Where Process meets Concept

Something my MA has taught me is that I need to understand my journey and unpick and decipher how I work. In other words, what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, who I’m doing it for (in terms of the audience), what are my reasons for doing it and what I’m trying to say and translate through doing it!

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Mind-map showing my MA journey

Before my MA, I tended to produce work and didn’t think too much about why I was making it. Someone once described my method of working as being like a ‘whirlwind’. Although I’d prefer to see my ‘creative process’ happening in ‘bursts’, in looking at the meaning of whirlwind perhaps there’s more truth to it than I originally thought.


Further definitions include: A passionate, confused rush……An impetuously active person.

When you’re working within a project, it’s easy to become completely engrossed in all the exploration and experimentation but there comes a point when you realise you need to start bringing things together.

In analysing my working methods, it occurred to me that I’ve been working systematically, learning about this new Kombucha fabric; it’s characteristics, aesthetic qualities, limitations, unpredictability and physical properties. But now, there is a need to make the fabric translate and capture what it is, I want to translate and capture. I need to make my experiments work for me.

In working more intuitively with the fabric and deciding what inherent qualities I admire, I need to bring process and concept together. This means stopping physically making and reflecting, evaluating and analysing. Some would describe this as the ‘hard’ thinking stage. This is where displacement activity can take over…walking the dog, cleaning the house, replying to emails, doing research…

Displacement Activity: is an unnecessary activity that you do because you are trying to delay a more difficult or unpleasant activity


It was time to revisit my original intentions.

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You might recall, my connection with the sea is deep rooted with a family history of deep-sea fishermen, Merchant seamen and living by the coast for most all my life. I am drawn to the sea by its history, its mystery and its dynamics. There seems to be a primeval attraction and for me it is a place to escape; a place to walk or sit, to observe, think, reflect and be at one with the natural world.

I am particularly drawn to the ceaseless motion and the impact of the sea on the coastal landscape and how the landscape is ever changing and temporary in a way that can sometimes be difficult to predict. I am intrigued by how the sea manages to transform, displace, erode, conceal, reveal and migrate things through the ebb and flow of the tide and currents. It has the power to make and remake the landscape.

In Dr Mark Haywood’s Foreword to Sequences: the Call of the Running Tide (Polley & Woodman 2007) he captures this perfectly…

I never tire of the obvious yet fascinating prospect that in a few hours time (this) will become a wholly different world…a few hours later still and it will have re-emerged…the temporary land we share with the sea is a form of wilderness that we can only occupy temporarily: we can neither possess or control this zone of…unpredictable change.

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Geology has left us many clues to how the landscape has changed over time. I am conscious as I sit and soak up the coastal landscape that the bigger picture of geological time dwarfs me into insignificance and will continue to evolve beyond my life span.

In bringing process and concept together, it has been a particularly busy period for me. On the MA Course, there has been a period of Testing Time where we exhibit our work in progress to take part in group and individual critiques with senior staff and specialists from Manchester School of Art. Amongst these were textile artists Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating.

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I decided to ‘test’ out both large and small scale pieces and a variety of ideas to ‘test’ the response from the audience.


It was a valuable experience in a number of ways:

  • to see the work displayed in a gallery situation
  • to receive feedback on the work from a variety of practitioners
  • to gain clarity in articulating my ideas

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It was very interesting to receive different perspectives and interpretations of my work. People read my practice differently and saw different qualities within it.


20160722_172038 copyFrom this Testing Time exhibition I was delighted to be invited to exhibit my Kombucha fabric work at No 70 Oxford Road (the old Cornerhouse Gallery) in Manchester to coincide with the Science in the City event (22-29th July) and in particular alongside the Microbiology and Art event Monday 25th at No 70. It was particularly interesting and valuable to see how the work appeared in a very different environment with different lighting, which made subtle transformations to the work.



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There now remains about 6 weeks to develop one or two of my ideas further, ready for the final MA show at the end of September. I hope you’ll stay with me during this final stage of development.

Best wishes, Christine