Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman

The Shape of Jazz to Come is the highly influential third album by Ornette Coleman and was issued on the Atlantic record label – his first record for the label - in 1959. 

The album has been categorised as either avant-garde jazz or free jazz – a term Coleman coined from the title of one of his albums - and has been named by The Guardian as one of their 50 great moments in jazz. It has also been listed as one of Rolling Stones 500 greatest albums of all time and in 2012 the Library of Congress added the album to the National Recording Registry. 

Interestingly, Coleman’s early sound was due in part to his use of a replacement Grafton plastic saxophone – pictured on the cover of the record - bought in 1954 because at that time he couldn’t afford a metal one when his first tenor was broken (Litweiler, 1992). 

Other notable Grafton saxophone players included the legendary Charlie Parker, John Dankworth and even a young David Bowie (bought by his father as long as he paid him back from a part-time job). 

The Grafton saxophone was an injection moulded, cream coloured acrylic plastic alto saxophone with metal keys and was manufactured by between 1950 and 1967. Today these items are highly valued by collectors and you can view one in the MoDiP collection here.

Andrew Pulman, Guest Blogger.

Further reading:

Litweiler, J., 1992. Ornette Coleman: A harmolodic life. William Morrow & Co.

Our Museum Collections Officer's previous blog post about the Grafton alto saxophone:

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Horn (part 1)

`Swift is the hare, cunning is the fox,
Why should not the little calf grow up to be an ox,
to get his own living midst the briars and thorns,
and die like his daddy with a GREAT PAIR OF HORNS.`
(Song of the Dorset Ooser).

Rebecca Davies

My name is Rebecca Davies and I am a graduate in Archaeology.
I have a few vague specialities in study, but in many ways I am fascinated by everything.  For my dissertation I had read about Anglo Saxon helmets.  Most were similar to the famous Sutton Hoo Helmet.
But the one that caught my attention was the Benty Grange Helmet.

Benty Grange Helmet

This was constructed rather differently to the predictable spangenhelm; it was an iron framework - the outside had deteriorated, but was found to be originally heat shaped cows horn. Yes, this was a plastic helmet which raises a lot of questions; Why was horn used?  Was it because the owner was not rich and so couldn’t afford iron? Was it stronger than metal? Lighter?  The existence of this artefact makes us see material science in a different way - which is what plastics are about. And, it presented a challenge to my understanding.  

First of all I had to learn about horn, the sourcing, working, using and its archaeology.  It turns out to be a material that doesn’t preserve well at all, and so we are also searching for secondary records such as early writings.  At first I was doubtful as to my choice of was pretty obscure.  But, with perseverance, I located sources and talked to people.

I fondly remember a fun afternoon spent in MoDiP, I got to meet Rufus!  My Dissertation was completed and I got a First for it.

Looking back it seems so amateurish, I have learned so much more about the subject now.  These Blog pages are a way to share my understanding. Nowadays it feels like I am an authority on Horn!  I do not know how this happened.
In this Blog I will talk a little about horn, its archaeology, the literature on the craft, current practitioners, and artefacts in the Worshipful Company of Horners collection, artefacts I own, and maybe ones I would like to own…Maybe I will even learn more about horn lore.

Rebecca Davies, Guest Blogger.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Student Creative: Jak Hansford

MoDiP Midway Progression

It’s now halfway through my student creative journey and the project has really begun to transform through experimentation. The process began from selecting key objects from MoDiP and observing them through drawing and photography. Studying these was helpful in deconstructing the pieces and thinking about where it will go from here. 

My choice of objects had mundane functions but innovative shape and form within their design. I found this a bit tricky as in the past I have focused on the mundane and then redesigned. The fact that these items have existing design quality meant it would be more exciting to push how I think or see them differently. 

Figures 1 & 2 Still Life of selected objects

At the time of writing this, I’ve been working hard on my master’s degree where I’ve explored a wide range of materials and ideas. This explains why I’ve taken a similar approach to the student creative journey and how my thought processes are merging between the two. As I’ve started to get a better grip on my own practice as a fine art student, I’ve been able to understand how I can reinterpret the MoDiP items. Not only that, my own practice has also given me specific concepts and techniques I could be using. Such as images 3 and 4 which show a recent piece focusing on application of materials and the importance of surface texture which also contains many other meanings or research led from practice.

Figures 3 & 4 Images of recent Fine Art practice exploring surface texture and other research discussions

Digital design is something I’ve started to bring to this creative project. In the past I’ve always created repeat designs or digital artwork to be used for something else, not stand-alone digital artwork. So this presents a new challenge to me as the focus will be on that one object itself. Since I started playing around with digital ideas, I think it’s great the way a 3D object can take on a new life when digitised, especially once I’ve added some transformative adaptations. What became more interesting was combining my own studies with the project and learning something new about myself as an artist.

Figures 5 & 6 Digital artwork combining both experiences

I admit this isn’t where I saw this going at the start, as I had a pretty good idea of how my outcome would look and be finalised. However, this is something I enjoy about fine art as producing work becomes a process itself and you can start somewhere and end up completely off track. Since my BA, I’ve realised going off track is not a bad thing as I could be trying things I would never initially think of. The good thing is though, I’m still able to come full circle if what I’ve tried out isn’t how I imagined, and return to my initial ideas. It’s all a valuable learning experience!

At this stage of the project I am fully immersing myself in this experience and have already achieved a vast arrangement of ideas and experiments and those will continue to develop. The fact that I can be so explorative with the MoDiP collection goes to show how adaptable their pieces are. Also, with the right mindset there really are no limitations and you can work in any specialism to convey the beauty of the MoDiP piece, while still not representing or illustrating it literally. All my documentation of drawings, sketches and images will still hold an importance going forward and I will document these along the way.

 I hope this can help inspire other creatives to reinvent their perspective using objects and that artwork based on plastics doesn’t need to be... plastic! I really look forward to sharing how valuable this experience has been and where I ended up in my next instalment.

Jak Hansford – MA Fine Art

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Student Creative: Ellie Jones

I have been continuing to make work with/about MoDiP’s collection of photographs. The museum has a wealth of historical documentation in the photographs of factories that is a part of their enormous collection, and I continue to find myself drawn to them and inspired by them.

I want to show the excitement of the factories around the time that the photographs were taken – in the 60s and 70s, when plastic had just exploded with popularity. The English plastic factories produced so many everyday objects and provided employment for a huge number of people – great grandmas and grandads of many living in this country today. I believe that these factories and the photographs of them have immense historical importance, and I want to use my art to draw attention to them.

I have been using the museum’s collection of objects to inspire me to make the patterns that I have been inserting into the old photographs, by printing copies of them and cutting pieces out. 

Abbey Lane, Leicester: Exterior. BXL. (photograph). Cut out sky with watercolour rubber ducks.
I am thinking about whether it is more effective to cut out elements of the factory, or to cut out the people. I feel that cutting out the people has negative connotations, but it could be used as a comment on modern factories and the loss of camaraderie as a result of less employees. For me, honouring the people that worked in the factories is important, so I think my focus will be on the objects that the factory workers were helping to make.
Aycliffe: weighing sheets of material. BXL. (Photograph). Cut out workers. Pattern inspired by Poppit Bead necklace.
Aycliffe: weighing sheets of material. BXL. (Photograph). Pattern inspired by taps designed by Martyn Rowlands.
I am going to continue being inspired by MoDiP’s collection of objects and photographs, and I’m excited about what will come out of it!

Ellie Jones - MA Illustration