belt, braces, glue and staples

Second Bee (see First Bee here): when I did go from being a belt and braces person to being a belt, braces and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink person? I started wondering about this last Wednesday afternoon.

I had packed up my wares to take to Petite Noel and I was assembling a kit of Useful Things: pair of scissors, safety pins, you know the sort of thing. But as I was walking out of the studio my eye fell on a roll of masking tape — might need that, thinks I, and into the bag it goes. But thinking of situations requiring masking tape leads one to wonder whether masking tape is really sufficient… Might I not need some blu-tack as well? Into the bag. The bag already contains spare sticky velcro squares, the aforementioned safety pins, regular pins and some string. What other fixing agents should I take? Staples, glue, magnets?

As I was shovelling all these things into various corners and pockets of my bag, I started to ponder on my behaviour. I do like a backup plan, but this was getting ridiculous. If I’m giving a presentation I take a USB stick with my file on it. I might have two copies in different file formats, perhaps, but I don’t take several different portable hard drives Just In Case. Then I remembered the presentations of our work which we used to give at Bradford.

Each time we returned to the college with our precious three months’ worth of woven work we had to display it in the studio for a group critique. The samples would usually be mounted on boards and the boards had to be fixed to the wall. However, there were quite a lot of us and therefore more boards — than the studio walls could comfortably accommodate. Easels and other miscellaneous items had to be brought into play. Getting the work displayed was as creative and challenging an exercise as producing it in the first place!

So if you had taken along pins to mount your work on the wall, but then found you didn’t have any wall, what could you do? I reckon this was the beginning of my fixings addiction. I had to have to hand every possible means of attaching my work to something else, because I couldn’t know in advance what the something else was going to be — but nonetheless I wanted very strongly to be in control of how my work looked. The most fun I had was when we were allowed for the first time to display our samples in some other fashion. I opted to go for something completely freestanding and liberate myself from the wall problem altogether. Since my ramblings are pretty dull without photos, I thought I had better rummage around and see if I could find any of the project in question… these aren’t very good ones, but they do show my strange contraption built around a bookcase frame (click to biggify).

The idea was to reflect the building I was using as inspiration: the DCA, a contemporary art gallery which was developed out of an industrial building. By the way, you can see great views of the building on the architect’s website.

Of course, I could just have been more relaxed about the whole thing, but I have to say that “relaxed” was definitely not a feeling which Bradford engendered in me! And I am a bit of a control freak about presentation anyway. Going back even further, I’d say it all comes down to the quirk of having neat handwriting when I was a child. I don’t know why my handwriting happened to be neat; I started writing very early, so I guess I just had a lot of practice. But whatever the reason, I certainly did have nice-looking handwriting — much nicer than it is now — and it turned out to be a terrible curse. In those far-off days projects were not formatted on computers but painstakingly written out by hand and mounted on sugar paper before they were pinned onto the classroom walls. (Actually, I know they still do that in junior school, which is something of a relief.) Anyway, in any group effort, guess who always got nominated to “do the writing”?

So I have carried the weight of expectation all these years, and I think it is beginning to weigh rather too heavily. After all, improvisation can be a fun and creative challenge. I think next time I will try and leave one item behind. And the next time another. Until I feel able to leave the kitchen sink at home.

belt, braces, glue and staples” was posted by Cally on 20 Dec 2010 at

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  1. neki rivera

    LOL!! this was great with my morning cofee.thanks!