a knitting festival – how could I resist? and so went thursday, teasing out the limbs of a tangle of blueness in the the undercroft at farnham maltings: unfurling the blue jumper in all its glory, ready for ‘unravel – a festival of knitting’

bob-contemplating-the-task-ahead-…-  nearing-the-end-of-a-long-day's-installing-…-a-job-well-done



i have always loved knitting and its accoutrements …. but those at this festival really love knitting (and crochet, and weaving, and felting, and dying, and spinning, and yarn-stashing).


which meant that there was little of the bemusement that often greets the blue jumper, and more an immediate, visceral, understanding of its layers of meaning,  the nuance it holds, and its strange, almost other-wordly power. the first hour was filled with promises to return post the serious shopping – then the knitters arrived: a steady stream all afternoon of those keen to sit down, parade the glorious contents of the numerous bags, precursors of astounding garments of the future, and add to the jumper in a ways that extolled the virtuosity present at the festival.



ceri - the 900th person to knit onto the blue jumper

ceri – the 900th person to knit onto the blue jumper













woodwork is too cold in the winter, so i knit

woodwork is too cold in the winter, so i knit

tutti frutti spinner and her dad, the leak locator

tutti frutti spinner and her dad, the leak locator

generations of joy

generations of joy

& ...

& …

Posted: February 21st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: blue jumper, collaboration, knitting, partcipatory art | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

the blue jumper at knitsQUAD

derby quad gallery has strategies to engage its local community – a hard nut to crack according to curator, peter bonnell. a number of groups meet regularly in the gallery – the genius use of the moniker :

booksQUAD, sewsQUAD, kidsQUAD …


and so it transpired that i spent a refreshing monday afternoon a couple of weeks ago with the regular members of ‘knitsQUAD’, led by hannah herve-petts, and the blue jumper


the jumper performed its magic: these knitters came fresh and unknowing to the jumper – their faces following the familiar route from quizzical, to comprehending to smiling, enjoying, connecting, embracing.

quad-5     quad-4


i often wonder how important the story of how the jumper began is, and as it has taken on its own form, and set of meanings and understandings, i have tended not to concentrate on its origins, more on its manifestation at any given moment. my concern has been that the intensely personal nature of the story of the blue jumper might influence how people come to the work.


as samuel beckett said,

‘to restore silence is the role of objects’


and i regularly grapple with how much we are expected to talk about and explain the things we make.


i had something of a revelation during this visit, however, and came to realize that in this case, explaining the jumper’s journey was an enabling act: somehow, the elucidation of my personal connection with the work enabled others to connect in their own way, generating metaphorical mental meanderings around how we connect with each other and what that means to each of us.


quad-3   quad-2



the knitters then developed their own discourse around their personal relationships with knitting and its relevance and importance to their personal situations. whilst there is thematic recurrence within discussions held around the jumper, it is the specificity and the particularities that define the richness and depth of this ongoing project.


we were nestled between the interactive lo-fi game … and a photograph presented by gail newsham of the dick, kerr ladies football team, 1921, in the main gallery space at quad. ‘the pride and the passion’ is a football themed group show curated by peter bonnell, deftly negotiating the multiplicities of football from its political, international, iconic guise (check out ronnie close’s ‘more out of curiosity’ that focuses on egyptian ‘ultras’ football fans), to the hyperlocal, derby county memorabilia collection amassed for this exhibition (one can sit and watch video in chairs from the derby county board room), to create a coherent and thought-provoking show.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 20.53.23   dick, kerr ladies football team, with woolly hats



the disparity between football and knitting, (I’m thinking gender, economic importance, televisual coverage ….) are clear, although, as the relaxed and engaging afternoon progressed, parallels did become apparent, particularly in individual investment and participatory terms.

Posted: June 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: blue jumper, collaboration, partcipatory art | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

the blue jumper – a new phase

i have been awarded a talent development bursary by aspacearts. this is very exciting – no doubt most practising artists can relate to the despondency i was feeling after a particularly long spate of ‘no’s’ that heralded and resonated through the first several months of 2014!


but this was a ‘yes’ (in fact it was 2, as unit11studios have been awarded one, and i am part of that also!)

the full list of diverse, exciting and ambitious projects can be seen here: http://www.aspacearts.org.uk/projects/talent-development/proj_rd2/#.U7FijhYTKrb


Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 14.08.09


i will use the money to travel to a carefully selected group of galleries and other institutions, who have a particular interest in participatory art practice, with a view to taking the blue jumper into new spaces (and new contexts?) and enable it to continue its journey – connecting and linking people and ideas through its blue threads.


