I am home, I am glad, and my heart and my ears are full of sheep.
This Herdwick ram lives on Fornside Farm, the flock of which provided much of the yarn which I used to cover my knitted speakers. His baas can be heard in Rheged, where Wonder of Wool – the group exhibition of which Hûrd is a part – will be running until April. There is so much I want to say about this show and all the amazing artists involved in it, but I’ll save that for another post. Today I just want to celebrate the fact that Hûrd is done after two amazing, exhausting, dreamlike weeks of work.
Bridgette Kelly from the British Wool Marketing Board said the loveliest thing about Hûrd; she said she felt the piece is like listening to wool.
That is totally what I was going for, and it is always lovely when someone else’s description of what you are doing is both accurate and complimentary. I always maintained that I wanted the connections between animals, land, people, shepherds and wool to be evident in Hûrd, but Bridgette’s description gets right to the heart of the piece. It was wonderful at the opening to see so many people holding the speakers to their ears and touching the wool which came directly from the farms whose weather, folks and animals could be heard playing through them.
It wasn’t always possible to link the wool and the sounds exactly; but wherever it was possible to do this, I did it. This speaker is covered in Swaledale Yarn from Prick Your Finger, and with Herdwick Yarn from Fornside Farm and this flock of sheep:
I didn’t meet *the actual* Swaledale sheep that the Swaledale DK yarn came from, but the breed is very important in Cumbria, and so I felt it should be represented in the piece. Also, I have collected sounds from the mill where Prick Your Finger have their Swaledale yarn spun and as such, it is not anonymous yarn; it is British Yarn with a traceable provenance, and that’s the important thing.
Also, I met the shepherd – Jim Brooks – who minds this little black Hebridean as part of a small flock in Windermere. Jim is retired now, but still looks over a few sheep around the Lake District and has some wonderful stories to tell about shepherding which I will share in coming weeks. Due to the enterprises of Laura, I was able to get some yarn containing fleece from this flock, with which I covered some of the speakers in Hûrd. Do check out Laura’s weaving; she is doing beautiful things with local fleeces. This is what I did with the yarn she has produced; I knit it double, with some Swaledale DK from Prick Your Finger, to make the only fairisle speaker cosy in Hûrd.
I am very tired. I drove over 900 miles in total in getting to the Lake District and then getting around it; I made and listened to many hours of recordings; I met many amazing people; and I covered most* of the 32 speakers – plus 64 lengths of speaker-cable – in 100% British Wool.
However in spite of feeling quite done in, I am pleased with the fruits of my labours – though there is more to come – and I feel at the start of something rather than the end. I am trying to work out the best way of sharing the sounds from the show; I would like more time now than I had during the past 2 weeks to reflect on the meaning and importance of each sound included in the SONIK component of Hûrd, and I want to create a DIREKTOR’S CUT of the soundtrack in coming weeks. Stay tuned for more sheepy tales, for the voices of shepherds, for the sounds of the sheep and for further adventures in KNITSONIK.
In the meantime, THANKS ARE DUE to the following people:
to the British Wool Marketing Board for funding Hûrd;
to Rheged – especially John Stokes – for support and organisation;
to Rachael Matthews for teaching me the amazing powers of HERDWICK YARN, for the observation that “the knitted speakers are all grown up in their new woolly coverings”, and for continuing support of and belief in the KNITSONIK venture;
to Diana and David Matthews for welcoming me into their home, for extraordinarily generous hospitality and for organising my interview itinerary for the first week of my stay;
to Jim and Richard Brooks, Jackie Sedgewick, Margaret Ibbotson, Hugh Parker, Chris Benson, Clara, Margaret and Amy Black, Jane and Brian Knowles, Hilary Wilson, Pam Hall, George Harryman and Sam and Candida Hodgson for shepherding so many sheep and teaching me so much about what it means to be responsible for and manage livestock;
to Caecilia and Grahame Hewett for amazing apple cake, for showing me what it is like to drop-spindle out in the fields and for introducing me to some friendly local sheep;
to the Wordsworth Trust and especially John Coombes (for reading poetry), Jeff (for finding many relevant Wordsworth poems for me) and Carola Luther (the current poet-in-residence) for reading for me, and (in Carola’s case) for sharing poems with me;
to David and Diane Kinsman for telling me about the science and history of the black Hebrideans of Windermere;
to Trevor Pitt for believing in the work and for including it in the WOW exhibition;
to *Amy Twigger Holroyd, Chris, and Rachael Matthews for providing emergency, last-minute cosies for 6 of the speakers;
to Farfield Mill – especially Rosie (from the guild) and Chris (the master weaver) – for introducing me to the world of looms and weaving;
to Mark Stanley for travelling up from Weymouth after a BBC interview about Walk 2012, in time to join me in Windermere, come and see the WOW exhibition, and drive me home all in one weekend and for believing in the work and in me and in the sheep;
to Melanie Ireland, who knitted me the most amazing stole ever for Christmas. I wore it at the opening, and it made me feel very loved and very lucky;
to Rothy O’Brien for a wonderful High Tea in Dent;
to all of you who read this blog and keep up with my adventures in sheepland;
and to the late Fay Godwin, whose photographic project A Perfect Republic of Shepherds was a key inspiration for this whole endeavour.
THANK YOU x
Pattern design: ‘Hûrd – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION’ by Felicity Ford
Yarn: assorted 100% British Wool Yarns from Prick Your Finger, Fornside Farm, The Natural Fibre Company, Laura’s Looms, various handspinners, and some of my own handspun
Needles: 4mm crochet hooks and DPNs
Other materials: field-recordings and interviews conducted around the Lake District in the first fortnight of January with shepherds, weavers, knitters and makers, all focussed around the realities of sheep-farming and the state of the British Wool Trade