the beach

Now this westerley’s

blown itself out,

let’s drive to the storm beach.

 

A few brave souls

will be there already,

eyeing the driftwood,

 

the heaps of frayed

blue polyprop rope,

cut loose, thrown back at us –

 

What a species –

still working the same

curved bay, all of us

 

hoping for the marvellous,

all hankering for a changed life.

 

Kathleen Jamie

from The Overhaul, 2012, Picador Poetry.

beachcombing

I went to Spurn last week to collect the rest of my work from the lighthouse.  I also had various meetings to fit in that day but I felt it was important to allow myself a little time on the beach.  The light was absolutely glorious.

I felt that I was going back to say goodbye, but actually I was saying ‘thank you’ and ‘see you again soon’.  I now understand how Spurn is firmly under my skin.

There were various interesting items haning about on the beach.  I’d seen this lump of metal on previous occassions and wondered about trying to collect it to use for printing.  I tried picking it up… surely it was too heavy… could I bring the car closer? Not really… in the end I decided to carry it (struggle with it) the few hundred metres along the beach to my car.  It now sits in my front garden waiting to be played with…

 

blackwell

Some time away is a mixed blessing: much needed and precious time with people I love and a chance to step back from the busy home/work life, have some breathing space; always entered into with the knowledge that there is so much to do back in the studio/office.

However, once I can relax into it of course there is so much rich experience to be had.  Time in Somerset and Cumbria this Easter have given me all of these things.  A visit to ‘Damson Country‘ and the Arts and Crafts House at Blackwell are particular highlights.



I’ve known about Blackwell House for years but hadn’t visited.  It was the exhibition ‘Woven from Nature‘ that prompted this visit and, although I knew this was a special example of an Arts and Crafts House, I wasn’t quite prepared for how breathtaking it would be.  You can’t photograph inside the house but you are encouraged to sit on the many cosy window seats and take your time.  This was an absolutely necessary part of drinking the place and it’s stunning location in. 

The exhibition is beautifully curated (on until 29th April so still over a week to see it).  I’ve seen Jilly’s work before a number of times and seeing her colourful pieces in a new location felt like re-visiting old friends.  

I was fascinated by the detail of Mary Butcher’s willow pieces; how a strip of willow can be so ribbon-like in the way it is wound and binds and catches the light as it does so:

What was really clear was the deep understanding of material in all four artists work.  As Maggie Smith says: 

“the themes of my work arise from the ebb and flow of natural cycles, the relationship between maker and materials and by a deep exploration of the materials themselves.” 

Maggie‘s use of found objects, particularly beach-derived ones, had a special resonance for me and her use of seaweed as a basis for cording, twining, knitting, vessel-making was fascinating.

Once outside the house you discover Laura Ellen Bacon’s wierd installation, which emerges out of and oozes down the building and out into the landscape.  If you stand in a particular place on the lawn the two pieces come together, appearing to flow from the roof, right over the wall to the lower terrace.  
Whilst I was enjoying these forms in the spring sunshine (a gap between heavy April showers) I was quite shocked by some of the comments of other visitors; people who were so closed off to the possibilities, the craftsmanship and relevance of such art.  It seems so right for work such as this to be installed at a building whose history is all about craftsmanship and design.  You wonder why some people visit these places if they are going to dismiss something so quickly.  It really made me think about how people might view my work, not that it is in any way approaching the league of what I saw here.  How can you engage people in work that is not immediately ‘pretty’?  Some people will ‘get’ it and some won’t, so is it worth trying?  Even with sensitive and informative interpretation so many people seem to dismiss things without any thought.  I’m afraid it gave me the blues!  


print room

I spent a morning in the print room at college this week.  As a recent graduate I was able to apply for access to the facilities for this year and got it, so I felt it was about time I started making use of it.  As my studio is still a little way off being workable in and I needed to do something other than planning, paper work and sitting in front of this screen a session in the print room made sense.

