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...

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...

Lovely Isadora & Arduino

I’ve had another coding session as part of my residency with Ludic Rooms. There is a symposium about the work and the collaboration with artists on March 7th at Warwick Arts Centre. I need to work on realising in some form some of the bits and pieces I have been playing with to demonstrate at the symposium. So today I looked at the arduino board and literally got to grips with where the wires go and their functions. Its basic electronics but for a stitcher just realising you need battery, earth and then another wire (with/for the info) is HUGE!!! I’ve also been connecting my arduino to some software called Isadora via my MacBook, this basically helps you create code for an action to be performed ie: if I hold an FSR (force sensitive resistor – a round pad with wires) and squeeze it with a certain pressure – if I squeeze hard enough til 10, then at 10 I can make a word pop up on a monitor/projector etc… for my practice I use a lot of text and this is such an exciting step forward. Ashley from Ludic Rooms was incredibly patient as he could see I was running away with lots of ideas and wanting to get to the bit at the end where I could literally see my found text in lights! Couple of things I have learnt so far….I am now NOT afraid of wires and where they go…coding takes time and there’s a lot to remember…small steps/small stitches and I will get...

World War One – Embroidered Postcards

In 2013 I began a commission with Theatre Absolute The project is called 100 and is a cross arts project for the approaching World War One centenary. There are 4 elements to the project, a short film, two new plays and a textile response by myself. I looked at the embroidered postcards that were sent from the Front. Many were initally hand embriodered by French and Belgium women and sold to troops but gradually as the popularity of these increased they were made by machine in factories. There were millions made and I think the scale of production in making these cards that then held precious and personal messages to loved ones fascinated me. I have gradually purchased a few. I chose a couple of motifs from the cards and set about interpreting the designs, learning the flow of stitches and their patterning as I progressed. I stitched a motif 24 times onto 3 organdie screens. It was a way to reconnect back to the hand from the industrial machines. It takes incredible precision to try and stitch the same motif by hand again and again and I was struck by the psychological and physical changes within me as I stitched the work. I recorded the time it took me to stitch each one to see if I could get quicker as I repeated the design. My body began to tense and twist as I rushed to finish quicker against a previous recorded time. During the premiere in October of the initial commissions at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry, I displayed the completed screens. Viewers were...

Memphis Sphinx – looking in the drawer for the first time

As part of my Random String residency with Ludic Rooms, I’m using my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine and I filmed on my phone the first time I opened and looked through the machine’s drawer – it was kind of like an ‘unveiling’ when you get a new bit of tech kit but with lots more surprises. See the phone film here Treadle Machine Drawer Tickets for the symposium can be booked via Ludic Rooms link...

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...