now, i am not naïve, and i do not anticipate that this will be an easy process, or yield very much in the short term, but i believe in the blue jumper as an important, simple, accessible and strong piece of work, and owe it to myself, and all the knitters, to try and get it out there. my challenges are:

–       to frame the jumper as the serious piece of contemporary fine art i believe it to be

–       to entice curators with a ready formed work by enabling them to bring something to the jumper in order to add to it, although it has so many thematic threads that this should not be too difficult …

–       to resist being pigeon-holed into ‘education and learning’ projects which often house participatory practices

–       to balance opportunity and ideas

–       to think about flexibility in methodology: can I take what I have learnt in generating the blue jumper and use these ideas in generating new work?



Posted: June 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: blue jumper, collaboration, partcipatory art | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

kosuth’s rhino

have you seen the rhinos in southampton? they are a group of 42 rhinos painted by artists, sponsored by companies from denplan to southampton solent university, placed around southampton city centre. each one brightly coloured and inviting, yet we come close and we are dissuaded from really engaging by a sign. each one is placed on a concrete plinth exclaiming ‘this rhino is a work of art’. suddenly, we mustn’t touch, or climb or physically engage with the beasts, despite their comfy looking backs and their cuddleable countenances. we are conditioned to apply a reverie to these objects because they are ‘art’. thankfully, many are ignoring this proclamation, and i have seen hoardes of giggling children mount their steeds and gallop off into their imaginations, rebellious parents snapping enthusiastically.

but it started me thinking about art and what it is, and how we consider it – conceptually, aesthetically, ponderously, reverentially.

a favourite piece that deals with this, is kosuth’s ‘one and three chairs’ (1965). the constant in the piece is the plan – one chair, one photograph (life size) of the chair and one large print wall hung definition of the word ‘chair’. it should be of the chair that is in the space anyway, with the piece developed specifically around that chair – photo to the left, def to the right.




kosuth said of the piece:

“I used common, functional objects – such as a chair – and to the left of the object would be a full-scale photograph of it and to the right of the object would be a photostat of a definition of the object from the dictionary. Everything you saw when you looked at the object had to be the same that you saw in the photograph, so each time the work was exhibited the new installation necessitated a new photograph. I liked that the work itself was something other than simply what you saw. By changing the location, the object, the photograph and still having it remain the same work was very interesting. It meant you could have an art work which was that idea of an art work, and its formal components weren’t important.”  Joseph Kosuth, April 7, 1970:


in a conflation of my responses to these two things, i have made a small piece of work for the artists’ vending machine at unit11studios, called ‘kosuth’s rhino’. it comprises a small model rhino, a picture of the rhino, and a definition of ‘rhinoceros’

rhinoceros    kosuth's rhino


kosuth asserts

It meant you could have an art work which was that idea of an art work, and its formal components weren’t important.”

so, in my mind, the southampton rhinos remain an art work, however their audience interacts with them. the rhino rodeo riders become a formal component of the work, the experience becomes a part of the work, the laughter becomes a part of the work, the reverential looker becomes a part of the work. indeed, these rhinos are works of art.



nb. the artists’ vending machine, from which you may purchase small contemporary works of art, including ‘kosuth’s rhino’ by sarah filmer, for just £5, will be sited at unit11studios as part of the southampton open studios trail, aug 17th, 18th and 24th. click here for further details: https://unit11studios.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/southampton-open-studios-trail-2013/


Posted: August 14th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: artists' book, kosuth, open studios, partcipatory art, southampton rhinos, thoughts on future work | No Comments »


@troy is everything i want from theatre. specifically sited in space, set in the military pomp of the gurkha museum, and based on the story of trojan women during battle with the greeks over the beautiful helen, @troy is  non-specifically sited in time. the story is ancient, but the issues are timeless, from all time, and painfully relevant to today. with both oblique and direct references throughout to some of the horrors we currently face (drones, governmental guff and bluff, silencing of dissenters, ill-informed decision-making), and with the genius device of cassandra’s visions arriving by mobile telephone, the central military themes (the prospect of which, as play material, i did not relish) were handled so deftly and in such an interesting way, that i was captivated from the start.



there were two aspects to this piece of work that particularly appealed to me:

bunting@troy        morebunting@troy


it was staged such that we, the audience, were sitting around two large tables, making bunting, drinking toasts and were extras to the action, creating the atmosphere of the event. the play itself moved around the room, between the tables, amongst us. we were invited, implicated, questioned, directed, immersed. this was active watching, participation – an iteration that we none of us were exempt from the ramifications of the horrors of war, whatever our position.

