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Experimenting with matchsticks!

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Experimenting with matchsticks!

So what I came up with was that I wanted to use my Grandad’s ‘story’ (without making it sound too personal) as a basis for the final outcome. What struck me, and was particually poignant, was that he actually has no use for the matches inside the boxes, yet when he gave me a bagful, the thing that I was most interested in was the matchsticks.

Matchsticks are just tiny inanimate objects that probably wouldn’t cross most of out minds until birthday season comes along. Yet, they hold the potential to wreak havoc and to damage the environment around them, and themselves, uncontrollably. And once they’re gone, they’re gone. I suppose to me it’s a sort of ‘well what’s the point?’ type thought; I mean, my Grandad has been collecting these things for his whole life, he lovingly collected and arranged them yet what will become of them when he isn’t there to be passionate about them any more? Their worth will go and they become a type of waste really. All that money, time and care for something that isn’t to be seen any more. The matchstick is like a metaphor for those dedicated and passionate few who care so intently about an object that others might never see the interest in but do so.

So, yada yada yada, I get to the point of this photo. I want to create a pair of matchstick hands, and light them of course! I mean what’s the point of creating and making something so carefully only to burn it, right?

I did a variety of experiments to see how best to create my idea but these were my two favourites. The top two are whereby I have placed about 1000 matchsticks into wet clay and then pressed down on it with two fingers to see if I could make an imprint. This actually didn’t work particularly well. It did get some imprint however I found that pressing into the matches was quiet difficult as the surface area and compact nature made for a stronger structure. Also, at the sides of the arrangement the sticks were falling out with the pressure. I highly assume that this would only become more difficult if I created a bigger structure.

The bottom two are an example of using plater and a mould. I created a mould of my hand in clay and then poured plaster of paris into it and allowed it to set. Once I took it out of the mould I found it had all the contours and curves of my hand (give or take a few fingers. I doubt this technique would be sufficient with shallow moulds). I started to stick matches standing upright on the hands surface with a glue gun as it dried the quickest. It generally didn’t take very long and I could get through a box of swan vesa matches in about 10 minutes. Just to add, I chose this brand as I loved the raw fleshy colour of the tip and thought it would look quiet the piece when burning.

Once I had finished (tick health and safety) I set it alight and it really went up! After 5 minutes it burnt out yet I was still left with a very complete yet very charred outcome! I definitely want to use this method for my final outcome as it proved the most quick and efficient.


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So my idea so far is to create something ‘better’ than the collection using the collection – a way of arranging the things efficiently when there isn’t the space to do so individually.

I first created a three dimensional rabbit ( I wanted to use watches and for some reason I always relate rabbits to watches because of Alice in Wonderland. that film sure stayed with me!) using chicken and normal wire. I then covered it in modroc cloth and built up areas where the wire hadn’t shaped well. Once dry I gathered watches from a car-boot sale and carefully took them apart. I suppose I chose watches because I generalise it as a stereotypical collectors item. I affixed the watch parts carefully to the dry rabbit sculpture with a glue gun and allowed to dry.

I think this was a really neat experiment; it allowed me to play around with a variety or medians whilst sticking to my planned idea. And, although not the usual thing to do with a ‘collection’ I feel it highlights how collections can be so much better arranged and take advantage of someone pride and joy by turning something into a bigger, ‘better’ object.

Excessive collecting.

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Excessive collecting.

Though not the sole reason for this project, having a family member who collects does help me somewhat! My Granddad has been collecting matchboxes since joining the navy in his 20’s, and – with the quick realisation of ebay- his collection has grown to a few thousand over the years. His collection is so vast that he has resorted to not only filling a small bedroom with boxes full of them, but the garage, stacked high with matchbox filled Tupperware.

What strikes me most is not the sheer size of his collection but how it is stored; careful consideration has gone into keeping duplicates together, arranging them into country of origin, yet they stay hidden away in a locked garage where no one can see his pride and efforts. Though he no longer collects matchboxes since a traumatic period in his life occurred some years ago, he still keeps them preserved in containers away from damp and decay.

Going back to my visit at the Tate, I had thought about how Cragg turned a wealth of useless inanimate objects into something beautiful with such balance and precision. It would be interesting to see how excessive and vast collections could be manipulated and reformed into something larger and more spectacular.

