Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Buble Christmas Blues

Over the past couple of months I've been working on my new project, compiling research, making things and shooting. I will be back dating my blog with this (where I have not had the chance to do so at the time) and hopefully posting a new free pattern in the next week!

But firstly, I decided it would be a good idea to download the Michael Buble Christmas Album as well as Crazy Love (one of my favourite albums ever). I would recommend Buble to absolutely anybody in a relationship, he'll make you realise how amazing love it and how lucky you are to have found that special person. I would not recommend Buble to any single person, Buble over Christmas will just make you cry, especially Crazy Love. I guess that when you are single and you hear 'you're nobody till somebody loves you' its pretty much a tipping point. And Buble, although I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you, I don't believe you, or any other man, could ever possibly feel that way about a women. 

I dislike the way that for a split second the music gives you hope, that maybe there is this preconceived destiny and a white knight. I think I'll just stick to believing in unicorns. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Commercial Context

The work I am producing must have a commercial context, a ideal place that you would like it and where it would most fit in the industry. One of the problems with this is that we are now being told to leave this quite broad, students in my class that are doing advertising campaigns are being told to not use a product but rather make the work open to clients to see their products working with the images. This being a problem as we are being advised by an industry specialist to leave it open however our tutors still need that context for the curriculum. With the learning agreement we had to submit I put down two main choices for context; Another magazine and Oh Comely Magazine which I will now justify. 


My first choice of magazine would be Another, its high fashion and has features on arts, politics and literature. With what I am trying to achieve with my work if it all comes together it could be an interesting piece for this magazine. My work looks at the current issues of hunting, the craft in art and will also have a very slick final look. I have had a look through the magazine and online and have found a few articles on knitting and its rise in popularity. As Another is part of the dazed group it also has links to the Dazed online articles on knitwear and I also found this in a recent issue of Dazed and Confused. 

It is a small piece on Hannah Taylor's knitwear, showing both magazines are very aware of upcoming knitwear artists as well as having good photographs and editorials. Although knitting is a big thing in this project I do have to remember that I am the photographer and that is the course I am on, ultimately I am judged on the photos I take and if they would fit into this context. The only thing I would be concerned about with my photos is the over editing, magazines like W feature Erwin Olaf's work allowing for his photographic style, whilst some magazines and companies are now trying to promote more natural looking images. I know with Another the adverts and editorials are very high fashion, justifying the way I make my photos 

Oh Comely was the other main context I could consider for my work, still an upcoming magazine that is different to the glossy fashion publications. I felt my work could be considered here because it is quirky and kitsch. Oh Comely is know for its nostalgic articles and ideals which my work ultimately looks at. It is considering photography and textiles and has a interesting narrative behind it. Choosing Oh Comely is also a little less ambitious as it is still quite new, maybe allowing me a chance to submit my work and maybe have it published. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

In the loop

I have been reading the book 'In the Loop' by Jessica Hemmings which has a collection of essays on contemporary knitting and art and how it is re-thought. This helps my research as it is looking at the critical theory of knitting and the use of photography with it. Although I am an image maker and know the readings on Barthes and Benjamin I believe the theory that needs to be addressed in my images is that of the hand made. If I were shooting for a fashion or textile student then the ideas would be different as they would of had pre-concieved notions on what their pieces were about. Here I am the prop maker, like with the paper dresses, I am the one using my hands to produce and create something of value to the shoot. 

With my work I generally find a variety of thing that I am interested in and then strip it back so the things all play influence in the work, however they may not be acknowledged by the viewer or it will just look like a jumble. Here my main ones are:

Hunting: the issue of vanity vs animal welfare
The use of craft in contemporary art
Hyper realist techniques 

These seem like very broad topics with my work, yet to my work it boils down to

The Peta campaigns and my views on hunting and the current laws surrounding it.
Artists like Shuana Richardson 
And Erwin Olafs photographic style/the style I have been building in throughout my project. 

Margi Geerlinks
So with this post I am looking at the craft in arts and some examples and quotes led from the book.

"Knitting is now a medium and even a reference of choice for many contemporary artists" Hemmings, J (2010, p11)

The photo featured above is by Margi Geerlinks, the essay by Clio Padovani and Paul Whittaker 'Twists, Knots and Holes: Collecting The Gaze and Knitting the Impossible' talks about the use of knitting in art and deconstructs the image.

