Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Artist Within

I'd like to kid myself that because my office is in central Birmingham I can easily take advantage of the wonderful opportunities to do something different in my lunchbreak; go to a museum, visit a gallery, go for a walk by the canal.

All too often I'm afraid, lunchbreak is me, sat at my desk, eating some sort of food from whatever sandwich shop I judge to be nearest to the building.

On Friday though I finally achieved my aim, thanks to a bit of prompting by a friend who had seen a leaflet of an exhibition that she thought would be just my thing. She was right.

Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution is a travelling exhibition, currently on display in Birmingham's Waterhall gallery (part of the Birmingham Museum and Gallery but a little bit around the corner of the building from the main entrance).

It's a mixture of creative art; there are things that L and I looked at, looked at each other, and just thought 'meh'; there are things that we thought were beautiful; and there were things that we thought were fun.

L's favourite from the beautiful category was an enormous white board panel, patterned with tiny pebbles of slightly different sizes. From a distance you see squares and rectangles, close up it swirls in front of your eyes, and from the sides the different widths of the pebbles make even more patterns. We both found it very soothing to look at. A picture of part of the piece is on flickr here

For my favourite I struggled to choose. There are a series of garden mugs and matching plates; the plates show the layout of each garden as if viewed from above; a veg patch, a river meadow, and a formal garden, and the mugs that go with them have trees on the side; the river meadow has (I think) oak trees, the veg patch has fruit trees, and the formal garden has conifers. It's all in blue and white in a slightly 'chinese' style, and probably wins the prize for 'piece I'd most like to take home'.

My true favourite I can show you - there's a picture here

It's very simple, an inscription of a diary entry from a 14 year old girl from years back who lived in Norfolk (I think her name was Anne):

"Very early the Brigantine went off. I slept all night with her riding light shining on my face. I woke Antony up and made him come and see her go.

First she set inner and outer jib, then flying jib, then she got underway and weared round, running before the wind.

Then she set lower fore topsail, then forecourse, then upper fore topsail, then the togallant, then the two lower main staysails. The Barquentine, by the way, had gone before the morning."

Reading the inscription needs no picture to show you the scene that morning, I can see the river and hear the thrum through the rigging in my mind.

We saved our interactive art for last. They have two projects running - one of which involves choosing something you like, drawing a picture of it, making that into a badge and pinning the badge onto a place special to you on a giant map of Birmingham.

We drew a cupcake, wrote "we like cake" on it, and pinned it over our office. This marks the spot of the team cake shelf!

The second is called a garland or 'step and stitch'. Pictures are here. Really it is a wonderful huge spiders web of yarn with bits of crochet and knitting joined in for good measure. They have spools of yarn lying around in wonderful colours (donated by a local carpet factory), and needles and crochet hooks.

On one side L make a drunken spiders web, and I added some finger knitting in giant loops, on the other side (after we found the needles), L added bright red dangling pompoms and I cast on and knit for a little bit. When we could no longer ignore the need to return to work we tied the knitted strip up by its cast-on tail and left the needle in - anyone who goes can continue knitting my strip - as long as they're tall enough to reach it of course. What I really wanted to do was knit a long strip, blending through all of the different colours and then weave it in but alas, work called.

It does seem that extensive exposure to yarn in my lunchbreak might not be the best thing for me though - during the afternoon I kept coming up with new yarn-based ideas, mostly to do with Christmas decorations.

S and I who share a partition have already added fairy lights along the top but felt that it needed a little something extra. Halfway through the afternoon I called to her:



"I'm seriously considering little red pom-poms along the top - what do you think?"

My only response for several minutes was borderline hysteria from the rest of the team - apparently my tone had been rather serious and suggestive of the start of a conversation discussing a report or some other form of actual work!

Oh well - let the subliminal conversion of my team continue.


  1. This all seems like perfect mid-day distraction to give one's mind a break! I really like the idea behind interactive art...I've never seen such a piece.

  2. That sounds a lovely way to spend a lunchtime, I'd be slipping back each day to add a few rows to "my" knitting.


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