Geographies of Making/Making Geographies

In March 2014, I’ll be heading to my first AAG Conference in Tampa. I’m running a session with my advisor Harriet Hawkins on ‘Geographies of Making’ with a panel session on ‘Revisiting Production’. I’m really looking forward to it. We’re hoping to carry on conversations at the RGS-IBG Conference 2014 in August, and happily joined by Robert Mackinnon from Aberystwyth and Dr Stephen Saville from Flowering Elbow who I met at the Mend*rs Conference in 2012. We’re doing something a little different at the RGS-IBG 2014 and have organised ‘guided workshops’ (because some questions can only be answered with making, skill and practice). These sessions are sponsored by the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group.

This abstract details the call for papers and workshop activities. The RGS-IBG Conference will take place at the Royal Geographical Society 26-29 August 2014.  The conference theme is ‘Co-production’ – which we hope our session will address in various ways. The deadline for expression of interest is 14 February 2014.

Geographies of Making/Making Geographies

The power and significance of creative material practices of ‘making’ has drawn increasing attention within and beyond geography (Sennett, 2008, Crawford, 2009, Charny, 2011, Institute of Making, UCL).  Whether this is a critical engagement with craft and vernacular creativities, artistic practices or the extensive range of making practices studied under the banner of the creative economy. Scholarship not only acknowledges the social, economic, political and cultural potentials of these practices, but also increasingly doing so by way of in-depth studies of the material, practiced and embodied dimensions of making. This represents, we argue, a requirement that we revisit and re-negotiate the spaces and practices of production, and that we interrogate the politics therein.

Geographical research on the creative economy alongside cultural-social geographies of arts and creative practices give us the foundation for these studies of the geographies of creative making and crafts whether this be explorations of creative cities, clusters or networks, the intersections of creativity and place or making in the home, the studio, or at the scale of the notebook (Scott 2002; Pratt 2008; Bain, 2009; Edensor et al. 2009; Brace and Putra-Jones, 2010; Rogers, 2011; Sjoholm, 2012; Harvey et al, 2013).  Alongside this research we find attention being turned to the multiple lives of things, reworking and extending biographies of objects via practices of, for example, mending, repairing, up-cycling or other ways of creatively re-working objects, including second-hand consumption practices (Gregson and Crewe, 2003; Gregson et al, 2012; De Silvey and Ryan, 2013).  Long recognising the place-making possibilities of such forms of creative making, we now find a growing attention to the productive force of these material, embodied and skilled practices (Hawkins, 2010; 2013, Paton, 2013).  This might concern thinking through the production of human subjects through their material relations with the world, or it might explore the broader social context of communities of makers and the growing appreciation that “making is connecting” (Gauntlett, 2011).

We seek to expand geographical engagements with making and explore and experience some of the ways that geographers can attend to the power of making. We are interested in both sustained research with, and participation in making and re-making practices and communities, but also wider theoretical reflections on the use of ‘making’ as a geographical tool to understand and conceptualize the world and to comprehend the social, cultural, political and material relationships therein.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on the themes below but by no means limited to them;

·      The taking/making place of creative making.

·      How communities of making are formed and held together (and dissipate)?

·      How can making make communities?

·      How are making identities formed through enthusiasms and skill?

·      Making as a force in the world, as an agent of social, cultural, political change/activism.

·      Methodological questions raised by studying creative making practices.

·      Making and theorisations of embodiment, affect, materiality, skill, habit, craftsmanship and improvisation.

·      Explorations of making and the visceral (making as therapy, feelings of joy, boredom, pain-staking, enchantment, comfort).

We wish to develop some aspects we hope will come out in the theoretically informed papers, by encouraging participants to make and remake tangible objects. This could take the form of guided making sessions and/or semi structured repair/hack/and modify workshops. We are looking for proposals for guided workshops that will ask and perhaps multiply questions through the hands (and other making tools). What small acts of creation can re-make our theoretical approaches?

We invite 20-minute workshops on the themes below but by no means limited to them:

·      A politics of becoming closer.

·      Making with objects and being in our creations.

·      How objects, especially tools, can make us in our acts of making.

