the dirt at a local morning market somewhere on the road from Mahabalipuram to Puducherry. The fabric was all twisted around and had clearly been used as a lead for a cow and disgarded, maybe when the cow had been sold? I saw a glimpse of gold picked it up and shoved it in my bag. It wasn’t until later back in my room I unravelled it and washed it thoroughly to discover it was an incredibly beautiful section of a sari. Most of it now dangles in my flat with a large bell attached that I bought from the same market.

On the same twisted cow lead was some red and white gingham and some yellow and pink plastic threads…it really was quite a find. I also discovered one side of an A4 book cover which was very battered but a lovely turquoise colour with some great images on it, some tickets and a little scrap of note paper.

I took some of the book cover to make a little draw for the matchbox as it didn’t have one anymore. I also used this material as my book cover which holds a selection of the fabric and paper stitched in valley folds to create a semetrical look. I used some extra gingham and sari fabric to line the box and strengthen the valley folds after I had stitched the little pieces in. I love how this became such a beautiful little memory and it really brings to life the frase ‘beauty from ashes’ at least I think so!

Matchbook number three

The bits and pieces for this book were all collected in or around the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. Inside the temple the floors are constantly swept to keep a sense of order and reverence in the space so I was unsure of finding anything. To my delight I found this matchbox near were some workmen were renovating part of the temple, I suspect one of them dropped it and the timing was perfect to swoop in and pick it up before one of the vigilant sweeping ladies spirited it away. Day ticked right there and then!

The rest of the papers were a selection of blue and red tickets, a small peach coloured envelope, a page from a calendar for the day before my visit, a scrap of material, receipts form the temple entrance, a flower head dropped in the temple and a plastic circular object, found just outside the temple, which is usually attached to objects hung underneath two entwined trees that represent the male and female life forces. People who are struggling to conceive hang these offerings under the trees and light candles in the hope that it will encourage fertility to blossom.

When I create a tiny book it is important to me that every surface is used as there is not a huge amount of space to play with in the first place. So each book is always two sided or reversible it has to be interesting from many angles. With this one it was obvious how the two sides would be created as there were two clear sets of colour to work with. Another concept I had in mind for this one was to make sure everything was in odd numbers as that is important in Hinduism and everything in the temple is laid out in odd numbers. The temples towers always have an odd number of layers and openings. Seven is my favourite number being the day I was born and the area code for where I grew up so I was delighted to find the calendar page with a seven on it plus it fitted the theme perfectly. I love these little moments of serendipity!

Finally I was determined to use the tiny hand written piece of paper given to us by a lovely stall holder in the market next to the temple. We were looking for rangoli stencils to take home to create the beautiful rice flour patterns you see everywhere on the doorstep to a house or shop. Having not had much luck finding them this gentleman wrote out for us in Tamil (I think) what it was we were searching for and pointed us to a lady around the corner. Eventually the lady was found and the objects were purchased so this little piece of paper was an important part of that day.

Matchbook number two

This book is also about Kochi. I began and ended my trip there so had collected many bits and bobs. But this book was particularly inspired by my new rubbish collecting friend Maggie (mentioned in a previous post). She gave me her plane ticket from Delhi to Kochi because I had told her how much I loved things that are stamped. Her ticket had three stamps all different shapes and colours so that was my starting point.

The rest is made up from tickets, newspaper cuttings and scraps of lottery tickets. The lottery seems to be a big thing in India, maybe its just the same all over the world. Most places I travelled through had stalls selling tickets. I started noticing little piles of torn up tickets at regular intervals which spoke to me about hope and then the crushing disappointment that can follow. We can often hang our hopes on something that turns out to be not what we thought or expected. I wanted to use these tiny pieces of paper and make them back into something good. They also have a lovely stamped bit so my aesthetic needs were met to!

I had found the matchbox cover but it was missing the draw/box bit so I needed to construct one to fit perfectly inside. Finally I used a section of a small map on the back of a flyer for a restaurant I had been recommended but never went to because on my first night in Kochi I discovered the most delicious aubergine and yogurt curry and ate it two nights running and subsequently dreamed of having it again on my return!

Matchbook number one

First matchbox revamp happened on a train journey travelling from Kochi to Kozhikode about a four hour journey. I went prepared to pass the time creating my first book. I had only been in India for about three days but it doesn’t take long for me to start collecting. I had also come to India with a selection of pre prepared cyanotype papers and had already made a couple of prints of leaves I had found whilst wandering around Kochi.

The rest of my collection consisted of bus tickets, part of another matchbox, local newspaper cuttings and bits of flyers I found lying around. Obviously I am not remotely fluent in Malayalam the local language of Kerala but the shapes of the letters are so beautiful and poetic they were begging to be shown off. The journey flew by and I was very contented with my first creation.