One Cycle, One Sew One Cycle, One Sew is a portable, interactive project, exploring the playful union of a traditional sewing machine with three wheels, two pedals and a saddle. As an object the piece exists as a utilitarian, simple mechanical invention. An adult tricycle with a box made to fit between the back wheels, into which fits a folding stool, small black board, umbrella and sewing materials. On the top, a 99k singer sewing machine sits embedded. In this form with a little leg effort it can all be cycled from place to place. In a chosen location or community, the piece can be un-packed and the bicycle chain slipped off in exchange for a treadle sewing machine belt. Demanding human kinetic energy in replace of an electrical source, the machine can be easily used to sew as the tricycle sits stationary and the pedals are cycled backwards. The work is considering two opposing contexts; West and east, first and third worlds. From the prospective of our western, mass-produced society I am interested in the projects place with-in the revival of D.I.Y. culture and contemporary craft, both as a response to our political economic field and with a hint at neo-luddite philosophy, tempting people to question aspects of our dependency on technology and the forgetfulness of our fingers to make and mend things for ourselves. Moving globally eastwards, while on one hand the project could be described as having a playful inverted sweatshop notion, my choice to use an old singer sewing machine directly links to a year spent teaching young girls in rural India to sew on these very machines. In a village with very little electricity I will never forget the many levels on which learning to sew and become tailors with these machines empowered these girls. Not only did it provide an escape from child marriage it enabled them to become economically independent women. My choice and fascination with adapted bicycles is undoubtedly also rooted in these contexts, inspired firstly by the imaginative homemade solutions using bicycle and cycle rickshaws of Indian people in order to find their own means to making a living, secondly addressing our western concerns with environmentally sustainable living. In this way the project not only produces no carbon foot print, but aims to promote the idea of up-cycling (turning old un wanted things into new and better things, increasing their value) which is now commonly conceived to be more efficient than re-cycling (in which old un wanted things are broken down to make new things, but which have a decreased value.)
THE JOURNEY SO FAR:
New Contemporaries Exhibition : R.S.A. (2012)
I made the work initially for the R.S.A. New contemporaries exhibition in Edinburgh (March 2012.) For the project this exhibition acted as a kind of spring-board, allowing me to present the idea of the project (in its earliest stages,) in a sculptural form.
For the projects first public venture which is the R.S.A. New Contemporaries exhibition, viewers encounted the work set up, unfolded, stationary in the gallery space. A rack on the back of the tricycle box held hand written illustrations and instructions about how to use the different parts (sewing machine and bike) while the black board hanging on the handle bars invited all viewers to interact with the work if they wish. The instructions explained how members of the public can select pages from a large pile of recycled and multi-cultured/lingual newspapers sitting to the side of the machine, and then use the cycle/sewing mechanism to make their own simple newspaper objects to take away with them. Paper bags, universally useful and easy were explained and suggested but it was important that people were free to exercise their own innate creativity to make whatever their imagination can invent.
A series of short lived happenings: Pipe factory event for Glasgow International Art Festival (2012)
During the two weeks of G.I. festival I have been working with my Sew-up-cycle project (see previous page for details.) Re-naming it One Cycle, One Sew, moving throughout different public outdoor spaces and running cycle sewing performances/workshops. Inviting people to sew or cycle with me to make and create items such as newspaper bags and hats (and invent their own fabulous creations). This process has created lots of curiosity, some beautiful newspaper creations, many interesting conversations and stories shared with strangers and plenty of cheerful smiles.
Gibson Street Gala,OBJECTIVE: West End Festival (2012) This was a festival atmosphere, families and people out in their plenty. For these interactive workshop as part of my One Cycle, One Sew Project I was exploring materials. Up-cycling anything sewable, used and no longer wanted. Scrap fabrics, old bed sheets, bin liners, foil packaging…
Doune the Rabbit Hole (With Eilidh Graham and the box bike, 2012)
This festival explore the collaboration between Eilidh and myself and our strange bikes, it allowed us to rethink materials and how they are sourced, collected and transported to a site and extended the capacity for including activities that not only required the sewing machine, where buttons could be hand stitched on to complete cycle stitched bags etc…
Makers Fair – Bike Zoo : Summerhall, Edinburgh (2013)
Collaborating with two friends (Martin Campbell and William Greensmith) we participated in the first Scottish Makers fair, in a section called the bike zoo, surrounded by some great inventions… We decided to use each of our skills to assist visitors to invent a bike, on the spot on the day themselves, we called it the Rapid Proto Bike. People could cycle and sew sections of fabric to cover the bike, make flags and a saddle etc. At the end of a busy day we cut the creation free and surprised ourselves at managing to ride it for a good few meters!
Farmers Market : House for an Art Lover (2013)