Tuesday, 31 May 2016

MA-Ness Week 8 - Mrs Beeton, 21st Century Bingewatching, Ainsworth Magazine, Jodrell Bank, Sad Anniversaries, Brix Start Smith and Frankenstein

Quite a full post it note this week - along with my latest book acquisition.
It is a copy of the edition published in 1861 which in turn comprised the 24 monthly parts called Mrs Beeton's Household Mangement which had been published between 1859 and 1861 in a magazine called The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine. The magazine contained patterns, recipes, short stories, translations of french novels, gardening tips and medical aids. The edition I have is from 1968 and cost 3 guineas. I got it from the Leeds Library booksale - they very kindly remembered I had asked if they had original copies of the Englishwomans Domestic Magazine but alas they didn't, and then when I emailed to see if they had copies of Ainsworth Magazine from 1842 ( I wanted to read Laman Blanchards essay about visiting Kensal Green Cemetery) which they do -  they said they had a found an original first edition facsimile copy of Mrs Beeton which was going in their book sale and would I like it? ....to which I of course responded yes please. I also got a copy of a book called Urn Burial by Patrick Ruell from 1975. It is awful - but each of its chapter headings are quotes from a book called Urn Burial by Sir Thomas Browne from 1658,  so I can forgive albeit grudgingly the author Ruell's dreadful sexism as it is worth it just for the chapter titles alone....

The Beeton's book is wonderful, even if some of the recipes are are more stomach churning than mouth watering (stewed rabbits in milk?? which comprises of 2 very young rabbits not nearly half grown, skinned and chopped up then simmered in 1 and half pints of milk with a blade of mace, a dessertspoonful of flour and a little salt and cayenne) and it also has a fabulously stern section featuring medical advice and the section on 'The Cholera and Auntumnal Complaints' states that 'to oppose cholera, there seems no surer or better means than cleanliness, sobriety and judicious ventilation'. 'Where there is dirt, that is the place for cholera; where windows and doors are kept most jealously shut, there cholera will find easiest entrance ; and people who indulge in intemperate diet during the hot days of autumn are actually courting death. To repeat it, cleanliness and sobriety and free ventilation almost always defy the pestilence; but in case of attack, immediate recourse should be had to a physician'

A lack of knowledge re how cholera is actually spread ie by a bacterium called vibrio cholerae and its being ingested somehow but it was to be a few years til John Snow's pioneering work on the cholera outbreak in Broad Street in 1854 would become widely  accepted and measures taken to deal adequately with sewage and how to access clean water.

Once again I am happy that I live in the 21st century with its advantages of modern medical techniques, safe drinking water which you don't have to carry to your home in buckets and not the 19th, even if overall I prefer the architecture and literature of the 19th.

I had gone to Leeds Library to see Ainsworth magazine or rather an essay by Samuel Laman Blanchard from 1842 in which he visits Kensal Green Cemetery. This was after a suggestion from Dr Trev Broughton from York University who I met at the Victorian Representations conference at Leeds Trinity Uni a couple of weeks ago. The library copy was Volume 2 from 1842 and was datestamped 1887 and it was falling apart. It wasn't quite as dusty and sooty as the Leeds Mercury newspapers I had looked at from 1835 but it was more delicate. The reddish brown spine and cover had mostly rotted away but it was oh so beautiful and such a treat and privilege to be able to consult it. Albeit very carefully so as not to further damage it but the lovely librarians told me not to worry about it as there were used to books being in such delicate states and the whole point of them is to be looked at. So along with the article I had initially planned to look at I also looked at and enjoyed some poetry, a description of Coventry, a marvellously funny article called the Coquette's Week which featured a widow itching to get out of the full mourning she had been encased in for her previous husband and on the hunt for a new one, a description of the tomb of Hafiz the Persian Poet plus it also featured illustrations on steel and wood.

Blanchards description of Kensal Green (which is still there today and can be walked round) was very fulsome in its praise and he talked of how the suburban cemetery was much preferable to the city churchyard 'the choked charnal house to verdant wide expanse' and how 'with no heavy or morbid oppression of the spirit, we are yet with the dead..and we linger in peaceful reflection...(we do not have to)..commiserate the strangers who dwell around on thebrink of the churchyard, inhaling its unwholesome vapours, familiarised with its loathsome secrets and witnessing its profanation..here there has been nothing to repel, nothing to shock, nothing to wound the profound and sensitive feeling'.I don't know if Blanchard was on the board of any of the new burial companies but his sentiments and descriptions tie in very closely with the reasons given in the first annual report of the people who owned and set up St George's Field. They wanted to be able to offer facilities that were
a matter of indispensable necessity..demanded by propriety and good taste…given the overcrowd state of our present graveyards'.

I really really want to visit Kensal Green now - and Highgate and Abney Park and am thinking I might as just well book a week in that London just to go round cemeteries. I am lucky though in that I have been to Pere La Chaise in Paris which opened in 1804 and was the first of the garden cemeteries and the inspiration for all my favourite Victorian era founded cemeteries.

I did buy a modern magazine the other week when I was travelling back from Coventry and I fancied something a bit lighter to read the book on The Victorians I had taken with me, I got Glamour* as it was a special edition that was only a quid plus it had an article on how to break free from habits of worrying. That was the only interesting thing in it really - the rest was utterly vapid rubbish. I am so glad that though I am interested in clothes and fashion that it is of the 19th century as opposed to the 21st as the ones featured in the magazine were without exception horrid and the models look tortured. Though I may be tempted to get a new red lipstick but what is the point of nude lipstick? What the frig is that for? What was new to me was the fact that every contributor is now listed by their twitter name and how many followers they have in brackets, the inference being that clearly your opinions only count if you have a high enough number of followers. 

