Review: Alpkit Kowari

Going out on a long road ride is exceedingly good fun. Pedalling at pleasurable speeds is infinitely easier than it would be on a touring bike, however the touring bike does offer the convenience of being able to carry anything you might ever need on that day-ride (and no, a backpack is not an option for me, if it can be avoided). The usual solution to the problem is to use a small saddle bag to carry tools and emergency supplies, and to shove some food and spare clothing into your jersey pockets.

I went out for a lovely “two bridges” loop yesterday (100km, over the Forth Road Bridge and the Kinkardine Bridge, via the Kelpies, Bo’Ness and back) with almost empty jersey pockets. I managed to fit my rain jacket, tools, charger, a spare tube, a giant sandwich, some munchies and I even added a pack of wet wipes to it before leaving. The Alpkit Kowari is indeed the perfect size for day rides, and its made in the UK!

Emperor Sport

Emperor Sport

My only criticism is that the main strap, which wraps around it holding the bag onto the saddle rails, is a bit shorter than I’d like, making it very hard to fit the bag to the bike after its been packed. Apart from that, my stuff stayed dry, and the bag did not flap nor rattle, and certainly didn’t fall off. Thankfully I didn’t need any of the emergency supplies either.

Tobias Feltus:

Review: Morgaw Forsage saddle.

I don’t remember how I came across the Indiegogo campaign, but it excited me and unlike all the other fundraisers I’d seen. I got my wallet out. I received the saddle almost a year ago and, for one or another reason, never got round to testing it before yesterday.

The design appeals to my ethics of trying to keep things as simple as possible. It is minimalist in its engineering and its aesthetic. The thought that went into solving an issue was concise and the solution is simple. We are beginning to see more of this cottage-industry lead by users (Morgaw was started by retired professional riders), but usually this leads to goods which are not refined because they are not developed within a network of people who know what they are doing.

What makes Morgaw saddles different is the fact that they have an elastomer link between the rails and the shell, and that this elastomer block can be changed to suit rider weight. The shell is relatively ordinary, with a moulded fibre reinforced plastic shell and an in-mould bonded pad/cover. The elastomer blocks are bolted onto the base, and the interchangeable rails then bolt into the blocks. I have the aluminium rails (the carbon ones cost a little more), which make for a 200g saddle. Unlike many saddles, the rails sit perfectly horizontal with the top of the shell, which is something I rather like from an aesthetic standpoint. In fact, the whole stack height of the saddle is around 45mm, which is slimmer than most.


There are a couple of potential issues: the oval rails mean that you probably can’t mount a Morgaw saddle on a seatpost which has side clamps, like those on Trek/Bontrager posts. During the Indiegogo campaign Morgaw was offering a seat post which did have side clamps designed for these rails and may have been compatible with other posts, however they are not currently offering these (and changing clamps would only be necessary on a bike which has a proprietary post, like many carbon offerings). The other issue is partly why I waited so long to test the saddle: the rails don’t accept the mounts for Ortlieb nor Rixen & Kaul equipped saddle bags, which meant that I didn’t want to take it on a long ride (almost no space between the rails and the shell). I was given an Alpkit Kowari for my birthday which uses straps rather than a clip, so I was able to take it out.


I took it for a 5h (100km) ride with 700m of ascent, on my newly built 1977 (steel of course) Emperor Sport, fitted with 25c Continental Gatorskins at around 80psi. The ride was mostly on tarmac with many rough sections, but also included a reasonable amount of gravel and mud. My bum didn’t hurt in the slightest, and I was pleased to find the ride to be very compliant. The non-scientific nature of my test is highlighted by the fact that it was the maiden ride of the entire build, so my first time on the frame, and my first time on the Felt UH Carbon seat post.

The saddle is comfortable. The shape seems to fit similarly to a Fizik Arione, despite being wider and flatter. The flatness did worry me as I really didn’t get along well with a Bontrager Paradigm RL that I’d bought last summer, which seemed to have a less of a curve to it than the Arione. The shape of the nose on the Forsage does allow for a lot of fore/aft movement, which meant that I was able to comfortably slide forward and tuck in whilst trying to keep up with traffic on the A904, without feeling any discomfort.

