The Great British Sewing Bee

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So last week we were treated to three episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee for Children in Need. I love the Sewing Bee. It’s informative, the people are always really nice, and that haberdashery? I just want to jump straight in! It’s different from a lot of other things on television too – no sniping competitors like ‘the apprentice’, no talk of the ‘journeys’ people have been on like the big talent shows, no special favours given to age or beauty, and no ‘life-changing’ sums of money up for grabs, just a humble token prize and some lovely new friends. Do I sound jealous? I think might be.

The reason that I say it’s different from ‘most things’ because it is quite similar to the Great British Bake Off. Let’s face it, they couldn’t even think of a unique show title! As with GBBO we’ve got a male and a female judge (with the same initials), there are three challenges, the judging is somewhat subjective, and frequent attempts are made to ‘educate’ the audience throughout both shows. One interesting difference between the two is the setting – GBBO is in a tent in the grounds of an English manor house, GBSB in a gritty old London textile factory. Whereas GBBO gets pretty bunting and meadow flowers (plus the occasional squirrel), GBSB gets bare brick work and strip lighting. I sort of get it. But I sort of don’t. I’m just not really sure why anyone would bake intricate pastries in a tent, I think that’s the problem.

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Bake off – lovely meadow and pastel kitchen stations

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Sewing Bee – Gritty urban warehouse and exposed brickwork

The thing that does bother me about both of these programmes (but particularly the sewing bee) is the issue of time. In each episode participants (I just can’t get on board with ‘contestants’) are given a very specific time slot in which to make their garment – ‘You have 2 hours to make a skirt!’, ‘1 hour to modify this shirt!’, ‘5 hours to make a coat’, ‘GO GO GO’.

Arrrrgh!

The sociologist Richard Sennett once commented that:

in contemporary capitalism, production is based on speed; fast, short-term transactions; and constantly shifting deadlines and tasks – it is world where ‘craftsmanship sits uneasily’ (2006: 105).

For me this tension really comes to the fore in the Sewing Bee. The craft of sewing is about applying skills, learning to work with a variety of fabrics, stitches, materials, and other notions. And yet, good craft – well executed skills – take time. They take time to develop, and more often than not, time to do well. Now, I supposed the assumption behind the sewing bee is that participants have already put in the time to develop a library of skills which they can in some way just extract and ‘apply’ to the task presented to them. As those of you who read our piece on skilled practice will know, I’m really not a fan of this continual reinforcement of a mind-body divide. But that’s a topic for another post. My specific gripe here is with the way Sewing Bee participants are allocated the minimal amount of time for each challenge, and thus have to work as fast as they possibly can. Each task ends with a countdown, often forcing sewists to leave raw edges on their work, or parts of the garment missing. I remember being particularly cross about this in the first series of the Sewing Bee when Tilly Walnes didn’t get enough time to finish her beautiful blouse (from a self-drafted pattern!) and was (in my opinion) unfairly ejected from the competition. It just all seems to go against what craft is about.

Craft, for me at least, is about taking the time to exercise care in the construction process. It’s not simply about an active human subject imposing her will onto a piece of wood, fabric, or metal, but instead cooperating with, co-producing if you like, a finished article. The maker needs to get to know the material, listen to what it wants. A sewer, for instance, needs to know the drape of her fabric, know what its strengths and limitations are, work with grain lines, work around (or incorporate) imperfections… Even if on paper it is ideally suited for making a specific garment, in practice it might not want to be that. Knitters often talk about waiting for their yarn to tell them what it wants to be, and I think the same is true of materials other than yarn as well. Such a process of communication takes time – just as you get to know people, you need to get to know the materials with which you work.

The fingers that craft can only go as fast as they can go. There is no switch to flick for full power, no gears for them to move through. And yet rather than feeling like they are failing at being efficient, or desperately trying to shave a few minutes off of making time, most craftspeople learn to accept and inhabit this slow space in which things grow logically and methodically – one stitch, one cut, one piece at a time. Particularly for those of us who craft for personal pleasure (rather than a for-profit business venture), craft is about finding joy in the process of making rather than a focus on reaching the finish line. It thus becomes intensely personal – finding what works and what doesn’t (whether someone does an hour here, 20 minutes there, or a huge 7 hour crafting binge, what methods are effective, what shapes and colours suit), creating something that is valued for its absolute uniqueness and being able to take the time to do it as you want.

Not for the Sewing Bee contestants though. It’s all about that finish line, trying to please other people, and direct comparisons. It has to be watchable television, yes, but it needs to have substance too. If it’s supposed to be about racing through life as quickly as possible then I guess it succeeds. But if it’s supposed to be about craft and crafting a lifestyle, well, it’s not a craft that I recognise.

‘Craft’ is everywhere

So maybe it’s just me, and maybe it’s something to do with the fact I’m in the midst of writing-up my thesis, but I keep seeing ‘craft’ everywhere. So much craft that I’m not even sure I know what craft is anymore, or what I even thought it was in the first place. In many respects this is a strange gripe to have with the world; I adore all things crafty, and it’s great that other people seem to share that interest too. Besides, one huge justification for choosing craft as the main focus for my thesis was its increasing ubiquity. But it’s the way in which craft is being taken up by advertising and corporations that I’m finding particularly interesting at the moment. I’ve got three examples that I’ve spotted this week to illustrate what I mean:

1) Fat Face clothing

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I walk past the window of Fat Face every morning on my way into uni, and this sign appeared in their most recent window display. Pyrographic techniques have been used to construct the wooden sign, which actually is quite a beautiful piece of work. It’s a crafty double-whammy – the sign itself being crafted, and the writing talking about crafting clothes. But why? ‘Craft’ has become something of a charged word in recent years, seemingly to imply a careful and considered process which is conducted slowly and respectfully. For many people it also still stands for the notion of ownership over an entire process – from designing, through to making, and eventually selling. But Fat Face don’t do any of these things. The designers design, the garment workers sew the clothing, and retail outlets sell the items. Furthermore, I very much doubt that any of these processes (especially the middle one) are conducted slowly and respectfully. It seems more likely that there will be targets to meet and standards to maintain. For although they rank as one of the more ethical high street brands, Fat Face’s CSR policy is somewhat vague. There’s no mention of living wages, or the environmental impacts of production, and the cotton currently in use is not sourced organically. In fairness, Fat Face have signed the ethical trading initiative (ETI). This has to be taken with a pinch of salt, however, for although it’s a step in the right direction it is far from a guarantee of truly ethical practices – indeed companies such as Primark and GAP have signed it too.

To me the sign is also trying to get across the notion of a Heideggerian ‘authentic’ life, one in which the wearer of these garments can go out and experience the world in its raw reality. They’re not clothes made for lounging around the house in whilst watching television, but clothes made for going on ‘adventures’ and generating a more authentic relationship with the natural world in.

2) Kettle Chips

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Apparently they’re ‘lovingly crafted’. I first saw this advert, with a crisp packet having been carved from wood, in a magazine. A little online research reveals that there are three designs in total – one ceramic and one glass. I must admit, it made me think. Can crisps really be crafted? Apparently all of their crisps are hand-cooked, so perhaps that’s why they felt the word necessary – as a sort of nod towards William Morris’ distrust of mass-production. Still, I’m not convince ‘crafted’ is the right word here. Nice advert though, and a beautiful carving.

 3) Specsavers

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Slightly different take here with the company not using ‘crafted’ in their product description, but featuring some pretty snazzy knitted hats instead. Spotted when reading the metro one morning. To be honest, pretty much anything with knitting catches my eye, and these hats were no exception. There’s also a shark and a bear in the series. I want the shark one.  Unlike the other two ads I don’t think this campaign is claiming too much with its use of craft. The fact they’ve used knitted hats does give a nod to the wearability and fashionability of wool at the moment, but it doesn’t strike me as having the undertones of authenticity, slowness, or care that the other two adverts seem to. But it is an example of craft literally following me everywhere. I’m sure there will be more examples to follow soon!

The City of Briswool

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The City of Briswool is a project to knit, crochet and needlefelt a huge model representing Bristol. Led by Vicky Harrison at Paper Village Arts this project has been in the making for over twelve months and has so far involved 90 makers, 4,000 hours of work, 10 workshops and hundreds of cups of tea! When the model initially went on display in May 2014 at Paper Village it managed to attract 4,000 visitors in just 10 days. The pictures I’ve included here are from that first exhibition, which really was a fabulous sight to behold. Since May the model has continued to evolve as people work on new contributions and expand upon the existing landscape. This weekend (4th and 5th October) the model is getting its second outing – this time at M-Shed. It’s open on both days from 11-4 so do pop in and have a look!

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Over the course of the weekend a series of workshops will be running called ‘how to craft a city’. If you want to join in you need to be able to knit or crochet, just bring along size 4mm hook or needles. Workshop attendees will be:
* Making Colston Hall and The Old Duke pub as a group
* Helping to sew together Queens Square, King Street, and Park Street
* Able to join groups such as Briswool makes Easton
* Assisted with identifying and designing their own contributions to the model

The photos here are just a taster of what will be in store, expect new contributions and a bigger city in a bigger space at M-Shed!

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The Colourful world of Kaffe Fassett

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I’ve had a few great yarn-based days out this summer, and have been vowing for months to blog about them. This is the first one, from back in July when I managed to get to the American Museum in Bath to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition. I read about it online whilst I was in Australia and was pretty excited to visit. Kaffe Fassett is such a big name in knitting, so much so that I had heard about him even before I really began knitting! His work has come to be well known for his rich palette of vibrant colours as he launched a fight against the grey and beige world. For me, however, Kaffe Fassett has always been one of those figures in knitting that I’ve been aware of, but not engaged with. His designs have always struck me as a bit shapeless and 70s, and not something I myself would want to make, let alone wear. But when the opportunity came up to learn a bit more about what he does, I jumped at the chance, keen to figure out what the fuss was about if nothing else.

I persuaded my partner to come along for the day, and after getting a bit (well, very) lost trying to find the place we were thrilled to be greeted by the most beautifully yarn bombed tree in the courtyard.

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As most readers of this blog will know, I started yarn bombing myself almost 4 years ago now. And truth be told – I’m pretty over it. Or I was, right up until I saw the cacophony of colour that shrouded this huge centrepiece! What a lovely welcome on a sunny day :-) The exhibition was housed in an unassuming building just beyond the tree and worked to plunge visitors into Kaffe’s colourful world from the moment they stepped over the threshold.

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The lighting and the layout of the exhibition was beautiful – greeting visitors with a recreation of Kaffe’s Klimt-esque studio before leading you around a series of sections which showed off a variety of his knitting, needlepoint, and quilting work. I thought the green room was particularly lovely and I especially enjoyed the collection of quotes adorning the back wall. I have a feeling some of those may work their way into a certain thesis… They gave a nice insight into some of his working practices and provided a chuckle to boot.

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Although I enjoyed the exhibition, I was disappointed with the lack of information that was provided to visitors. I expected to learn lots about KF, his career, his methods of designing, his preferred techniques, the story behind the garments…. but there was barely anything. It felt like a missed opportunity if nothing else. It also meant that the exhibition felt a bit disjointed, like a collection of things rather than a story.

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I went, dubious about the fashionability of Kaffe Fassett’s creations. I came away equally dubious. But, what the exhibition showed me more than anything else, was that these garments are (or were) more than fashionable – they’re pieces of art in their own right. And you know what…I might just add an extra colour or two to my next knitting project.

The Colourful World of Kaffe Fassett is on at the American Museum in Bath until 2nd November 2014. More info can be found here. I’d love to know what you think of it!

AAG 2015 CFP: Spinoza and Us

Myself and fellow PhD student Tom Roberts are hoping to organise a session at the annual AAG conference next April to explore ideas surrounding Spinoza and the body. If you’d like to take part then we would love to hear from you! Details as follows:

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Call for papers, AAG Chicago 21-25 April 2015

Spinoza and Us

Session abstract: It is well-attested that there exist many ‘Spinozas'; the abominable atheist, the vital materialist, the romantic pantheist and the political radical. It is these rich theoretical starting points which ensure that Spinoza’s work has had an enduring relevance to philosophical and geographical thought, particularly in relation to conceptions of politics and ethics.

Geographers have previously mobilised Spinoza’s thought through concepts such as affect (Deleuze 1988; Dewsbury 2011; Massumi 2002; McCormack 2008), vitalism (Bennett 2010; Roberts 2012), politics (Connolly 2002; Hardt and Negri 2005; Ruddick 2010) and naturalism (Sharp 2011; Grosz 2011). In this session we want to address a concept that runs transversal to all of these themes: the body.

“A body can be anything; it can be an animal, a body of sounds, a mind or an idea; it can be a linguistic corpus, a social body, a collectivity.” – G. Deleuze (1988, page 127).

We feel that Spinoza’s concept of the body holds particular relevance in light of recent trajectories which explore the constitutive role of the nonhuman in political and social life. These include, but are not limited to: object-oriented ontology, speculative realism, new materialism, post-phenomenology, ‘more-than-human’ methodologies and new forms of participation.

In this session we hope to encourage a focussed engagement with Spinoza’s philosophy as a means of re-situating bodies, and what they can do, within contemporary human geography.

We would like to invite contributions that address or relate to:

 – The status of ‘the human’ in human geography

 – Technological bodies and the agency of nonhuman objects

 – Incorporeal bodies and affects

 – Ethology and Power

 – Nature and Spinoza’s ‘naturalism’

 – The politics and ethics that emerge in the processes of composing bodies

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to Tom Roberts (tom.roberts@bristol.ac.uk) and Joanna Mann (joanna.mann@bristol.ac.uk) by Friday 17th of October.

Participants will be contacted by 21st October and will be expected to register and submit their abstracts online at the AAG website by 31st October 2014 ahead of a session proposal deadline of 5th November 2014. Please note that registration fees will apply and must be paid before the submission of abstracts to the AAG online system.

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Geographies of Skilled Practice

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RGS-IBG 2014 is done and dusted. It was a hectic few days, but I saw heaps of great talks and met some lovely fellow geographers! The session Merle and I organised on skilled practice went really well, and we thought we would put our introduction up on our respective blogs for those who couldn’t make it on the day. Without further ado – here it is!

 

Introduction to Geographies of Skilled Practice and Co-production Joanna Mann and Merle Patchett 

These two sessions stem from our shared interest in skilled craft practices, in both historical and contemporary contexts. Independently and collaboratively we have been attempting to theorise and practice a range of skills, repeatedly coming back to questions concerning how to define, recognise, and witness skill.

Skill is an inherently conflicted subject, with a myriad of definitions, applications, and understandings. The accepted OED definition is taken as ‘the ability to do something well’, with an etymology lying in the Old Norse word for discernment and knowledge. This older conception understands reason as a faculty of the mind, and speaks to the orthodox view that skill is the application of knowledge, serving to reinforce the sense of a mind-body spilt. More contemporary understandings quoted by the dictionary, however, speak to skill as a form of practical or embodied knowledge. Rather than foreclose understandings of skill and skilled practice, this session is a forum for exploring conceptions, characterisations, and applications of skill within and beyond geography.

Broadly situated, we understand these two sessions to fit in with the growing interest into the geographies of crafting, making and mending. To date much of this scholarship has sought to underline the social, economic and political potentials of craft and DIY ‘making cultures’ for responding to post-capitalist relations in a messy post-disciplinary environment. However, our concern with the focus on DIY cultures and ‘make do and mend’ philosophies is what happens to the place and relevance of skill?

If skilled practice is defined as the ability to ‘do something well’, are these (often) quick-fix solutions, combined with the availability of new technologies and learning platforms, leading to an impoverished conception of skill in the 21st century, whereby anyone can learn to become a plumber, coder or a taxidermist in a day?

Or is it simply the case that we are becoming skilful in different ways, in different settings and through different means?

Our specific interest in skilled practice emerges from a concern to move beyond interest in short-lived making and learning cultures, to instead think through the more long-term and committed geographical and bodily dynamics involved processes of enskilment. Yet rather than perpetuate romantic and static conceptions of skill, we seek to draw attention to the ways in which skill has always been dynamically co- and re-produced in both the past and the present. Furthermore, taking account of David Pye’s assertion that the crafts have no unique purchase on the matter of skill, we have compiled this session to showcase how research reaches areas as diverse as music, contemporary art, and digital technologies.

As geographers our understandings of skilled practice are shaped by a wide range of work, both within and outside of our own discipline. However the work of anthropologist and long-time theorist of skill Tim Ingold has perhaps been the most influential in terms of rethinking skill in recent years. Ingold’s body of work has steadily overturned the orthodox view that skill is the mere application of knowledge, by demanding instead a perspective that situates the practitioner, right from the start, in the context of an active engagement with the constituents of his or her surroundings.

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According to Ingold’s ‘dwelling perspective’, skills are neither innate nor acquired, but are rather ‘grown’: “incorporated into the human organism through practice and training in an environment” (Ingold 2000: 5). Ingold’s focus on practical enskilment, conceived as the embodiment of capacities of awareness and response by environmentally situated agents, has therefore helped us to overcome the overly rigid divisions between mind and body, and ‘art’ and ‘technology’ that have plagued prior theorisations of skill.

Moreover, by arguing that skills are ‘ecologically’ rather than ‘culturally’ produced, Ingold has highlighted that skills are not static ‘cultural traditions’ that are passed on by processes of learning from generation to generation, but are rather ‘regrown’ in each, responding to the specificities of particular ‘ecologies of practice’. 

As such, the essence of skill for Ingold comes to lie in the improvisational ability with which practitioners are able to disassemble the constructions of a craft or technology, and creatively to reincorporate the pieces into their own walks of life. François Sigaut goes so far as to call this the law of the irreducibility of skills (cited in Ingold 2011:62), whereby even the emerging technological work of the digital age demands that skills are, in Ingold’s terms, ‘re-grown’. 

However, while theoretically Ingold’s pronouncements on skill do not sit uneasily with the ‘ecologies of practice’ of the digital age, when selecting ethnographic material to substantiate his arguments he has tended to focus on the comparative study of hunter-gatherer and pastoral societies, drawing particularly on his early research on northern circumpolar reindeer hunting and herding peoples. As such Ingold’s work has be criticised at best for having little or nothing to say about the skills required for the digital age and at worst for putting certain ‘ecologies of practice’ in aspic. Moreover, although Ingold has helped us to overcome the overly rigid division between the works of human beings and those of non-human animals, the fundamental focus in his work, unsurprisingly for an anthropologist, is the role of the human in the development and practice of skill. 

By contrast, a particularly exciting move in geography at the moment is the way in which this human focus is being de-centred by theoretical influences such as non-representational theory and new materialist currents of thought which are increasingly changing the way we understand and interact with the world. For example the re-focusing of cultural geographic concerns on bodily-practices has turned attention away from cognition and representation to issues of embodiment, performance, skill and affect understood as relational and distributive forces and competencies that cut across human-nonhuman divides. These geographic arguments thus promote a modest and inclusive approach to understanding the social which depends on: ‘a philosophy of epistemological detail’ (Deleuze 1994: xix), the foregrounding of tacit knowledge (Rheinberger 1997), and ‘knowing interestingly’ through the development of rich and original articulations (Latour 2000).

A number of interesting and exciting studies have emerged of late, many picking up on these prevailing theoretical currents and empirical orientations. These include, for instance, Caitlin DeSilvey et al’s stories of menders in Southwest England, Richard Ocejo’s examination of cocktail bartenders, and Tim Edensor’s study of stonemasonry. In all of these instances, the work carried out is seeking to access knowledge which is rooted in deep practice and elucidate it for means of preservation, theoretical exemplification, or the passing-on of techniques.