So what else did I out in my title? well 21st century bingewatching. I'm still seemingly quite old fashioned in that I watch television 'live'. I do record things too and sometimes watch things on catch-up - but only BBC programmes as the amount of advertising you have to endure and can't skip through on commercial channels catch up is more than I can bear. Anyways over the weekend thanks to a chum me and my husband bingewatched Ash versus the Evil Dead and very marvellous indeed it was too. I am a huge fan of Bruce Campbell and he was very good indeed at fighting the deadites along with his feisty younger sidekicks who I'm pleased to say included kick-ass women. I don't think I'll be bingewatching anything else again soon though - unless you count watching Victoria Wood clips on Youtube.

It's just over a year since our beloved Lucia died - so unexpectedly and even though rationally there is no difference in the amount how much we miss her regardless of the date, I was dreading the anniversary of her death and so was my husband. So we decided to go out for the day on her death, not to forget what had happened as her absence is painful proof of that every day but just not to be surrounded by her absence on that day in particular. We decided to got to Jodrell Bank as we'd never been there before. It was a good day out and good distraction and the grounds it is in are very beautiful and it is AMAZING to see the telescope up close and see it moving but the visitors centre bit didn't thrill me. I'm afraid a lot of sciencey stuff goes in one ear and out the other for me - or it begins to sound like the unintelligble burble the teacher used to make in Charlie Brown cartoons. But watching old pathe news reels about the cold war era space race and the role of the telescope was lovely as was the lunch, I did take lots of film photographs though and hopefully I'll be able to pick them up from The Photo Shop in Headingley soon and see how they have come out.

I started reading Brix Smith Start's biography last week - The Rise, The Fall And The Rise. I got it from the library but think I might be investing in my own copy to keep as it is inspirational, intriguing and really interesting to read about how someone else creates and is inspired. She was in The Fall when I first got into them - thanks to a uni chum who introduced me to the delights of Bend Sinister and This Nations Saving Grace. I played those albums which he taped for me on repeat. Then bought my own vinyl copies and I've been to see The Fall more or less once a year (apart from a break in the late 90's after a truly truly awful gig at Manchester Uni) ever since. The first time I saw them was at (the then) Leeds Poly on the Kurious Oranj tour. Amazing and Brix was mesmerising on stage. I'm going to be listening to those songs again but with a new appreciation of what went into them.

Sheffield Uni's Centre for the History of the Gothic are running a competition to write a short story (500 words) that must start with the words Mary Shelley wrote in 1816 after being challenged to write a story ' it was a dreary night in November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils'. I started writing it on the coach on the way home from Coventry in between dipping in and out of Glamour magazine and I would argue that Glamour is infinitely more terrifying than Frankenstein. I finished it and emailed it off last night - it has been a very long time since I've done that kind of creative writing. I write a lot (I still write actual letters by hand in paper and post them) but I rarely write something that is cokmpletely made up in the way a story is. It felt very good to finish it. I've no idea whether it stands a chance of winning or being selected to be read out but it was fun doing it.

The other notes on my post it note are Ed Wood and domestic violence - I adore Ed Wood the film (and the film director) and rewatched it on Friday night - before the news stories about Johnny Depp who plays Ed Wood so beautifully broke about his alleged domestic abuse of his wife. I really hope this is not true as I'd feel very uncomfortable watching if this is true. It once again brings up for me whether or not you can divorce the work from the person who made it and who may be vile in their personal life.

The other thing was reverse engineering coffin shaped cyanotypes - I'd tried making a coffin shaped outline and using that as outline when painting the cyanotype solution on paper. It worked well at first but then solution made its way through the edges and blurred. A chum from the MA course has been making beautifully circular cyanotypes. I asked how - he has been cutting a hole out of black card and then attaching the acetate negative onto it and clamping both down on the solution coated paper. It seems so obvious that this is the way to do this now...can't believe I was so dim as to ot think of that myself. Doh!! 

*I wonder if in 165 years there'll be someone waxing lyrical about going to see original copies of Glamour magazine in the archives....


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

MA-Ness Week 7 - Identity, Running To Stand Still, Trains and Coaches, Spray Mount, Camera - PHEW!! Busy, Busy, Busy

this weeks post it note, conference programme and poster - I supplied the image and they did the design and of course a University of Warwick pen...
I have pens from lots of different institutions now...

I normally write this on a Monday (I cannot thank first year me enough for getting into such a settled habit of writing this research jounral aka blog up each week as not only is it a way for me to collate my thoughts, it's also so much easier to click 'print' when it comes to hand in time) but it's now Wednesday and I'm only just about catching up with myself after the busyness of the past few days.

This time last week I was making lists of what I needed to take with me to the Materiality of Mourning Conference at the Univeristy of Warwick and ticking things off those lists as I put them into my bag - I travelled as light as possible. I was also avoiding breathing in large amounts of spray mount by mounting the images I was taking with me in the garage. I had the images i;d taken on film digitally printed on tracing paper and as I knew it was a dark board they were going to be shown on I mounted them on white card - but this time instead of trying to centre the image in the middle of the A4 card I put each image up to the corner of each iece of card so when placed opposite one another there is only a border all the way around them as a whole. I think they look better that way.

I didn't do as well at not breathing in spraymount though when I was covering the box to hold the words for the collaborative piece I've been working on for the Pedagogy Research Cluster exhibition...think I could have opened the garage door a bit wider as well as made time to do the box earlier so I wasn't so flapped doing it. The exhibition is on til mid June I think - in the basement of the Leeds College of Art campus opposite the university so go see it if you can. The piece I made was in collaboration with a colleague - Karen Tobias-Wood and it features a blackboard, chalk and words and you are invited to take the words and use them to make comments/drawings/interactions/found poems with on the board. I am fascinated by the use of words in/around/about art but it is a world away from my usual visual image based practice.

