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The concept

The exhibition proposes to explore the identity of craft within the philosophies of the slow movement. Slow takes as its starting point the issues emerging from the Slow food movement which has developed as a critique of the consequences of our unsustainable consumerist culture and its increasingly fast lifestyles. ‘The slow movement is a cultural shift towards slowing down life’s pace. It is not organized and controlled by a singular organization. A principal characteristic of the Slow Movement is that it is propounded, and its momentum maintained, by individuals that constitute the expanding global community of Slow. Although it has existed in some form since the Industrial Revolution its popularity has grown considerably since the rise of Slow Food and Cittaslow in Europe, with Slow initiatives spreading as far as Australia and Japan’ (Wikipedia) Slow is not a new concept in the crafts. In fact it would seem that notions of ‘slow’ are epitomised by Craft and processes within craft production and life. It is not a literal translation of the word that we are interested in, but the current debate in the understanding of the nature of Craft and craftsmanship, which is developing and how aspects of the slow movement are related. However there are more notions of Slow in relationship to time and process, economy and material, nature of production and consumption, community and society that we would like to explore through a set of craft philosophies. In the way that a photograph made through a long exposure both alters and reveals something beyond that of immediate snapshot, which often becomes a substitute for real engagement, slowness is associated with reflective and observational processes that lead to a new understanding of what we experience and know. Slowness is also particularly associated with craft skills: skill which is accrued over time, cannot be rushed nor easily measured, is intuitively learned and articulated through making. The root of the word indigenous comes from the verb to produce. This can suggest how craft – and this is particularly true within traditional practice within communities – is embedded in a sense of locality, through its treatment and use of local resources, response to environment and local markets, and the social and community status of craft practitioners. The slow food movement focuses upon the importance of the indigenous in the face of its threat from globalised practices. The question for us is: what is the identity of the maker within modern society and particularly for those makers who position themselves within a critical position. We have discussed the following themes but we are open to other interpretations and ideas that contributors offer:

• The capacity of craft and craft processes to engender social interaction, social relationships and conviviality, often through the use of craft in signifying and enabling social ritual and shared activity.

• Narratives between person to person, person to place, material or ideas in which communication takes place over a period of time to allow for change, readjustment of position, new ideas, collaboration and development – the space that allows for things to change or be realized.

• The consideration of time within makers’ practices that enables observation and reflection. This may also include maker’s use of repeated activity to enable reflection and observation or as a process within making. The taking of time that objects take to make – what is this value in the world of rapid prototyping?

• The use of performance by makers within their work which engages the public in the ‘making’ of the work and challenges ideas of authorship. • Work that explores time-based ideas of ‘unmaking’ as well as making in order to reveal ideas of process, materiality and the notion of the object as a completed entity, suggesting how being ‘in process’ can communicate a work’s essential meaning.

• Makers whose work explores questions of site and locality and the importance of stewardship in both the management of their practice and the resourcing of their materials

• Makers whose work is interested in the mutability or life-cycle of the object: an interest in initiating change within an object once it leaves the studio; and the capacity of certain materials to embody ongoing change – through deterioration, fading, wear and tear, that overlays its material language and meaning. An exhibition also enables a maker to explore the possibilities within an object changing in a managed or unmanaged way through a tour.

Our blog, http//:makingaslowrevolution.wordpress.com discusses some of the ideas that we have been considering as well as those from contributing makers, designers and writers.

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25 thoughts on “The project

  1. Helen & Andy
    Enjoyed reading over the blog and the contributed essays. Great project and important ideas. I look forward to seeing it happen and will be keen to submit a proposal.
    David

  2. I like the idea of promoting the slowness of the art/craft process, connecting with the need to reduce energy consumption and to increase social resilience.
    I am interested in submitting a proposal.
    I’ll mull it over through the summer.
    Steve

  3. Just dicovered this site and very much enjoying the material on it so far (Amin Musa’s Letraset essay was particularly interesting for me as I use dry transfer letters a lot) . The project I’m sure has great potential and I will definitely be seeking to get more involved if possible.
    Mick

  4. I am really interested in the working title, slow.
    Being by choice quite a slow worker and choosing to weave on frames, I have time to anticipate, reflect and generally savour every minute.
    I hope I can be involved and am sure this theme will resonate with many people.

  5. As a handpaper maker who creates sculptural as well as wearable pieces, I was delighted to read the ‘SLOW’ information for makers. Craftspace’s definition of ‘slow’ adeptly describes the maker/artist who uses traditional techniques within their work practice. I know I will not be alone in being inspired to submit a proposal.

