Hamble Campbell's Home Page

An occasional window on Hamble Campbell's world.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The greatest challenge facing man

Hah! Prince Charles has been interviewed by what seemed like a rather sycophantic BBC "Environment Corespondent" and the result was broadcast this morning on Radio 4's Today programme. Prince Charles said he wants his farm to be carbon neutral. However, the interviewer (who laughed hysterically whenever the Prince made a joke) failed to ask her subject (ho ho) if he drove a gas-guzzling car, or if he travelled frequently by plane, or if he lived in a house too large for his needs and heated it all, or if he indulged in excessive consumerism - buying new clothes and STUFF unnecessarily. If he could honestly answer these questions in a way that would make us look up to him and say, "Yes, this is what we should all be doing," he might earn some respect. However, the interviewer only asked him about his farm, which I am sure the nation's farmers will look to as a beacon in the night. I do admit to buying PC's Duchy Originals bacon and sausages - often because this is the only organic or free-range range for sale in the supermarket. I expect other organic farmers don't get their products on the shelves quite so easily.

PC also made a bit of a howler when he spoke of "farmers, and their wives"!!! Perhaps daughters of farmers don't get handed down the family farm - it still goes to the sons.

Which makes me think of what could be construed as a rather unkind question the interviewer put to the Prince. She asked him about his self-avowed liking for mutton.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

But is it art?

I was reading last week's Observer magazine in which there is a piece about an artist called Clare Shenstone. She had produced some work using stitched fabric which she included in her final year degree show at art college. The sewing was described by the magazine article's author as, "a risky piece of work. You won't see many cloth pieces in Chelsea.....or other enclaves of High Art, and artists who do work with it tend to use it as a "degraded" material, like Mike Kelley; or as a commentary on women's work, like Rosemarie Trockel; or as both, like Tracey Emin....."

I cannot see why textiles should not be considered as proper art - especially when you look at the utter rubbish that IS given that label.

I shall quote you some more: - in "World Textiles, a concise history", Mary Schoeser writes about "issues raised by ... movements in Western art, craft and design. (The shifting connotations of these words are an interesting but separate subject. Here they represent the traditional boundaries created by price, audience, media and end-use.)" She goes on to say, "At times lip-service has been paid to many makers by calling them artists ... and the uneasy relationship between fine art and applied arts evident in 1850 has not yet been resolved...". (1850 = the Arts and Crafts movement).

I shall consider my dragon to be ART. Just because its method of creation (embroidery) is also a craft seems to me to be irrelevant. Engraving and screen printing could be called crafts. Or painting, for that matter. Why do some people have a problem with an artist using skill, technique, craftsmanship, call it what you will? It is almost as if they think that a true artist must have an inate ability to produce works of art, and that he will have no need to develop a talent or skill.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Apocolyptic dragon all sewn up

Well I've finished sewing my dragon and he looks mighty fine. I had to unpick his red tongue and replace it with a silver one as it looked quite disgustng. I shall have to apply my mind to framing it now, which is probably more difficult. I shall see if I can take a photo and then you will all be able to admire it and post me some flattering comments.

My next work will involve blackbirds, apple blossom, silver, pink and duck egg blue. It will be on a much larger scale and will include some machine embroidery as well as applique and hand embroidery. It will be in homage to Eirian Short, whose work I saw recently.

Socially unacceptable vehicles

AKA Selfish user vehicles.

AKA Sports Utility Vehicles.

These are too big. They clog up the road and get in the way. They use too much fuel and emit too much carbon dioxide. They are more dangerous to other road users than ordinary cars because of their large size. In an accident involving an SUV there is a greater risk to pedestrians as people tend to go underneath the wheels rather than over the bonnet.

I suppose people buy them because they make the driver feel safe and powerful. I presume also that people who buy them are the same sort of people who like to have status symbols and these cars are status symbols, telling the world that that the owner has plenty of money to spend on a big expensive car and large quantities of expensive fuel.

One idea I had is to ask people, at point of purchase, to sign a declaration to show that they understand the implications of buying and running a SUV. Maybe this might make them think again and choose something more responsible.

