WORDS: Pecha Kucha Night Vol 12

In May 2015 I was asked to speak at Dundee Pecha Kucha Night Vol 12, with the open invitation to discuss any topic. The only limit being the format = 20 images, each for 20 seconds. 

I selected to discuss words.

I planned what I was going to say. 20 seconds per slide really doesn’t seem like alot, it goes even quicker when you are on a stage with a couple of hundred people in front of you. So I didn’t keep to my plan exactly. However, I’ve embedded the words and images that I planned to say below. You can compare and contrast.


1. I’ve got a confession to make… I like to collect words. I am constantly curious about the number of words that exist in our environment. Words are everywhere. So really it is not about finding them, it is about filtering out the good ones. As collections go, it’s pretty tame. I never started out as a linguist. I actually found my high school English class pretty tough…


2. It was really only as an adult that I started to discover this new found appreciation of words. I think the collection started when I was learning other languages. I spent a year in France & a year in Germany, and would often find myself in situations where I couldn’t always say what I wanted, but was forced to say what I was able to, due to my growing knowledge of the words I knew in these languages.
3.  During these years, I would often find lovely foreign words upon walls & streets – not always knowing what they meant. So my word collection also has a visual element, and I would use photography to start by just appreciating them for how they looked in the space and how they sounded when I tried to say them. This forced me to think about words more and more, to collect good ones and then start to use of them in new ways when I could.
4. The words that I like to collect can be really quite simple and the spot doesn’t have to be grand, for example these two words, Electric & Telephone, were found on manhole covers. However, it is also the act of discovering them I like, plus connecting them to a moment. I’m going to share a few examples.

5. I found this word SPECIAL whilst wandering around in a snowstorm at the 9/11 Memorial in New York. Snow was swirling around biting at our faces as we tried to take in the impact and powerful story of this place and all the people it represented. I loved the way the cold snow was bubbling around this word as it melted on the freezing metal and I decided it was the one that I would use to remember my visit to this place.
6. I spotted these words in Arbroath, they made me smile and follow them out of curiosity. I enjoyed photographing the twists and turns in the fishing nets, but ultimately they led me to a dead end. Upon returning past these words, I began to question the intentions of the original sign. I began to wonder whether it was misplaced or they had hoped to encourage people to take the time to walk up this underused path at the harbour, simply to enjoy this pleasant detour.

7. I see a lot of words when walking around cities and yet it was these NO LOITERING that were chalked into a stairway that stood out to me. Perhaps, because as at the exact moment I spotted them, I must have been loitering in some way and they caught me in the act as I turned to look directly at them. It was as if these words had preempted that the spot in front of their apartment, was the one that I would take to rest for a minute after walking round the city for hours.
hs_slide8_pechakucha2 8. I spotted this small word across the river from Dundee near Balmerino. I was on a relaxed, meandering walk with friends in February, we were enjoying taking the time out of our weekend to explore a beautiful route so close to where we all lived and yet one which none of us had walked before. SLOW seemed like a really apt word for this day and I just loved the attention to detail on this hand painted sign.
9. Hand painted and hand written words definitely have a charm. So I was delighted to find this small label, which reads DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT ASKING ME TO BUY THIS CHAIR. The label was hung upon a central chair in this huge pile in this shop window, so perfectly placed – it made me smile and reflect. They also made me remember this shop that I spotted now over 10 years ago.
10. These words came written on a napkin, alongside cake. I know they are probably there to simply encourage me to buy more cake, at which they would be quite successful. However, when I spotted them I was having cake with one of my old friends, whom I hadn’t seen for a long time. We were catching up with stories and these words made me reflect on how important it is to do this more often.

11. Then there are words that are carefully selected words that call for your attention. Like these that I spotted on the side of a building in a small town, Poitiers in France. If you understand French, they might make you chuckle with their obscure nonsense. In fact they are art work by a Swiss artist Christian Robert-Tissot & the text is extracts from second World War code messages, words that were once code are now monumentally displayed on the sides of buildings for all to see.

12. So yes, I like it when artists combine words in their offerings and this Chip Shop by the Henningham Family Press at the DCA in 2013 were a real treat. They were offering up a unique menu of delicious, freshly printed words and at a great takeaway price. I loved it. They invited people to add words to the menu and promptly set to print them. I came away with three different words printed on chipboard: Tintinnabulation, Peely Wally and Bampot!


13. The chip shop coincided with the There will be new rules next week exhibition that was running at Dundee Contemporary Arts that year. Colour and text filled the walls of the gallery, exploring this exhibition was an uplifting experience. The main featured artist – Sister Corita Kent’s striking prints commanded me to revel both in the layered beauty of the printed word, and the direct messages they conveyed. The key words I took as a reminder from this exhibition was COME ALIVE.
14. So I’m lucky that at some point the dynamic has switched and I now not only enjoy collecting words, but I now enjoy creating, crafting and playing with them. My job is a communications role, which has involved lots of blogging, writing, tweeting – most recently for a number of cultural venues including museums and galleries. So my collections that I started in order to grow my appreciation of language, have come to good use in finding a job I love.

15. Plus I have to admit, I even brought some fun word play to one of the museums I have worked with. In 2013 I worked on this project with The McManus shop, where we set up a small competition on social media, where we asked people in Dundee for their favourite local words and then used the results to create a bespoke range of jewellery in partnership with Scottish jeweller Bonnybling. It was fun and I even learned a few new Scottish words!

16. Exploring words also popped up when I took part in the Fun a Day Dundee challenge in 2013. Artist Morgan Kahn,  encouraged everyone to simply choose a creative project and do it everyday in January. It sounds simple, but I challenge you to do it before deciding on that. I decided to cut one word from paper each day. I found that choosing one word a day and carving it into the paper meant that the words acted as a memory trigger. That each daily word now helps to tease out all of the other memories of the fun I had that day.

17. In January 2014, it was Fun a Day time again. This year I was one of the event organisers & also on holiday, so decided to keep it simple and ask other people indulge me, to offer me a word a word a day. This resulted in a short, messy film. It turned out to be a personal exploration into the minds of people I spent time with at some point in January. A snapshot of a moment in time and a new way to record the time spent with these people.

18. I started to combine some of these influences and collections whilst learning how to screen print in 2014. This print, which I made as part of the Dundee Print Collective, is a development of the first screen print I ever made. This first print had started when I cut the words ‘Love Sunny Days’ out of paper, much like my earlier paper cuts. Then I used these words as the base of this print which repeats them, line by line, a little like a mantra, to create a block of abstract sky to hold the bright yellow sunshine in the print.


19. I also combined words into this second print for the Dundee Print Collective. Created around the time of the Scottish Referendum, my idea for this print was to use the cross symbol from the ballot paper & multiply it to create an outline for text. My second layer of colour took the form of just one cross, my cross in colour. It’s quite small in amongst all the other marks – so you have to look for it.

20. Finally, these words, the Holstee Manifesto, inspire me with a sense of empowerment. I’m not sure if you can read them all in 20 seconds,  and every time I read it different words stand out to me… Tonight – it’s probably LIFE IS SHORT, SHARE OUR PASSION and START CREATING.

I love that reading great words and letting your mind transform them into great ideas allows you to feel that. Being in Dundee, and being surrounded by supportive, wonderful, inspiring creative people is really allowed me turn my word collections into something more. So thank you to all who have helped me find and filter the words.
Words & Images © Hazel Saunderson