Week 6: Critical Reflective Journal

This week I found a treasure trove of the art in the area, so will start my Critical Research Journal in Walthamstow and go on to the resources provided by Falmouth.

I love the Arts and Crafts movement and Morris’ design ethic. Also at the museum was an exhibition of the artist Madge Gill, who is also local to the area, and created amazing black line drawings as well as textiles.

There’s also a mural of her on the high street:


I wanted to also check out a cafe to do some work in, but the atmosphere was a little stifling, so I made my way to the library to see if they had any local archives. They directed me to Vestry House Museum, which is based in the building of the old workhouse. They have images and history of the area, and examples of what middle-class Victorian household would have looked like. I was interested to learn that even in Victorian England where workhouse conditions were terrible, those who were unfortunate to end up in the workhouse were treated with compassion by the community rather than disdain as was common in different communities.

There is also a local history archive, but it only opens when I am at work, and will visit another time. Helen Stone created an exhibition called Trousseau in which she researched the history of her maternal line and discovered that many were laundresses and charwomen in E17. She took typical items that her ancestors would have worn and stitched details of their lives on them:

Afterwards, I headed to God’s Own Junkyard where the Neon Man, Chris Brace, displays his neon artwork. It’s a dazzling display of handcrafted neon signs set against salvaged ephemera


John Berger film, Ways of Seeing

I watched the whole series of this, not just because I was interested in the subject, but because I love Berger’s shirts!

Brereton, R. (2009) Sketchbooks; The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators and Creatives. Lawrence King: London.

Looking at sketchbooks, I see how open they are, and how they could be regarded as diaries for a designer. The designers featured aren’t precious about what they put in them, and seem to regard them as a way to play, and in the case of Dreibholz to connect with friends, and they became “a collection of thoughts, experiments, notes from lectures, graphic ephemera we found and other things”.

The style of the sketchbooks has changed for each designer through their career. For example, Saville notes that in the 1980s, he “was dealing with the visual problems of others alongside my own interests”, whereas now he is “increasingly called upon to diagnose problems rather than find visual solutions, and so my sketchbooks have become almost exclusively notebooks”. As he looks back at them, he feels that “all my notebooks trace my ability to read the world around me, so if I look back through the years, I can see changes in what I notice.” He notes that “the process of learning to look can make the simplest things quite amazing and beautiful.”

My art director told me to always carry a notebook, no matter what, and I do. It’s been a useful pad when I’ve forgotten to bring paper to a first-aid training course, for sketching out what I mean to other people, and to sketch out ideas whilst travelling. My application portfolio for this course included sketches for page layouts I did on the bus. I’m all for notebooks, but I wonder how these designers use them in a digital world. Most content that I absorb is on a screen, and so printing it off seems to be a wasteful and time-consuming enterprise that takes away from the spontaneity of the system. At the same time, digital scrapbooks, for example, Pinterest, don’t have the individuality and cut and paste of the analogue scrapbook. To have both digital and paper sketchbooks seems to me to split minds. Sketch-booking is something I’d like to make myself do more, no matter what it is!

Hara, K. (2015) Ex-Formation. Lars Muller: Zurich.

I’m definitely guilty of placing too much emphasis on knowledge. As an academically solid and socially awkward child, knowing things was how I could create an identity for myself. But that has led to, as an adult and something I’ve become painfully aware of the past weeks, a desire to show off knowledge, but WHY?!

Hara states that “knowledge is merely the entrance to thought” and that ” ‘to know things’ is where the imagination starts, not the goal.” By throwing facts back and forth in a conversation, “we stopped the continual and difficult kneading [from which originality rises] and begun a consistent game of information catch”. Food for thought, for me.

From the next given examples, I took the most from “If the River Were a Road”, where images of roads are super-imposed onto river beds. The designers say that “the river inlaid with an asphalt road conveys the river’s size and shape much more vividly hat would ordinary photographs”, and I like the effect of transposing one method of transport with another. In “Tokyo Camouflage”, Matsubara draws our attention to details of the neighbourhoods he features, and makes obvious what we would overlook. I think this is a key point of this week, taking note of what is there around us and why.

Critical thinking: Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research and Everyday Experience 

There’s so much that I’d like to quote! I’ve found this a very useful guide to connecting the more esoteric theory to everyday life.

External sources I looked at this week:


One thought on “Week 6: Critical Reflective Journal

  1. Pingback: Week 6: Noticing the Ignored – Anna Robinette

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