    SUSAN

  6. What a treat to stumble across this site! Great concept for research/exhibition/discussion. Will look forward to seeing what comes of it all. Now to write a proposal…sometimes that process seems slower than the studio work.

  7. So delighted to find this website and other creative people inspired by the slow movement. Will definitely put in a proposal for the exhibition, and luckily there’s enough time to think it through it properly!

  8. The SLOW approach could have been especially developed with my art form in mind: I make (mostly) one-off and (very) limited edition artists’ books which usually take a long time to complete. Hence the one-offs! All my work includes my own photographs and text.
    The initial idea often emerges spontaneously due to some observation, material or a remark made.

    Then the slow process begins:
    • Investigate the initial idea
    • Take photographs (accumulating a good selection can take up to a year)
    • Write text/ poetry
    • Source paper and other material
    • Review the book design
    • Select suitable material from above list
    • Develop layout of book
    • Prepare for completion (which usually involves many hours of computer work)
    • Print the book pages
    • Revise layout and adjust contents. (This particular process could be repeated several times until the final print)
    • Binding of the book (the traditional book binding process involves more than 40 steps from cutting the boards for the covers, to sewing, pasting and shaping the pages, to…)

    See what I mean? I am interested in being involved and submitting a proposal.

  9. I so need to get on with my work, but I have been stopped in my tracks by this website and its contents. But as an artist and maker I find that paying attention to the interruptions, distractions, daydreams and doodles that crop up in the course of everyday life is the point, and getting distracted seems to harmonise with the values of this site, so here I am. Anyway, what I was going to say was that as a glass artist making conceptual craft, people are often brought up short by the pointless-ness of my work. Why spend hours producing something so patently useless? I wonder this myself sometimes, especially as they seem to so fantastically unsaleable! (and there the ugly beast of commercialism raises its head – no doubt we’ll hear more about that). And for fine artists, of course, my work is much too crafty. It can feel like I just don’t ‘fit’, but this website has encouraged me no end – there are lots of people out there who don’t ‘fit’, and perhaps we can ‘not fit’ together! Anyway, congratulations on a brilliant idea. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the articles and posts and will be back to read and say more no doubt.

  10. I’m so pleased to have discovered this website. So much of what I’ve read here echoes my own working practice. I am interested in being involved and am looking forward to submitting a proposal.
    Marilyn

  11. What a fantastic idea, i love the conceptlike Victoria Scholes i am a glass artist, slow slow and stop ! seems to be me and my craft sometimes, especial the fused or hot glass work ! I will definatley put a proposal in even if it is not acepted i will still look with keen interest as to what is happening with the project.
    Kind regards
    Norma Sales

  12. Victoria Scholes makes an interesting point about the ‘usefulness’ of her work, given that it does not have a ‘functional’use’. As a multidisciplinary artist I have only ever made ‘useless’ work. But we should look beyond the practicality of what we make and appreciate that the ‘usefullness’ of our work may lie in the unconcious connections. As well as being cathartic for the maker, the work may strike a healing vibration with the beholder. This is just as ‘useful’ as being able to drink from it. Ihave all felt that response when standing before a work that touches a chord within me. I am renewed- faith is restored! I wonder sometimes why I am printing rusted iron or corroded copper fragments onto paper and canvas. But then I paraphrase what Richard deMarco once said ” The artist should be like a monk. Totally dedicated to their work with religious passion”. As makers, when we feel the ‘calling’ we have to act – whether it seems logical or practical at the time or not. Great to discover you as I wait for the rust to stain my canvasses and the copper to permeate the fabric. Should be ready in about two weeks…

  13. I am enjoying this community as it grows, the Slow process for me is not only the techniques I use, but recognizing others’ input into the work I make. When I did my first degree in Constructed textiles at The Central School of Art and Design, London way back in the 70’s, I was considered quite strange because I wanted to know about spinning and dyeing and the selection of fibres to make yarn before even considering the woven structures. Every stage of the process has history, tradition and communities have been built round them passing on the knowledge and skills. This interest is what I can now work with, using constructed textiles as metaphor and starting point for conversations about environment and community. Yes I still make physical work, usually with materials related to time and place as well as the people I collaborate with. ‘Weaving a Walk’ is the title of work which I have taken to several sites and communities, where construction of work includes looking at the physical and social environment and then constructing a warp, weaving with the accent not on making cloth but on alternative ways of recording an event or process.
    I have held several conversations about ‘Slow’ as part of my work, including people form other research disciplines. This has opened my eyes to both ways of thinking and expression that artists do not often use. When using microscopes and milliseconds, or observing movement of the tectonic plates in the work of physics, maths or geology perceptions of time and distance are no longer related to the everyday experience. There are many overlaps in understanding and those who have taken part in the conversations have been able to take away new perceptions of their work.
    By the way, a comment on the essay by Amin Musa, I can remember my father using the very first Letraset. A screen-printing process, the materials and tools were only available from a room on Charing Cross road, London. So the process was not only Slow it had a relationship with a time and place; it was skilful and had a physicality which is missing in the tapping of keys I am using for this. There is no journey, no smell, no materiality or texture unique to this process. I wonder if Materialism is taking on a new value, the physical meeting of people and viewing of work made by hand even more valuable. So I look forward to the development of this community and the touring exhibition; it promises to be a re-valuation of accepting fast, easy and accessible as always being positive experiences.

