This time last week I was on an island surrounded by water, mud, birds, boats and a clear blue sky… Northey Island is in the Blackwater Estuary, Essex and has only two houses on it. One of these was ours for the weekend for a workshop through which we explored the island and recorded our experience of it.
The approach to the island is via a causeway that is covered for a few hours at high tide. It only takes half an hour or so to walk right round the island. Salt marsh and mud continue beyond the land you can safely walk on, creating tantalising patterns that extend toward the watery edges and change with the ebb and flow of the tide.
After a period of bad weather we were blessed with a dry weekend of sunshine and blue skies, a keen wind and stars at night. Spending much of the time outside, we undertook a series of mark making, drawing, printing and recording activities, with students exploring different aspects of the place. We also shared our marks in a collaborative exercise one evening.
Then we made a series of books with our marked papers, which became our personal records of the place to take away.
I like the quiet pause that comes at the closing of one year and the opening of the next. There is a delicious stillness, particularly today, the first of January. This stillness is to be breathed in deeply and then exhaled slowly as the wheels of routine turn and normality resumes over the coming days.
Yesterday, at dusk, we walked in the woods and listened to the wind in the trees. The rooks that roost in the trees along the top of the wood were chattering and restless, scattered groups in other parts of the valley. We waited. Eventually they started to gather; more and more coming together and settling under the narrowest sliver of a new moon.
Time flies: I realise I post much less frequently here than I used to and than I would like to. I have been away for much of the last three weeks and seem to have spanned a great deal of the country in the process. I had a wonderful few days teaching in Eastbourne (on the South coast) before Easter. As a group we explored the beach, collecting in different ways and then used what we had collected in a variety of techniques – great fun and a chance to explore an area I didn’t know.
Easter saw me in North Somerset (in the South West) with my family in the beautiful Mendip Hills. I snatched an opportunity for a bit of mud lurking – more on that another time.
Then we had a few days in the depths of Snowdonia, off grid and off everything else apart from a tent and whatever we could carry. We were blessed with the most amazing weather and managed to get the whole party (youngest 6) up to the top of Snowdon (the highest mountain in England and Wales) in glorious spring sunshine with a dramatic helicopter rescue (not one of us!) to add a bit of drama.
After a night at home I headed north to give a talk just over the Scottish border. I spent the morning on a windy walk overlooking Lindisfarne and its causeway in Northumberland. Serenaded by skylarks and calling waders the colours and creeks of the salt marsh were brought to life in the clear air.
Meanwhile, an article by Wendy Feldberg on artists using rust in their work has been published in Fibre Art Now and is available here.
After a few hectic days with excited children and family coming and going I am having a quiet end to the year. I have a bit of space to catch up with myself.
In that strange waiting time between Christmas and new year I had two afternoons, two walks in Lincolnshire’s fields, empty of people and drained of colour but then filled with other colour, different winter colour, the earth gone to sleep.
One on the wolds:
gently rolling; lines of field edge and combed earth; hedge and pathway; footprints on saturated ground; a smell of the sea wafting inland on the stiff breeze, which then brings rain and stinging cold.
A second on the coast:
salt marsh keeping the sea at bay with a white line of breaking waves way out beyond the gullied expanse; even further away my familiar lighthouse clear over the water; a bitter wind; blue light in the gloaming and collections of birds forming almost murmurations.
Now back at home the memories of them intermingle.
What with moving house four days before Christmas and then being ill for a few days (the previous few manic weeks finally catching up with me) the final days of the year have all gone by in a bit of a blurry fog.
Thank you so much for visiting my pages over the last year. I’ve often been overwhelmed by people’s lovely comments and support and amazed that so many people are interested in what I have to show for my time (can’t quite believe it really). Special thanks to recent mentions by Carolyn and Trace. It really is lovely to find that there are people from far corners of the earth who have alighted on my little patch and enjoy coming back again.
Wishing all a happy and peaceful new year and looking forward to whatever adventures 2012 may bring,
> There is daily change at the moment as everything seems to be growing and filling out at great speed
inside and out.
I found this beautiful nuthatch in my front garden a week or so ago. I can only guess that it succumbed to one of the cats. I’ve never seen a nuthatch round here before … perhaps there aren’t any round here any more!?
It is absolutely beautiful and I’ve had it sitting around waiting to be drawn. I now realise I’m not going to manage to find the time to draw it (before it gets a bit smelly) so I photographed it and I’m going to put it in the compost heap to rot down and hopefully I can collect the skull. I have done this in the past with all sorts of found birds. As a child I was really quite fascinated by collecting dead insects, skulls and other things macabre, purely in the interests of natural history study I hasten to add! I still have this collection.
Today I happened to come across Susan Silas‘ stunning work recording found birds.