Last week I installed North Atlantic Drift: Curious Objects. This exhibition uses a wonderful ‘cabinet of curiosities’ at the Old Low Light down on the fish quay in North Shields, Tyneside. The cabinet, which was designed especially for the space, sits amongst a fascinating multi-media heritage exhibition. There are many drawers of different dimensions and scales, with plinths and boxes on top.
This collection of altered found items and constructed forms are based on objects gathered from northern coastal locations of the British Isles. The materials have been subjected to the forces of North Atlantic Drift (the northern extension of the Gulf Stream); they have been shifted, displaced, scoured, tangled and fractured. Organic and man-made debris, floating on currents or shifted by water and tide, is intermingled, broken down and re-configured.
The space is filled with my altered and constructed objects until 30th June.
Last week was a working week away from home on the North Yorkshire coast: a week of walking, reading, thinking and developing work towards my Findings exhibition; a week of changing weather, windy cliff-tops, cold fingers on the beach, fossils and falling cliffs, stunning views…
upside-down limpets, marks on rocks left by limpets, pebbles and pellets…
mud underfoot (and half way up the trousers), mud on woven thread, mud trails left by periwinkles at low tide…
I’m working on a series of sculptural pieces that are woven in linen, each made specifically to relate to a piece of found metal. I then manipulate the cloth so that it responds directly to the metal: encasing it, wrapping it, slotting through it etc. The metal is then allowed to stain the weave where it is in contact with the rust, with the aid of seawater.
The first uses a metal pipe that I collected on Holkham Beach in Norfolk. The object is linked to the place in my mind because that is where I found it. It is therefore completely ‘of the place’ to me, even if the object has no other significant link to there: I have no idea what its history is prior to me picking it up.
The next piece takes a metal hoop as as starting point. The strip of tapestry weave sits gathered and looped within the hoop, extending either side.
The third piece is shown here just off the loom with its warp ends still waiting to be finished, but looking rather beautiful in their wild arrangement. There is a hole in the cloth, ready for its designated metal to slot into.
Each stage of the process is slow and to be savoured: the weaving by hand, beating each weft down to cover the warp; stitching each warp thread back into the weave; the staining of the cloth by the rusty metal as it dries.
During the half term holiday I was away with my family on the west coast of Scotland. I’ve been coming to these parts all my life and I can feed off a visit like this creatively for months and more. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant it was easy to be on the nearby beach every day, at least for a brisk walk, and at most for a leisurely afternoon playing games, cooking and pretending it was a bit warmer than it actually was.
As ever, I came home with a head full of thoughts, images and ideas and a box full of ‘things’ to continue that process with. Now my little collection is laid out in my studio and slowly I’m getting to know the various objects.
This time last week I had just returned from a long weekend on the North Norfolk coast. I was leading a study weekend with 8 Fold, a group of textile artists who are all regulars at the Committed to Cloth studio in Surrey. We had a wonderfully stimulating and creative time and the location provided rich inspiration in terms of landscape and our beach-combing (extreme scavenging at times!). I have long wanted to visit this part of the world, partly having glimpsed elements of it through the work of Polly Binns and Debbie Lyddon.
We were blessed with the most beautiful blue skies and bright winter sunshine, giving long shadows and the perfect conditions for photography. It was very cold so our cliff-top cottage was a necessary sanctuary to warm up and the kitchen table became the focus of all sorts of experiments and explorations in rust printing, embossing, weaving, stitching, drawing… and eating, but not all at the same time! It was great to spend time with such experienced artists whose curiosity and delight in exploring place and material matched my own.
Needless to say, many photos were taken, and there is a selection here if you want to see more. Although the temperature wasn’t very conducive to sitting around drawing I made the most of the recent cliff falls and used the varying tones of the clay to help record my experience. As ever, there is much to process and explore as a result of this weekend and I know I’ll be feeding off it for a long time.
The Tide Marks exhibition features a range of works on paper and cloth as well as some small tapestry weave pieces. This is the first time that I’ve shown weave as part of an exhibition. Weave is very much a part of my practice but I tend to use it as a way of collecting things together, part of my process rather than the finished work. I have often used tapestry weave to bring found items together, partly as a way of exploring the possibilities of the material and getting to know it. You really understand a fibre when you spend time with it, manipulating and seeing how far you can push it. Weave requires tension. Some things just can’t cope with this, whereas others can surprise in how they withstand it.
These small woven fragments all have a found metal object embedded within them. These metal marks form a line, like a line of debris left by the tide. They are dark marks within light weave but their mark spreads into the weave as sea water has worked on the metal and taken it into the fibre around. You can see a little sequence of images taken when these were first introduced to sea water here.
These pieces are like a collection of random objects found along that tide line: scraps of things, some rounded, some tattered, some pleasing in shape and compact enough to sit pleasingly in the hand or pocket, some more ungainly. The quality of the weave differs: some is tight and affected by the shape of the embedded object, some is more loose, imperfect. They undulate in response to the forces that have been exerted on them. These are imaginary items: one could almost imagine they’d been woven by mermaids.
On a recent walk on a beach in Northumberland I found a surprising range of fabrics. Some were tiny snippets, some larger pieces and some were fabric structures in various states of decay. These worn and eroded surfaces have given me all sorts of thoughts and ideas…
This interesting exhibition opens at the weekend with a preview on Friday evening. Artlink is a centre for community arts in Hull and has an exciting programme of exhibitions and workshops. All the artists showing work in Re-Present use found objects in different ways.
I have a series of prints (incorporating rust and collagraphs) in the exhibition that I’ve called Beach Ghosts and which, you guessed it, feature items found on the beach.