Emperor Sport

Emperor Sport

The current price point of the Morgaw range (around £100) puts it in an area full of high end competition, though the competition which I find as exciting from a design and innovation perspective are the Brooks C17 and Fabric ALM, both of which cost roughly twice as much. I am glad that I supported Morgaw’s entry to the market (they are distributed in the UK by Ison), and thrilled that the saddle stands up to my hopes and expectations.

Tobias Feltus:

The Making of Longbird: A Retrospective

Last night we were told of this wonderful review of our show at the Inverness Museum, written by Georgina Coburn.

WINNER of the Short Grand Prix at the Warsaw International Film Festival 2011, the Golden Dove and Audience Awards at the Leipzig Film Festival and nominated for a New Talent Award 2011 by BAFTA Scotland, Will Anderson’s animated docu-fiction The Making of Longbird is the centrepiece of an intriguingly multi-layered exhibition.

WILL Anderson, in collaboration with Tobias Feltus and Sophie Gackowski, has constructed artefacts and ephemera to conjure belief in the existence of a master turn-of-the-century Russian animator Vladislav Alexandravich Feltov, creating a fascinating “Retrospective” which explores artistic persona, collective memory and the nature of cinema.

When seeing each object the viewer begins to question the narrative labelling of each piece as part of a larger authenticated fiction in the museum/gallery space. There are many layers of enquiry here; a combination of historic fiction, artistry and playful deliberation that together with the choice of techniques and presentation of objects explores our relationship to still and moving images as repositories of human memory.

Tobias Feltus and Sophie Gackowski’s forged family photographs of the great Feltov utilise early photographic techniques pioneered in Scotland in the 1830’s, fixing shadows of identity in a series of cyanotype prints. The use of early photographic techniques presents an interesting counterpoint to Anderson’s dialogue of resurrecting the animated fragment (of a cinematic work of fiction) and “modernising” it for a contemporary audience. Use of digital techniques coupled with the deceptive simplicity of scissors and paper give Anderson’s work an immediacy and creative integrity that define him stylistically.

The notion of a “masterpiece”, authenticity, authorship and the artist as creator are interwoven with self consciousness and humour in Will Anderson’s presentation of himself and his creation, Longbird. What shines through is Anderson’s emerging talent as an artist and animator. The musician Martyn Bennett once said that in order to be pioneers we first need to acknowledge that we are heirs, and this ethos certainly resonates in Anderson’s intelligent, comic and imaginative film, evoking the inherent magic of early film and photography.

The opening sequence (Anderson’s creation: a fragment of Feltov’s masterpiece which has presumably survived the “Great Fire”) is incredibly fluid and beautifully realised, an almost kaleidoscopic vision flickering to life, marks of dust and time creating the illusion of aged celluloid. The way that Longbird picks up the edge of his own frame of reference in silhouette and curls in on himself is an apt metaphor for the explorations of the artist.

This curiosity is a major strength in terms of Anderson’s evolution as a unique creative voice. The angular morphing of imagery reminiscent of German Expressionist design and imitation of physical decay visualised in the projection itself, authenticate the film as belonging to another era. Sound also succeeds in placing the audience in another age with crackling cylinder, the audible clicking of a speeded-up projector and silent era piano accompaniment halfway between musical hall and cinema.

What follows Feltov’s Longbird is part documentary; “archival” footage of Feltov at work and the documentation of Anderson’s attempt to bring Longbird back to life with lively exchanges between the animated character and artist. Longbird makes his debut on “Chitter Internet Video” before being killed off by a cue from the script and a recreation of the famous fire that destroyed much of Feltov’s “original” work of genius. Also screening in the gallery space is an interview between Media critic Anslie Henderson, the artist and Longbird voiced in a thick Russian accent, the animator letting his creation out of the box.

Although many of the labels on objects are infused with the joke of fiction permeating the whole gallery space there is something quite poignant about the display of film equipment and memorabilia now seemingly rendered obsolete in a digital age. An 8mm editor and viewer, an invented “Feltotrope (c.1887) evoking early moving image viewing devices from the Victorian era and the presence of architectural drawings, photographs and seating from the old La Scala Cinema in Inverness, anchor this loss in living local memory.