The strange case of the imported birds in a time of bird flu


What on earth can the government be thinking of, allowing the importing of parrots etc at a time of avian flu? We've known about the danger of a pandemic for ages, two years at least. The caged bird business is hardly essential. I personally don't think people should keep birds in cages at all - it's unkind.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Schools with specialist status

My last comment prompts me to say SPECIALIST STATUS SCHOOLS - WHAT A STUPID IDEA. What is the point of a school being, for example, a specialist languages centre if students (post-16 year olds) who are particularly keen, talented etc in languages are unable to go there because they do not live within the school's catchment area?

Schools are desperate to gain specialist status because it brings them in extra money apparently, in the form of the government matching the required £50,000 that the school must raise itself. Our local school wants to be a specialist drama school which I think is absolutely ridiculous. My daughter attends her school because it is our local school and the only one she can get to, not because she wants to improve her acting skills.

All the subjects should be taught especially well at all schools. School children are entitled to receive a good education in all the subjects on the National Curriculum whichever school they attend.


My daughter and I have been thinking about where she will go to study after her GCSEs. She needs to choose a sixth form college for next September as her school only takes children up to the age of 16.

The government are fond of telling us that we have the freedom and right to choose an education provider for our children. Frankly, I think that during the years of compulsory school attendance, children should attend their local school. (And I would ban private education, but that argument is for another day). However, for post-compulsory schooling I think it is more important to choose the right establishment for each individual because this is when the students specialise in particular subjects - some academic and some vocational, (while some leave education altogether of course).

There is a sixth form attached to a comprehensive school which is a specialist languages centre quite near to us but not near enough. As my daughter is considering studying French and German at A level I rang the school up and yes there would be a place for her. Good.

Next I rang the school transport people. Children who go to primary school in the next village have an automatic place at the school and on the school bus. Unfortunately our village is just outside the catchment area and so we don't have a right to a place at the school and therefore no right to a place on the school bus either. Apparently the school bus is already oversubscribed by children within the catchment area. Presumably the local education authority provides a taxi for them. So there is no way my daughter would get a place on the school bus. Bad.

So parents who have the money to buy and fuel a car and the leisure to drive it to and from school each day get to choose but those who have to work and don't/can't/won't drive are denied choice. (And apparently the school transport costs £100 term - a penalty for living in the sticks I suppose).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ring of Tatters

Not, as I first imagined, a reference to an earnest and important Irish playwright; nor yet an Indian manege; BUT a society of women who tat. Quite fascinating to watch tatting being done by an expert tatter. They hold the special tatting shuttle in one hand and the end of the thread in the other and hey presto! an exquisitely intricate lacy material is constructed.

You will have guessed no doubt that I'm remembering my day at the knitting and sewing exhibition.

The other craft that really caught my eye was weaving. I could just imagine a beautiful old loom (second-hand ones go for about £250 - £500) standing in the corner of my room with my current project, a beautiful lacy design done on a complicated and fascinating arrangement of warp and weft progressing rapidly under my expert shuttling skills. I think one day I shall book myself on a week's residential course to learn the principles of weaving. I shall make that my next project.

I'll tell you a bit more later. But people are asking me what time's tea so I'd better get on.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sewing Exhibition

Huge excitement here as I prepare for my first visit to the Knitting and Sewing Exhibition on Saturday, which in line with my current fascination is right up my street as they say. Except its all the way away in London unfortunately. I particularly want to see the display of work by Eirian Short.

You will all be pleased to hear that my embroidery of a dragon is coming on leaps and bounds. I have had a lot of trouble with my silver thread technique, but that is all behind me now. Actually, I found the design for my dragon in an old sketch book I'd kept since I was eighteen. My wonderful memory informs me that I made the sketch from a picture (called Apolcalyptic Dragon) in a book entitled Romanesqe and it was labelled, Peebles Art Library - which is a publishers rather than a public building, I'll have you know.

