Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Today was the official start of spring in Bangladesh. People take to the streets to celebrate and meet with family and friends, there is lots of singing, face-painting and there are special foods to eat.

These are a type of sweet custard, stacked and sold in re-cycle-able terra-cotta pots.
The women dress in the most beautiful saris, everywhere there is lots of red, orange and yellow.
I went to the Sharbag to see the activities.There were giant papier-mache structures of traditional toys. Wonderful, colourful and well made objects.
Lots of street sellers had set up shop along the road and were selling their wares.
People from the villages and surrounding towns had come into Dhaka especially for the celebrations.
I spotted a man selling some badly-made but very beautiful 'putt-putt' boats in amongst a mass of brightly coloured plastic and fabric. 50p each.
The boats are made from folded tin sheet, some of these ones had the lid of a food tin as the back 'kick board' which was an interesting and inventive use for an old tin can. The boats have two tubes which run from a small enclosed reservoir underneath the green hood at the front of the boat out to the rear and into the water.
The reservoir has a very thin sheet brass shim forming its top, when heated, using the small oil burner (the thing in the picture above which is inside the boat and has a small pressed box with a hole in the top at the back and a tube at the front - the tube is supposed to have a wick in it), it expands and draws water up the tubes into the reservoir, the combination of the bubbles formed when watr boils and the influx of colder water cooling the brass (which shrinks) forces the water back out through the tubes, propelling the boat forward. The brass heats again, expands, draws in water and the process continues. The boats are great fun, the quickly expanding and contracting shim of brass makes a constant rapid clicking or 'putt-putt' sound and they move quite quickly once primed. I have seen different designs, using the same 'thermal switch' principle before in India. I think they demonstrate great use of materials and their properties and I have sometimes used them to introduce my students to the different properties of metals. Sadly these didn't work too well, but I liked the form of the boats and the folding of the metal to create the shapes.
Spent some time studying the curves and the weave of my recent purchase - a rice winnowing basket (30tk), very similar to the weave of some metal (brass) baskets I had seen in the museum, they have caught my interest and I plan to go back to the museum tomorrow to draw them (a special permit is needed for photography).

I visited an architects office today to see if I could arrange a tour of the parliment building, access is limited and highly restricted - sometimes groups of architecture students are able to be shown around. They said they will make enquiries....but were not hopeful.

Walking around I took lots of photos of street workshops and how they spill out into the street, their basic tools and use of limited space ( more to follow).