British Council Estonia and MoKS fund research trip for SARU practitioner Felicity Ford

This May, Felicity Ford will travel to Estonia to begin developing her KNITSONIKTM project in an International context. This research is supported by British Council, Estonia, and MoKS Centre for Art and Social Practice.

KNITSONIKTM is a term coined by Ford in 2011 to describe the projects she works on which combine an interest in knitting, geography, history, woollen textiles and sound. KNITSONIKTM is a feminist endeavour which builds on Ford’s doctoral research, extending experimental sonic praxis into domestic materials, practices and contexts.

KNITSONIKTM is making radio from clothes; recording fibres being processed; developing custom-made silent woollen garments for field-recording; charting the patterns of wav-forms and fair-isle side-by-side; and weaving sounds and yarn together.

KNITSONIKTM began as a self-consciously technical, exuberant fusion of knitting and sound art in 2007, when Ford hand-knitted a sound system and played domestic field recordings through it. Central to that early work was a desire to inextricably link the means of audio playback to the field recordings being played thereby. The desire to physically connect sounds with their sources in the material world has haunted all subsequent KNITSONIKTM projects. Embedding sounds in appropriate listening objects, and connecting sonic praxis to the everyday context of clothing our bodies are important ideas for the KNITSONIKTM mission, as Ford wrote in her PhD Thesis:

The knitted speakers which I introduced at the start of this Thesis, and the approach that I have taken with my blog emerge out of a common idea; that of embedding sounds within a wider context. In the case of the speakers, this embedding happens materially, and knitting is used to impart a specific aesthetic to the sound recordings playing through the speakers. But with my blog, software is used to locate a player within the text, images and narratives, which act like a virtual knitted system through which sounds are contextualised and conveyed. There is no hierarchy to the way that information is organised on my blog, just threads of ideas running through – which is partly a condition of the medium (Plant, p.12);

The yarn is neither metaphorical nor literal, but quite simply material, a gathering of threads which twist and turn through the history of computing, technology, the sciences and art… the World Wibe Web, the net, and matrices to come.

Selected KNITSONIKTM projects include:

2007 – The Knitted Speakers/Listening with Care, Sonic Art and Composition module, MA in Interdisciplinary Arts programme, Oxford Brookes University (field-recordings from around Ford’s home were played through a hand-knitted speaker-system comprised of acrylic yarn; 32 miniature speakers; and 20m+ of loudspeaker cable)

2009 – Memoryphones at Love is Awesome, Gallery 10, Reading (sound-recording describing the memory of a precious cassette-tape; headphones covered in yarn spun from remembered tape by Rachael Matthews, during Analogue Amnesty)

2008 – 2010 Knit Weekly features produced for BBC Oxford / The Hub, Oxford (series of audio pieces relating to different aspects of knitting and local events/history/sheep breeds)

2011 – KNITSONIKTM residency at Prick Your Finger, London (a podcast was created in the shop with willing participants, exploring the soundworld of knitting; this was then played back through the knitted speakers soundsystem)


2011 – Sounds of Making at Craft NI, Belfast (field-recordings of the sounds of making were collected at Belfast University as part of August Craft Month – commissioned by Craft NI)

2012 - HÛRD – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION, Cumbria (the knitted speakers were covered in 100% British Wool, and recordings from local shepherds and sheep were played through them – commissioned by Rheged and the British Wool Marketing Board for WOW at Rheged)

The future for KNITSONIKTM

Working on HÛRD – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION deepened Ford’s interest in using sound-recording processes and sound-recordings to deepen our appreciation for the provenance and history of our clothes. It is this burgeoning interest in exploring ideas of geography, history, and identity through knitterly and sonic endeavours which now forms the core of KNITSONIKTM.

During her stay in Estonia working at the Tuned City festival, Ford was struck by the prevalence of wool and knitted goods in Tallinn City and by the focus within the tourist industry there on identifying Estonia as a centre for hand-knitted, woollen produce. With limited time to investigate the realities of wool production and knitting in Estonia and without time to leave the city and explore the agricultural landscapes where sheep graze, she left the country feeling that she had only understood the relationships between wool, knitting, and a sense of place in Estonia in a very shallow way. Ford will participate in the MoKS artist-in-residence programme in order to deepen her knowledge of the Estonian wool industry, and in order to make connections between the landscapes which support sheep; the fleeces which those sheep produce; and the uses to which knitters have put such fleeces. Ford wishes to participate in the MoKS artist-in-residence programme in order to make connections with Estonian knitters; to learn more about Estonian wool; and to exchange and document sheep lore using sound-recordings, collected artefacts, photos, and texts.

Objectives for the residency period

  • To treat the residency as a cultural exchange, bringing sonic and material artefacts from the UK wool industry to share with Estonian knitters
  • To seek corresponding sonic and material artefacts in Estonia
  • To create a collection of audio recordings telling the story of the project
  • To explore the Estonian countryside
  • To meet other knitters
  • To organise interviews and meetings with knowledgeable wool folk
  • To collect photos, wool, knitting and sounds
  • To knit something
  • To meet an Estonian sheep
  • To explore new ways of combining interests in wool, knitting, place, and sound

To follow the progress of the residency, please subscribe to KNITSONIK.COM and visit Sound Diaries during May to hear sounds from the British Wool Trade and sounds from the Estonian Wool Trade side by side.

One Comment

  1. Jo Ford April 27, 2012

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