I have become a “maker,” or perhaps I should only claim to be a fledgling maker, taking my study of miniatures to a new level. I have a “work” in an exhibition in Manchester’s Paper Gallery, hidden away in Mirabel street, amongst the rusty overbridges leading to Manchester Victoria Station. Called “Interim,” the exhibition features a dozen researchers, most of whom enrolled at MIRIAD at the same time as me. So their creativity is represented as work in progress, the “artworks” communicating a thought and discovery process that is still developing. Nothing is “finished.” It is a unique opportunity to see research by practice in progress. (See the MIRIAD Matters blog)

I found myself, someone who after all could have carried out all his research without touching an actual object and who could have published his results in a simple, black-bound thesis (Times New Roman, 12 pt, double spaced) thinking in three dimensions, about how people might approach, handle and display everyday things, about what a mantelpiece might represent and be represented, and how I might encourage and facilitate interaction with my “work.”

So I created a fake fireplace, with a capacious mantelpiece (a mobile mantelpiece, Mills’ Mobile Mantelpiece) and supplied it with a goodly selection of the finest charity shop miniatures I could find in a couple of hours of hunting. I then invited the visiting public to arrange these objects on the mantelpiece as they wished, and if possible to take a photo with their phone or camera and email or text it to me.

My mantelpiece was fun to create and to populate. I spent a happy and strange Saturday in the exhibition, watching people peer, some perhaps uncomprehendingly, others amusedly, some with interest, others cursorily, at my work. I enjoyed talking with visitors, trying to get them to overcome their reluctance to touch.

So far I have only a handful of results, though they are all interesting and relevant. A number of visitors are unable to overcome their reservations and feel free to grab objects and play with them – perhaps it’s not something we are accustomed to doing in a gallery space. But I expect that by the end of the six day exhibition (six saturdays) I’ll have enough material to add another experience to the “Encounters” section of my research outcome.

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My mantelpiece in a corner of the Interim exhibition