I asked if I could have some of the many duplicates he has and received bags full! I am primarily concerned with the actual matchsticks, a tiny object that could be turned into a material for sculpting. Something particularly notable with matchsticks is their flammable nature and how once burnt they hold no further purpose.

A visit to Tate Britain.

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A visit to Tate Britain.

Whilst gathering my research into the mental patterns of hoarding and collecting, I have been visiting galleries and museums to look for relevant work but also to see how collections are displayed.

Tate Britain also provided me with a brilliant opportunity to see Tony Cragg’s ‘Stack’. In this piece Cragg explores the relationship between geology and archaeology and its relationship with mankind’s impact on nature. The use of objects that may other wise be considered rubbish – from building materials to old newspapers – suggest how the landscape is being formed out of man made and inanimate objects; layer upon layer is built up between wooden planks of varying dimensions to create a visual representation of geological layers and structure. This gives the impression that over time the surroundings of our world has slowly been growing, merging the city and the landscape into one.

I love Cragg’s use of such relevant objects and the way in which each items dimensions have been considered to create a cubic mass; his assemblage of such objects between wooden panels shows a selective nature in Cragg’s work and how he must cultivate specific shapes to form balance within the structure. It is as though he is trying to create something of more importance and beauty rather than just preserve each object individually. I also admire the craftsmanship in his work as the careful consideration for shape and balance is paramount. I can also sense the relationship between the used materials and the physical structure; the building materials form the bulk of the sculpture whilst the magazines and newspapers fill the gaps, as though they were a moment of rest or recreation for the artist whilst building. I think this is a real starting point for the development of my own work when I consider how I was interested with how people assemble such a large collection; perhaps a collection could be transformed into a larger more interesting object than just a mass of smaller objects.

Final Major Project introduction.

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For this Final Major Project I have decided to use collecting and hoarding as my primary concern; though both appear similar, there are huge differences between collecting and hoarding and the psychological reasoning behind them. I want to explore how art is created and presented in relation to this subject and how collecting and hoarding is presented in the media.

Collecting is often seen as a hobby, a passion whereby a person uses their collection as an investment, an opportunity to socialise and simply for the joy and thrill of it. Collections are often arranged and displayed in a careful and considerate way to best exhibit the collectors pride and joy. Hoarding, however, is a repetitive behaviour where the sufferer feels unwilling or unable to discard large quantities of objects. These objects often hold no real significance to someone without the condition, yet to someone who suffers from hoarding holds an emotional attachment and comfort, and prohibits normal everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, sleeping and generally moving around. Sufferers often remain secretive about their disorder and often try to conceal it from the world perhaps because they feel embarrassed or scared. However, though being a collector is seen in a more positive light, when does a collection become so excessive and vast that it reflects that of a hoard?

Throughout this FMP I aim to explore how how both collecting and hoarding are used by artists as their main concerns and how collections or hoards can be turned into art or something of greater importance. I first want to research the mental process of hoarding and collecting to create a vital framework for the project and provide me with basic knowledge of the subject for contextual use. I also aim to visit galleries to gain secondary research and also interview someone who excessively collects to discuss their opinion of whether their collecting is becoming too excessive.

A little entry to discuss Feminism.

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Throughout this project my main goal is to pin point what I consider to be a fair representation of what modern Feminism actually is. And, after many coffees and several moments of procrastination later I am still at a point where I am moderately clueless. It has become highly apparent that feminism has branched out into many different paths that are fuelled by contradictions, and it goes without saying that there are millions of sides you could take on it (unless, unlike me, you are infact very sure. In which case, lucky you.) I have never categorised myself as a Feminist, I do however believe in total gender equality, and equality in other social areas such as race and sexuality. Surely then, this is the belief of a Feminist. And so doesn’t that make me a Feminist too?

