Devon Studio Trials

On 7th March 2020, the Forces in Translation team headed off to Devon for our first set of studio trials.  The group for these trials was Stephanie Bunn, Ricardo Nemirovsky, Mary Crabb, Geraldine Jones, Hilary Burns and Tam Dibley. Between us we had the combined skills of anthropology, mathematics, basketry, and education. Our working together was based on a mutual understanding of the importance of craft practice for mathematical comprehension. The theme was ‘turning a plait’, based on questions we had about whether plaiting, and turning the ‘weave’ up from the base to the sides in a plaited basket involved a different kind of thinking than with plain weaving or twining. We were also concerned that plaited basketry is often taken up by computer modellers, yet the programmes they write seem to involve imagining the process without materials, or what the process is for.

We were a very focussed group, and the programme was one that Mary Crabb later described as ‘intuitive’. Each person needed an introduction to the others’ disciplines, and yet we also wanted to explore themes of mathematical substance. We had a grounding session in working with materials, a session on conventional basketry, one on four-plaits – including a ‘mystery object’, one on hexagonal weaving, but the key theme explored was the ‘skewed cube’. This we drew on graph paper, built as a model, plaited from paper, rush, and generally worked through along many avenues.  We also had discussions, read, and planned for a public event on this work at St Andrews.

A full slide show of the week can be seen at:

Corona virus was just becoming serious news. Several of the group were affected through family and work over the week – lockdown was to come the week after we got home. The event at the Bell Pettigrew Museum in St Andrews had to be postponed. And, all future plans to work together live are on hold. Perhaps this has made the time we spent together seem even more precious.

Nevertheless, Mary Crabb has continued to develop the skewed cube theme – and her work so far can be seen on this website; Geraldine has been developing more work on looping, spirals and the cycloid weave, also available to view here; Hilary has been continuing working on cordage; and  Stephanie, Ricardo, Tam and Cathrine have been participating in practical reading sessions around themes of ethno-mathematics, double weave (which seems to link to skewed cubes), spirals and growth and mathematical philosophy. We are now also doing online studio sessions together which feedback into the reading themes.

The project is progressing  differently than planned, yet we can use the internet to explore both its limitations for learning, and the opportunities it offers. Keep looking to see how we progress.

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