Australia

As many of you know, I’m currently in AUSTRALIA! About this time last year I applied for an ESRC Overseas Institutional Visit award and was fortunate enough to have it granted. The funding was to come to the University of Newcastle in New South Wales to work with A. Prof Jenny Cameron in the school of environmental and life sciences. It gives me the opportunity to work in a different environment with a set of new ideas and voices, so my aim is to get a chapter polished off for my thesis whilst here.

I arrived 5 weeks ago, and time is absolutely flying past. I was so worried about coming over into a different department, but it turns out my fears were unfounded – everyone is ridiculously nice, kind, and welcoming. I’ve really enjoyed hearing about the diversity of projects people are undertaking, and have taken the opportunity to immerse myself in some new literatures and test out a few different ideas. I’ve been going to reading groups, seminars, and meetings and feel thoroughly at home here. I’m also finding myself more productive on this side of the world – due in no small part to the vast majority of my friends, family, and colleagues being asleep during my working hours! There’s a serious lack of emails to distract me during the day. And that’s not wholly a bad thing…

The main campus of Newcastle Uni – Callaghan – is massive. I still haven’t got my head around the scale of it. It took me the best part of an hour to find my department when I got off at the wrong bus stop on my second day! It’s beautiful though – there are plenty of huge towering trees all around the campus, with lots of walkways between sites. The only problem is that all the greenery draws in the mosquitos. I got munched pretty badly during my first few weeks, but have luckily found a jungle-strength repellent to keep me safe of late.

(Look at all these trees!)

On the whole I’ve really been enjoying the Aussie way of life. Popping over to the beach (literally a stone’s throw away from my apartment) always feels like a complete treat, especially when the sun is still warm on your skin. There’s a great coffee culture, heaps of fresh fruit and veg available at the local markets, and always plenty of new things to see and do. I’ve been lucky enough to end up in a beautiful apartment with two lovely housemates. Plus, Newcastle is less than a three hour (and less than £10!) train journey to Sydney – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the good fortune to visit.

It’s been an absolute ball so far, but highlights include:

Olive picking with my new housemates! One of the members of staff in the department has an olive grove at home and invited us round to help her harvest it. We had such a nice day handpicking the olives, and a mere 4 days later were clutching bottles of olive oil from the very same olives!

Picking!

 

So many olives!

Visiting Sydney and taking in the views from the top of the Sydney tower eye – stunning!

My 25th birthday! Jenny brought in a delicious sour lemon cake and everybody came to birthday morning tea. The weather was divine, and for lunch there was a departmental pizza picnic! YUM! I was totally bowled over by the kindness of people I’d met merely two weeks before.

Seeing a real life (totally adorable) WOMBAT! And koalas, and kangaroos, and echidnas….

Going to a community economies research network meeting – Jenny invited me to attend their monthly meetings at which likeminded researchers drawing on particular theoretical frameworks all get together to meet up, discuss ideas, and read each other’s work. Not only did I get to meet loads of lovely people, but the meeting was on the Hawksbury River, a completely gorgeous part of the world. Oh, and we ate heaps of delicious food as well!

Doing my departmental seminar! I was a bit (very) nervous about putting myself and my work out there, but it went well and I got lots of generous feedback to help me turn it into a full blown chapter! Progress is being made!!!

I have also learned what a rip tide is. Getting caught up in one wasn’t such a great experience, and having to be rescued was excruciatingly embarrassing. Suffice to say, I’ve not been back into the sea above knee level since…

So, I’m half way through. Goodness only knows what the next five weeks hold, but if they’re anything like the first five then it seems there’s still much to look forward to. I’ll be back with an update again soon!

 

 

 

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2013 in Review

(Belated) happy new year all! And sorry about the lack of blog posts towards the end of 2013… I don’t really know what happened. My new year’s resolution is to blog more regularly, although it seems I haven’t got off to the best of starts.

The life of a PhD student is a strange one. Often you feel like you achieve very little, plodding into the office every day, reading a bit, and then plodding home again for dinner (and a knit). As we moved into the New Year I didn’t feel as if 2013 had been particularly significant for me. It was that ‘middle stage’ of the PhD, the bit that doesn’t have the freshness and excitement of starting but also the bit without the panic and pressure of writing up and getting-it-done. But actually, when I stopped and considered it 2013 was alright. More than alright in many respects, and quite eventful!