"The pictorial alliance of a woman, child and the practice of knitting might conventionally suggest a content of mother hood and the familial. In this image however, these alliances, arranged around the partial form of the knitted body, appear not familial but monstrous. The act of creation, rendered inert by the photograph, appears here more self-driven than a selfless act of life giving; more Dr Frankenstein than a Madonna and Child."

I think the quote here brings up a very good point, there is something very wrong when you look at this. There is that initial shock of seeing a naked child held up by knitting needles by this strange looking woman. It is not a traditional image of a mother and child and that is the point it is trying to make. What is interesting to me is that is is a photograph, rather than an exhibition or fashion collection it is a still, constructed photograph.

"the act of knitting might reasonably include the practice of collecting; knitting as the collection and construction of narratives-narratives in which the artist is a primary factor, but not always necessarily, the creator of disturbing tales"

Another quote used to describe the work talks about collecting, Susan Steward's theory on how objects in museums "meditate experience in time and space". From here it becomes a little complicated and I think I am beginning to understand the theory. I think it does come away a little from what I am trying to explore with my work.

What is interesting is this section of the essay:

"It is the [hole] in the subject's seemingly omnipotent look": a gap that "marks the spot at which our desire manifest itself in what we see". 

"The gaze is the cause of desire rather than the object towards which desire tends and as such it is a hole that sets the drives in motion" 

Looking at 'Narrative Knits' it writes about knitting

"It is often used to navigate grief, disappointment or loss, as it does a romantic return to the soothing rhythms of working with our hands"

I believe looking at the reasons behind why we knit are part of the critical frame work of my images. Like all my photography work I can say it is personal because I make it for me (and the university), however can I truly say that? Being on a commercial course ensures boundaries of industry context and suddenly in our third year I have to start re-considering the critical side? My work cannot connote as deeper meaning as Margi Geerlinks, it has no obvious link to the woman who taught me to knit or the reasons behind it. I can identify with this quote because it was through troubled circumstances that I picked up the needles. Does that mean any use of knitting in my life relates back to that struggle? Everything we do in life is personal, but also relates back to the theories of culture and what makes us apart of that culture. 

My work sits on almost three cultures, the stereotype of hunting, my new formed bonds with the knitting community and the pre-concieved style of my image making. I belong to two groups and then have a view on an English Tradition. On a critical level where does my work stand? 

A lot of knitted art does rely on nostalgia, such as the work Alter Egos by Mark Newport. The work he creates is incredible, life size costumes that would fit him, some based on the jumpers his mother made him when he was a child. They deal with the issues of masculinity which link to childhood memories making them incredibly interesting objects.

"these pieces start to explore the alter ego within the costume and the connotations of knitting in relation to various roles and activities" Newport, M (2010, p46)

Although this post is a little all over the place it does give me a chance to just explore some of these knitters in fine art. Shauna Richardson's work is based on the idea anything can be art, Margi Geerlink looks at creation and relationships and Mark Newport is based on his mother and his childhood.

The art we make is always based on something personal, if it wasn't what would be the point. Our tutors at uni say that you see a little bit of the person through the photograph and that is the discourse I musts discover to really understand the theory of why I have made these photo and why I have chosen to knit the props. 

Hemmings, Jessica. (2010). In the Loop. London: Black Dog Publishing

Monday, 31 October 2011

In Progress

A little update on my recent knits for my project. The photos are slightly terrible as I'm mainly knitting at night and taking them once I've finished an item! It is time consuming, but after my test shoot I'm hoping they'll look good in the location:

New lacey face fox, here I wanted to try 'making one' whilst knitting the face. I'm pretty happy with the results, the colour is also a lot more rustic (which you cannot tell from this photo) but I have only managed to give him front legs so far. 

I have also made a second pheasant, I am happier with this design than the first, probably because the wing is all stockinette stitch rather than the pattern I tried on the first! 

I have also finished the first antler and brought a plack for it (found in Boscombe for 50p!) I just need to get started on the second one and then figure out how to attach them to the mount. 

With my giant needles I started on a bear skin rug, It is slightly messy as I'm still getting used to knitting with such large needles. I used 6 strands of wool, I should have used 12 to make it neater and heavier but I couldn't really afford all the wool! I think if I was to do it again it would have more of a shape to it. I will knit the head using smaller (10mm) needles to give it more shape. 

I have also knitted some rabbits and a mink, I'm not too sure if I'll be using them as they have been slightly rushed. They are there as a back up though! 

