Platforms for creativity #1

Sunday, February 15, 2015

At the end of January, David Gauntlett and I went up to Dundee to give a talk on Platforms for Creativity and run a workshop on Tools for Thinking. Both went really well, and we were especially pleased to be part of the celebrations for Dundee being named as a UNESCO City of Design. 

You can read some information written in advance of the event here, and see a fantastic Storify of the whole day - put together by our host, Mike Press - here. Many thanks to all the participants for tweeting and blogging so comprehensively!

In our talk, we explained that we were thinking about platforms for creativity as being opportunities for people to creatively express themselves and transform their worlds. Importantly, we thought about the 'platforms' as supporting people to achieve things beyond what that they might otherwise think possible.

David spent some time hunting for a nice image to represent this idea - but found that most images of real-world platforms start broad at the bottom, and gradually become narrower. In contrast, we wanted to show that our conceptual platforms opened up new opportunities - so, visually, the shape should start narrow and grow upwards and outwards.

When I got home, I realised that I had the answer to this visual conundrum in my bag: two sets of building blocks. I'd taken one set along to the workshop as a potential tool for thinking, and picked up the other in the Dundee Contemporary Arts shop as a treat for our house. As I started to play with them, I realised that there's a natural tendency when playing with blocks to try to defy gravity - to grow upwards and outwards! (That's particularly possible with the ace new set of blocks - the hexagonal 'Brutalism' set from Areaware.)

So, here we go: a couple of visual representations of 'platforms for creativity', just a couple of weeks too late.



Sunday, February 8, 2015

Ooh heck, there's been lots going on in the past few months and there's a blog post backlog mounting up!

First, I should mention that I'm very pleased to have lots of work in the current exhibition at Walford Mill Crafts in Dorset, Knit 1, Mend 1, Keep 1, Change 1. They're showing several stitch-hacked and pattern-blagged pieces, along with my re-knitting sampler garment and a nice big version of my spectrum of re-knitting treatments. The exhibition is on until Sunday 1 March, and features work by other makers, including the fabulous Celia Pym. Highly recommended!

And now, here goes with a quick post about a really great day in January.

I was invited by Alex McLean to take part in a Hack the City event in Sheffield, in association with his 'Weaving Codes - Coding Weaves' research project. 

It was my first experience as a participant in a hack, and I found it really nice to have a day set aside for playful exploration, alongside interesting people from diverse backgrounds. 

I teamed up with Holger Ballweg, a live coder, to explore whether it was possible to write some code to convert a written knitting pattern into sounds. We based it on a traditional Shetland lace stitch - horseshoe - and used a free pattern from Knitting Bee. Towards the end of the day we tested the code with another lace stitch.

I have to confess that the division of labour felt rather unequal - Holger slaved away over creating a whole new lot of code, while I knitted a nice repetitive and familiar pattern! 

We made it so the speed of the sounds could be varied - at knitting speed (as in the first YouTube clip below), or much faster, which shows the repeats in the pattern quite effectively (and amusingly - click the second clip below). I think the version at knitting speed could (with lots of development and refinement) be useful for knitters, especially those with visual impairment.

Hopefully, we'll be able to develop this in the future... A big thank you to Holger for taking on my challenge, and for posting the clips online. You can read his blog post about the project, which includes a link to the source code, here.