  14. The cause and effects of Slow-ing down.

    In the weeks since I came across Slow I’ve made a conscious effort to slow myself down, especially in the developmental stage of my work. I’ve begun making a new series of small tapestries [under 20 x 20cms], and have taken the time to weave a corner of each one so I can better judge how the colours interact with each other. Usually it’s a case of selecting colours once I’ve decided on a design, and weaving it straight away. I had thought my mind’s eye was pretty accurate, but have discovered this isn’t necessarily true. I’ve also taken longer than usual in developing the design for my next large tapestry, 1.5 x 2metres. Consequently I feel much better prepared, and am more aware of the technical issues the design will throw at me.
    But the major effect of this slow-ing down has been the discovery that I am completely obsessed with ‘time’. I always log the time I spend weaving a tapestry so that I can monitor how many hours I weave each week, and it’s also helpful with the thorny issue of pricing works. But this obsession goes much further than that, and to such an extent that it verges on the ridiculous. As makers I’m sure ‘time’ is a precious commodity to all of us, but I seem to be taking it to absurd lengths. I am constantly checking what time it is. Even if I wake up in the middle of the night I have to know what time it is, then work out how long I’ve been asleep and how many hours I have left before I need to get up. Just when, and how, did I turn into this pathetic person?
    Why is there always so much to do that isn’t related to the actual process of making? Why, when I finish one task on my ‘mental’ list of stuff to do that has to be done now, do at least three other things take its place? Why do I allow all these supposedly vital tasks to take me away from the one thing [other than my husband, but please don’t ask me to choose] that I absolutely love – weaving tapestries? And how do I control this fixation?
    I’ve just spent a few moments mulling this over, trying to think of ways to get myself out of this loop, and can’t even write a sentence without mentioning the word ‘time’. Perhaps that’s the key – I simply ban myself from thinking about, and using the word, time. But that probably only accounts for the areas in my life I have some control over, and not the more pressing mid and long term family, and other, issues which are completely out of my hands.

  15. I have been visiting this website for weeks now and have only just realized that yes I can join in. The ‘slow’ that you are talking about is the same as the ‘slow’, process-based, evolving work that I am engaged in. I have found the discussions on this site fascinating because they highlight and illuminate aspects of my own practice. I would very much like to make a proposal and / or contribute in some way.
    Jane

  16. It has been so interesting reading peoples responses to this project, especially as my last series of work was called ‘A Snail’s Pace’. As a part of the piece molluscs were invited to feast on a series of tissue paper garment fragments – something they can do surprisingly quickly ! The process of making my work has become as important as the finished piece, when people are told of my methods they helpfully advise me of ways to speed things up and I try to defend slowness but it is hard to explain the concept and the calm connectedness that can be found – I am sure the time is right to expand and expound these concepts – well known to makers but becoming lost to ‘muggles’!

  17. I have known about this project for some months now and have been dropping in now and again to see what people were saying, but some how never quite finding the time to make my own contribution and here I am again scrabbling to get in a comment and to register my interest in any opportunities there are to work on this project.

    When did I get to the point when I seem to be facilitating everybody else’s’ creativity, but never seem to be doing it for myself.

    Two weeks ago I was on a beach in Falmouth creating ‘sculptures’ made out of stones I’d collected. It wasn’t a paid commission but just me having fun and doing what I love – being creative! I spent four hours building a tower, inspired by the chimneys from the old mine working that are scattered across Cornwall, out of the flat stones around me on sand. That was between the short, sharp showers, when I finally had to dash for cover to stop me getting soaked – it was like being a child again.

