The meta data

I have written about meta data before both in relation to fashion, and in relation to typefaces and road-signage. However today I am writing about meta-data because pairs of meta-badges are now available to buy here in my Etsy store. If you want to go mad with the whole meta-theme,* you can also buy meta-tags for embellishing anything to which you want to attach extra information.

There are badges for sewn things; badges for knitted things; badges for crocheted things and badges celebrating such specific themes as shawls and stranded knitting

Sew meta.

Fairisle meta.

Crochet meta.

I shall keep adding to the shop but there will never be repeats of anything because I am using vintage books and magazines and once they are gone, they are gone. I don’t like to photocopy the pages to make badges because 1. it is more costly in most cases than simply using the original; 2. there are enough printed paper goods in the world as it is; and 3. vintage printing methods simply can’t be replicated.

Aside from my Etsy shop, the other place I have been producing meta-badges for is the Artist’s Edition CD that myself and Brenda Dayne have been working on. We raided Brenda’s vintage knitting pattern stash and busted out some very special badges. Photographing the finished badges next to the patterns which they came from reminded me of this.

Since this post with its many references to recording activities in Wales, we have finished recording and mixing everything. We spent several days at the start of this month agreeing on the final designs and packaging in which to encase the fruits of our labours, and consequently A Knitter’s Manifesto is now available to buy. We are selling two versions of the project; one is an Artist’s CD with handmade ephemera; the other is a digital download featuring all of the audio we have made together.

It has been a very rich experience working with Brenda. It was exciting and memorable to explore the sonic world of her life in Wales and it was a new experience for me to work with sounds as a background layer rather than the main point of a project. In our project the sounds work as a kind of meta-data, signposting and referring to the words, themes and ideas in Brenda’s essays.

Sonic meta-data is rich.

Truman’s collar jangling, Jasper purring, the sounds of Tonia and Brenda clattering about in the kitchen, the noise of the songthrush which sings in the trees near Brenda’s house etc., are all sounds which – like the sounds which surround you in your knitting world – backdrop Brenda’s thinking and knitting times. They are sounds which happen during the same passages of time, stitch for stitch, thought for thought, moment for moment. And those sounds seem to me to be as rich an inspirational material to the knitter as the textures of one’s yarn; the colour combinations one spots whilst out walking and the other myriad resources for ideas which are available to the waiting imagination. I feel that in the CD there is a kind of sound mood-board for Cast-On; a collection of sonic meta-data tags which connect all the words specifically to the landscape and the places in Wales which feature in the essays. I enjoyed assembling such a moodboard and I enjoyed the craft and the work of gathering all the sounds for it.

I remember Rachael writing about how knitting is her record of time, and thinking that while she turns to a sweater to remember a specific point in her personal history, I turn to my collection of sound recordings. Both the files and the sweaters are evidence of what we have been doing and they are full of time. As Rachael writes of her sweaters, particular digital folders take me directly back to moments, moods, dates, eras, people and places. Listening focuses my mind in a very specific way that is not unlike the mental effects of knitting, so that if I think of recording the songthrush for A Knitter’s Manifesto, I can remember the way the light fell on that particular afternoon and the slight hum of bees in the air. Just thinking of the sound causes me to remember the precise shape of the trees against the sky and the rustling of the songthrush moving about in them above me, its tiny movements stirring the branches and pricking my ears. Of a naturally noisy and frenetic disposition, sound-recording and carefully listening allow me to experience the kind of stillness I struggle to find elsewhere in my life.

To record the sound of a songthrush one must stand underneath a tree and listen and share the very moments in which the sound is unfolding with that bird. As with knitting, there is no millisecond shutterspeed for making sound recordings; no fast way to get the job done.

songthrush (mp3)

Yet as with interminable knitting projects the work does eventually get done. As well as finishing the mixing on A Knitter’s Manifesto I have also completed some minor thesis amendments I had to make in order to resubmit my research and (hopefully) get my PhD awarded. I also finished a website I’ve been designing, and a project I’ve been working on at Windsor Boys’ School is now drawing to a close. Furthermore, a project I’ve been a joyous participant in since its inception – The magnificent UK SoundMap – has also ended today, taking its last public contribution at Noon. A am proud to say here that the last recording to be uploaded featured Narbeth High Street in Wales, which you can also hear on A Knitter’s Manifesto. Narbeth is the Welsh village celebrated in this episode of Cast On, and I spent a jolly afternoon there in March listening to its streets. Now you can hear them too, and many other sounds from around the UK besides, thanks to the work of many sound-recordists, and the tireless data-tagging efforts of the map’s redoubtable editor, Ian Rawes.

Narbeth High Street (mp3)

Finally in this list of finishings, it is my birthday today, which means that one more year of my life has drawn to a close. Like all the other endings, I find this end-of-a-year feeling finds me at the start of many new things. In the spirit of this post, I’d like to meta tag the next year of my life with:

Mark, friendships, laughter, sustainability, play, stillness, knitting, listening, sounds, lightness.

Standing between the year past and the year to come, the thing I feel luckiest for in my life right now is that I have a partner who really gets what I am about. Check out the present I unwrapped this morning featuring its own meta-badge:

The CD is by Steve Spiro. Frequent Traveller was made using many of the sounds from Spiro’s commute along the East Grinstead railway line which runs between London Victoria and East Grinstead – passing through my hometown train station, East Croydon, and many other familiar places along the way. Sonic meta-data, musical fun, and the mischief of my own meta-badge? I think it’s going to be a very Good Birthday.

Thank you, Mark, and thanks to all who’ve made it to THE END of this very long post! XxX

*it could just be me who is obsessed with the meta-fun; I even started a pinterest board on the theme of meta-designs…

4 Responses to The meta data

  1. Mark says:

    You are most welcome 🙂

    It is just my luck that as a man who spends far too much of his working life pondering metadata, taxonomies, ontologies (check me out with my long wurdz) pertaining to the storage of information, usually in the form of documents, that I find myself drawn to the unique allure of an artist who for example tags my pint of water with a physical metatag, “Mark’s pint of water”.

    (and a phd-strength/length sentence too)

    Happy birthday gorgeous xxx

  2. Liz A. says:

    I heard Steve Spiro talking on on the Today programme on Radio 4 yesterday and thought it was something you’d be interested in – especially with the Croydon connection – but then completely forgot to mention it when I saw you.

    Happy Birthday! (again)

  3. Nancy says:

    Happy Birthday, Felix! I “borrowed” your audioboo of bird calls and put it on my blog yesterday and referenced you. Thank you!!!

  4. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Archive » How to make your own stamps

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