'Making Space: Sensing Place' 
International Arts Fellowship

The Fellowship

In October 2009, Steven, along with artist Thurle Wright, was awarded a ‘Making Space: Sensing Place (MS:SP) Crafts Fellowship’, part of the HAT (‘Here and There’) International Exchange and Residency Programme, a scheme managed by A Fine Line: Cultural Practice. 

The MS:SP fellowship included a three-month residency programme for two artist-craftspeople from the UK, two from Bangladesh and one from India. The project offered time to undertake research and develop new work, experience and respond to museum collections, artefacts, places and spaces. as well as opportunities to observe, work and collaborate with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India. 

The residencies took place in 2010; Thurle and I stayed in Dhaka, Bangladesh during February where we were generously hosted by Britto Arts Trust. We then spent March in Gujarat, India, staying at Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad. The selected artists Tarun Gosh and Tapan Das from Bangladesh and Lokesh Ghai from India visited the UK between April and June 2010. During this time there were educational workshops and projects with both the V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Work produced as part of the fellowship was exhibited at both venues. (further details below). 

You can see films from the fellowship here: Steven Follen Youtube

You can read the blog of the fellowship here:  Blogger MSSP Follen

Research

The fellowship allowed time to observe, absorb and to reflect upon the role of artist-craftspeople in different cultural settings  - as creative, mediator, agent and researcher. 

 

“As a practicing metalsmith my interest in the fellowship followed several threads:

 

Metal is a material I enjoy: the way it moves, its resistance, its feel, its weight, how it changes when heated, its shine, its smell, the sounds of it when worked…. 

I have always been interested in how things are made and constructed. When looking at an object I see the process of its making. This interest in structures and the way things are made extends into my practice and is informed by how others invent and make, utilizing the properties and characteristics of their chosen material. 

The MSSP project has offered an opportunity to see more of craftspeople in India and Bangladesh making (particularly metalwork). The places and spaces in which they work, their skills and the processes they use, how and why they make and different approaches to making, inventiveness with materials and processes and their resourcefulness.
 

Craft objects can take us on journeys, both into our past and around the world. They hold narratives which describe how, through time, we as humans have explored, migrated, tested, built and constructed with materials. Crafts people produce objects that celebrate, enhance and record the events and rituals in our lives. Their artefacts provide a point of reference for reflection on how craft practices, and craftspeople are placed within their cultures’. 

Sketchbooks 

Throughout the fellowship my research incorporated site visits to museums, galleries and workshops, and interviews. I recorded what I heard and saw through drawing and recording in my sketchbooks and notebooks as well as extensive photography and filming.

Collecting

Bangladesh

'My Initial research for the fellowship identified specific things that I would have welcomed the opportunity to see and learn more about in Bangladesh. These included: Woven metal, basketry, Metal casting at Dhamrai, Alpana, the brick fields, kilns and brick making process, Louis Khans Parliament building,.....

I felt these initial areas of research had a direct connection to my own creative practice either materially aesthetically or through process, and related to my areas of interest included metalworking, inventive and resourceful use of materials and processes and the role of the crafts within different cultural settings.

The use of a basket weaving process, transferred across into a material not usually used in this way, metal echos my own material exploration with coiling and coopering in metal. 

Whilst in Bangladesh Shaon, an artist puppeteer and film makier introduced me to the work of Shawon Akard and the staff of CRACK Bangladesh. Both Shawon, Shaon and Britto Arts helped me to visit several metalworking workshops during my stay, both within Dhaka and the surrounding area and for this I am very grateful. One particular experience will stay with me both for the ingenuity collaboration beauty, sounds and performance of the metalworking process.

 

See and read more of the metaworkers here: Blogger MSSP Follen

 

Watch films here: Steven Follen YouTube

 

See further images from Bangladesh here: Steven Follen Flickr

Gujurat - India

'My Initial research for the fellowship identified specific things that I would have welcomed the opportunity to see and learn more about in Gujarat  These included: The architecture of the Havelies within the pols - the enclosed communities within the old city of Ahmedabad, the step wells, the architecture of Louis Khan and Doshi, the boat building at Mandivi and the jewellery and textiles of the Rabari people in Kutch - especially the Valdo necklaces and Magali earrings which are made by coiling metal a process I have developed in my own practice and wish to extend and develop further.

See further images from India here: Steven Follen Flickr