But as I didn't get back from Coventry til late on Saturday and was determined to have a well deserved complete day off on Sunday (went to the Friends of Hyde Park AGM and watched the very wonderful Our Man In Havana (1958) Reed C Columbia Pictures UK) and was busy with meetings all day on Monday, - including a really interesting meeting about the format of the conference/conversation part of the Love Arts Festival which will be on October 19th and then a really positive, energising and validating tutorial with my personal tutor so Monday evening was the first chance I got to cover it....repositionable spray mount is wonderful stuff - I love that I can repostion stuff if I'm not quite happy with it, even if it does stink a bit and make my fingers sticky - as I was spraying the insides and outsides of a photocopier box lid with lots of pieces of paper as opposed to just single A4 or A3 sheets I was using lots more of it. So much that I got it all over my fingertips and had to scrub it off with a pan scrub afterwards - a more sensible chum than me has suggested that I wear latex gloves next time I use it - it's a good idea and I have loads of them as I use them when doing cyanotypes (haven't done any for ages - must do some next time it's sunny and I have the time) or dying my hair ....but the box looked okay and people seemed happy last night taking words from it to make a conversation on the black board.

But I'm digressing - this time last week I was sticking bits of velcro to the back of the images I was taking to Warwick Uni (note to self invest in some Sellotape Velcro Dots as they are slimmer and so images would look flusher to the board surface) so that I wouldn't have to take pins - or hurt my thumbs pushing pins in to recalitrant boards) so that when I got there it would just be a case of peeling off the backing paper and putting them where I wanted on the board. As I was travelling light the only camera I took was the one on my phone and it doesn't have a big enough zoom to take all the  boards with artwork on in at once - plus the way the room was set out it was too difficult to stand far enough back to fit it all in - but this will give you an idea of what work I took and how it looked:

I was quite pleased with how it looked and it was also good to see one of my images as the basis for the conference poster - I had forgotten I'd been asked for an image and had sent one. But next time I must take titles and descriptions too - so that people can see a bit more about how and what it is made of.

I didn't design the poster though. I didn't sumbit an abstract to the conference for a paper as I knew I would be so busy with preparing for the Gothic Creative Showcase at Sheffield Uni, the Victorian Representations Conference at Leeds Trinity Uni and the first walk and talk I did for Darling Roses WI round St George's Field in the previous days so I just suggested bringing some work and they were happy with that. And though I was nervous - it didn't feel as onerous as it would have done if I had been delivering a paper as well. It was much nicer to just display my work and answer questions about it informally over lunch or coffee.

The conference was very full on - packed with papers on all sorts of different topics (though all connected to material culture and mourning in some way) from all sorts of different academic backgrounds, artists, funeral celebrants. It was absolutely fascinating and I learnt lots - came home with my head swimming with both new facts (learnt a bit more about the mythology surrounding chinese hopping ghosts) as well as new ways of looking at things I already knew a little about - the state power exerted over ways of dealing with the dead for instance, the way headstones are reused in Denmark, the survivor tree from Ground Zero in America, the common signs people often say they've seen after a loved one has died eg feathers, birds, the role of the authorities after the Hillsborough disaster and many other things.....my reading list never gets any less.....

I was very anxious indeed about going to Warwick Uni as it involved going somewhere completely new for me, getting a very early train (had a lovely chat all the way to Birmingham though) and having to be up at 4.45am but thanks to an online chum of some years who is now a real life chum part of this anxiety was minimised as she not only kindly put me up for a couple of nights but she also picked me up from the station and took me to and from the campus as luckily that is also where she works.

Having done it though it has reminded me that just because I find it rather stressful it doesn't mean I can't do it, and it wasn't that bad and it was well worth it...somoene please remind me of this when I am flapping about getting to Lincoln which all being well will be next February.

But as fab as this busy-ness is in lots of ways - learning new things, making new connections, it has also been absolute bliss today to not have to go anywhere or be anywhere by a certain time. I'm sad that folks feel they have to take strike action (not because I don't think they should strike but because they feel they have to in order to make their point) but I am also relieved as it meant the appointments I had today in college have had to be re-arranged, meaning I get a lie in and a chance to catch up with myself and stop feeling like I am 'running to stand still'.

So not only am I feeling a massive sense of relief because I can have a bit of a breather (but not too much as portfolio hand date in gets ever closer and I have a LOT of work to do to get the work I've been making into a state good enough to hand in) but also becuase my beloved Canon film slr that I got from a charity shop and which has become my go to camera only needed new batteries - it wasn't broken PHEW!!!!

A couple of other points I'd made a note of - there was a programme on Radio 4 last Tuesday - other than making a note that it was Tues am I didn't make a note of its title but it was post Today and pre Womans Hour and was talking about identity - and the point was made that identity is made of memories and memory and how it works or doesn't is something I'd like to work with a bit more...which makes me again think there just aren't enough hours in the day....

The other thing I noted from last week was I was chatting to a colleague about how much writing I'd done over the course of the course (approx 292,500 but with this blog post approx 294,500) but how much I had struggled with the dissertation - and I had thought that my struggle with it was because of the events surrounding it - I was still intensely grieving for my beloved Lucia and my sister in law died suddenly and unexpectedly - I am still grieving for them both but it is not quite as all consuming as it was at the time, but my colleague pointed out that something like a dissertation has a very strict laid down format and academic conventions which you have to adhere to, wheras a blog is much freer and only limited by the software you use to create it really. This makes me feel a little less scared when it comes to applying for potential phd places - or rather the writing I will have to do when it comes to thesis time.