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Photorealism is most referred to as an art movement which happened in the United States during the 60s/70s. Gathering information on a subject using a camera or photograph the paintings created will appear almost photographic, making them seem 'real'. It can also be known as hyper-realism. 

Wikipedia defines a photorealist in these terms:

1. The Photo-Realist uses the camera and photograph to gather information.
2. The Photo-Realist uses a mechanical or semimechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas.
3. The Photo-Realist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic.
4. The artist must have exhibited work as a Photo-Realist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photo-Realists.
5. The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photo-Realist work.

What I am interested in is this is the reproduction of the photograph, people generally say "I'm a photographer because I can't paint", the preciseness of a painter to achieve a photorealistic painting is incredible and something I can reflect on when I am photoshopping. My thought is, if a painter has to blow up a photograph to paint over to then make it look like a photograph, when we photoshop are we not taking a photograph and editing it to make it look like what we believe the photograph should look like. With a lot of editing in a photograph could it be the same basic concept? We knew it was a photograph, but why use these processes to then make it look 'more' like a photograph?

Ralph Goings - 'Ralph's Diner'

Ralph goings is an example of one of closest associated painters with the movement, he wanted to do the opposite of producing abstract work which allowed him to think of copying a photograph perfectly. This upset people, but then what art hasn't upset people?

Ralph Goings created incredible paintings, its hard to believe they are not photographs, especially with these two pieces. As his work is mainly about condiments and diners I though an interesting photograph to compare them with would be 'The Ice Cream Parlor' by Erwin Olaf, who I have written about before. What interests me is how Olaf is described as having a hyper realistic technique and look about his photos. Does this mean they look like paintings that look like photographs? That the amount of photoshop that he uses makes them seem less like photographs? Is it the lighting and the construction? There is a definite style which I do aspire to. With this work I want to make it seem painting like, use the hyperrealistic style Olaf does which the audience questions, as it does with Goings work. 

Erwin Olaf - The Ice Cream Parlor 

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Shooting Pheasants

I recently started making some more props for my shoot, I already have a couple of foxes and half an antler so I wanted to make something slightly different. I decided that pheasants were the next things to make. Here is a rather terrible photo of the pheasant, i have only made one wing for it as it should be featured side on so for the image. If I have time I'll make a second! 

The location I have secured is an old English farm house, from a friend of mine. Faith and I went down for a little test shoot with the lighting kit. I used Faith as a model with one of the dresses I will be using to get a feel for the location and how I could shoot it. 

With the shoot we can pretty much use any space in the house, it has three beautiful fire places and incredible red walls. I shot three test images as time was limited and I was adjusting to the place. My test image are featured below, I am not disappointed by them but they do not show my photography at its best. We did not have any hair, make up or styling so for a first attempt I think they show the potential of the final series. 

I showed these to a visiting tutor at uni, an art director from 125 magazine, and he did not like them and said I should go with still life focusing on the knitting. I was sent into dismay and didn't know what to do for the next few days. I later talked to another tutor and he said to shoot the fashion series as I have planned pretty much all of it. From here it is just finishing the knitting props and finalising all the dates, times and people helping on the shoot. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Burnt Colours

'After the Hunt' by William Michael Harnett
Recently I found this painting by William Michael Harnett entitled 'After the Hunt' which I admired because of its autumnal colours and use of hunting equipment and game caught. In my sketch book I wrote how I should check the trends because if the autum/winter 2011 use some of these aspects my project will become more contemporary and relevant to this time in fashion. Looking at fashionising.com I found this image and an article on how burnt colours are in season. This is great as I can consider this with my styling and should add to the colours in the location I am using. 

Burberry Porsum's fall collection uses this beautiful red/orange colour which is not dissimilar to the walls in the house I am shooting in. For my work this is a really good thing as it shows I am on trend. We have been told not to look at too many other fashion photographers as not to copy them, so this is a good chance to have a look about what fashion is doing and to consider how to play it up to it in the images I am making. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Crafty Books

For my dissertation I am working on the arts and craft movement and stumbled upon this book in the library, 'Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design' by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl. One of the first things in the book is this beautiful time line that shares the recent 'New Wave of Craft'. This is something I am more interested in for my essay as it shows the more recent rise in craft, as well as looking at the original art and craft movement. It also helps with my practical project as I need a critical context behind my prop making. This book has answered many of my questions and I wanted to share, and recommend it, to anyone that has not read it. 

