Abstracts of a Twenty-something

Enclosed: insecurity, uncertainty, perceptive thought and pretty objects.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Handmade Claudia

Most people who know me agree that two of my major passions in life are food and making things. I love handmade things and wherever possible will make things myself or buy handmade things from sellers local to the place I am in. Most of my money gets spent on things to make, such as material, yarn, equipment, magazines and patterns, and things that generally inspire me.
Yesterday, a very exciting thing happened. Birmingham's first city centre Handmade Market was launched by the very brilliant Creative Open Workshops hosting a number of brilliant artists and crafters. The Handmade Market provides a valid city centre forum for local artists and sellers which appeared to benefit from a huge amount of footfall in the area, and hopefully with a weekly changing offering of products and art, will be a lasting addition to the existing Birmingham markets. I'm even in discussions with a milliner and a papercrafter that I met at the Market yesterday to host a stall together in the coming months.
It finally feels that Birmingham is beginning to recognise the crafting talent that it is home to right in the city, along with the success of Created in Birmingham earlier this year, and the linked project This is Birmingham, which I understand is due to open this year. It really is inspiring, and a long time coming behind the success that pockets of London, Bristol and Glasgow have been enjoying for a long time. Also, the nice people at Created in Birmingham ran a competition to win tickets to Moseley Folk Festival for Sunday 5 September, and I won!!

Now, on to my handmade interests... I am starting to make Christmas presents. I have 8 birthdays coming up before Christmas, but they can fit in amongst the Christmas presents. I actually cast on for my first Christmas present yesterday which I can't go into because the person it is for may read this blog! So here are some photos of things that I have made relatively recently...
A shawl I made for my Mom's birthday back in May.
A coffee cup holder I use ALL THE TIME at work (we have those silly paper cups, no kettle and no sink).

A stitch holder I made with memory wire and beads.

A mini scarf complete with buttons, ready for autumn. Just seen: Knitting for Dummies - my bible.

A huge pashmina knitted in a gorgeous gorgeous Manos yarn I bought from a store in San Francisco.
A cute little purse I whipped up one Sunday afternoon as a birthday present for my cousin, which she still hasn't received, despite her birthday being at the start of the month... Oops.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Birmingham... The Second City of Culture?

I'm very keen on culture, in all shapes and forms... Pop culture, high culture, craft culture, travel culture - there's more than you'd think! I wrote this article for a newspaper however considering the topic isn't super current, it's unlikely to get published. So I thought I'd post it here instead...

It’s been almost a month since Birmingham was yet again denied a cultural crown, this time in the form of the UK Capital of Culture 2013, which was awarded to Londonderry. This appears to be becoming a trend, after our loss at the 2008 European Capital of Culture... Some will say that we don’t need a title, and that Birmingham is great as it is, and others will say we desperately do need such a label because otherwise Birmingham will collapse and cave in on itself. Perhaps not in so many words, but the thought process is surely there. I have one question for those pessimists out there overlooking Birmingham’s wealth of culture; really?

Yes, it would be nice if Birmingham had won the title, and the prestige and the investment that would have come with it. However, we should not let the loss we have endured overshadow the fantastic range of cultural offerings we have here in the Second City, that are the result of Birmingham’s passion for diversity and culture. We may not have a national branch of The Science Museum or The National Gallery, but we do have nationally recognised exhibits displayed in great spaces. The Ikon Gallery, housed in the Victorian Oozells Street School, is forever exciting with ever changing, interesting exhibits and a lively schedule of events. And it’s all free. Free, world class culture, in Birmingham!

Besides the usual things people consider when thinking of culture in Birmingham, such as the Hippodrome Theatre, we have an abundance of places and groups that rarely get a look in. The Jewellery Quarter, with it’s huge array of silver and goldsmiths, and history leaking from the streets has only recently become a tourist destination, and I bet a surprising number of Birmingham natives won’t yet have explored what could be Birmingham’s heritage quarter. The recent renovation of the Midlands Art Centre has seen the return of another independent cinema, a theatre, performance spaces, gallery and a jam packed education schedule be delivered to the people of the (former) West Midlands region, in the lush setting of Cannon Hill Park. Amongst others, we have the oldest working cinema in the UK in the form of The Electric; a free Museum and Art Gallery, with the largest collection of Pre-Raphelites and now hosting the Staffordshire Hoard; and a Central Library that is the source of energetic local debate. Those are all pretty great, especially as not everyone agrees on the old or new library. Now, besides that, we have marvellous free and local events held around the city, for so many different causes and cultures. The summer food fair; the German Christmas Market; Artsfest; the Dance Festival; to name just a few...

These all have the ability to introduce new cultures into the City of Birmingham, whilst bringing people together, which should go hand in hand with culture – would it be culture if there was nobody there to respond to it? I could go on describing the various cultural entities already in existence in Birmingham, especially in terms of less conventional culture, which Created in Birmingham and numerous grass roots community groups have built on and presented to a much wider audience. BUT that would probably fill a heavy book. The point is Birmingham is chock full of culture. And we don’t need a title to know that. Embrace the culture around you. Just because we lost does not mean that the culture we have becomes of less value. Perhaps it becomes more valuable. We are not to take it for granted, because we are those that must enhance and nurture it. There is no culture without people, but there is culture without a title. Be proud of our City of Culture, Birmingham, because it will always be ours.

Birmingham is the UK’s Second City. It has always been and despite others attempts, it will always be. As David Clarke, chairman of Birmingham Civic Society, stated on hearing that Londonderry had been awarded Capital of Culture, “Birmingham is still the country’s greatest cultural asset outside London. You’ve only got to look at the diversity of our cultures to recognise that fact.”