Celia I had the most enjoyable evening at the Whitechapel Gallery recently, with Richard Wentworth and his portholes into the world of string. Wentworth was the inaugural curator of the Study Studio's Cabinet of curiosities, which he filled with his personal string collection, a ball of which is pictured above.
These are the pieces of string he 'confiscated' from us. He has asked us to add more bits of string.
If you have string to add please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
We learned that the root of the word 'string' is the same as 'strong', 'stringent', 'strict', and 'strangle'. String contains no glue, the material is held together with friction between the fibres. If the friction is too tight it could snap, and if it is too loose it goes elastic. String is one dimensional. That gives it a lot of powers, it could go in a direct line, or if it keeps piling up it could fill a whole space!
So when does string become rope?
Mark Miodownik, the materials expert, decided it becomes rope when you tie a horse up with it. Extreme sport ropes are made differently to traditional rope. Traditional rope is spun from individual plant fibres, and sport rope is woven from fibres that are one long continuous fibre. Modern sport ropes will not be made once the oil runs out, so get absailing now. If you bungee jumped with a traditional jute rope, it would have no elastic, so you might do yourself an injury.
I took along our examples of making string, by spinning flax and a tribute to my string dishcloth.
My Mother brought this flax back from Ireland, and spun herself. (wet)
My string dishcloth photographed by Felicity Ford.