What makes the book special is how it has all these different accounts of crafters which you can relate to and understand. I think the 'craft' world is very different to the photography one, it is a lot more supportive. As a photographer you don't really want to share your techniques in fear that somebody will copy you, however as a knitter you are embraced into this world that wants to share with you. Maybe that is a little naive to think as I am looking at two different levels in the industries, top knitwear designers probably don't want to share their patterns with the world? And there are countless photography books showing you 'how to' shoot and edit in a certain way. Is it just a feeling that I have? Am I a little more comfortable in the crafting world? I do think people 'like' Louise the knitter more than Louise the photographer, or maybe learning to knit has taken me out of my shell? 

Schwandtner, S (2008, p26), founder of Knitknit states, "I think handcraft is popular right now as a reaction against a whole new slew of things, including our hyper-fast culture, increasing reliance on digital technology, the proliferation of consumer culture, and even war" and I think that is incredibly true. When I learnt to knit I was becoming slightly uninterested with my photography work, I think the personal issues that surrounded me last year at uni did change my attitude on taking photos. I did however knit away, the first jumper I made I just didn't want to stop, it didn't matter that the crafting wasn't great on it, holes, dropped stitches and deciding to make tiny sleeves so I could finish it faster, I was just proud to make something. My facebook friends enjoyed the photos I'd post as I was making it and I had a slightly odd chunky knit jumper to proudly wear around uni. "People want to see a project through from beginning to end, something they don't get to do in their daily lives" explains Schwandtner, S (2008, p26), which I can definitely see as a real truth. 

Looking through the book made me realise why I want to use knitting in my project, it is what I love. I love taking photos, but as a student you are under constant judgement of your tutors, class mates and most of the people in the industry won't give you a second look because you are a student. My knitting isn't under judgement from any of these people, if I was on a textile degree it would, but its something special to me. The same way I look at people in my class in awe for their still life prop making, use of natural light or documentary style (hello Mikko!). People are always more interested in what you are doing if they can't do it themselves. And crafters love seeing other crafty work, because you know when somebody makes something it is personal to them, even if it is a silly little knitted owl. 

Wagner, A (2008, p1) writes, "Some people want to embrace craft for its essence of craftsmanship - that is, the quality of a piece of work, the time and effort that went into its production. Others are excited by craft because of inherent otherness - that is, its unique ability to set its practitioners outside of mainstream industrial society" which is something you know is true once you have read it. You knew it already but just had to see it to know you were right. There are hundreds, thousands, millions of reasons why people do something and I think I've just started learning why knitting for this project is so important to me. There is so much pressure to make a commercially viable set of photos, the course is so focused to get us ready to enter the industry but maybe thats the part of uni that's putting me off being a photographer. I think using knitting with this project will bring me back into the creative world, image making or textile, whatever happens I know I'll produce something I can be proud of. 

Levine, Faythe and Herimel, Cortney. (2008). Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Vanity vs Animal Welfare

As one of fashions biggest debates is on fur and faux fur I have decided to look into it further for my research, there are so many different opinions on the subject and so many people unaware of the pros and cons. I am not saying I am an activist for either, I don't like animal being killed to wear but at the same time I eat meat. 

A great website for the facts on anti fur is furcruelty.com I don't want to re-write all their facts and statistics but what I have found out from this site is pretty horrible. I think one of the biggest problems with fur is that people do not want not know, or can't imagine, what really happens. 

"Every year 50 million animals are reared and slaughtered in the most hellish conditions imaginable. Animals are confined to restrictive cages where they often experience psychological and physical problems. Animals are skinned alive, anally electrocuted, gassed, suffocated, poisoned, beaten or bludgeon to death. "

So why do we let it happen? The elite may be featured in faux fur campaigns, then we see them wearing fur on the runway or red carpet. What kind of example is this? Simple answer is its not, its fashion. 

PETA is the largest organisation for animal rights and their campaigns often feature shock tactics to raise awareness of the issue. The examples I have found feature four different celebrities using the famous tag lines such as "Here's the rest of your fur coat" and "I'd rather go naked than wear fur". They make a strong point and the celebrity endorsement will always be a good thing as long as they really believe in what they are saying. The 'Dear J.Lo' is a little different as it is targeting a celebrity negatively, it again works though as you are interested in what it says even if you don't particularly care about celebrity status and culture. 

Sophie Ellis Bextor
Dominique Swan
Dear J. Lo

I think as a photography student and looking at campaigns and making pictures you know how untrue an image can be by the end of it, whether it is the visual element or the construction behind it. Although these images are very straight forward I guess you can never trust the celebrity being pictured on it. Maybe thats just me being cynical?