It seems embroiderers like dragons, because last week I was leafing through Erica Wilson's Embroidery Book and found an astonishingly similar dragon embroidered on a thirteenth century work called The Hildesheim Cope (in the V&A). My dragon has a lot more detail, however, and I'm not sewing it for a man of the cloth, as it were.

I'd originally drawn this dragon to illustrate a poem, but I never got round to carrying out the project. The poem was one that caught my eye, by Brian Patten - A Small Dragon - begins like this:
I've found a small dragon in the woodshed.
Think it must have come from deep inside a forest
because it's damp and green and leaves
are still reflecting in its eyes.

The kids at school would do well to copy that one out for their handwriting practice to show them the two forms of it's/its. But then they are all pretty sloppy and would probably get them muddled up when they were copying it out. I wondered how difficult it would be to incorporate lettering into embroidery. It would be good to have the whole poem stitched out by the dragon. It would make people look at the sewing for longer, if they read the poem and they might even like what they read. There is a big tradition of incorporating written words into needlework - eg samplers, Bayeux tapestry etc. I'll have to see.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I had occasion to ring my old university yesterday where I studied for my primary school teacher's certificate. I could only find one bit of paper with the phone number on in my files, so I rang it.

I'd expected to be put through to the main switchboard, from which I could ask to be transferred to their administrative department or whatever they call it. Unfortunately, I got straight through to my former tutor.

I tried to get him to put me straight through to the office, but he, being a helpful fellow, tried to discover first the exact person I needed to speak to by questioning me closely about the reason for my call. I ended up having my name extracted rather painfully and then I was obliged to offer up reasons why after all his time and trouble and government expense I was back where I started as a teaching assistant and not a teacher. Still, he made kind and sympathetic noises and we agreed that maybe one day I would use the qualification more practically.

I felt I'd made a complete ill-mannered prat of myself on the phone by not identifying myself straight away, but there we are. And I did at least get the bit of paper I wanted, from an astonishingly efficient administrative department. I've put a marble in the jar for them.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

How hot is your oven?

Or, more accurately, how hot is your clean oven?

Two things motivated me to clean my absolutely filthy disgusting but not a health risk as I don't actually let food touch it oven. The first was a friend moaning about the insanitary state of her kitchen, which when I inspected it, seemed to be the very model of hygienic perfection. The second was watching one of those TV freak shows - ie., "It's me or the dog", "Supernanny" etc - in this instance it was "How clean is your house?". I looked at my own kitchen and compared it unfavourably to my friend's kitchen and the kitchen at the end of the TV programme.

So I bought a packet of washing soda from the local hardware shop (unavailable in the big supermarkets) and left it to do its stuff on my cooker while we ate our Chile con Carne.

When I returned I found that the washing soda was as good as its word, in fact better. It had truly cleaned all the grease and whatnot from my oven. It had also cleaned all the markings and gradations from the fascia panel so I couldn't tell which dial does what, and the cooker kept its temperature a secret from me.

I was obliged to get on my bike and make a second purchase from the hardware shop - an oven thermometer. I've now annotated the cooker with my own callibrations using a permanent- marking felt tip pen. Looks great. Very designer. Very chic.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New Sewing Machine

You will all be pleased to know, that in line with my current obsession, I have bought a sewing machine.

This is the second machine I have owned - the first being an old Woolworth's model that only did straight stitch and cost £14 out of the free paper sixteen years ago. It sadly died last year. I think a recycling project to make an evening bag decorated with a zillion ruffles of plastic carrier bags finally saw it off.

This new one is capable of zig zags and seventeen other stitches. It's a Janome 4618 if you are interested and I got it off the internet for £155 which I expect is an absolute bargain.

I have already mended someone's torn skirt and doggy's pillowcase. I've also zig zagged around my bit of embroidery I'm designing so it doesn't carry on unravelling. Now I'm thinking about making something to wear - just how difficult can that be? Probably VERY if my memories of school sewing classes are accurate. Maybe I shall use the leftover bits of material from some curtains I shortened last year and make a dress for a child. I shall make my own pattern and it will all go to plan and come out perfectly and it will become my daughter's favourite outfit.