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Making to Make Sense of the World

by James on June 24th, 2011

I’ve returned to making work with recycled clothing recently. Its a thread to my work that weaves in and out, and one of the ways that I use to share my interest in embodied awareness.

I am fascinated by how creative, sensory investigation of the world around us can lead to such an embodied, embedded awareness of that world, and a realisation of our continuity with the rest of our material and ecological environment.

It does make sense I know, after all our senses are the primary way that we make sense of the world, but our society often teaches us to ignore what our bodies tell us and to listen to others instead.

In a time like this of increasing environmental degradation, to be able to encourage and support people to realise that they are integral to and continuous with their local environment, and for them to do that for themselves through their own bodies and creative abilities is crucial.

“At the scale of our sensing bodies the earth is astonishingly, irreducibly diverse. It discloses itself to our senses not as a uniform planet inviting global principles and generalisations, but as a forested realm embraced by water, or a windswept prairie or a desert silence. We can know the needs of any particular region only by participating in its specificity – by becoming familiar with its cycles and styles, awake and attentive to its other inhabitants.”

David Abram – The Spell of the Sensuous

But, I’m not going to go into that in too much detail now, as I do tend to cover that in my posts about the socially engaged areas of my work. What I really wanted to share here is how I use making to reflect on and process my own body-environment relationship, and to share the learning that I gain from supporting others to explore theirs.

My making is about my learning, and aims to share my belief in the importance of maintaining a continuous body-environment dialogue for each of us – both for own own health and well being and that of the ecosystems of which we are an integral part.

I started in the 1990’s by creating body spaces from locally collected materials, literally piecing together  a physical representation of the point at which my body and environment interact, by gathering, weaving and stitching materials together around a space the same dimensions as my body, or my newborn nephew’s, visualising the sense of belonging and interconnection that I wished for him as he grew older.

These days I may be more likely to combine recycled clothing with other found objects, text and images. As children’s learning is particularly important to me, and to our future, I find using children’s clothing very powerful.

There is such a need for children to be able to be playful within their material world as they grow up, to access the outdoors, and natural and recycled materials, interpreting them in ways that make sense to them and their own creativity. When that happens they can start to both feel an integral part of the surrounding natural and cultural landscape, and see that they have the power to adapt and change it in positive ways.

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement… If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year…the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

Rachel Carson – A Sense of Wonder

I’ve also included related collage and hand-held pieces here. Even when I’m making such small works, I’m conscious that they need to be on a human scale, to be held in the hand or worn about the body.

My work needs to be on a human scale because I want to draw you in, to engage you – I’m not out to create monumental, oppressive or shocking work, I want to embed my work within your everyday world.

I hope that then you can empathise with my own bodily connection with the work, and that I can make the material reality of the objects that I use accessible to you, so that you can form your own relationship to them and to me.

Because that’s what my work is all about, interconnection and relationship, removing perceptual and societal barriers to the realisation of our interconnected nature, one piece of work at a time.

  1. Hi James, I love your work and your thinking. Particularly your connection with the earth, your current 1st WW horse project and your
    great in interest in children’s learning and your use of materials.

    I am an artist, I graduated (fine art)from Norwich in 2012 (mature student). I am currently planning an exhibition which relates to horses in the 1st WW –
    I have recently made work about my uncle who was killed in 1918 and I am bringing in this family connection and horses used from our farm, combined with a badly injured stoic little horse who I have been looking after for
    for two months since his accident and has inspired this work.

    I also run workshops for children – I like to involve them in projects where they are allowed to scribble over the lines and
    muddy finger nails!

    Thank you for inspiring me – I’m in Suffolk.

    Kind regards,
    Linda Farrow

    • Hi Lynda, thanks very much for getting in touch and for your positive feedback, always good to hear where your work goes and who it inspires!
      I enjoyed taking a look at your website just now, your work has a lovely feel to it, ethereal and earthy at the same time.
      Glad to me connected, best of luck with your planned WW1 exhibition.

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