Tuesday, 17 July 2012

sampler-cultureclash at Manchester Craft and Design Centre

Sometimes something pops up in your inbox that makes you stop and think. The thing that caught my eye wasn't the celebration of the Manchester Craft and Design Centre's 30th birthday, impressive though it is. It wasn't that it was holding an afternoon of sampling and workshops by MMU Embroidery BA students - fun though that sounded.

It wasn't even the free beer (thank you Marble Brewery).

What caught my eye was the sampler-cultureclash collective's performance - textile meets technology. This promised embroidery meeting music, sampler meeting, well, sampler.

Intrigued, puzzled and of course, for a crafter like me, interested in spending the afternoon with other crafters, I headed out to the MCDC for an afternoon of crafting and an evening of entertainment.

The Design Centre itself is situated in a old fish market - it's history hasn't been lost on the artists housed there, nor on those taking part in the history celebrations - and is based in the Northern Quarter. It's now home to some of Manchester's most creative designer-makers, who not only offer lessons, workshops and bespoke items, but handmade gifts and treats for yourself.  If you haven't been, I can highly recommend it, the unusual pieces of jewellery, textiles, fabric work, papercraft, leatherwork... oh the list goes on. I was relieved I didn't take my credit card (and I think my bank manager was too). For unusual pieces of beautiful art, it's worth a visit.

As part of the celebrations for its 30th birthday, the Centre held a Collecting History launch in April and since then artist Lucie Elsie Harvey has been collecting memories, pictures, notes and the history of the site. In addition, the resident artist-makers and the MMU BA students have created their own pieces and projects, which were available to view at the Centre, and in the case of the students, take part in on Saturday. Finally, there is a large piece of art work, created by ceramicist Carys Davies - she has sourced stories about the Centre and used selected phrases and words to create a large number of pieces to encourage viewers to take a closer look, both at the Centre itself and its history.

After a walk round the Centre (who can resist, really), I stopped by one of the tables in the main foyer and spoke to Chloe Hamill. Chloe had looked at the history of the venue and decided to invite people attending to work on a fish that she had screen printed - we were invited to embroider and stuff the fish, putting inside it our own name (printed on a piece of card, spelled backwards) so that the creator would remain anonymous. The 27 fish were representative of the 27 fishermen lost on the boat The Mexican on a rough sea after hitting a sandbank. The loss of their lives resulted in the first Lifeboat Saturday (since called Flag Day) in Manchester.

Chloe herself has now graduated from MMU and is about to embark on a trip to Uganda, to see how she can further the work being done to help women in the country, find a way out of poverty and abuse through textile production.

Jordan Hargreaves was holding a workshop at the adjacent table, using squares of cross stitched letters to recreate slang words, used both in the Centre's past as a fish market and since as a Design Centre.

Laura-Jane Atkinson was outside, working on the adjacent pavement, using tape to recreate embroidery stitches on the concrete. She is fascinated by stitchwork and being able to use the patterns with harder substances such as wood, using them on a large.

I also stopped to see the work of Joy Morris who was drawing outlines of people moving around the Centre on acetate fixed to a window. It was fascinating to watch those who'd realised they were being drawn and didn't know whether to stand still or move on....

My friend Lisa joined me for the evening at the Centre, for the sampler - cultureclash live performance. Glass of wine in hand, we circled the fishcrate sculpture (part of the event) wondering how beatbox, musicians, computer hackers and performance poets were going to interpret embroidery in this meeting of media.

What we were treated to was an amazing array of sound. Using a range of technology (some existing, some adapted and some created, we were taken from the sounds of the fishmarket and the era it began in - horses on cobbles, steam, contemporary music, the sound of a sewing machine - through the sound of ice cracking an fizzing, the sounds of the building, voices to the sound of decay and desperation. An iPad was used to translate embroidery and visual into sound, creating waves of electronic sound. Ice boxes were slowly removed around the musical artists, showing them at work. The sound of designers talking about their work was laid over the sound of icecubes moving together, with the well known 'tap-tap' of a metrolink tram moving over the rails.

The final embroidery interaction came from a piece being wound through a mechanism to create the sound of a music box, not unlike a teanola organ.

As the finale, we were all invited to sing happy birthday to the building and blow out the candles on a birthday cake. A fitting end to the first half of a year of celebrations at the Centre. I can't wait to pop back and see what else is in store...

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