Textures and Repair at the British Museum

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I visited the British Museum over the weekend for a bit of inspiration. On this visit I spent a lot of time in the China, South Asia and Southeast Asia room, which has objects on display from the Paleolithic to the present.

Because so many historical periods are represented there’s a lot of variation in technique, colour and style, representing very many different influences over time. Far from being isolated, trade and repeated invasions have resulted in a rich and varied visual history, and a range of styles that go far beyond the styles we typically think of as “Chinese.” It’s more likely that our understanding the kinds of things we like to think of as Chinese style is more because of our familiarity with certain classes of manufactured goods created for export.

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On this visit I was drawn in particular to the different textures and designs of pottery and vessels. I thought these two animals from the Eastern Zhou period were interesting, becuase they’re covered in patterns that seem distinctly Celtic. The first contains a criss-crossed pattern of what appeared to be a series of interlocking animals like what you’d see sometimes in Medieval illuminated manuscripts. The second is covered with a complicated series of spiral and braid patterns that remind me of the sort of pattern you would see in Celtic metal and stonework that you would find in Northern Europe and the British Isles. They’re from the 4th to 3rd century BC and the 5th to 6th century BC, respectively.

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It was also fun to discover some quirky things, like these Chinese-made plates showing the crucifixion and the resurrection. They were obviously inspired by Western art while looking for subjects for their goods for export, made by some people who weren’t very familiar with the subjects they were trying to portray. Consequently you get these crucified people who inexplicably have quite well developed breasts, and a very feminine-looking bearded lady of a Jesus getting resurrected.

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There were also a few beautiful examples of repair on display. I wouldn’t have noticed this one before I became acquainted with Andrew Baseman’s Past Imperfect blog. This jug looks fine at first, but closer inspection reveals that the handle broke off some time previously and was reattached with metal staples.

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This one’s more obvious. The spout fell off and was replaced with a metal one. Someone obviously decided it would be a good idea to also attach the lid to a chain so that it would not get lost.

There’s also a lovely felted boot with beautiful scalloped stitching, patched with leather. I took a bad picture of it but there are many better photos of it on the British Museum website.

I love that these are on display at the museum, that the curators didn’t decide at some point that they were too damaged to be accessioned and put on display. The fact that some of these objects are quirky and broken only confirms to me that they were created and used by humans, which makes them far more interesting to me than things that for whatever reason were never used, and consequently survived to present in a pristine form.

Theremin

In the fall of 2011 I built a theremin from scratch at a workshop hosted by VIVO Media Arts. I subsequently joined the Vancouver Experimental Theremin Orchestra, with whom I have worked on a number of projects.

Selected Performances

epic-tom

EPIC-Tom, The Performance, Alberthau Mansion, July 17, 2014.
Reviewed by Vandocument
2000mielen

2000 Meilen Unter dem Meer, VIVO Media Arts, May 3, 2013
Performance in collaboration with thereminist Trautonia Capra

 

Transformative Possibilities: Humans, Technology and Nature – Celebrating the HTN triad, VIVO Media Arts, October 27, 2012

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Quill

Quill, by Jared Flood

This is the first knitting project I started after moving to the UK, since due to lack of space, I had to leave all of my yarn and knitting supplies at home. I wanted it to be substantial enough for it to take a long time, yet easy enough that I could work on it without having to think much, since I had so many things to think about: finding a job, a place to live and dealing with the headaches and bureaucracy surrounding moving to another country. I also wanted something relatively simple in a creamy white colour to replace a similarly coloured pashmina that I seem to have lost while moving.

Quill by Jared Flood delivered. It’s been a great easy project for long train rides and episodes of Doctor Who. The feather and fan section got to be a bit of a slog after a while though so I was very glad when I finally got to the edging.

I’m going to come across as a heretic but I hate circular needles and I avoid them whenever I can. They were recommended for this project because the rows get so long and I don’t think I would have been able to get through it without them. But I ran into some issues at the beginning the edging section. It got very fiddly and my needles acquired a mind of their own and started twisting around.

In all likelihood this is because I use cheap circs and not the super expensive fancy ones that have nice flexible cables. I’m on a limited budget at the moment and I also need something to justify my hatred of circs.

I solved the issue by using a straight and a circ in tandem. Worked like a charm! The edging flew along after that.

I’m happy with the result and I think it will get a lot of wear this winter. I enjoyed it so much that I think I might eventually try out the multicolour option. I love the yarn too. It’s 100% British Alpaca from I Knit London, a satisfying mix of warm, squishy and drapey.

Progress pictures and needle and yarn info on Ravelry.

Adventures in hyperlocal knitting

Mudchute Farm sheep

It’s November first, which means it’s Wovember in the UK! Wovember is about celebrating wool and the people and animals who produce it and drawing attention to the challenges they face at home and in the global market. Wovember outlines this here.

I knew beforehand that moving to the UK might be a little dangerous for my budget and now I suddenly find myself in a place where there is so much excellent wool to be found. That was part of the plan, of course, and inspired by Knit British I’ve decided to try only purchasing wool and fibres sourced from UK producers for the time being. It’ll be a fun way of learning more about domestic wool production, and some of the breeds and small producers that exist in the UK.

I believe firmly in buying locally produced goods where it’s an option. Aside from the lowered carbon emissions that come from shorter travel distances, it helps maintain jobs and livelihoods of people in one’s home economy. And, in the event of problems in global supply chains, buying local enables us to be less susceptible to shock by keeping knowledge and production close to home.

Icy Water Mittens

Right. Well, remember earlier when I said it was getting cold outside? Well, my first finished attempt to keep winter at bay is this pair of mittens. The pattern is Icy Water and the yarn is special because it’s hyperlocal, from Mudchute Farm, a 3.5 mile walk from my house.

I was a little surprised to find such a large farm in East London. It seems to be a favourite place for people to bring young kids because you can meet all the livestock they have there. There are signs everywhere welcoming people to feed the animals, but only carrots. Everyone, everywhere on the farm is carrying bags of carrots. At first I was surprised to see that people had come so prepared, but then I realised that there is an Asda right next door. I’m sure it leads the country in carrot sales.

Mudchute has a small flock of rare-breed sheep that it uses to produce a very durable feeling wool in a limited palette of colours. They also serve lunch and there’s a lot of pleasant walking around the park and farm, so it’s a nice day out, regardless of if you’re interested in knitting.

The mittens are very thick and warm so I imagine I’ll get a lot of use out of them this winter. Project details on Ravelry.