The Olympic Park, if you haven’t been there, is exposed and quite strange. There is great planting, but it is not matured enough to make us feel that we are in nature, and the atmosphere is not relaxed as there are major Building works still taking place. These are all great reasons to make something happen! We gathered with bags of old fabric, and my newly made Rope Making Machine, which I had not yet tested. We were rained indoors for the Morning. Our plan was to make thick rope and then take it back to the park to see how we could use it.
The students first learned the trick of cutting fabric into one continuous thread from something ‘bag like’ such as a pillow case, douvet cover or t-shirt. When the thread was made, we threaded it onto the rope making machine.
This end of the rope making machine is made from 3 pieces of ply wood and a lazy kate mechanism, you know, the thing that makes a revolving plate of cakes move around. In the middle was a big hook. The wooden contraption was tied onto the trolly because the ends of the rope making machine have to be free to move as the rope tension gets tighter.
The main part of the rope making machine has 3 hooks on cogs, which twist the tread when you crank the handle. You do this clockwise. The mechanism was clamped to the Bench ‘n’ Vice. This wasn’t ideal but until I have built it a base it works very well! The Bench ‘n’ Vice is also good for adding tension as you can climb on the bench to give the machine more staying power. When the machine gets going the two ends are under so much tension from the rope, that they get pulled towards each other. The students walked the walk with their thread, 6 times for each hook, making 18 ply in total. I wound the main handle clockwise to give each of the 3 plys it’s twist. The handle was quite stiff and made an industrial crunchy revolving sound. Everyone stopped talking.
When the plys where spun, the student at the trolly end, started to wind anti clockwise. The student in the middle controlled the twist, as it worked it’s way back up the rope walk. The twist was controlled with another tool I made, cut out of wood.
Once all our ropes were made, the sun came out and it was time to go back into the park to apply our rope to park type behavior, or design. First we tried Cats Cradle on a large scale, and then we found a lovely space to try skipping. Two of us held the ends of the rope , while skippers started jumping and trying to remember old skipping songs.
The skipping was thoroughly enjoyed for about 1 minute 30 seconds when suddenly security turned up to tell us that we did not have permission to skip. You can not skip in the Olympic Park without permission. The Olympic Park invites artists to come and make things in the park, but that does not mean you can assume that you can skip without asking. Neither can you fly kites. We had wanted to ask security if they fancied a Tug of War, but thought it best to wait until another day.
So we set about finding other uses for our rope.
One was to protect the plants, which will look lovely later in the summer. There seem to be a lot of variety there.
The next idea was to offer our rope as a more decorative version of the rope that the cranes were using.
We were sure the builders would find our rope a lot more beautiful, and we were sure it could hold a lot of weight, but we felt we had caused enough trouble for one day.