HackSpace – The interview that wasn’t…

Sometimes in life, things come out of the blue…and before you know it they pass you by. That’s what happened with this interview for HackSpace magazine.

This particular bolt out of the blue was very welcome and came at a time when things were somewhat soggy around these parts. Very soggy. So soggy in fact that the photographs taken of me in my workshop for this article were shot between floods! One week either side and I’d have been knee deep in water…

The crazy timing of this led me to not quite appreciate that the call I was having was actually the interview; until quite near to the end of it. This resulted in a really open and enlightening insight into my world and why I do what I do.

If you’d like a read—accompanied by some particularly hilarious photographs—you can buy a physical copy here. Or there is a freely downloadable PDF version.

I’d like to thank my girlfriend for capturing my inner goon in the photographs and a HUGE thank you to Andrew for supporting my work in this way. You rock!

Stay At Home Artist Residency

I am a sound-artist, musician and musical instrument designer. This has been my full-time occupation for six years now and I have been lucky enough to work on some great projects with some wonderful people.

I have completed a number of artist residencies during this time; from a year-long stint as artist-in-residence at the Town Hall Symphony Hall Birmingham to week-long residencies, such as that as part of last year’s Supernormal Festival. Based on this experience and my (possibly misguided) analysis of the likely state of UK arts funding in future, I have come up with an idea for an artist residency programme.

The Stay At Home Artist Residency

As the name suggests, this idea centres around commissioning me to carry out an artist residency here, at home, with all my toys and tools to hand.


Recording studio / rehearsal space

What’s in it for you?

You get to commission me to create work for your event/venue. This could take the form of a sound art piece, a musical performance or composition, a piece of research, a presentation, or just a documented process for others to draw inspiration from. But crucially, you won’t have to think about the infrastructure, the travel/living arrangements, energy costs, health and safety etc.

It’s also super-flexible. A Stay At Home Artist Residency can be as short as a single day (in fact, I’d consider shorter!), or left to run until a suitable outcome is reached. No time is spent getting settled, setting stuff up or familiarising myself with a new environment. It’s flexible in terms of geolocation too. Nice as it is to travel, with a Stay At Home Residency I no longer need to come to your gallery in Japan for two weeks. I just post the outcomes (online or by courier) when the residency period is complete.

Cheap too. A one day residency will cost you £200. A full five-day week, £800. We can discuss rates for anything longer than that but part of the aim is to keep it cost-effective. For example, I have a lot of resources and materials here. As much as possible, my aim is to use what I already have to build stuff. If I need anything specific for a given idea, we can discuss this but an aim of these residencies is to keep the cost down by reducing the material costs in this way.


Woodworking workshop

What’s in it for me?

First and foremost…focus. I generally remain really productive in-between commissions but I have a tendency to flit between ideas. This can be great for learning and research purposes but it has also led to a plethora of half-finished items that are never likely to see the light of day. Many of my experiments get posted to Twitter (see below) in the hope that they will inspire others but there is a significant difference between the types of outcomes that arise from this self-imposed research and those arising from commissioned work.

The Stay At Home Residency also removes one of my primary frustrations with residencies: that of being removed from the tools and materials of my art. I find it quite stressful to leave stuff I might need behind and doubly so if I start to create something which is crying out to be made on a machine in my workshop, or using parts in my materials store. These restrictions can of course be liberating too but when you have to compromise a design due to a few missing bits of metal or the absence of a drill press I tend to find this a little frustrating.

It also presents an opportunity for my work to be experienced by others at your event/venue, which is always something I relish. And it’s a different way of commissioning me to do work. Another way to get paid. That’s important to my survival as an artist.

Yeah, but…

Yes, I realise that one of the strengths of an artist residency can be to remove the artist from their normal environment; to provide fresh stimuli. That’s still something I hope to do through other residencies but I believe what the Stay At Home Artist Residency lacks in terms of interaction with other artists and new surroundings it gains in terms of familiarity, focus, flexibility and having the tools and materials of my craft to hand.

Crucially, I am not the sort of artist that has a Proper Job and therefore gains the freedom to explore their art by going to do a residency. In many ways, I have the opposite problem: too much time and too many options. I relish the structure a Stay At Home Artist Residency would provide me with and hopefully it can lead to some exciting work for your festival/event/venue.

And yes, you could just commission me to make something for your event/venue but that’s different. With most of the residencies I have attended the emphasis is not on finished pieces of work but the process. A Stay At Home Artist Residency is different from a straightforward commission in that it won’t seek to the fully define the deliverables upfront. This is reflected in the residency fee and the lack of any cost for materials etc.

I’m interested

Great! Let’s discuss it further. Send me an email and we can take it from there. Hopefully, it will lead to some great work we can both be proud of.


Outdoor microphone


Outdoor tuba

Ear Candy – Cheltenham Jazz Festival sonic vending machines

I have just completed a commission for Cheltenham Jazz Festival to design and build 250 handmade musical instruments. Each one needed to fit inside a vending machines capsule, for purchase at the festival. Yes, it was as epic a task as it sounds; not least because I was responsible for the concept, management and delivery…as well as checking and maintaining the machines on site.

I developed six different musical instrument designs. It was quite a challenge, given how small they had to be, but the results were pretty playable little things, as demonstrated in the How To video I produced for anyone unsure of what to do with their Ear Candy.

There were three sonic vending machines installed at the festival. One in the VIP lounge, one in the Box Office and this larger one in the public bar area.

As ever, if anything, I over delivered. I even ended up doing the sign-writing for the machines…but despite literally dotting the “i”s, one issue slightly scuppered sales. Somebody decided to issue a new £1 coin. I flagged this early on and took advice on the roll-out schedule but these old machines only provided the option for old or new coins; not both. Sometimes you just have to take a punt…and that aside, things went swimmingly. I received a number of excited tweets and snippets from people enjoying playing the instruments. NICE!

I’d like to give a big shout-out to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival organisers – especially Emily – for sterling project management, assistance and artist care. Top drawer! It really was a lot of fun and I hope it brought joy to those who bought and played them!

Lastly, here is a daft little promo video I did showing me playing four of the instruments together…