Benedict Carpenter & Max Mosscrop

Visual and Performing Arts, De Montfort University

Artisanal Engines and Virtual Surfaces

 Max Mosscrop:  Loom , 2014-17, wood, metal, various materials;  165 x 120 x 110cm

Max Mosscrop: Loom, 2014-17, wood, metal, various materials;  165 x 120 x 110cm

This paper considers two objects and the machines that made them: a cloth by Max Mosscrop, which was woven on a loom made by the artist, part of the series Journal (2016); and a Brazilian rosewood dish by David Pye (1980), which was made on a machine of his invention called a Fluting Engine.

Mosscrop became interested in woven material because weaving enables the artist to create an expressive surface with no priority between image and support. He chose to make his own loom because this offered him the fullest way of understanding the process. David Pye invented his Fluting Engine sometime in 1949 or 1950. The contribution of this unique invention is that the tool marks radiate from the centre of the bowl. This is in contrast to lathe work where the marks follow the axis of rotation.

This paper draws on Pye’s theoretical work on craft and design (1964, 1968). Pye was unusually sensitive to the interdependence of objects and the systems within which they are made and in which they operate. The loom and the Fluting Engine can be understood as systems for the regulation and expression of information. These ideas are latent in Pye’s own studio work, and are explicitly addressed in Mosscrop’s series Journal. In the same way as a punch card encodes the design followed by a Jacquard loom, there is a correspondence between a pattern in a cloth and a binary sequence of 0s and 1s: information can be expressed in multiple forms. This might seem to prioritise intention over realisation, or content over form. However, drawing on Gilbert Simondon’s theory of transduction (1958/1992), and through careful analysis of what actually happens in the making process, this paper demonstrates that weaving and fluting have a self-structuring logic. Close attention to these processes reveals that there is a connection between predetermined information and the contingent and progressive realisation of this information in a material such as wood and thread. This paper shows that in the case of weaving or fluting, matter and information are not oppositional terms. Following Simondon, the bowl and the cloth are best understood as singular crystallisations of a vast and latent potential with which they remain continuous. This is capable of apprehension by the viewer as virtual content, accessible from the surface of these contingent objects.


Benedict Carpenter is Associate Head of Visual and Performing Arts at De Montfort University, Leicester. He was trained at Chelsea College of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art. As a practicing sculptor he has been awarded the Jerwood Sculpture Prize, exhibited throughout Europe, and completed a number of permanently sited commissions. Since 2012, Benedict's research interests have focussed on cultures of tactility and the material negotiation of intent in art and craft practice. This research investigates how manipulation of material acts as an index of diachronic ‘self’, and what this means for our understanding of authorship, ideation and practices of memorialisation.

Max Mosscrop is Principal Lecturer in Fine Art and MA Fine Art Programme Leader at De Montfort University, Leicester. He studied Architecture at the University of Liverpool and Painting at the Royal Academy of Arts. He was awarded the NatWest Painting Prize in 1997 and has exhibited internationally. Since 2013 he has been making woven textiles, exploring weaving as a mode of expression and method of invention. This research seeks to create an encounter with woven textile as a specific contemporary art medium, which, while analogous to painting, sculpture, writing or digital media, has its own unique disciplines of production and modes of signification.