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.
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.
I don’t drink a lot of beer but I seem to find a lot of beer bottle tops when I’m out and about. On a recent walk along the nearby canal I came home with a little stash in my pocket. I love the way they get squashed by cars and their crinkled edges go in different directions. They are all at slightly different stages of going rusty. After completing 25 Beer Bottle Tops I decided to make a scaled up version and am now part way through its making.
This time there are 49 Beer Bottle Tops. The number isn’t significant, but these fit nicely into the dimensions that I decided to work on, four times larger than the first piece. They are arranged in a grid, again, not for any specific reason, but I find the arrangement pleasing. I often arrange things I find in lines like this in the studio. It is a way of sorting, of getting to know the objects, cataloguing them almost: they are like collected specimens laid out for inspection. Once trapped and stitched around and then allowed to stain their surroundings their regimented lines will contrast with the random stitching and the marks that they make.
The stitching is now in progress. This is slow and repetitive. This kind of stitching marks out the passage of time. Each stitch is similar to the one before but unique in its detail.
I’ve been sorting through drawings for a forthcoming collaborative publication. It has been lovely to re-visit sketchbooks from the last few years and to pick out drawings that are right for the context. Here are a few contenders:
I’ve moved studios. I now have a space in a studio community in Keighley, a town not far from where I live. I’ve spent a couple of days unpacking and settling in and I think I’m going to be very happy working there. I have a window! The building we’re in is an old mill (textile I assume) and there is no heating, so layers of clothing are a must but that doesn’t bother me. In that respect it’s a bit reminiscent of working in the dis-used lighthouse at Spurn (but the view isn’t as good) with a few more home comforts – that really was basic.
I can finally see from one side of my studio to the other! I’ve spent a good deal of time this week sorting, unpacking and tidying in the studio. I might even be able to work in there next week.
I’m becoming a dab hand with a drill, having put shelves, blinds and curtain rails up in various places around the house over the last couple of weeks. These shelves may not look much but they enabled me to unpack various boxes, which makes a big difference to the space. I’m finding all sorts of ways to make the best use of the space I have. In the midst of all the sorting I longed for a clean white-walled empty space, but I know it wouldn’t last long: I’d only fill it with things.
These old school trays are just brilliant and are home to all sorts of bits and pieces.
I’m itching to get to work in there and it won’t be long now before I can.
I spent a couple of hours in my garden the other day. It was sunny and mild and the perfect opportunity to clear some of the debris left from Summer’s abundance and to collect some seed before it all falls to the ground, and before British wintertime began with the clocks changing.
I gathered seed and/or seed heads from poppies, fennel, aquilegia, love-in-the-mist, cerinthe and from some runner beans that had been left on the plant far too long to make pleasant eating.
While I sorted them for storage I laid them out, enjoying the different seed heads and forms of the seeds.
Then I put them away into paper bags, ready for a new season and, hopefully, for a new garden.