So busy, busy, busy but it's all good :-)

Monday, 16 May 2016

MA-Ness Week 6 - Final Term EEK!!! Busy, Busy, Busy, Walking and Talking and Clicking All At The Same Time...

Quite a neatly written on post it note today, and flyer for the conference I spoke at on Friday - doing my second ever proper grown up academic paper entitled 'Hidden In The Grave' and it was much more cheery as it sounds - though there was a paragraph that consisted of a list of diseases from the burial register for 1865...but it was subtitled 'an illustrated talk brought to you by moden magic lantern'.

Am in the middle of a really busy few days - I was supposed to have been catching up with a chum today but I have rearranged it for another day as I am feeling quite tired and I needed to catch up on all the stuff of the last few days...before I forget it plus I am in the midst of the next really busy few days. I hope this doesn't sound as if I'm complaining about being so busy - I'm not but I am finding it hard to keep up with myself and make the time to just sit and quietly think about stuff and plot my next moves.

Plus as much as I enjoy what I'm doing I also find it quite tiring and in some ways quite stressful too and I'll be glad of a proper rest next week when I'll properly be able to put my feet up. I think I'm also finding things a bit harder than I would do ordinarily as am bit under the weather as my knee is still bit sore.

But that's enough of me moaning about being tired - what have I been doing to make me so tired? well last week I attended the Dying Matters Day at Leeds Museum...which I first heard about via a good old fashioned paper advert on a bus. It was an occsion where all sorts of groups like Leeds Bereavement Forum, Dying Matters, NHS groups, local independent funeral directors, Sage (supporting older LGBT people in Leeds) and the Museums and Library Service got together to get people to find out more about what services are available and most importantly to stress the importance of telling people what you want to happen in the event of your death - either by ideally making a will and leaving instructions in it detailing what you want or by filling in a form from an independant funeral advisor with details of your next of kin, what kind of service (if any) you want, what kind of coffin, what music played etc.

The day kicked off with a parade around Millenium Square by a New Orleans style jazz band - complete with very snazzy patterned and bejwelled jazz umbrellas, an opening talk and then you were free to talk to people at the stalls. It was really nice to meet people in the flesh who I'd been chatting to online previously. Plus I was able to have a long chat with Peter from Hugh Gooding Funeral Services who very kindly answered my many questions about how funerals are being done now and the different practices amongst different cultures and how fashions are changing and how some things eg horse drawn hearses are coming back into fashion. I found it a really useful positive event.

I first wrote my will and wishes for my funeral a long time ago (almost 20 years now) when a good friend of mine died and sadly he hadn't written down what he wanted. I was determined them that my loved ones would only have to deal with the distress of loss as opposed to the worry of whether or not they were doing the right thing. I also made out a living will as it was then known - they're known as advance directives now, which reminds me I must check with my GP and see if that is still on/in my medical notes.

I'm on the organ donor register at present but am also thinking about donating my body to medical science - but they can be quite choosy. Whatever happens I want no religious service, to ultimately be cremated and the music to start with Meet Me At The Cemetery Gates by The Smiths because I hope that'll make the people there smile, Boys in the Back Room by Marlene Dietrich, Trois Cloches by Edith Piaf and Les Gymnopedies by Satie and my ashes to be scattered in St George's Field - a change from my original plan of Almscliffe Crag.

I then went to college to do a lot of printing - printing and preparing for my second proper grown up academic paper which I delivered on Friday 13th (one of my favourite dates) at the Victorian Representations Conference at Leeds Trinity University. I originally had almost 40 slides so I cut that down a bit and also after reading it aloud to my ever patient and supportive husband rewrote a couple of bits of it so it flowed better and didn't repeat the phrase Victorian Representations quite so often...I did read it out to Mapp as well during the week but she was her usual taciturn self and she didn't give me any useful feedback, though she did demand biscuits and treats.

Once I was happy with it, and I had checked and rechecked my references and historical facts I put it on a memory stick, emailed it and uploaded it to my google drive as well - the more places it's in the better in case of memory stick failure. I then realised I had left out one important picture that proves my point re lack of angels at St George's Fields and so had to insert that particular slide, delete the copies I've saved and emailed and then redo all that saving and emailing and uploading again. But far better to have realised that late on Thursday afternoon rather than on Friday as I was actually speaking. 

The day started with a really interesting keynote speech by Dr Trev Broughton from York University about the role of mothers and  anxiety as revealed in the correspondence between John Constable and his mother. Trev also kindly gave me some suggestions for further reading for my own research which I'm in the process of hunting down now, there was also a really useful session about funding opportunities and how best to apply for them. It was also really useful and lovely to chat to fellow victorianists over lunch and then it was the afternoon sessions. I was on last in my section and I got progressively more nervous the closer it got to my speaking time. 

But I took a deep breath and reminded myself of a piece of advice a chum gave me a while ago before I gave a talk to a WI group - which was that I was the expert in the room on what I was talking about , and whilst on Friday I was in a room of experts and some were far more expert than I am in various aspects of the Victorian Period - I am an expert on what bits of St George's Field inspire me to make artwork and their particular historical context.

Plus I have got my fingers very dirty indeed researching some of its history - after pouring over original copies of the Leeds Mercury from 1835 not only did I have dirty fingers but also when I blew my nose I blew 19th century candle and coal fire soot out into my hanky.

My paper went down very well (PHEW!!!!) and I got feedback like 'really interesting' , 'fabulous' and 'beautifully illustrated' which I was especially pleased with as I had spent a lot of time on the slides and they comprised a mix of pictures of the archive sources I was quoting/using and images of the actual artwork I'd made as a result.  