Anyway, I started looking into faux fur and the independent writes 

"Furriers are claiming that the manufacture of polyester and nylon copies of the "real thing" involves chemicals that pollute the environment and that damage the health of factory workers who have to handle them."

Saying that real fur is natural and biodegradable and that faux fur is harmful to the environment this counter argument does have its points, yet why do faux fur coats exist in the first place? They mimic real fur and, in my opinion, promote it. There are interesting facts and points either side and it gets so confusing when you begin to consider things like vintage fur and its ethics. 

In all honesty I wear faux fur, why did I buy it? Because it was fashionable. Do I feel bad when I wear it? No, because I look good in it. I'm not considering that it looks like real fur and that in some way I am promoting the fur industry. I'm not proud that its faux and don't boast that its cruelty free. I just wear it because I like it. There is this huge question of our vanity vs these animals being killed. I believe the fur industry is wrong, I also know fur is the only source of warm clothing for some people in this world. I really feel I cannot take a huge anti animal cruelty stand when I do wear leather or eat meat, I think that would be wrong of me and the pictures I would be making would be a lie. 

For this project when I consider the term vanity vs animal welfare I don't think I can take a really strong moral standing on it. The concept I am working with, knitting faux animal, needs to be more light hearted, not so that I am making a joke. I need to find the right way to deal with this issue without making it a huge issue in the work. 

Friday, 21 October 2011


After a trip to the 'Power or Making' at the V&A I discovered Shauna Richardson's work, being new to knitting I had never seen anything like it and couldn't believe she had crocheted the life size bear I saw at the exhibition. This is from the about section of her website:
Shauna Richardson’s background is in conceptual art.
The unique body of work she terms ‘Crochetdermy’ evolved out of the exploration of the theory that  ‘Anything can be art’. She uses crochet to sculpt realistic life-size animals – uncanny taxidermy-like forms. Crochetdermy combines themes such as objects, collecting, craft and realism and experiments with accessibility and audience. Richardson has received much critical acclaim. Her work is receiving worldwide media coverage and selling into collections across the globe. In 2009 Shauna won ‘Artists taking the lead’ part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad with the ‘Lionheart Project’. For two years she has been creating the largest single-handed crochet sculpture in the world. The finished piece will be housed in a mobile glass taxidermy style case and tour throughout 2012. lionheartproject.com
Although I really like her work I think that defining it by saying it came from 'anything can be art' is a bit strange. When you compare it to other conceptual artists such as Damien Hirst it does fit in with taxidermy and the idea of death and also textiles in art is not an uncommon thing. I do think that when you look at the pieces you do see them as real animals, although you know they are hand crafted. Even the materials used are very realistic, it does not look like traditional yarn. Although I was making the foxes when I had seen this it did put into perspective how big taxidermy in craft and fine art is. Should I make my pieces more realistic or stick to the quite animated and cutesy look? Which will look best in an editorial and which one is more me. Although the prop making is a huge part of what I am doing I do really have to consider the photographic style of the work. I know how I would like to produce the images and a rough idea of how the finals will look, so it is just knitting the props to match this. 

After seeing Richardson's website I wanted to look a little further into arts that also use the taxidermy theme in their work. I came across Nathan Vincent who produces crochet sculpture in more of a 'traditional' knitted way. I think because the style is a lot more cuddly it is not as serious as Richardson's work. Not to say it isn't beautifully done, the pieces have a charm to them and the lion is incredible. I think it does go to show that the same idea can be interpreted in different ways and just because something similar has been done before I should not be put off doing it for my project. 

I have also been in contact with Amelia Fever, an AUCB graduate and she sent me a link to her work that is currently being exhibited at Atelier Contemporary Craft Gallery. It looks so incredible just in the photos and I would love to go and see it in person! Hopefully we'll be able to collaborate with this project!

Past Knitting

I started knitting last January (almost a year now!), we were at my Nan and Granddad's and my sister was knitting. I was jealous and asked her to teach me. With the help of my sister, mother, nan and friend Faith I learnt to knit. I think it really took off when I saw the fox stoles made, they inspired a lot of my creations. I rarely use patterns because I think designing or just knitting and seeing how it works out is half the fun! Here are some of my past knits that have brought me up to this point. 

I really like fox imagery and that is why I am drawn to doing a hunting project. I think if I can produce something broader than just foxes I will be able to create a series with variety in however sticking to the one theme.