I made two screens, one based on the silhouettes of items found beach combing a year or so ago and one using part of a poem written by a companion on the same trip. I purposefully made the text pretty small so that it wouldn’t all expose clearly and so some of it would be legible and some wouldn’t.  I wanted to experiment with this and use the shape of the words on the page as much as the words themselves.

I layered prints over pages from my sketch book that had been dyed, stained and rust printed, playing about with the tones already on the paper and using different combinations of prints.

Some of these pages will be worked on more, stitched into and further dyed.  Some are quite striking as they are.  All are part of a process, growing ideas, developing thoughts…  

>gutted

>Things have been a bit quiet on the creative side for a while, apart from some creative packing of boxes.  I’m preparing to move house and so some things just have to be put on one side for a while.

I heard on Saturday that my application to Arts Council England for funding for a residency project I’m planning for next year was not successful.  I was initially very upset, gutted in fact:  a lot of time, energy and hope goes into such things.  However, I’m growing more philosophical about it.  I had some really good feedback, so I know that my application ticked all their boxes but that there just isn’t enough money to go around.  Although they recognise that this is a crucial stage in an artist’s career, and that funding can give an almighty boost, I understand that it is also quite a gamble to give funding to a recent graduate.   I am reminded that many artists take years of applying before they actually get anywhere with this kind of funding.  I’m determined not to put the project in the bin yet, I have avenues still to explore and plans may have to be altered to make it all happen.

Meanwhile, I made a return visit to Runswick Bay, almost exactly a year after my first visit there.  The weather was calm and grey (after a starry, starry night) when I first stepped on to the beach with the light changing rapidly, coming and going through racing clouds.  Further along the beach the wind suddenly seemed to swing round and strengthen so that the tops of the waves were blown back out to sea and sand was blown in great fuzzy swathes up the beach.

Things were mostly in grey-scale, or in black and white when the light was strong: high contrast with reflections on water of land in black and sky in bright white.

The grey-scale was occasionally interrupted by gaudy scraps of washed up plastic or the brightly coloured boats that sit about the place.

The chance to get away to somewhere different for a few hours was welcome.  To be by the sea is always a rejuvenating experience; to be out in the air and the wind and get so cold that it takes hours to feel warm again; to drink it all in – the light, weather, the constantly changing shapes and patterns of the water and sand.  I was reminded of how much remains un-resolved from my last visit here.  So much of my work and thinking is coastal at the moment and it looks like it will remain that way for some time yet…

>revisiting and developing

>

 I’m revisiting some of the work I did in semester one last year at college.  This work was all based around beachcombing trips and the different types of items I collected.  It involved classifying and grouping the different objects and making assemblages with them in different ways.  The interplay of natural and man-made was a key theme.

 I’ve taken some of the prints and embossing that I did using found objects  and have scanned them to make digital versions.  I’m now cleaning them up in photoshop to make layers that can be played about with.

I’m going to be doing a collagraph printmaking workshop this weekend.  I’m really excited about it.  I’ve dabbled with this sort of printmaking at various times over the last 5 years.  It all started when I went on a printmaking holiday in Cornwall and I’ve wanted to bring it more into my practice ever since.  At college I had some access to the printmaking department (different to textile print) and most of my college projects included something derived from either collagraph or embossing using a printing press.  Often this was some element of texture that led to a print, which I then incorporated into my work in different ways.  The paper based element of my final year work, which was paper embossed with stitch marks and then stitched into further, is something I’m really keen to develop.  I’m hoping to get my own small printing press soon and this weekend should give me the boost I need to develop this area of my work.

>iron men

>
I’m reading this to my son at the moment. Last night, as we read about the iron man standing on the edge of the sea, listening, looking, and then finally wading in to the water, deeper and deeper, I couldn’t help thinking that he’ll get awfully rusty!

…thoughts of rusty stuff by the sea from earlier in the summer and all sort of things I’d like to try using rusty marks…


…thoughts also of these iron men who stand by the sea. I read a children’s story about them too yesterday. I have to use my imagination to picture how their surfaces are affected by the place where they stand as I have yet to meet them. I am determined to before too long though.