The project was commissioned by Create, an organisation set up to nurture the artistic talent of East London. Create asked design authority Thorsten van Elten to choose five designers to come up with unusual souvenirs in response to all the Olympic-related tat that will be on sale this summer.
How are we going to get the scratching sound of pen on paper?
Humans Invent spoke to Wilcox, who lives in Hackney, to learn a bit more about the Sounds of Making in East London.
“It was difficult at first, I wanted to get a variety of people, I didn’t want to stick in one particular area of making. I wondered about people who I had never had a chance to visit or meet,” Wilcox explains.
“When I started talking to people they suggested interesting makers who lived in the area. It was a gradual process. For example, when I found the shoemaker, Terry De Havilland he recommended someone he knew, Steve Jones who makes press knives used to stamp out shapes from leather.”
Gradually, Wilcox built up a group of twenty-one makers that he considered suitable for the record. Not all of them were what you would consider conventional makers however; the list also included chefs, bell ringers and even the poet John Hegley. When it came to Hegley, Wilcox was initially concerned about what to record. He says, “With John, I was thinking, ‘how are we going to get the sound of scratching of a pen on paper’ but when I turned up at his house he had a typewriter and scissors and he was writing this song so the sounds worked out well in the end.”
In fact, Wilcox admits one of his favourite sounds in the whole of the recording process is Hegley’s cat meowing in the background.
In addition to recording the sounds of the makers hard at work Wilcox also took photos and interviewed them, which you can check out on his website: soundsofmaking.com.
The clatter of lyric poet John Hegley’s typewriter, the chopping of garlic in a Michelin star restaurant and the tap of rock ‘n’ roll cobbler Terry de Havilland’s hammer
Many of the sounds are strangely beautiful and in one sense the idea is not too dissimilar to recording bird song. In fact, many of the various sounds he recorded from the clickety-clack of the typewriter to the cutting of leather in the cobblers, when isolated and taken out of context, have a rather therapeutic and calming effect. You can also imagine some of the recordings being sampled in music.
The sleeve has also been designed and hand drawn by Wilcox, illustrating all the makers involved in the record.
The other four designers commissioned by Elten are Donna Wilson with her illustrated exercise books, Barnaby Barford and his bone china miniatures of shops, homes and pubs in Hackney, Ed Carpenter and his Cockney Rhyming Slang badges and AndréKlauser with his paperweights in the shape of canal bollards.