Screening with Anderson’s “main feature” in the small gallery cinema are a series of animated films from Edinburgh College of Art graduates past and present, including Joseph Feltus’s wonderfully ambiguous Solo Duets, Jessica Cope’s The Owl House and the poetic simplicity of Adore by Michael Hughes. Solo Duets is particularly beguiling in its haunting use of waxen human figures and interior scenarios.

It is exciting to see these films by Scottish based animators in the IMAG gallery space and hopefully the venue will be able host further showcases of such work, bringing it to the attention of a wider public audience. It is also extremely encouraging to see Will Anderson’s exploration of craft, memory and perception at the heart of The Making of Longbird recognised both locally and internationally.

© Georgina Coburn, 2011

Originally posted on Northings.

Tobias Feltus:

Stop Press: FLUSTER magazine

Tobias Feltus was born in the USA of two figurative painters, Lani Irwin and Alan Feltus, he grew up in Assisi (Italy), in a countryside bubble, and have been living in Edinburgh (UK) for the past 12 years.
He likes to cook and eat good food, drink good wine, and smoke fine tobacco. He obsess over cameras, seek the perfect lens, feel for the best squeeze, and attempt to be (intellectually) rich.

What is photography for you?

An infatuation. Not in that I take snapshots, but that most things in life are compared and reflected to and in my photography. As my parents are painters, and I grew up surrounded by other painters, I have often debated photography’s merit in juxtaposition to painting and fine-art. Painting is inherently abstract, but can be honed to a representational canon, whereas photography is inherently and mechanically a direct representation of a reality, and thus I find its abstraction far more interesting.

Photography is a tool with which to create an image, a process that involves a manipulated reality traveling through a choice of glass and mechanical means, to a chemical reaction. I see this as a rather pure process, and am uncomfortable with upsetting this very purity. For years I stuck to Cartier-Bresson’s ethic of showing the whole frame without cropping, and I do this as often as I can, though sometimes I will be distracted by some other aspect in an image and have to resort to a crop. Photography is a means to challenge myself, to push myself into places where I am uncomfortable. To show aspects of my body that I cannot by other means. And also its intricate technicalities are a perpetual challenge, which keep me on my toes.

Which aspects of your pictures make them stand out as yours, what is your signature?

I think that which both limits and defines my style is my mental database of aesthetics. Having grown up surrounded by centuries worth of Italian painting, and books of Flemish painters as well as more recent masters like Balthus and Lempicka, my sense of composition and colour is inherent. My bookshelf shows my interest and admiration of many photographers whom I am unable to emulate: Bourdin, Saudek, Witkin, Araki, Terry Richardson, Moon, Lachappelle… Somehow these serve as a spark to push me forward, however that which results is arguably a failure, and yet always mine. Amusingly, to me, one of my defining qualities in today’s climate is my faithful dedication to analogue, or photochemical, processes. For some reason it has become a standard that photographers work with the latest equipment, after a good century of professionals and artists using whichever means suited them best. So I still do use the means that suits me best; the means that gives me the quality I am after. And this does mean that for some things I need a specific lens and a specific format, and cannot be limited to a half-frame sensor and an overly-corrected plastic-barrelled lens with a small aperture that has a ‘professional’ price tag.

How would you define your style?

In a way I feel that the best way to define my style is to roughly reference what Viviana Siviero wrote in an article in EspoArte back in 2005 (paraphrased & translated): by applying the infinite possibilities available to him and resigning himself to the outlines of a blank canvas, he coined a sort of post-divisionism, implemented with a contemporary medium by using the inherent grain of film.

How do you approach someone for a photograph? How do you set up your work? Do you always ask?

I rarely do. Almost all of my work is a self portrait, or a portrait of someone else who is close to me in life. My family. My girlfriend. Occasionally a friend. But very seldom do I reach out and approach someone with whom I am not already in close confidence.

Tell us a story about one of the people you have photographed that made you want to take their picture.

I met Rebekka in 2001 when she was maybe just 20 and was a dancer in a strip-bar. It was an odd period, as I had befriended her flatmate, April, who was an older dancer. It was an outlet to a part of society I had never been in contact with before. So a decade passed, and we had lost touch, and then she appeared on Facebook commenting on a mutual friend’s post. I was surprised to see that she had moved to London and was working as a Dominatrix, and in talking found that she periodically came up to Edinburgh, so I suggested we work together some time. Since all of her work related pictures were stereotypically fetish orientated, and hence harsh and shiny, I thought it would be interesting to make her look soft and lost in a large space. The shoot was comfortable, as she was more dressed than I, despite my clothes and her nudity. It is fascinating how some individuals can appear this way. And yet I did succeed in representing her in an innocent manner.