These examples all highlight the way geographers work with skilled practitioners to co-produce knowledge. Arguably, they also showcase the way in which geographical research is a skilled practice in its own right. There are a plethora of methods available to the geographer, all of which require practice, refinement, and engagement to employ successfully. 

Conventionally, geographers have used techniques such as ethnography, interviews, archival research, and participant observation. Auto-ethnography is favoured by Erin O’Connor as an invaluable tool to understand ‘learning by doing’ in the realms of glass blowing. Similarly, Merle’s research into taxidermy practice highlights how the position of learner or apprentice can be a highly instructive context from which to enquire into the decidedly more-than-human sensory, bodily and affective registers of certain forms of skilled practice. Joanna, meanwhile, has found material-led interviews useful, going beyond a straight-forward question-and-answer format into a series of demonstrations, lessons, and experiments within practitioner’s workspaces.

Kenward(Picture from Steve Kenward’s ‘Made not manufactured series’)

All these techniques broadly encapsulate the recent turn towards practice-based inquiry that has witnessed academics using and honing their own skills, new and existing, as part of their research. James Ash, for instance uses his existing skills of video gaming to theorise affect, temporality, and technicity, whereas David Paton applies his experiences with stonemasonry to address materiality. Furthermore David Bissell has drawn on his experience of witnessing skilled performances in golf to challenge the ‘slow-creep dynamic’ through which skills and proficiencies are understood to evolve and become refined over time through repetition and habit. Following a decidedly anti-humanist logic Bissell has gone as far to argue that skills ‘might be better understood as competencies that temporarily possess us: fragile proficiencies that evolve in ways that unsettle the predictabilities inherent to more slow-creep understandings of practical refinement’ (2013: 127). The emergence of skill for Bissell therefore becomes less about trust in the narrowing and perfecting of movements through the drilled repetition of practices and more about the supple exposure to more volatile forms of life that just might develop the skill in a new direction.

Problems arise, however, when we want to access skilled practices of the past. Although the studying of embodied practices and skills of the past should be a central concern of the historical geographer because ‘as one of the chief sources of renewal of social systems… practices and skills are, in a sense, a motor of history’ (Glennie and Thrift 2004: 154) and therefore historical geographies, there is often very little in the historical record to mark them. As Gagen et al (2007:5) point out ‘the passage of time erodes the ‘presence’ of past practices and we must, by necessity, forgo any claims to the possibility of recovering in fullness realms of lived gesture, touch, and emotion’. This is especially so for skilled practices given that many skills were ‘passed-on’, or rather ‘re-grown’, largely tacitly and performatively, as in the case with craft guilds and apprenticeship schemes.

One method around this problem has been to use archival fragments in an attempt to reconstruct and reimagine the past. Increasingly, researchers of historical geography are finding that the notion of historicising does not need to mean deadening what has gone before. Instead they are enlivening the archive in ways which reveal the dynamic and distributed nature of past skilled practices, and are even showing that the leftover pieces of a craft or technology can be creatively reincorporated into the research process and their own walks of life. 

We have devised a few questions to act as a shared touchstone over the next two sessions. They are by no means the sole focus for what follows, but hopefully a good starting point and a basis for a larger group discussion at the end of session two. 

  1. What is the relevance of skill in the 21st Century?
  2. What is skill? How do we co-produce it?
  3. As geographical researchers, how do we witness skill in the past and present?
  4. How do we understand and trace the ‘passing-on’ of skill?
  5. How do we theorise skill as a collective endeavour?
  6. What is the relationship between skill and technology, historically and in the present?

These two sessions will showcase contemporary research into skill, as well as the skill of research. We’re interested in placing/grounding skill – not necessarily as something that is locatable in one particular body, but in the entanglements through which it comes into being and is sustained, lost, and recovered. In turning towards a notion of skill that is simultaneously embodied, placed, tethered, relational and distributed, we look forward to learning more about the practices, politics, histories, and futures of skill. 

Key References:

Adamson, G. (2007) Thinking Through Craft Oxford: Berg.

Ash, J. (2010) Architectures of affect: anticipating and manipulating the event in processes of videogame design and testing Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28(4), 653-671.

Bissell, D. (2013). Habit displaced: the disruption of skilful performance Geographical Research 51(2), 120-129.

DeSilvey, C., Ryan, J., & Bond, S. C. (2013) 21 Stories Cultural Geographies

Edensor, T. (2012) Materiality, time and the city: the multiple temporalities of building stone Spatialities: The Geographies of Art and Architecture 35-52.

Ingold, T. (2000) The perception of the environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill Psychology Press.

Ingold, T. (2011) Being alive: Essays on movement, knowledge and description Taylor & Francis.

O’Connor, E. (2005) Embodied knowledge The experience of meaning and the struggle towards proficiency in glassblowing Ethnography 6(2), 183-204.

Ocejo, R. E. (2012) At your service: The meanings and practices of contemporary bartenders European Journal of Cultural Studies 15(5), 642-658.

Patchett, M. (2014) ‘Witnessing craft: employing video ethnography to attend to the more-than-human craft practices of taxidermy’, in Charlotte Bates (ed) Video Methods: Social Science Research in Motion Routledge.

Paton, D. A. (2013). The quarry as sculpture: the place of making Environment and Planning A 45(5), 1070-1086.

 

RGS-IBG 2014: Geographies of Skilled Practice and Co-production

RGS-IBGThe RGS-IBG conference is a mere two weeks away (where did the time go?!) so it only seemed right that I swing by to plug the sessions I’ve been organising with Dr Merle Patchett – ‘the geographies of skilled practice and co-production’. The two sessions that we’ve put together stem from our shared interest in skilled craft practices, in both historical and contemporary contexts. We had a great response to our call for papers back in January and I’m delighted to announce that the line-up is as follows: 

Session 1: placing skill 

Introduction to Geographies of skilled practice and co-production – Joanna Mann (University of Bristol) and Merle Patchett (University of Bristol)

Simplicity, soul and skill: new folk geographies of hut and bothy – Rachel Hunt (University of Glasgow)

Suffolk and The Suffolk: 21st Century Co-production of Heavy Horse Skills - Kim Crowder (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Machine-made lace, the co-production of knowledge and the spaces of skilled practice -Tom Fisher (Nottingham Trent University) and Julie Botticello (Birkbeck, University of London) 

Binding Us Together: The Artist’s Line for Skilled Co-Production – Elizabeth Hodson (University of Aberdeen)

Session 2: Rethinking skill 

The craft of musical performance: creativity as skilled practice – Emily Payne (University of Oxford)

 A tradition of becoming skilful? – Joanna Mann (University of Bristol)

 An ethnography of image making practices in Hyderabad – Fiza Ishaq (Heidelberg University, Germany)

Struggling over skill: materiality, embodiment and contestation in the surfboard industry – Andrew Warren (University of New England, Australia) and Chris Gibson (University of Wollongong, Australia) 

Re-thinking redundancy in crisis: materials and skills beyond excess – Chantel Carr (University of Wollongong, Australia)

Both these sessions will be on Thursday 28th August, the first starting at 14:40 and the second starting at 16:50 in Electrical Engineering room 403a. We’re also hoping that independent artist Jethro Bryce is going to run a drawing exercise for us during the break between the two sessions, so it should be a jam-packed afternoon. 

I’ve had a quick look through the online programme of events as well, and can already spy lots of sessions that interest me. On Wednesday there’s a discussion on ‘performing geographies’, and three sessions on ‘making geographies’. ‘Postcolonial geographies, political ontologies, and posthumanism’ sounds like it might be a good way to start Thursday morning, and I’m totally intrigued by the notion of ‘ad-hoc geographies’ that day too. I was hoping for a quieter Friday, but alas, ‘Speculative Realism and Speculative Materialism’ sounds too good to miss, and I’ll definitely stick my nose into ‘cinematicity’, ‘assemblage theory’ and ‘literary cartographies’ as well. It’s going to be a hectic few days! 

albert hall(Clearly the Albert Hall and not the Royal Geographical Society, but it’s one of the only photos I took last year… and it’s quite pretty)