cora&chorus1@troy       helen@troy


and then there were the stories. the stories of the women. contemporary accounts, garnered at first hand by the writers, were synthesized so fluidly with the high drama of greek tragedy to give nuanced and  diverse insight into the lives of women whose military menfolk, be they fathers, brothers, husbands, or sons, live in peril. whether staunch, unerring supporters of the system, or troubled, questioning women compelled to maintain a supportive front, the strength and endurance required were shown to us with a humanity that touched us, and engendered a deep empathy.

andromache@troy                        cassandra&diakonos@troy

the casting was perfect – cassandra’s pivotal madness, cora’s encompassing resilience, hecuba’s tragic leadership, andromache’s wretched ambivalence, helen’s seductive isolation and diakonos’ dutifully delivered, life-changing news, were each conveyed with commitment and skill that left me speechless. the chorus rounded the shape of the production, with just two actors bringing a sense of group and community in an understated yet powerful way.



so, from me a huge thank you, for a truly remarkable experience, to all involved.


cast list:

cora .. vix hobbs

chorus 1 & 2 .. amber o’connell, anna carr

diakonos .. colin mcallister

hecuba .. annie sanger-davies

andromache .. hannah timms

cassandra ..johannah jolson

helen of sparta .. beth cleeter



this play was written collaboratively by writers deborah gearing and fiona mackie. please read more about this  most unusual process here:


Posted: March 3rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: collaboration, partcipatory art | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


towards the end of last year, my goldfinch photograph was selected for the zeitgeist arts project open exhibition (excitement outlined here: http://sarahfilmer.com/news/)

annabel-tilley-and-rosalind-davies       group-tutorial


it transpires that i am a natural ‘zapper’ – if you investigate the philosophy of this organisation, it does not take long to realise that zap founders and drivers, annabel tilley and rosalind davies are fuelled by a compulsion to build relationships at every turn. they exude accessibility, so at the closing event of the exhibition, i found myself tentatively inquiring whether they would consider a trip to southampton and give their ‘a-z of surviving as an artist’ talk to the students at southampton solent school of art and design.


the talk was held in the art school yesterday. we were treated to a thorough journey through every letter of the alphabet, with top tips at each of the 26 stops which were not only invaluable to the students about to step out of the safety of art school, but which will also re-invigorate my own outlook and approach.

the three things we were to take from the talk were:

build relationships

commit to your practice – make the work

invest in your future – raise your profile

the other gems that rang loudly in my ears were:

the importance of thank you’s

find three words to answer the question ‘what is your work?’

stand proudly by your work and talk about it – if you don’t love and promote it, who will?

make work make work make work

as i look through my notes, it becomes apparent just how comprehensive the talk was – these women shared a wealth of experience both generously and genuinely. it is no surprise that after just a couple of years of working together, annabel and rosalind have created such a huge buzz – the synergy of their partnership is something to behold!

zapstudes3     zpastudes2

as well as a good student turnout, several artists from unit11studios, melinda mccheyne from studiosbournemouth, local artist chantal powell, and others from the wider southampton art community attended. we then decamped to unit11studios where we continued to share and discuss our experiences and approaches to working in, and managing, our studios, melindas plans for bournemouth studios, and the success of the day. it was relaxed yet informative, and accompanied by coffee cake, tea and a glass of tardy wine.

so thanks very much, rosalind and annabel – you are extraordinary!


Posted: February 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: blue jumper | No Comments »

1 day, 41 students, 14 galleries, immeasurable fun

i was lucky enough yesterday to go on the ‘west end gallery trip’ with the fine art students of solent university. it was an amazing day – greg palmer’s itinery ensured that we encountered a diversity of contemporary fine art in a variety of spaces ranging from russian art from the 1980’s to the present, at the enormous, pared-down, magnolia opulence of the saatchi gallery, to a small but exciting judy chicago retrospective in the higgledy space of the tiny riflemaker’s gallery in brewer street.

