Sound Objects at the Old Fire Station in Oxford

As long-term readers of this blog will know, I am interested in all the different ways that we can engage imaginatively through the world through sound. I am especially interested in podcasts and radio as formats for giving content to listeners, because material disseminated in this way can be organised into the life of a listener on their own terms. I do not necessarily think that people will listen to 20 minutes of audio in a white-washed gallery space, designed mostly for standing and walking in. Also, I prefer the collision of my audio work with the materials and objects of everyday life which might occur if you are listening to my recordings instead in your own homes, on the way to work, or lying on your bed; and it is very important to me that listeners are physically comfortable while listening – a situation which can’t necessarily be ensured in gallery spaces.

Similarly, I am interested in producing objects which help us to focus on everyday reality through the medium of sound. I tend to make such objects with a focus on their potential use in daily life, i.e. not as rarefied objects to live on an ART SHELF, (although the handmade quality of my products does mean that this is often where they end up!) but as objects to be handled and referred to and played with in order to discover ordinary places and situations anew. Examples include a handy shopping list which I produced to inspire folk to choose food for its sonic qualities; the SOUNDWALK map, designed to help listeners to record and celebrate the sounds between Warborough and Dorchester along the A4074 Road; and The Sonic Tuck Shop Book which presents listeners with opportunities to reconsider the entire sound world of food and eating via a manifesto, handy menu-planner, and sample DAY OF SONIC TUCK. I think of these things as Sound Objects.

I am very happy to say that some such Sound Objects are now for sale in a variety of different real shops, including Prick Your Finger, who stock my limited edition KNITSONIK button badges (they do also sell these online!); The Bookart Book Shop; and most recently – and very joyously – The shop at the Old Fire Station gallery in Oxford.

Emily Alexander – who curates the shop at the Old Fire Station – clearly has an eye for handmade objects which are meant to belong to people, and which bring creativity into everyday contexts. The whole shop is a treasure trove of handmade things which are simultaneously useful and imaginative, and I feel very honoured to be included as one of the artists responsible for creating such an eclectic, diverse, and celebratory collection of objects-to-think-with, which can get mixed up in the glorious flow of daily things and tasks involved in everyday life.

There are button badges made from vintage postal stamps; cake-stands made from vintage china; tea towels featuring Art Prints; stationary designed to help theme writing-activities; and a wealth of other types of objects which repurpose and remix everyday objects… like the cuff-links and other objects made or covered with salvaged, vintage fabrics.

The Telegraph recently did a piece on Christmas gifts handmade in Britain – which features the same wonderful Tickety Boo! notebook created by Sort Design featured in the photo below!

The KNITSONIKTM sound/knitwear chart-designing book, The Sonic Tuck Shop Book and the SOUNDWALK stationery will soon join it on the inspiring shelves of the shop.

So too will my one-off button badge sets, created from the pages of old, unwanted books. These sets have been impossible to sell online, because of the labour involved in individually photographing each badge and then uploading it to Etsy. Also there is a physical encounter involved with rifling through packets of unique badges, and choosing the one which is specifically right for you, which needs to happen in a real place. To my mind this process is akin to rummaging at a used book store for that perfect tome which speaks to you with its covers, its ink, its illustrations, its title… Do you agree?

I am hopeful now that I have found a way of disseminating physical Sound Objects to an audience where they can be bought and used. I love the ethos which seems to lie behind the things assembled in the shop; that objects we use can be meaningful and unique and that we can encounter ART in the course of drying the dishes or writing a shopping list or preparing our morning cereal, according to the things that we select for performing these tasks, and the way that they have been designed or created. My objects are less utilitarian than the fine tea towels, notebooks and ceramic bowls on sale in the shop, but if one person ever emails to say they have prepared a day of Sonic Tuck, recorded sounds around the SOUNDWALK or made a knitting design in the KNITSONIKTM sound/knitwear chart-designing book, and that this activity was fun and pleasing, then I will feel that my Sound Objects have been successful and worthwhile things to have made.

Here is Emily opening my consignment of Sound Objects (and non-sonic button-badge sets!) at the Old Fire Station. Thank you for including me amongst your list of esteemed stockists, and for creating a place where thoughtful, handmade things can be found and enjoyed by the public.

To buy my things costs:

£4.50 for KNITSONIKTM sound/knitwear chart-designing book; this is a hand-stamped, blue exercise book, with squares printed throughout (for jotting down knitting charts) featuring rubber-stamped images throughout. All the images relate either to textiles or sounds
£6 for sets of 4 x handmade button-badges, created from vintage and unwanted books
£10 for SOUNDWALK stationary, which includes 3 x SOUND BANK envelopes, A4074 edition
£15 for The Sonic Tuck Shop book, which includes screenprinted paper packaging for popcorn and exploding mouth candy; packets of both of those items; hand-packaged sonic hangover cure; one postcard featuring The Sonic Tuck Shop installation in Reading; a CD of Sonic Tuck; a poster detailing A Day of Sonic Tuck; a letter-press and hand-stamped cover; and a host of wondrous articles.

All for less than the price of 2 cinema tickets!

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