I also got asked if I would be a visiting speaker for a dark tourism module at Bishop Groseteste University in Lincoln - which was very flattering and reassuring and made me well up a little bit actually. I can see I'm going to have to work hard to get over my anxieties re travelling and plus if my slides hadn't made anybody think they looked good I'd be questioning why I was calling myself an artist. Well a gothic photographic artist but you know what I mean.

Then on Saturday it was my first guided walk and talk around St George's Field - I led a fabulous group from Darling Roses WI around the space, and gave them a general overview of the history of the place and it's evolution into the form it has today. Plus I stopped at various bits along the way round either to read a bit from contemporaneous newspaper reports, point out a particular bit of grave adornment, or lack of them in the case of angels, read from the paper the details of Susannah Derby's funeral - she was Pablo Fanquo's first wife and was killed during one of his performances, I also pointed out the bit where the Sisters of Mercy did a photoshoot back in the early 1980's, the use and significance of subscription graves and their being laid flat to make pathways, and all other manner of grave related stuff, especially with relation to women and how they're described on tombstones or in the registers. On graves they are often 'dutiful and beautiful' but in the register there is of what trade or profession they might have had (unless they were being listed as the parent) on the register entry of the dead woman.

The dead women in the Victorian period were ever listed in the registers by their marital status so wife, widow, spinster or relict. They were a lovely and appreciative audience and they have suggested I do it again but either with themes or on special occasions so a tour at night or one on Halloween or one around photography, which is giving me lots of food for thought as well as being really good feedback. If someone wants you to do it again then they must have enjoyed it first time round.

Saturday night was one of my favourite nights of the year - EUROVISION and we watched it with our equally Eurovision obsessed chums with a continental buffet and many a glass of red wine. The new voting system was a bit bewildering though and though James and Jake weren't as robbed as Scooch were in 2007 they should have come a bit higher up the list than third from bottom. Although if I'm completely honest the only bit of Eurovision I love is the Te-Deum by Charpentier at the beginning, which I have taken to standing and saluting during a la Father Jack style to the Marseillaise...

Then it was time for a trip to Elvington Air Museum which was quiet yesterday in terms of the number of people but also very noisy when an engine from a plane was given a test run. After that it was time for a bit of little old cemetery exploring. After seeing pics from a chum who is tracing his family tree I too wanted to go to the little old cemetry in Nun Monkton on the outskirts of York. What a beautiful little village - though call me a dyed in the wool townie but as picturesque as it was, it also had an undertone of Wicker Man about it to me but that could just be because I have read and seen far too many horror films. The way all the houses looked onto each other round the green was a bit Bentham Panopticon too but the old parish church was beautiful - really gorgeous stained glass windows designed by none other than Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. Apparently Burne-Jones wanted people to say 'oh, only oh' upon seeing them and I'm afraid I didn't - but I did say 'wow, oh wow' which I hope is a suitable early 21st century exposition instead.

I took lots of photos, and it was really lovely to feel a proper camera in my hand again after a few weeks that have either been taken up with typing or printing or embroidering. But alas my trusty Canon film slr gave up the ghost whilst in the middle of taking what I hoped was a suitably artful shot of my chums ancestor grave. I'm hoping it's just the batteries that have run out. It takes CR2 batteries and annoyingly I only have one new one - when it takes two so I can't check til I've been to buy another one. Fingers crossed that it what it is or else I shall cry lots and lots. I have other good film slr cameras but this had become my go to fave - partly because of its functionality but also because it is lighter and more compact than the others I have and so slips into my bag easier. Oh well - will find out tomorrow....

Might have to go on another trip - as we also visited a very lovely church and graveyard at Kirk Hammerton but I only had my camera phone to use by then and it's okay for recording things but not for taking the kind of 'proper' pics I was in the mood for making and taking.

Other thing I've been writing lots of is words. I am still musing on whether or not to do a phd - or rather what on and where to do one. So I thought I'd roughly tot up how many words I've written over the course of this Masters and was GOBSMACKED that an average of 2,000 per blog post (ie my research journal) coupled with my dissertation, papers, presentations and what have you and it comes out as 292,500 but alas I have no more eloquent response to that other than FUCKING HELL....


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Ma-Ness Week 5 FINAL TERM!!! Tiredness, Excitement, Planning Ahead, Silky Goodness, Steamyness, Reimagining The Monstrous and that kind of thing...

Quite a full post it note this week - a mix of what I've been up to and what I've been buying...

Me posing next to my board at the Gothic Creative Showcase - part of the Reimagining The Monstrous Gothic Conference at Sheffield University on Saturday 8th May

It's been a really busy few days and it's going to be a really busy few days too - one conference down, two to go and one guided walk still to do. Hence this blog being written on a Tuesday instead of my usual Monday as I took an executive decision yesterday to take the afternoon off after a morning of two loads of laundry, tidying round and an intensive physio appointment on my knee...which thankfully though still twingy and sore and leaving me limping a bit is improving.

But I am pleased to report that the work is all on schedule so far in that I've finished drafting the paper I'm delivering this Friday so all I've left to do for it is to polish and practice it, and I'd finished mounting the digital tracing paper prints I'd had made for the Gothic Creative Showcase on the Thursday night before the showcase on Saturday morning. I really hate running around doing stuff at the last minute - though I worry I might be adding more stress for myself by panicking if things aren't done ahead of schedule as opposed to on schedule. Mmm might need to rethink my to do list so it's not quite as frantic - as after all I've built in enough lieu time to be able to take some...though I am also guilty of putting things off that I'm not looking forward to doing and so sometimes I have to force myself to do it - like the mounting of the prints for the Gothic Showcase.

It had to be done in the garage aka pop up meth lab as that has a big door that can be left open for more than adequate ventilation as I don't want to unintentionally intoxicate the cat on spraymount as she's goes mad enough on catnip and b) my workroom does not have a big enough space to lay things out flat to dry or c) give either me or my husband a cause for coughing.

