Memphis Sphinx Treadle

Delighted to announce that I have been successful with my applications for funding for the development of my Memphis Sphinx Treadle Sewing Machine project that I began to explore earlier in the year. Huge thanks to Arts Council England and Coventry City Council for their support and to the individual officers who listened and encouraged me to apply. The project’s timeline is from late October through to March 2015 and I am currently engaging various creative partners who will assist me in the projects development and will announce these fantastic people soon. I will be posting on here my discoveries about linking up the treadle sewing machine with interactive technology and creating a new live craft performance piece but in the meantime I would be very grateful if readers to this blog could share the following information with as many people as possible: *** I am working with a 1919 Singer Treadle Sewing Machine – called a Memphis Sphinx due to the decal designs on the machine of a Sphinx. I am looking for stories remembered from people’s families/childhood/work etc of using a treadle machine – and as I have already found with my own family, the machines were used for a lot of things as well as domestic sewing eg: my uncle would use the treadle area beneath as goal mouth practice! I’m interested in hearing the description of noise it made, the rhythm and feel too – in fact anything connected with the treadle machine. I can be contacted mail@juliaoconnell.co.uk – thank you for your time. *** Finally I would like to thank Dom and Ash from...

Treadling

Today I’ve focused on trying to get the treadle on my machine working properly…I was worried about any broken parts after the machine has been left for some time but as I inspected each area I soon realised just how amazingly robust these are. I suppose with the action of physical motion being the only way to create a line of sewing the machine had to be pretty durable. I have used a ton of WD40 on anything that looked like it needed it and I carefully waxed polished the wooden table area as the wood has been badly damaged by sun and water…its not perfect but its like I’ve fed it to nurture it back to health a little. I dug around and under the machine I located the bobbin case and there was still a bobbin of white/rusty cotton inside the bobbin holder. Its poignant to know that I am handling something that my Nannar had previously set up…I think she would be amazed to see me marvel in something that was a practical and much need necessity for her and her large family. I found a couple of You Tube Vids of other people making a treadle run and that was a great insight for me as I was originally trying to get the machine wheel to turn clockwise but actually you set it off anti-clockwise and then treadle…I have no instruction booklet so I love that there are people the same as me thinking it would be good to record their experience in case another person needs to know. I started to stitch without cotton...

Slowly

So I kind of hit a bit of a wall last week…it was the ‘ideas are running away with me’ wall and although I had tried to tweak and play with my Arduino board and the Isadora software Ash had been showing me I seemed to have stumbled on a glitch and couldn’t resolve it…I also realised that I couldn’t resolve it as I did not know enough about each elements to be able to use the help section as I wasn’t sure which way to look first. HOWEVER good always comes from bad as I spent my time linking to Mark Coniglio’s You Tube tutorials and watched a few set-ups and scenarios. He’s the designer of Isadora – the software I’m using. I also got myself familiar with the actual layout and tools of the ‘scenes’ (the areas that I set up my codes and rules etc on). BUT Today was a much better day! Before Ash came over I managed to link the band back on to the treadle wheel of my sewing machine and although its crusty and rusty I think I have almost got it working as I saw the needle rising up and down…the needle is still threaded from either my Nannar or Aunt’s last piece of work! Also, over the last few weeks I posted a photo of the machine on Facebook and wrote a bit about it…gradually over a few days, members of my family began to add comments and reflect on the machine…I DID NOT EXPECT THIS – it has been wonderful to read what this machine meant to them as...

2014

I’m delighted to say that I have been selected as a resident artist for Random String – a project by Ludic Rooms which supports 6 artists as they discover interactive technology and work to incorporate it into their practice. I’m using the treadle sewing machine I inherited from my Grandmother as a starting point. It was made in 1919 in Kilbowie, Clydebank, Scotland. The decal decoration on the machine is called the Memphis...

a-n Re:view Bursary March 2013

Delighted to say that I am a recipient of the latest round of a-n Re:view Bursaries. I will be using the bursary for critique and advice from peers and organisations about my practice and future professional development. I will post updates as my review period progresses and this I hope will suport others as they reflect on their own practice and development. More details to...

Godiva Awoke!

Its been a hectic few weeks but the Godiva Awakes carnival and celebrations at the end of July in Coventry were amazing. We trundled the huge tailors dummy with the Coat down the streets into Coventry’s Broadgate and offered the coat to Godiva – it was a nervewracking experience but the crowds were fantastic and appreciated the coat and the work of all the tailors. We were part of the carnival procession around the city that afternoon and it was wonderful to sit back and enjoy the moment after all the hard work over the years. The following days Godiva battled through heavy winds and rain and gradually made her way down to London powered by a 100 cyclists finally ending up at Waltham Town Hall. It was a surreal experience seeing this huge puppet and her entourage coming through the gates of the town hall! During the first week of September the coat has been in exhibition at Westminster Hall as part of Arts in Parliament for London 2012. We sat and stitched tailors tacks on the first day and it was amazing to have visitors from all over the world add their stitch and talk about their sewing or non-sewing skills. As in Coventry, people were genuinely moved that they could participate and add a stitch – after all the very many new experiences making this coat, I think this has been one of the absolute highlights – a simple gesture of an invitation to stitch and people responding so postively. All images by Andrew Moore except Godiva by the clock – I have tried to find...