I wanted to explore how modern contemporary Feminist Artists convey their belief in Feminism and how they produce their work. I was particularly interested in Australian Artist Casey Jenkins, who in her work entitled ‘Casting off my Womb’ focuses in on the fear of female genitalia and aims to challenge the negative view of specific anatomical parts such as the vulva. Her work is a performance piece lasting 28 days, the average amount of time a woman takes to complete her menstrual cycle. Every day she inserts a ball of specially wound wool into her vagina pulling the end of the wool out to enable her to knit from it. The artist completes a section of a long ‘scarf’ each day even valiantly continuing through menstruation giving a section of her work a dark maroon shade. In an article in the Daily Mail Jenkins explains how ‘I think the expectation when you’re showing the vulva is that people are going to feel fear and revulsion. So by linking the vulva to something that people find warm and fuzzy and benign and even boring, such as knitting for a long period of time, I hope that people question their fears and the negative association with it.’

What Jenkins highlights to me in her work is an extreme view of Feminism; it is clear she takes a strong position on her views, evident in her challenging performance piece. I’m not sure I would agree with her opinion that there is a fear of the female genitalia, as personally I see as much a fear of male genitalia as of female. In fact in adult pornography the female genitalia is glorified! I think the real issue is the generalised fear and repulsion of the menstrual cycle which Jenkins also touches on in her work. I totally agree that there is a stigma about the biology of women and I think that many want to avoid the matter, particularly men. I recently read an article on Modern Women Digest Online reporting on the current trend in young women called ‘Free Bleeding’. The disturbing trend is where women choose not to wear sanitary products during their monthly bleed subsequently allowing blood to run freely down their legs and soak into their clothing. Even for the most strong minded of Feminists this is certainly not for the feint hearted. And if you are a little concerned, like me, as to the public’s response to this, be reassured that one reader said what we are all thinking : ‘What the hell? Who in their right mind would want period blood running down their legs. Seriously?! I could imagine the conversation with the person behind them in the grocery store. “Excuse me ma’am, you have a little blood..”“Oh I know. I love it too, it is empowering and I think it is awesome even though it is nasty as shit and stinks but the odour makes it even better.” (Ok maybe not that menstrual blood is nasty, I happen to think that my period is a delightful flush out of my little eggs and in no way is it something I am disgusted at – but you get the general message.) This basically highlights a misinterpretation of Feminism where young women are treating the belief as a trend or fashion statement where they are constantly striving to exceed expectations and evoke more controversy.

I think this is the prime issue when faced with Modern Feminism. Rachel Cunliff puts it perfectly in her article posted on Huffington Post Online; ‘There probably are some women who think that all men should be castrated, but you know what? There are men who think all women should be raped, white people who think black people should be deported, and Republicans who think those on benefits should starve. We don’t use them as representations for the whole of their group, so don’t take the most extreme feminists out there and force the rest of us to account for them.’ I think it crucial that young women understand the real values of being a Feminist; you don’t have to create statements combining art and menstrual blood and you certainly do not have to go even a day of bleeding without the almighty comfort and support of a sanitary towel. You simply have to understand that women are equals and deserve to be treated as such. Although this sounds like an ending to a debate, I still feel I need to look further into the subject and also explore other Artists to develop my own work. This is to be continued…

Vage Badge.

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Vage Badge.

This piece heavily reflects my opinion that Feminism has become somewhat of a fashion statement. It took its shape from the embroidery hoop that I was using to sew, however I found that actually the designs suited the spherical shape and reflected sew on badges that are used on brownie uniforms!

I found the colour of the cotton to be very successful and suiting of the illustrations as the colour draws attention to the feminine messages on the badges and also suggests a connection with fertility and menstruation.

Whilst making these pieces I didn’t really think about how I might present them as at the time I was producing them as samples. However I am now considering that these pieces would be great to present as they portray one of my early opinions that Feminism has become fashionable. I have been looking at the work of Australian Artist Casey Jenkins, and in a news article about her in the Daily Mail I also came across some work by an unnamed Chilean Artist who collected her menstrual blood on cloth and embroidered messages onto them. She hung her work in from the ceiling, still left in the embroidery hoops, along with apples, a sign of fertility and femininity. Although I’m not about to collect any of my menstrual blood any time soon, I do think that her presentation of her work was incredibly striking and captivating. The sheer quantity of work is a spectacle, with the vast amount of dark maroon stains striking a stark contrast to the ‘pure’ and clean white environment in which they are placed.

This is also something I must consider as I carry on my work and develop the materials on which I intend to sew, for example sanitary towels. The burgundy cotton is particularly relevant here as it disrupts the clean and crisp appearance of the material alluding to the dirty connotations of menstruating.