It says on the side of the tin of spraymount (using the 3m repositionable stuff)  that working in a well ventilated space is very important. Mmm it might make you cough but spraymount does smell intoxicatingly lovely (as does developer, stopbath and fixer) and I'm glad I got the stuff that doesn't completely set straight away as positioning A3 size prints can be a bit tricky. In fact mounting them on white card made me realise and appreciate the skill of the professional framer all the more. More than once I had to peel them back off and put them back down again and I was feeling stressed that they might all go horribly wrong and wrinkle and just look rubbish. Understandable but thankfully not realised fears - there was a teeny bit of crinkling but they looked okay.

I knew the boards they'd be displayed on would be dark hence my mounting them on white card as otherwise the digital print on tracing paper would have been lost and too difficult to see. Plus I didn't want to put pins through the work itself but rather its mount - though these can still be trimmed so that they only show the image itself rather than a white border.

I bought both black and white card and different coloured paper to see which background would look best. Some of the positives looked okay against the black and one of the big ones I've had done of St George's Fields look positively malevolent (exactly what I had hoped) against the pink but all look good against white. And as I'll be exhibiting against dark boards for the next couple of weeks I decided the best thing to use is a white background.

I also made a list this time of the things I needed to bring - pins, sticky rather than sew on velcro, tape measure, mini spirit level, scissors, extra work just in case and put them in a bag by the front door ready and ticked each item off it so I knew I had packed them and so could just pick up the bag when it was time to leave. Undergraduate me would have thought I was being ridiculously anal and so would have been rushing round like a headless chicken having to scrounge things off others to complete the task. As it was it was a case of get up, wash - put on clothes and make up left out the night before and pick bags up and go. I hope I can always be this organised.

Plus being organised helps minimise my anxiety levels to just about manageable...and it is quite anxiety provoking (for me anyway) going to a strange place, and putting up my work on display.  Which of course begs the question - why else make it if not to show it as after all doesn't art need an audience to make it art or else it's just a private hobby. And I don't want it to be just a private hobby - I do want it to be seen and it was very gratifying to overhear someone just as I'd finished putting the board together say 'wow' which reassured me that as well as me thinking that it looked good - so did at least one other person.

Plus planning things in advance made me realise that all was not lost (though it may have felt like it for a few minutes) when I realised I'd not had every image I had planned on printing printed. I must have miscounted when I was putting all the images on the usb stick to take to the printing room and I hadn't added all the inverted and mirrored images I'd made and there wouldn't be enough time to get them redone. But as I had already got all bar two of the prints made I wanted I still had more than enough to make a creditable looking ensemble. But note to self - make actual list of images I want printing and tick them off said list before clicking button to safely remove usb stick and putting it in bag ready to take in.  

Thankfully this time I had my ever supportive husband with me who helped me both arrange the board at the other end and push in the pins as that was really difficult. So much so that next time when I will be doing this solo I am going to put velcro on the back of the prints (but leave the adhesive cover on) so that all I'll need to do once I've decided where I'm putting them is to take that bit of sticky off plus that way there won't be anything like a visible pin to potentially detract from the image. I'd been unable to source enough black or white headed push pins to pin all the images on the board with one or the other - hence the decision to pin printed material (it's thankfully getting much less difficult to write about my work and inspiration for this kind of thing) with black pins, along with negative images and use white on the positive ones.

It was lovely as ever to meet up with other gothicists and chat potential phd plans as well as hear about what they're working on and to hear about other potential opportunities. I am quite fortunate in that my work is interdisciplinary and so fits potentially within art, gothic, and history academic settings.

But although the Gothic Creative Showcase was the culmination of the week there had also been the excitement of getting my first experimental burial plot size printed image back from the digital print room and steaming it which was rather tricky as a) it's so big - approximately 2.14 metres by 1.06 metres wide or 7 foot long by 3 foot 6 inches wide in old money) and b) the hessian backing you wrap it up in to put it in the steamer is as a consequence very heavy. But I am well chuffed with how it looks - the image I had printed is of a lumen print I made of a head on a headstone from a graveyard in Chapel Allerton inverted back into a positive. And that cost £37.80 so now it is all systems go for the next three which I hope will form part of my piece for the MA degree show in late October.

Things I learnt from it are: how to use the steamer facility and don't be a numbskull next time and take in a bag to put it to bring it home and also beg/borrow/steal an old cardboard inner tube from either material or paper to wrap it round to store it once it has been washed so it doesn't get creased.

The other receipt pictured is for black bias binding and embroidery hoops as the experiments using coffin lining offcuts are continuing. Bias binding on the hoop helps grip the material more tightly, plus am thinking putting black around the outer hoop will look good for display purposes - once I've decided what it is I want to put on it and got both the embroidery and the image transfer techniques are good enough. Things I've learnt so far - embroidering straight onto the material puckers it regardless of width of needle used/amount of threads, covering it in gloss medium shows less than matte medium and it puckers less BUT you have to be very careful about placing the needle or else it leaves a hole plus if you pull the thread too tight it then tears through the material....room for more experimentation methinks.

I bought the hoops,bias binding and embroidery thread off the Habiknit stall on Leeds Market - the same place I go to for all my sewing stuff, it's opposite the wool shop at the entrance on Vicar Lane. The ladies that work on the stall are lovely and really helpful and the lady who sold me the hoops said she wanted to buy her daughter a cardigan like the one I was wearing - it's a Banned one with day of the dead skulls either side. Apparently her daughter now has her own room after having to share with her sister and wants to go all out skulls everywhere - and it was really nice to be able to tell her about the matte medium image transfer technique and she said she was going to try it out on some stuff for her daughter. She also said she'd like to come to the end of year show when I explained what I was working on.

So what else? also went to a really interesting talk at Kirkstall Museum on the Victorian Underworld and learnt all manner of titbits about crime and punishment during the Victorian era as well as a really interesting nugget re Victorian novels in that reading was much less of a solo activity then - and the long monologues often found in Victorian serialisations were to give the reader the chance to perform.  

Think that's enough for now - still to make notes on what I've been up to today but now it's time for some tea and a bit of my beloved Eurovision.


Monday, 2 May 2016

MA-Ness Week 4 (final term - eek!!!) Experimenting, Decisions Decisions, John Waters, To Do Or Don't Lists, Cat Hair and General Witterings....

Experiments with embroidery thread and fabric pens, top piece shows difference between embroidering straight onto the fabric - even with just one thread and the thinnest needle I've got it puckers, it puckers less if I've covered the fabric with matte or gloss medium and gloss is a little less obvious once it has dried.
I've also been looking at how to transfer the design I want to embroider onto the fabric - middle strip shows fabric pens and one of those 'this fades away pens' and it does but it also bleeds a bit which is difficult if you want something to be quite exact. The lower piece shows a piece I did by embroidering (simple backstitch) over a pencil line - it cvovers it up neatly but I need to get better at drawing my design evenly - the design is inpsired by hearts and flowers tombstones from the 18th century in Dewsbury
Not a v full post it note but lots of experiments on coffin lining offcuts, plus I've now wrapped my embroidery hoops with bias binding so that they'll hopefully grip the fabric better, it's slippery tricksy stuff....the patterned fabric didn't work at all well, the pale pink fabric worked okay-ish, used a print of a scan of a cyanotype I made and cut a bigger piece of paper than thew actual image to see if I could get it so it didn't break up so much around the edges but the colour seemed to bleed in a way the black and white prints don't but might experiment with it further....

So as you can see lots of experimenting rather than photograph taking this last week, still somewhat out of action with a poorly knee, saw a physiotherapist who reassured me that although it might take time to heal the injury to the 'medial collateral ligament' it will heal - and she gave me some exercises to try and it does seem to be getting a little easier and less painful and swollen. PHEW!! but getting down on one knee or kneeling is still too painful so it might be a while since I can take some more pictures.

So I thought I'd use my enforced limited mobility to sit down and do some image transfering and sewing instead. And you can see the results above - some I'm pleased with, some I'm not so pleased with and some I want to work further on and refine. I've also tried using different kinds of brush and spatula to put the matte medium on - spatula seems to really get it into the fabric so much so, I have to turn it over and almost put it back through but it does mean an even coverage with less obvious application marks. 

I also experimented making a kind of mud wash out of the small amount of soil I harvested from St George's Fields a while back, it looked okay-ish but still needs some refinement I think. I also won't be rushing to use the pale blue patterned material again as it's too uneven to absorb the matte medium equally and it's even shinier than than the other fabric and thicker. Still I might give it another go, other thing I need to experiment with is freezer paper and seeing if I can use that to print onto the fabric. That method does involve ironing though and I've a feeling that might just make the fabric shrivel up - some careful experimenting ahead then.

I also decided to actively take some time out and spent one afternoon watching kids telly - partly in the hope of seeing Hacker T Dog who never fails to put a smile on my face. He is a dog from Wigan with a love of meat paste, milky brews, puns, irreverence, Cotton Eye Joe, lucky withered legs and pink dresses. I believe his human handler is called Phil Fletcher.

I follow him on Twitter as well and he always makes me chuckle but alas he wasn't on when I switched on but Shaun the Sheep was and so was a new animated series featuring Zig and Zag created by Ciaran Morrison and Mick O'Hara. It wasn't quite as funny as their furry outings on the Big Breakfast and nowhere near as filthy,  scatalogical, lewd, chauvanistic as their creators other characters Podge and Rodge. But it did introduce me to the marvellous phrase 'what in the name of Sir Walter Raleigh's Hedgehog is that?'.

Podge and Rodge are somewhat of an acquired taste and they make me laugh a lot. Their late night 'Scare at Bedtime' halloween tales (which you can find on Youtube - along with their seminal work Colosto-Me Colosto-You) and their homage to Foster and Allen -Fester and Ailin are amongst my favourite things to watch. Though part of the appeal of Podge and Rodge like Zig and Zag is that they have irish accents and the way they speak, and use of  phrases like 'come here to me , you' make me think of my much loved and much missed grandparents. Though neither of them - ever swore either at all or nowhere near as much...

I have always loved puppets - of the cheeky and irreverent kind that is, so Sweep, Basil Brush, Zig and Zag/Podge and Rodge, Hacker T Dog are top of my list of  things to watch if I want to smile, as is Spongebob Squarepants. I often have things playing on youtube in the background whilst I'm working, though it has mostly been Victoria Wood this last week - her work is a never ending balm and source of laughter. I don't know how many times I have watched Julie Walters as the waitress badly serving 'one soup...... *pencil lick* and another one' to the couple played by Celia Imrie and Duncan Preston waiting for trains but I could never be bored by it and never fail to laugh at it. Comic observational perfection performed wonderfully.

Someone else whose work I could never tire of is John Waters - spent part of this weekend rewatching the last film he made in A Dirty Shame (2004) and then Cecil B Demented (2000) and Serial Mom (1994) . I am eagerly awaiting his next book releases too. I like his writing style just as much as I like his film making style. I am still working on my response to his '12 Assholes and a Dirty Foot' (mine is '12 Belle Ends and a Sock On The Door' though it may have to be scaled back to 9 Belle Ends and an Abandoned Pair of Boxers in a Doorway In Dewsbury as I'm struggling to find anymore Belle Ends and the parameters I set myself for the project were: it has to be done on my camera phone and I can't make any of the images, I can only take them....

