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.


My mantelpiece in a corner of the Interim exhibition