·      Explorations of making and the visceral (making as therapy, feelings of joy, boredom, pain staking, enchantment, comfort).

·      Making as a force in the world, as an agent of social, cultural, political change/activism (upcycling/repair/craftvism).

·      Making and theorisations of embodiment, affect, materiality, skill, habit and improvisation.

·      Methodological questions raised by studying creative making practices.

Please send 250 word abstracts to all convenors by Friday 14th February 2014.

Laura Price (, Dr Stephen Saville ( and Robert MacKinnon (

Comforting Geographies

Recently I’ve been thinking about ‘comfort’ and the material and symbolic relationship of knitting with notions of comfort/discomfort. In September, Danny McNally and I came up with ‘Comforting Geographies‘, building on Danny’s work on comfort, sociality and encounters. Below is the call for papers on a session exploring our idea for the Royal Geography Society AC2013, London, UK, 28 – 30 August.

Co-Sponsored by Women and Geography Study Group (WGSG) and Social and Cultural Research Group (SGRG)

Comfort is an ambivalent and highly complex term (Bissell, 2008). To be in one’s comfort zone is perceived to be conservative, and socially and culturally unadventurous. At the same time the embodied, material experience of ‘comfort’ is anticipated for satisfying experiences of everyday life. Geographers have engaged with the notion of comfort in a variety of contexts: migratory experience (Gorman-Murray, 2009); identity and resistance (Holliday, 1998); passenger comfort and discomfort (Bisell, 2008; Martin, 2011); the clothed body (Colls, 2005; Woodward, 2005); nighttime economies (Elridge et al, 2008); sociability in public space (Boyer, 2012) and thermal heat provision (Hitchings et al, 2011). David Bissell (2008) has argued that through cultural geographies, ‘comfort’ has often taken on gendered connotations, associating experiences of home, care and warmth with feminine experience and domesticity. Feminist geographers have been critical of the ‘comforting’ associations of home and femininity; highlighting home as negotiations of experiences, especially those that are unjust or negative that are concealed by deterministic associations of home as comforting (Brickell, 2011).

This session on ‘comforting geographies’ seeks to explore the liminality of ‘comfort’. The geographical practices of making comfort in discomforting spaces; experiences of discomfort in ‘comforting spaces’ and the complicated experience of social and cultural and embodied, felt comfort. With this session we hope to move beyond discussion of just ‘another emotion’ (Pile, 2010), towards a politics of comfort that attends to the possibilities of this notion to make sense of the textures of everyday life – helping to better theorize the potential of ‘comforting geographies’ as a new frontier for social and cultural geography.

Particular questions we would like to cover include:

In which ways does comfort oscillate with discomfort?

What are the spaces of comfort – surprising, historic, rural, and urban, body, city?

What are the aesthetics and material cultures of comfort?

How is comfort negotiated and experienced in everyday life?

How might we think of the boundaries of comfort?

How are ‘comforting’ affective atmospheres created and curated?

What are the spatial politics of comfort?

How might we find comfort in others?

How can (dis)comfort be linked to political resistance?

Please send abstracts for this session to the session organisers: and by 1st Febuary 2013

Close Knit Community

Last month, the ‘Knitting and Stitch’ show visited Alexandra Palace, London. The ‘Knitting and Stitch’ show exhibited textile related arts and craft, showcasing some fantastic stitch/knitted/crafted art. It was great; and the atmosphere felt celebratory and social. In this post I want to focus on the ‘Knitted Village’ that was exhibited at the entrance of the show. The ‘Knitted Village’ was part of a competition organised by Twisted Thread, organisers of the ‘Knitting and Stitch Show’. The competition was so popular, that despite its completion, Twisted Thread reopened space for entries so that the village could be added to and exhibited at the Show at Alexandra Palace in October.