I've also been experimenting with writing 'done lists' rather than to do lists, in an attempt to feel a bit more on top of things. It did counter the feeling of  either 'I've done feck all' or 'I've not done enough' when in fact I have done loads. But I still need a to do list - for fear of forgetting important things I need to do. Which reminds me I must update the big list I've got so I know what times I need to do what by. This month is especially busy - I have three conferences to attend - one I'm delivering a paper at, the other two I'm displaying work, as well as a talk and a couple of important meetings.

The other thing I'm experimenting with is doing/completing where possible just one thing per day - or rather trying to concentrate upon one thing at a time rather than having a whole list of things and only doing the easy things off them - I'm not above writing things on my to do list that I've already done just so I can tick them off....

Looking at my diary makes me feel a bit sick - partly because the next few weeks are crammed full but then it all calms down again and then it'll be the end of the course....and I still haven't got quite to grips with organising a phd place yet, other than deciding I defintiely want to do one.

It is also coming up to the anniversary of the death of my beloved Lucia - I still miss her so much and I want to find a way to completely distract myself on that day. Anniversaries and dates have such power and significance don't they? or rather we invest them with such - even if we try not to. I can remember taking a flight on September 11th - they first year after the Twin Towers were hit and even though I knew that rationally there was no difference between that day and any other in terms of being on a plane I couldn't shake the  extra feeling of dread - on top of all my usual fears re flying. Fears which after a spectacularly turbulent flight have left me reluctant to take a plane unless I absolutely have to...and so far I haven't had to and long may that continue.
I attended a really interesting talk on Victorian Turkish Baths by Malcolm Shifrin at Leeds Library last week. It was part of the series put on by the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies - all of the lectures are free and anyone can attend them. It was especially lovely to hear one amongst the splendour of the Leeds Library though as opposed to a modern purpose built seminar room.

But as ever I digress Baths as in Turkish/Roman Steam Baths were primarily promoted in this country by David Urquhart (1805-1877) who was a diplomat and member of parliament and his colleague Dr Richard Barter in Ireland. I had realised that bathing was somewhat of a difficult task to accomplish prior to the time of mains water and sewage, I hadn't realised how difficult. Water not only had to be heated but also carried from the pump. And water is really heavy. He was promoting the use of steam baths as opposed to just ordinary bathing. And there was no end of ailments it could help with according to the advertising. Though he did face tough opposition as well as some medics were firmaly against bathing of any kind - especially for the lower classes as it made them weak apparently.

There was also much made of the class differences - in both access to bathing facilities and attitudes towards them, not to mention the sexes. Male and female bathers were kept separate at all times and modesty protected with either towels or curtain arrangements that dropped from the ceiling as you emerged from the pool. It seems the that the the middle and upper classes were horrified when baths were opened on a Sunday - yet Sunday was the only day most working class people could attend and of course the working classes were equally being castigated for being dirty. (This in turn makes me think of the dreadful old jokes about people in the north using baths to store coal in) It was also fascinating to hear about some of the advertising used for baths at the time of the suffrage campaigns for women - apparently the effect of the baths on complexions were so 'beautifying' that women wouldn't need the vote as they'd be so beautiful men wouldn't be able to resist their requests for anything....and in the days before chemically treated water the fact that some baths only completely changed their water once a week and so it was cheaper to go later in the week when the water was less fresh...
Fascinating stuff.

I also read a bit more of Mrs Beetons Book of Household Management and so can pass on thse handy(!) housekeeping tips:
'wash well a saucepan but cleran a frying pan with a slice of bread' (hopefully you then eat the bread but that wasn't specified)
and the apposite:

'a good manager looks ahead' and 'clear as you go as muddle makes more muddle' - something which is especially true when you're working in limited space as I am - my workroom is fairly organised but very cramped and it would be lovely to have a bigger house with space for a proper darkroom in the basement...

I did toy with the idea of waiting til tomorrow to write this - seeing as it's a Bank Holiday but as it was raining I decided to do this instead as well as tidying round a bit, made a sausage casserole for later and I also did the ironing. And I'm glad I did as it means that is a few less jobs on my to do list for tomorrow...and fingers crossed by this time next week the big jobs on it will also have been done and my knee will be even more healed so I can take some more photographs. I'm getting shutter and lens withdrawl symptoms.....and reading a book by a papparazzi called Shooting Stars by Jennifer Buhl is making me want to go out and take pics. Not of celebrities and nor in an invasive manner but just that thrill of getting exactly the shot you want...

I did get some pics back this week though that I took in Skegness a while back. I used Kodak Tri X ISO 400 and my lovely ever supportive husband developed them in the garage (aka pop up meth lab) for me - we'd both been so busy we'd forgotten they needed doing but he found time this week and I scanned them in yesterday morning before going to see a really lovely uplifting heartwarming film at the Hyde Park - Eddie The Eagle. Even if it did give me vertigo looking at it at times - the footage of the careering down the take off jump was stomach churning...but back to the negatives - annoyingly I must have had a cat hair trapped in the back of the camera as there is a thin cat hair like line in the same place on all the pics (easily photoshopped out - ha! see last week's entry for my feelings photoshop) but that aside I've got some images I am well chuffed with which I hope to get printed in a couple of weeks when I'm next in the print room. For me the wait and delay with film is part of the joy of it - you forget what you've taken and then hopefully you're gloriously reminded of it, or sometimes you realise you didn't get them quite right or missed something or have just got a camera with not only cat hair on the lens but also in the back....

...adds clean and de cat-hair camera to to do list.....