Monday, 18 April 2016

MA-Ness Final Term (!!!) Week 2 Reading, Writing, Doing, Planning, Buying, Sorting, Straight Line Making

This weeks post it notes plus a to-do list with quite a few things ticked off it - though sadly this is only a mini to do list and not a great big to do list which remains laregly undone....oh and the trimmings from my submission to the community and college show at Potternewton Mansions
Think I'll set a trend for odd coloured disposable latex gloves? I was wearing them so I didn't get fingerprints on the print whilst trimming it after having fixed it to backing board with spray mount - did the sparying in the garage as that can be more easily ventilated plus that doesn't have a curious Mapp sniffing about and I don't think cats and spraymount are a good combination. First time I'd used spraymount - it sticks things neatly and quickly but a) it really pongs and not in a good way like sharpies aka sniffy pens do and b) it also seemed to take some of the colour out of the print - hence my using a tissue as well to ensure it didn't smudge.

So what have I been up to over the last 7 days then - well a lot of ouching and limping as knee continues to be sore and painful - though thankfully not quite as sore or painful or swollen as last week so I wasn't completely housebound but I was very slow in terms of getting about and at times having to use a walking stick.

I also had to leave myself extra time to get places so I wasn't late which led to my having to leave a really intertesting lecture on library services and narrowing down your dissertation/research question effectively that is going to be massively useful when I start applying for phd places/funding.

I've decided that is definitely what I want to do - just got to decide: where, when and what on....

I left that lecture at the college early so I would have plenty of time to get to my next appointment which was a talk at Leeds Museum by Dr Rachel Rich which was on Cooking Without A Clock - Domesticity and Time Keeping Without A Clock which was absolutely fascinating and looked at the use and nature of timepieces in people's homes in the 19th century. Then as now such mechanisms were not always very reliable (the clock I have in the kitchen is often slow - even with new batteries and the one on top of the television is a law unto itself) and then as now whilst sometimes they were there for display purposes they were also used for measuring time. There was also mention of the differences in timekeeping throughout the country - think it was Canterbury that was always 5 minutes faster than anywhere else and also the differences in homes - for instance one hostess writes in her diary how she always set her clock fast so that her guests would think it later than it was and so leave her in peace without her having to provide them with further nourishments. 
Dr Rich had mostly been analysing the documents left behind in Parisien arrondisement authorities which listed a persons worldly goods on their death and cookbooks of the period. Some had quite precise instructions about the amount of time a dish needed to be cooked for - eg 5 or ten minutes though one dish had the length of cooking times listed as 'several days' - though of course this was all before there was such a thing as gas marks, regulos and what have you. I have always had a gas oven and so I cook by gasmarks but even so each of the ovens I have used have each had their own foibles and the one I have now I know where best to place cake tins if I want as even a rise as possible and that if a recipe says gas mark 7 I need to nudge the dial a bit to between 7 and 8.

Her description of the information she found reminded me of how much fun I have had over the last couple of years ferreting about in libraries and archives looking at original ephemera for the era - newspapers, trade directories, jewellery, clothing and how much I want to be able to continue ferreting about in such places. I adore looking at contemporaneous material.

I did spend a couple of hours in the Local History section of Leeds Central Library last week - partly just because it is such a beautiful woodlined high ceilinged gorgeous room in which to sit and think (it's lots less noisy than the lending section of the library)and write and i had a couple of hours to kill til my next appointment.

I had planned to write in my diary whilst there but I thought I'd just have a peek at the trade directories again for the Victorian period and so got lost in their dusty wonder again - not a word was written in my diary but I did discover that in 1839 there were just 3 undertakers details listed in the trade directory and that by 1872 there were 54 - I'm no good at working out percentages but that is a massive increase. How much of that was due to a rise in population,how much due to a rise in customs and fashions  relating to death and so a ready made market for such firms I'm not sure. 
But I am hoping to find out at some point, first off I'll need to go back and see what each of the directories lists as the population for Leeds at that time and so see how much  potential business there was in terms of population numbers. It was also fascinating to look at old adverts with their wonderful turn of phrase like 'begs to announce' , 'respectfully bring to attention' and an amazing two page advert for a retreat near Leeds which was for 'the reception and recovery of persons afflcited with disorders of the mind' run by Mr Hare and in which the 'Medical, as well as Moral Treatment of the Individuals who are committed to his care' was their prime motivation. Fees were not mentioned but could be found out by either personal application or by letter to their office on East Parade Leeds where it would be met with 'immediate attention'.

