Although not normally superstitious, I did think that maybe Friday 13th was not a good omen when fellow leader of the Seminar, C&M{2} artist Celia Pym, called just after 9am to say that at that time all the trains from Kings Cross to Leeds had been cancelled due to an electrical fault at Finsbury Park. And, of course, she was travelling up from London. However, stalwart that she is, Celia hung on and eventually caught a train just before 11 am and arrived as we were settling down to begin – thank you Celia!

The Seminar began with a short introduction in which I outlined the starting point for the afternoon, which was the importance of touch in the stimulation and evocation of memory, and the appropriateness, or otherwise, of cloth as a medium through which we may access these memories.

Celia and I then discussed how she approached her work. She described how the process of making the work determines the outcome and gave the example of the pieces in the exhibition: how once she had finished knitting the first jumper she then began to cut it up and patch it and darn it, and use the cut out pieces to create the second jumper. This led to a broadening of the discussion with the rest of the group about the acts of darning, piecing and patching. Celia had brought the piece which had been the starting point for this area of her work – a jumper that had belonged to her Great Uncle Roly. This jumper had been knitted for him by his sister and as it had worn away over the many years, she had darned the holes until she had virtually remade a large part of the jumper. Celia had inherited the jumper and had been interested in the joint histories recorded in the jumper, and she carried on darning, visibly, as a way of extending the record.  She spoke about the relationship between scarring and mending and the importance for her that the darn is always visible. She also remarked that even the most invisible mend/darn can be identified by touch, and that eventually any hole in the fabric will reappear, the join will always be the weak point, and the hole will always grow.

After the tea break everyone was given a piece of material to feel and then to describe what the feel of the material had evoked. The responses varied from expressions of comfort to dislike, evoked by the texture, and also the smell. Also there were long forgotten memories which could only have been accessed via the touch of the cloth. The delegates also discussed the importance of colour, and whether the colour affected the feel/touch of the cloth. We looked and felt a piece of red silk which had faded in parts and agreed that there was indeed a difference in the touch between the vibrant and the faded.  This led to a discussion about the ‘inside’ of the cloth; we close our eyes when we pull a garment over our heads, but we are responding to the touch on the skin, and do we also ‘see’ a colour in our mind, and does that colour represent the space between our cloth and our skin.

The next Seminar is on Saturday October 26th and will focus on how and what we remember.