At the start of the year I was busy throwing myself into interviewing local makers. I met some wonderful people – including basket weavers, fabric artists, a ceramicist, mosaicist, silversmith, and a metal sculptor – who welcomed me into their workspaces and allowed me an insight into their craft worlds. I also spoke with Matthew Partington from UWE about interviewing craftspeople and the on-going project he is involved in called ‘recording the crafts’. This was useful, not only for the interviewing work I had already been doing, but for the archival practice I was about to embark on at the University of Southampton.

481116_10153105548980534_198624760_nShetland

As many of you know I was fortunate enough to attend the ‘In the Loop 3.5’ conference in Shetland over the summer, which marked my first ever visit to the northerly Island. The scenery was stunning, the conference fascinating, and the wool plentiful. Needless to say I came back with a case stuffed full of yarny goodness. In the Loop was organised by the lovely, and totally inspirational, Linda Newington. Linda is based at Winchester School of Arts and curates the Knitting Reference Library (KRL). After hearing about this veritable treasure trove at In the Loop I arranged a visit to delve through some of the books and patterns held both at Winchester and in Southampton. Oh my gosh, it’s a wonderful collection! Everything you can think of to do with knitting is here – from Victorian patterns to yarn samples, letters between famous knitters to needles, and drop spindles to toilet roll covers. It’s just jaw-dropping, and such a privilege to be allowed a glimpse of craft history. Longer blog post to follow dedicated solely to the KRL, I promise.

994228_10153105547705534_151050738_nA Shetland Knitting Circle

I’ve also been spending an increasing amount of time at Paper Village and getting involved with their community projects. In May we unveiled the coral reef – a fab crochet project that involved 38 local crafters making a woolly underwater wonderland that went on display for a month or so and got some great feedback from crafters and non-crafters alike. The next project is the City of Briswool – a mission to knit, crochet, and needlefelt a fibrous representation of Bristol. I’ve been tasked with making Beese’s tea rooms and some trees for Arnos Vale cemetery. It’s going to be massive and I can’t wait to see the finished piece! Going to Paper Village isn’t all about project work though; I’ve also been going to the weekly knit and natter group there and enrolled in a few courses. As a result I can now make my own (cotton, not knitted) knickers!

971408_628315547181681_1907177861_nThe Paper Village Coral Reef

Vicky from Paper Village was also kind enough to collaborate with me in a recent conference we did on crafting at the University’s ‘Thinking Futures’ event. We spoke alongside other academics and practitioners at what was, overall, a relaxed, fun, and interesting evening discussing a range of craft-related issues. On the subject of conferences, 2013 was my first visit to the annual RGS-IBG conference in London at which I also presented in a session on the geographies of comfort. It turned out to be a great few days actually, helped in no small part by some glorious weather, where I got to meet a huge range of geographers and generally mingle with people working in similar fields. My paper went much better than I expected it to (given how incredibly anxious I’d been about it in the weeks leading up to the event) and the conference as a whole was a bit of a summer boost.

In terms of yarn bombing this year I’ve largely kept my head down, excluding one or two big events. My absolute favourite commission was being asked to decorate the surroundings for one of Bristol’s Gromits over the summer for Hotel du Vin. The team were so lovely and welcoming and helped me cover their courtyard in bunting, pom-poms, and a giant bone. It looked great, and I had lots of positive feedback on it too. I also did some work for AXA’s graduate scheme again, this time making pom-poms to adorn Warwick University’s campus during a career fair. Apparently though the wrap from 2012 is still doing the rounds and has been displayed all over the country! Nice to know it’s holding up ok. I was also sent a link to a yarn bombing documentary a few weeks ago which I was interviewed for. The other participants are Spanish, but this version of the video has English subtitles if you fancy a watch. There’s some very impressive work going on!

It probably goes without much saying that I did a fair amount of knitting in 2013. Not as much as I would have liked, but I did manage to get through over 7 miles of yarn – just in my personal projects! Not too shabby. I doubt I’ll get as much knitted up in 2014, but watch out for a few upcoming posts I have planned on some exciting projects I’ll be embarking on shortly. It’s going to be an exciting year by all accounts – I’m off to Australia for three months starting in February having been awarded a grant by the ESRC to work with a professor at the University of Newcastle. I can’t wait! Then it will almost be time for another RGS-IBG conference (at which I’m co-organising a session), before getting the thesis written and finished. Lots to look forward to then!