I was struck by the juxtaposition of the village with the view of London from ‘Ally Pally’ – London, in all its vastness, seemed miniature itself. Of course, there are lots of textile metaphors that come to the fore in the production of a knitted village, that highlight the pervasion of textile metaphor in our understandings of communities and everyday life – ‘Close knit community’, ‘social fabric’, ‘warp and weft of life’ ‘texture of place’ etc. Textiles are familiar, we experience life through the clothed body, and our houses are made homes through soft furnishings. Knitted objects and knitted cloth has certain connotations and memories, notably grandmas, Christmas jumpers, scarves etc. As I’ve explored in the blog previously, this supposed ordinariness and knowingness of knitting allows artists and crafters to use knitterly skills for different (subversive or activist) ends. One artist that has worked with knitting, notions of home and ordinariness to subversive ends is Freddie Robbins, in her work on ‘Homes of Knitted Crimes’.




For me, the knitted village at the Knitting and Stitch show made me ‘nostalgic’ for childhood TV shows and play, I was reminded of Postman Pat and Greendale, Fireman Sam and Pontypandy.  The roads that snake through the ‘knitted village’ reminded me of another familiar textile; the ‘road track play rug’ that seems to have a firm presence in nurseries, homes and playgroups. This soft textured surface allows for the creation and curation of imaginary worlds (I was personally quite fond of making my plastic toy crocodile joy-ride the town in his large yellow van – with careless abandon). The ‘Knitted Village’ also shares similarities with Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony set.  The set featured “meadows, families taking picnics, people playing sports on the village green, and farmers tiling the soil. Real farmyard animals grazed the ‘countryside’” (BBC, 2012).  Ultimately these ‘sets’ reflect some sort of ‘rural idyll’, though arguably the ‘living road map’ has more grey spaces and industry it still reflects an ‘idyllic’ landscape: ‘a representation of the countryside as somewhere that is more relaxed and relaxing, scenic yet human scale, ‘organic’ yet someone ‘external to otherwise distanced from the negative features of modern society’ (Halfacree, 2009).




In “Producing Postman Pat: the popular cultural construction of idyllic rurality” (2008) John Horton interviewed John Cuncliffe, author of Postman Pat and a ‘sometimes Children’s BBC producer’, both important figures in the television production Postman Pat and Greendale. Horton (2008) drew attention to the ways that rural idylls literally come to be constructed, engineered and eventually taken for granted. To this end, attempting to make the metaphors of ‘production’ and ‘fabrication’ of the rural idyll, more physical and productive and perhaps ‘more honest, reflective and tangible’ (Horton, 2008; 397). Perhaps this means engaging with sets and landscapes in a similar way to Richard Yarwood and Jon Shaw (2010) and the attention they pay to the curating and making of model railway landscapes as a form of craft consumption (Campbell, 2005). I’d like to take this further, thinking through the material affordances of craft processes and their production. Such as, what knitting means as a form of comfort and cosiness and how this is enacted in the making of a ‘knitted village’ and what this means for the ‘production’ of ‘rural idyll’. Artist, Freddie Robbins reworked these associations in ‘Knitted Houses of Crime’. Knitted objects afford a specific sensory experience in terms of craft process and product. Perhaps more work needs to be done, as John Horton (2008) has argued, on the actual ‘production’ and ‘fabrication’ of ideas such as the rural idyll and beyond. Thinking through craft metaphors with the actual materiality and matter of craft processes could ‘unravel’ or ‘stitch’ new stories; and better explore the links between metaphor and materiality.  It would be great to hold a conversation with makers of the knitted houses, fire station, farm etc. and ‘Twisted Thread” who curated the ‘knitted village’ competition; their multiple production techniques would have much to say about an array of ‘geographies’ at ‘play’ in the village.

Monstrous Geographies & Knitting the City.

As part of the BT Artbox programme, artists and designers have re-designed the iconic red telephone box. The telephone boxes have been located in different places and spaces across the urban landscape. The red telephone box has an enduring presence in geographical imaginations of London and the UK.  I’ve felt more aware of the presence of the ‘iconic’ red telephone boxes of late. Walking in central London, tourists huddle round the big box to take their holiday snaps with their rosy red London icon and consuming place. During the Jubilee chaos, the telephone box became a useful viewing platform – a steadfast beacon amongst a sea of crowds. I don’t mean to romanticise the conviviality of the telephone box – many are highly sexualised advertising spaces. It’s just this sense of vitality and connection with the telephone box seems an interesting reconfiguration of the ‘connections’ the telephone box has housed historically.


