I hope you all had a wonderful New Year! I had a lovely break, though the short time which was available to reflect on the year past, the seasonal festivities and the hopes for the year to come went so fast that none of it got documented here. Happily my Christmas and New Year contained a lot of wool (I got WOOL PANTS!!!) and a lot of knitting, and the start of this year is auspiciously full of sounds and sheep.

I think you will agree that this augurs well for 2012.

For the next fortnight I am in the Lake District, recording shepherds, farmers, sheep and the sounds of the Fells for this exhibition. Here I am in KNITSONIK™ MOBILE on 2nd January, about to drive 272 miles North of home in order to commence this quest!

There will be more photos and a giant sheep head motif on the bonnet in the future, but for now, one dodgy homemade stencil on the driver’s side saying KNITSONIK™ (photographed by famous Olympian walker MARK*) is sufficient to identify my automobile as the ultimate sheep SONIK/WOOL PROCESSING AND KOLLEKTION UNIT! With said car I can travel to farms to gather the wool and the sounds from the sheep and the shepherds who are there…

…these Herdwicks were photographed in Warwick back in December, when I paid a visit to Gerald Wm. Hayes there to begin making an archive of interviews with British Sheep Farmers. I am sure there will be more such sheep on this blog in coming days, but I did not manage to photograph either the Black Hebridean sheep of Windermere nor the wonderful Rough Fell sheep of Appleby whom I met today, as it was just too wet and stormy in the fields to manage my big recording kit AND my camera at once in the gale force winds. Given the choice I chose my microphone, because Hûrd – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION is all about the sounds… Once I’m finished making and editing recordings up here, I will be re-covering the knitted speakers I made in 2007 with 100% British Wool in order that the wool of the sheep and the sounds connected with those sheep might be reunited into one glorious celebration of WOOL. It will be a busy time, but an exciting one.

I planned this project during Wovember as my own stab at articulating what 100% WOOL means to me, and – when I was invited to display my knitted speakers at the WOW show, I explained that I could no longer happily present them in their current, garishly-coloured acrylic state.

I like long, deep ideas which take some time to figure out; the knitted speakers are an ongoing project and I am excited at this new phase of their development, in which container and content will be more tangibly related than in previous incarnations of the work. The first time I presented the knitted speakers, they played field-recordings from around the home and were covered in acrylic yarn in amateurishly crafted crocheted/knitted cosies. This time they will be covered in British Wool, and especially with Herdwick and Bluefaced Leicester wool from Lakeland, and the sounds which play through them will be connected with the wool industry here so that their aesthetic and message is a little less like this:

…and a little more like this:

I thought for some time about what to call the new version of the speakers and discovered that in certain dictionaries, the pronunciation or phonetic spelling of the words “heard” (as in the past-participle of “to hear”) and “herd” (as in a flock of sheep) are the same: hûrd. This is annoying from the point of view of writing copy and Tweets etc. but ironically ceases to be a problem when the word is spoken out loud.

hear (hîr)
v. heard (hûrd), hear·ing, hears
1. To perceive (sound) by the ear
2. To learn by hearing; be told by others
a. To listen to attentively
b. To listen to in an official, professional, or formal capacity
c. To listen to and consider favorably
d. To attend or participate in
1. To be capable of perceiving sound
2. To receive news or information

[Middle English hearen, from Old English heran]

herd (hûrd)
a. A group of cattle or other domestic animals of a single kind kept together for a specific purpose
b. A number of wild animals of one species that remain together as a group
a. A large number of people; a crowd
b. The multitude of common people regarded as a mass
v. herd·ed, herd·ing, herds
To come together in a herd
1. To gather, keep, or drive (animals) in a herd
2. To tend (sheep or cattle)
3. To gather and place into a group or mass

[Middle English, from Old English heord]

I will post future updates on the project on the KNITSONIK™ website; for now, here’s the skinny on the show itself:

WOW: wonder of wool and the art of knit and stitch

Curated by Trevor Pitt

Saturday 14 January – Sunday 15 April • Open daily 10.30am – 4.30pm

Gallery@rheged presents the work of 20 contemporary British artists and designers who are inspirational in their creative use of wool. The exhibition features film, photography, community projects and a hands-on making area to inspire the creative project in everyone.

Featured artists: Max Alexander, Carréducker, Susan Crawford, Stewart Easton, Fine Cell Work, Felicity Ford, Fay Godwin, Kate Jenkins, Rachael Matthews, Steve Messam, Deirdre Nelson, Kate Pemberton, Trevor Pitt, Celia Pym, Freddie Robins, Annie Shaw, Amy Twigger-Holdroyd, Hazel White, Rich White, Donna Wilson, Joss Wrigg, The Wool Clip.

Admission £2.50 (concessions £1.75) • Children under 16 free

I feel extremely honoured to be featured in the same exhibition as many of my all-time knitting heroes, especially Rachael whose ongoing work with WOOL is a constant source of inspiration to me, and Susan Crawford who is a genius. And I feel extremely lucky at all the kindnesses I am being shown up here with people happily sharing their time and their wisdom with me, and for the incredible hospitality of David and Diana, which literally makes the impossible possible.

I really hope to see some of you at the show and if you live up this way and happen upon the KNITSONIK™ MOBILE, please don’t be shy about coming up to say HELLO!

*We are superbly happy to see that Country Walking Magazine have done a feature on Mark’s wonderful Walk2012 route, so he is now not only amazing but also famous. W00t! Not only will 2012 contain sheep and sounds, but also a lot of walking!

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