a-gaggle-of-students    nic-strolls-across-piccadilly


after a recent controversial review of the mid year show at the art school, there was a great deal of interest in how work is presented – we saw an interesting and eclectic collection of solutions to how work is shown – salient points, particularly fior the third years as their degree show approaches, were an attention to detail, method relating to content, the endless adage that less is more, and how successful a response to the space in which work is situated can be  ……. and did i mention that less is more, and, of course, that less is more ………

vikenti-nilin---photographic-presentation    cindy-sherman---broken-dolls-1999-

boris-mikhailov    dasha-shishkin


the whole day comprised really strong work. i don’t think it is my lack of discernement that lead me to conclude that i didn’t have the ‘this is shit’ response to anything, more testament to the amount of great stuff that is being produced. there was a real pervasion of art that concerned the body, much of which manifested in highly sexual, sometimes violent imagery – cindy sherman’s two series: sex pictures ‘89-92, and broken dolls ’99 (at the spruth magers gallery as part of the group show ‘the vivisector’), were a difficult but compelling view, with the abject, composite, burnt and en-holed dolls evoking recent media overload with abuse, sexual violence and exploitation. questions of power and hierarchy, specifically in relation to gender, were discussed at the karsten schubert show ‘taking matters into our own hands’ – a group show comprising documentation of feminist performances from artists working in Britain in the 1970’s.

rose english - quadrille2    rose english - quadrille

rose english’s piece ‘quadrille’ was my pick of the day: 6 women clad in aprons and dressed as horses – shoes made of hooves enforcing a tiptoe stance, tails strapped on in heavy and cumbersome fashion – performed a ‘quadrille’ (a classic dressage dance performed by real horses) on southampton common at a horse show in 1975. it was not only a phenomenal spectacle, but dressage acts as a powerful metaphor for the hidden power wielding, and the power structure of ‘man’ and ‘beast of burden’ found in the male-female structures in place in the 1970’s. there is, of course, endurance of such issues, which explains the ongoing resonance of this work. the ephemera of the performance – hoof shoes, tail pieces, invitation and performance descriptions from the event were also part of the documentation.


my other highlight was fred sandback at david zwirner. his simple introduction of acrylic yarn ‘elaborates on the phenomenological experience of space’. this i experienced first hand in ‘untitled (sculptural study,two part standing construction) 1978/2007’, two rectangles were drawn in space, floor to ceiling, taller than they are wide, perpendicular to each other: when i stepped through the yarn drawn shape, i had a physical response, genuinely feeling as though i was stepping from one space into a different space. it is difficult to explain, but it was remarkable how that piece of yarn, via the intervention of the artist, could elicit such a sensation.


richard wilson    20:50

richard wilson 20:50

all in all, it was a day that broadened my mind, expanded my sense of possibility, nourished my making self, and warmed my soul. if anyone is ever looking for an intense gallery day in London, i am going to promise myself one of these every 3 months, and going with others for the purposes of discussion and insights would be great – let me know if you might want to do the same.



Posted: January 25th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: thoughts on future work | 1 Comment »

books are made

so yesterday, with my heart in my mouth, and with the patient and lateral thinking, solution driven help of ben lower, i drilled the holes in the photos to bind the books. results below:

books-closed        books

books-open-p1         books-open


Posted: January 15th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: artists' book | No Comments »

you are not a gadget

imagesi am reading ‘you are not a gadget, by jaron lanier. it is about how the interweb is depersonalising us all and how certain tropes we have adopted in our engagement with it are limiting and faulty, but suit ‘the man’. we also stop questioning many things … like how are creative people supposed to make a living when our content is available for free for anyone? now, i consider myself to be a generous individual, but i am very drawn to the work of a man called ted nelson, who conceived the notion of a ‘hyperlink’ in the 60s. but his idea was that each time we clicked on someone’s link, a very small amount of money was paid to the person/organisation supplying the contentby the person/organisation accessing the content. apparently the main objection to this model, back in the days before it was seen to be otherwise, was that this would privilege the few writers, film makers, visual artists, musicians etc who would provide the content over the vast majorities who would only access, not provide. well, how wrong these objectors were – it turns out that with a platform such as the interweb, many people can, and do, find their voices and share their thoughts. but because nelson’s model was not considered viable, the monetary transactions that do occur go through advertisers and big corps rather than to the content providers. any musings?

Posted: January 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: blue jumper | 1 Comment »

a day in the studio

so to sit here today, all day, making and cutting and sticking and folding and moving and touching, has been a total treat.


the reason i have been doing this is the E book show submission date looming next friday – i am submitting a book/ two books/ three books …. as yet undecided.

the book(s) will be reconfigurations of some i had printed up a couple of years ago from the photo series ‘now’ and ‘then’ – these are pared down, very handmade versions , and i think they are going to be much more beautiful than the previous versions.



i spent 8 hours printing digital images yesterday – again, i pressed buttons, stuff emerged. i had them cut to size this morning and today has been about making covers and investigating format. i have decided to spiral bind them by breaking up some notebooks i bought in staples. i have also recovered and reused the covers. all i have to do now is get my safety glasses on on monday and drill appropriate holes.







Posted: January 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: blue jumper | Tags: , , | No Comments »