Knit in the City collective is noted for their iconic knitted telephone box cosies. As part of the BT Artbox endeavour Deadly Knitshade (founding member of Knit in the City) created a big yellow monster. The colour of the ArtBox was as bright as the yellowy tones of a New York’s taxi – an equally strong character in the geographical imagination of a fellow ‘big city’. Aesthetically, the detail of the signage, and the shape of the box’s windows were replicated in the monster cosy. But with giant eyes added, and goofy, monster teeth the telephone box became a creature and a character in the city. Given the especially soggy weather over July, I thought the ArtBox still felt pretty cosy to touch – it had endured well. Infact, it offered comfort and a space to sit and chat – a site of sociality for a group who appeared to have chosen the spot as their designated meeting point. People danced in and out of the group to get a touch of the telephone box, and to see the craftsmanship ‘close up’. Knitters and knitting could be argued as a new subculture within London. If subcultural groups construct meaning by taking objects and signs from dominant cultures and injecting them with their own meaning, the knitted tea cosy is emblematic of this. Though of course the intentionality of this BT ArtBox is different to more ‘guerrilla’ tactics.




I’ve been exploring the relationship between the materialities of the city and acts of knitted graffiti.  The materiality of something knitted affects different ‘feeling’ sensibilities in the city. It affects the ‘feel’ and touch of the telephone box. The red steel box becomes softer and bright yellow. The knitted ArtBox affects the ‘feeling’ of the city; it surprises, it delights, it confuses. It affects how we feel ‘about’ the city – based on comparison with our assumption of telephone boxes and other materialities of the city – we feel affected or enchanted as Jane Bennett might argue. It created a space for encounter and it would be interesting to see the extent to which the knitted medium and materiality played in these ‘encounters’. Though many of the red telephone boxes are increasingly redundant, they do still have feelings (!) and the yellow monster cosy seemed to speak for the telephone box, its place in the city and relationships with it, through a knitted narrative.

Crafting the Jubilee


Preparations for the Diamond Jubilee this weekend are in full swing; London appears to have turned red, white and blue. As I trawled, online, through links to potential weekend festivals, adventures and features I couldn’t help be notice the variety of craft based celebrations. Cath Kidston are to release a special edition knitted ‘guard’; one ardent Royal fan has knitted the scene of the Queen’s boat pageant and later in the Jubilee week, Stitch London are to host a ‘Jubilee Picnic’ that celebrates ‘National Knit in Public Day’ as well as 60 years of the Queen.


(Knitted Guards, available in Cath Kidston shops 1/06/12)

With many arguing that the ‘revival of craft’ is related to senses of nostalgia I do find myself examining the relationship in context of the Jubilee celebrations. Oxford Street is adorned with Union Jacks and sitting amongst those flags flies ‘CRAFT IS GREAT’. Notions of heritage are of course reworked, as though to evoke a sense of life sixty years ago. Yet life is very different and I’m not sure what this renewed fervour for craft within these celebrations does to the ‘status of craft’. Many of the craft celebrations are ‘make your own cake stand’ or ‘make your own bunting’. The paper plates (below) that mock the design of china memorabilia evokes an essence of craftsmanship in the design, but ultimately are made cheaply, on paper rather than china, are mass manufactured and have a different temporality (ultimately after a few soggy sandwiches they’d be for the bin.)


I’m still undecided about the status of craft in the Jubilee; I am interested in paper plates and the idea of evoking craft symbolically, but materially lacking the skill or the sustained material experience in making, that scholars like Glenn Adamson would associate with the term. Often, being fortunate to be so immersed in knitting and its contemporary practice, I underestimate the ‘wow’ factor experienced by viewing designs such as the knitted boat pageant.  This still very much reworks perceptions of knitting, which makes me think that although the knitted celebrations may seem to correlate with a sense of nostalgia – to focus too much on this would negate the power of contemporary knit practice. I, for one, hope to have my needles and yarn at the ready for Knit in Public Day.

(Knitter Shelia Carter, 75. Shelia has worked five hours each day, on the project, since January, which in total has used 400 balls of wool)

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