Talking of archival material I had a chat on twitter with a chum of mine who is an archivist and was on her way to a training session on how to deal with the potentially distressing material held in archives and how best to support people accessing those materials. Family history in particular is not all fun like it looks on the adverts for records websites - especially when it can encompass potentially very sensitive issues like illegitmacy, domestic violence or records kept by medical or social services departments. Which in turn led me to thinking about my work - I wouldn't people to be distressed by it...though am quite happy for people to find it 'creepy' as I take that as a compliment but I saw or heard this quote the other day about writers and writing (and stupidly forgot to write down where I saw/heard it) which was 'no writer is entirely in charge of the meaning of what appears in their text' and I think this can also be applied to artwork too. I'm very conscious that as my work features the materiality of mourning that some would find it distressing or disrespectful regardless but that is not my intention and I hope people would give it a chance first.

The other quote I wrote down was 'good artwork takes careful preparation' which is very true - one of the things I'm struggling with at the moment is trying to prepare all the things I'm working on and working out which deadline needs what doing for by when - hence I was very glad to get the pic delivered to Potternewton yesterday (thanks to my lovely husband giving me a lift there) and to have made a start on the words project too.

Now I just(!) have in chronolgical order:

  • Gothic Creative Showcase in Sheffield - need to sort out which images to take and write a short piece about them
  • Victorian Representations Paper to finish writing - it's two thirds done words wise and I have decided on my beginning, middle and conclusion and the accompanying powerpoint images are also almost done.
  • Materiality of Mourning Conference - sort out which images to take and transport to get there
  • WI Walk and Talk - mostly done , just need to find a guinea pig to practice it on so I can fine tune it
  • Final module hand in - the biggie as it's portfolio - I have a structure and stuff to put it in it - just need to start putting it together
  • Paper for Death and Culture - really need to think about this - not just yet though but need to start mulling it over in the back of my mind as this will be the biggest conference I've been toEnd of Year Show - this might need sorting out sooner than October though as I'm not sure what access if any I'll have to college facilties once the course formally ends on August 12th...have emailed head of studies to clarify this... plus annoyingly (for me)the dates clash with Whitby Goth Festival...
  • Phd place/funding....

And why with all this to do do I still find myself clicking refesh on social media pages when I have got better things to do with my time and definitely better things to do with what limited time I have left at college. I know part of it is distraction from non college based worries but even so I really need to get focused over the next few days so I can have as much prepared in advance as possible so I am not running around like a headless chicken at the last minute as I HATE doing that more than anything.

But aside from my passion for looking at this sort of stuff I also spent part of last week doing some printing and then copying images onto acetate - some to use as negatives to make cyanotypes and anthotypes with and some I copied very small indeed to try and make small slides with as I have been given a box of empty slide mounts. I also hope to use some as artworks themselves. I also bought a couple of embroidery hoops, some thread, and a fabric marking pen to make some small pieces out of the coffin lining offcuts I was so generously given the other week. Need to work out best way of transfering the design I want for them - as the images will be my interpretation of designs I saw on tombstones in Dewsbury.

I also met with a colleague to work on a joint project based around words for the pedagogy cluster exhibition next month and we decided what format we wanted our interactive piece to take. I'm fascinated by words and especially by the words used around artworks and whether or not they add to or detract from a piece and whether they are an additional insight or a further barrier to participation. To this end we've designed a collaborative piecew which I typed up the words for last week - using courier font size 32. I've not worked in a collaborative way on a single piece for ages and I'm enjoying it. I'll also have lots of guillotining to do and here's hoping I can get the edges fairly straight. I am rubbish at straight edges - even with a ruler or a guillotine.

But although I might have failed at getting edges straight I did have some computer wins last week - namely making a table in word finally do what I wanted it too, and I even finally suceeded in making the computer do a copyright symbol. I have followed the instructions on how to do that to the letter UMPTEEN times with no success and so I asked my husband to stand behind me and check I was following those instructions correctly. Of course as soon as I interrupted him and asked him for help it worked....even though I did exactly the same as I had been doing all those umpteen times.

I did spend some time looking back through pictures I've taken over the last 18 months or so and was surprised by a) how many I've taken, b) how successful some of them are, c) how disappointing some of them are - if only I'd crouched a bit lower or the focus is not quite 100% d) or if only I'd waited for a few minutes it was nice to be reminded of some of them that I'd forgotten I'd taken.

I've also got loads of new books to read as well as the ones that are still on loan from the college library and which I've had on repeat renewal (I'm not worried I'm stopping anyone else from reading them as you get an email if anyone has requested it and when I have had I have bumped that one up to the front of the reading queue and so taken it back for the other person to use) but I find it difficult to sit and completely focus on a book sometimes. Maybe if I set myself the goal of a chapter of a couple of them a day rather than looking at the pile of unread ones and sighing....

Well best crack on - as well as the pile of unread books - those unwashed pots aren't going to sort themselves out either. 

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