Tell us a story about one of your pictures? What is your favourite shot and why?

How can one have a favourite of one’s own work? I find it terribly difficult to distance the memories and smells associated with a person or a shoot from their aesthetic. So what shall I write about? My first self-portrait? OK. It was probably 1998 and I had bought an old, circa 1880s, 5×7” wooden camera. It came with no shutter and a plate back. I had modified the back building a spring mechanism, and added a single speed pneumatic shutter to the lens it came with, which was a Poloxer, apparently some kind of Tessar-type eastern-block lens. I set up in my mum’s studio in the evening, and since my air line was rather short, the solution to taking a picture of myself was to shoot a mirror with the camera in front of me. I did not have one mirror large enough, so I put one on a chair, and another at the foot of the chair. Then I put another beside me, and one near my head. My artificial lighting at the time was a hand full of clip-on lamps with tungsten bulbs, so I set them all up. My exposure was something shocking like 10”, as I was using FP4 and the lens was not bright. It seemed logical to put a seagull skull in my mouth. I exposed one frame, and turned the darkslide around. No one had come to bother me, so I nervously (as I was very prudish at the time) took my clothes off, and decided to put a boar skull in front of my modesty (a skull which I had found in a river as a child). I held the bulb and squeezed whilst I counted off the seconds. I got away with it, and my nudity was only apparent by the mirror near my chair.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face to get a great picture?

Living within myself. I tend to be very self-critical, and fail to validate my work on my own, on any grounds other than technical achievement. Yes, sometimes working with other people can be hard, including my brother Joseph with whom I work a lot. And sometimes I push myself into odd scenarios or uncomfortable situations. But regardless of this, most often it is the most challenging situations that feel the most rewarding afterwards.
“Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings, Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.” – Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet.

When did you start taking pictures?

When I was 10 or 11 my dad came back from a visit with his old friend Emmet Gowin with a box of Kodalith, a pinhole camera made from a 35mm film canister, and a Pentax ME Super, which sparked the beginning of the disease. Despite my having a Masters degree in design, I sit surrounded by cameras of various formats and age.

What’s the message of your photos, what do you want to communicate or accomplish through your work?

I don’t wish to impose any meaning nor interpretation of my own upon a viewer. If someone is moved, then I have accomplished something. I do not set out with a moral or a meaning to convey, but rather, occasionally, an emotion or a story which, occasionally, becomes the title, but little more.
“Like all of my canvases, these are works of fictive imagination rather than records of perceived reality. They do not represent any “true” thing — if they are any good, they are true things — nor do they teach any lesson, argue any point of view, or tell any linear story; they are meant to be fiction, not to illustrate it.” – James McGarrell, in an exhibition catalogue.
The only ethical tool that I use within my work to do this is that technical honesty which I mentioned above. I do not have any secrets within my technique, which I emphasise with my occasional “making of” video or blog.

What’s the question you wish I had asked? …and what is the answer?

What next? I am not sure. The past year and a half has been testing on many levels. I feel that I have reached the age of 32 without having an adult perspective on life, nor much of a career. I know that I have a fat CV when it comes to exhibitions and film festivals, but I forget this five minutes after revising it. I always have ten thousand projects on the go, several cameras dismantled and mid-renovation (today I started stripping 4×5 Ensign Reflex, as I wish to work with such a machine, but cannot afford a working example). I do intend to attempt to make some income from modifying and renovating Graflex cameras, and I am also involved in the development of new large-format instant negative film (like the old Polaroid Type 55). And whilst tinkering with these projects I am slowly making it through my fridge of film. I recently started collaborating with my girlfriend, whose background is much more literary than mine and I can see that there are a lot of interesting images to come from this, and possibly our differences will also unshackle me from one or more of my innate restraints. Maybe I shall start producing some work that is completely unlike anything I have done to date. And this prospect is very exciting indeed.

Tobias Feltus: