Changing Room at Tent London 2015

I was rather surprised that my last minute offer to the organisers of Tent London, proved appealing to them. I told them that my work was what Tent needed; it occupies a large space and I simply couldn’t afford to pay! Cheek. There was the usual silence following such bold challenges, then two weeks before the show opened, I was offered a great spot ON MY OWN with  a wonderful Czech Republic glass stand (and bar!) opposite. I worried about what I was letting myself in for. Setting up with the help of artist Joe Winter meant that I kept my sanity. The beautiful footage shot by Kim Boome was made in to loop by Joe, and projected beside The Changing Room and I managed to make the comfortable seating to go inside the piece, just in time for the opening.  Blimey. My first trade fair. The following four days were like a whirlwind. We ran out of business cards on the first day and had to resort to my tiny old business cards until the new ones came in. People were just captivated by the work and our hands grew sore from constantly raising and lowering the structure using the pulley cord ( a new system is being trialed now, a hand saver!). It seemed to fire imaginations;  I received enthusiastic enquiries from architects, interior designers, promoters of luxury products, therapeutic centres, product designers and investors, and events organisers. Perhaps the most heart-warming though, were the responses from two separate autistic boys who visited over the weekend with their families. They were both becalmed by the experience of being enclosed by the structure, and one boy refused to leave. I managed to get people to write in the visitors book toward the end of the show, knowing that I would forget most of the wonderful things people said. Here’s a list of some of the comments;

“This is a magnificent work of art!”

“How absolutely delightful, peaceful and calming”

“Thank you, I didn’t want to leave”  (This was said by too many visitors to count)

“It’s a great way to de-stress our autistic boy who is very sensitive to noise, it is so enjoyable in fact, it was his favourite part of the exhibition.

“It’s like being hugged by a building”

“What an incredible idea, wow! I didn’t want to leave”

” Lovely moment of womb-like cosyness”

“It’s like stealing a moment-blissful!”

” The safe space”

“…. it’s always good to see people trying to push the boundaries of how people interact with space and elements, I’m a fan.”

“…I still consider your installation one of the most interesting ones at Tent last week..

” This is the best installation or creation I have seen through this Design week”

Well how’s that for affirmation!

So I think it was all worthwhile. Perhaps it was the perfect venue to present such an ambiguous work? It is both object and experience; It is a thing, and yet it allows people to be separated from things that clamour for their attention. I am interested in pursuing any enquiry that allows me to develop and explore the potential of this work to change the world! I have a meeting with the head of a special school for autistic boys who is very interested in trying out something in his school. I will report on this when there is news. And there are many email enquiries to deal with too.

In the meantime, I have decided it’s time to give these structures, for there are now five to date, a generic term. TING. The word sounds bell-like and is also suitably ambiguous, if a little colloquial. So henceforth, The Changing Room Ting. And the seat inside; The Seat-Ting etc.

A thing (!) that I noticed; Around 1/2 the people wanted to know if it would be possible to raise the structure and lower it from the inside. Of course this would be possible, and perhaps desirable in a private home or private suite of rooms. I however, was charmed by the interaction we had with the public who graciously asked permission to enter and experience the piece, and whilst inside, they knew that the space was protected by us, the attendants if you like. Like guardians of the space. And when we raised the Ting aloft again, this signalled a time to depart and to acknowledge that they’d had a transformative experience (in most cases). I feel that this is what many public places need and I’d love to offer this.

[I’m your shirt]

Your surface is slightly damp as you guide me over your contours. shhhhh I sound as your fingers push forward inside the tube formed by uniting raw edges. You are fast, distracted. You have performed this thousands of times before with others. I rest on your shoulders, doubled up here, masking your form as I offer support to the rigid band,  which encircles your throat presenting your face upwards, mounted on my gleaming plinth.  You are paying attention now. Yeah, this is when you notice me, when we dance together, you leading, craning your chin upward as you fasten my button between stiff upturned v. You look down your nose toward the glass. Come on, see what I’m doing for you here!
But I am distracted. You push me against your chest, tugging me downward as you stroke my surface against the now upstanding fur of your body. Air escapes whhhhh. I am cool and indifferent to your warm indentations and even your damp crevice where my articulated cylinder cleaves to my main frame. You know you want this.
Hey, I hardly know myself. I just do for you. I’m so far from the fields now; an international time traveller.  But my stuff is the finest. Long staples. Gossypia Barbadense. Bundles and bundles of soft seed balls, could have blown in to new territory but they ended up on skin.  Pickers’ fingers sore from spiky capsules, but you just can’t resist how it makes you feel and look, yeah, and everyone wants a piece. You’re not picking it anyway.
White is always the colour. It is what you see when you close your eyes and think ‘shirt’.

The questions about dressing that I am eager to explore.

The business of dressing has become very complicated. There are so many criteria to satisfy. Comfort, practicality, message conveyance. It’s a wonder we ever make it on to the street. Thankfully there are an array of acceptable options provided by the brands in whom we place our trust and we note that the people we wish to connect with are also placing their faith in these brands. There are people who write about the anxiety of dressing and purchasing habits of women. Others who see clothes shopping as an exercise in affirmation when conducted with friends and family. With clothes now sooooo cheap because of superior technologies, increased exploitation of labourers and efficient production of fibres we seem compelled to buy more and more clothes. The cheapness allows for mistakes. They encourage impulse buying. Experimentation.

I want to know why we seem to have an unending desire for more clothes long before the one’s we are wearing have even been worn a few times.

Why do we proclaim that clothes are unimportant-when we act as though they are the only thing that matters.

All dressing is an experiment

words about shirts again

The staple; the American Gossypia variety produces long threads ‘staples’ meaning that the cotton can be woven finer. This is sea island. Makes beautiful fine strong cotton fabric for shirts.

The specialist shirt makers are working to improve the comfort, style and durability. The collar is the frame for the face- what do the points do? How high the stand. The Yoke- it carries the shirt and needs to be double for strength, but also if the man is carrying things on his shoulders….

These details become very significant in men’s uniforms and  a man can feel comfortable taking advice from his shirt-maker and tailor as well as giving his opinion. Ran out of battery…

Shirts, getting Shirty. An aid to communication

I love shirting. The fabric that exists and that is manufactured for shirts. It sounds. In fact I must record it. Perhaps the sound is an indication of weave and quality. It’s weave is tight and the surface gently reflects a glow. The stripes are woven in either warp or weft and the colours tone according to the density and proximity of other coloured threads. I don’t know where most of the worlds shirting is made now but i think it may be India and Italy, but that’s a guess. I don’t think any shirting is woven in the UK anymore. Something about selling the looms off. The variations are infinite.

To get shirty comes from ‘get your shirt off’ which means get ready to fight indicating that a shirt might inhibit aggression and contain the violence. Perhaps starched shirts inhibit movement. The shirt contains the body and restrains violent behaviour.

A friend told me last night, that her friend’s adolescent daughter covered herself in a duvet in order to give herself the courage to ask her mother whether she could buy her sanitary products. The power invisibility gives the speaker. Or is it that the speaker does not think that she could bear to see how her words made her mother feel. Is it shame? So interesting.

shirts off

cotton picker

cotton picking

cotton mouth

get shirty


Cotton comes from a Mallow plant called Gossypia and the cotton part protects the seed. In India the cotton is hand pollinated frequently by children. It is hard to pick and hurts the hands. A job for slaves. A booming business.

The tallit

Maisie’s Batmitzvah on Saturday was a wonderful event. A young girl launched in to adulthood supported by her family and friends and in a ceremony with light but potent spiritual significance and questioning. The pamphlet that guided our comprehension of the tradition said that the tallit worn by the faithful, kept the MATERIAL world at bay…… The Torah scrolls were protected by a quilted cover, presumably also protecting them from the ravages of the material world. Does this make the material of the tallit and the scroll-cover both material and spiritual?

chatter in my head about cloth

yeah yeah yeah, so we know that slaves and the impoverished tilled and harvested the cotton fields in America providing abundant cotton bales to be shipped to Manchester for spinning weaving and finishing in the 1700’s and that technological innovations in speeding this process fuelled the Industrial revolution. And today there is known to be child labour in Uzbekistan, India, Brazil to name a few.

The question is this; Will the fact of us knowing this make any difference to our insatiable hunger for cheap clothes?

Surely the question is this; What is the point of having such an abundance of garments to CHOOSE from when we only need to cover our bodies for the sake of warmth and decency and connecting to our tribes? Can we ask ourselves what value do textiles hold in our consciousness? Is this a complicated question to answer. I don’t think so, I think there are just contradictions in our relationships to cloth and garments;

If you look at textile production and garment manufacturing and sales of garments, it seems that we can never have enough of the stuff.

If you look at the quantities of used and abandoned garments that criss-cross the oceans every day seeking new markets and affordable recycling you would say that we have more garments circulating the planet than there are people to wear them. So did we make bad choices, or did we say yes to the dress and then no?

The desire for new clothes is insatiable and the rejection of old clothes is inevitable.

Is it the intimate relationship between cloth and the body that pollutes the cloth?