    While I was building I was thinking about the what it was about making that is so important to me and I came to the conclusion that is my way of making the work move at my pace. Felt making when done well is a slow and contemplative thing. Laying out the fibres takes time, if you are to get a good finish. When rolling (or even throwing it, very good for stress, I should be doing more of it!) the felt you can let your thoughts wander to other things and although it can be physical that is another one of the attractions for me. The physicality of it works on many layers – the strength and energy you need to get the fibres to mat together, but also the tactility of the fabric and using using your finger tips to gauge if it is ready or not, being just two of them. I always seem to favour techniques that need time to be able to do them well.

    A group of mature ladies, who were beach combing with their ladies club, came to ask what I was doing and why, they were very interested and we discussed the joys of being on the beach and the wonderful colours in the copious amounts of seaweed strew about us and they told me what they would be doing with their finds. We also laughed about the ‘Englishness’ of fact we were all out on the beach regardless of the weather. One of them even brought me a bucket full of stones on the way back.

    By the time I was finished the tide was coming in fast and to finish the day I went and sat on a rock and watched while the tower was first wreathed by seaweed, finally toppling over when waves undermined it by washing away the sand. It was gone in minutes, but that didn’t matter – it was the building of it that was and the time that was spent enjoying it.

    I had so much fun, and satisfaction, I went back the next day and did it again.

    And now I must go and work on my proposal if I an to get it in on time.

    • What a fantastic picture of your day you created. I could almost see your towers as they wobbled and toppled. I’ve often done work where you find people driven so strongly by their curiosity that they can’t keep their usual reserve and have to ask what you are doing. I really like that, its the stuff that humanity should be made of.

  18. Slow-have just completed a jersey for my husband-hand carded spun and knitted from Blue Face Leicester Cross wool from a locl farm. My usband has been waiting for a jersey from me for 26 years – is this SLOW enough? Seriously though- the spinning process and use of natural dyes has its own speed- and slow does seem to cover it- and Louise- I haven’t forgotten I promised you some yarn-Innes

  19. As a Scottish migrant to Australia, I often ponder time and distance, the sense of being far away and within reach simultaneously, the speed at which we can all communicate and my characteristic slowness to respond.
    I am currently studying my MFA in Melbourne, my research is based around understanding landscape as process not as a static entity. I am trying to absorb this concept into my weaving practice, in which I use mass-produced materials (mainly nylon cord and cable ties) to produce organic forms. I have realised that through weaving I want to find a way to get to grips with the collapse, or folding, of time (from geological processes through to our current networks of internet-based communications) that forms different kinds landscape and our experience of it.
    I am very excited by the possibilities of this project. Reading the blog and reflecting on the exhibition concept has helped me see my own work from a different vantage point. I hope to respond to this further in my proposal.

  20. I hardly have time for anything, but when I make work perhaps it is to allow others time to reflect and slow down. And to engender participation and interaction around and with the work.
    Got an idea for the exhibition.
    must dash.

  21. Great minds must think alike. I was at a conference in Manchester last year when I met another artist and we started to talk about fast food and how art can become like fast food, bland and bad for you. How the demands of fast projects with short funding can make you become like a fast food chef, unskilled, stressed and constantly pairing back the time it takes to do things. How that can then carry through to the exhibiting of art, which gets them in, gets them out and notes success in line with the profits through the till. As a result of our chatting we are working on setting up a slow art network in the North West. There will be a day to meet, and show and discuss work in progress in January and some form of letter based conversation work. Its in its formative stages at the moment but if anybody would like to know more they can e mail me at bethbarlow@bethbarlow.com and I’d really welcome any comments on this here too.

  22. Hi – I visited the exhibition over Xmas and thought it inspiring. I’m research Slow Design as part of my MA Textiles project. I’m trying to build a practice based on Slow values – traceability, ethical, susatinable etc.. so not literally slow. I’m trying to work out how we, as designers, can stop our obsession with the ‘new’ – how can we make the idea of durability desirable, the idea of the old as valuable.

  23. I found your wordpress site looking for the ceramic salvage sculptures by Neil Brownsword and I am really pleased you exist. A few years ago I wrote the photobooks Quiet Amsterdam and Quiet London, both inspired by a desire to re-discover ‘slowness’ and the urban wanderings of Guy Debord and the Situationists. I am so enamoured with ‘being slow’ that I have never learnt to drive a car and just cycle everywhere, although when I draw, I tend to make work very quickly. This is partly to do the work before my super critical, judging self gets in the way. The second edition of Quiet Amsterdam will be published in April 2012, and Quiet Paris a few months later…

    • hello Siobhan, I saw your book last night on Quiet London whilst at a talk by Tim Ingold at Siobhan Davies and remembered your post, thank you for taking the time. I am a walker…I don’t drive either. Please do keep in touch. Helen

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