I spent last week in a quiet part of Cumbria. It was a working week but in a beautiful location away form home and studio. We made time to explore a bit as well, enjoying the sweeping views across the valley and the changing weather patterns.
Almost exactly a year ago I had a similar week working here and came across an old lime kiln that had been used recently as a bonfire site; a place to dispose of various bits of agricultural rubbish. You can see this structure on the picture above, in the middle near the bottom. What remained amongst the ash and nettles were various bits of metal, rusty and burnt. Some of these objects formed the starting points for a section of my Findings project. I brought this group of work back with me, intending to photograph them ‘on location’. So last Friday, with good light conditions and a pleasant breeze, the pieces accompanied me on a walk up onto the edge of the fell until I found a suitable limestone rock. This was within view of the old lime kiln and made a very suitable foil for my line of Findings.
I’m now in the midst of putting together the book to accompany the exhibition. This publication, like my previous self-published books, tells the story of the project. Images and words are gathered together from the places that sparked off the ideas, the making of the work and the finished pieces.
Yesterday I finished off my extended pavement piece and sent it off with other work to the Mall Galleries in London. It will be on show as part of Designer Crafts from Friday 10th to Sunday 19th january. Pavement is over 2 metres long and hangs down the wall and out onto the floor (or plinth as galleries don’t generally allow things draping on the floor).
As with my previous Pavement Pieces, this includes rust prints and collagraph prints, all using street-combed items and the layers are hand stitched. I’ve been plugging away at this one for two or three months so it is good to see it finally finished. I look forward to seeing it in the gallery when I’m there on 19th for my stint as a steward.
In addition to the gallery exhibition there will be a ‘Shop within the show’ where there will be items for sale that can be taken away rather than waiting for the end of the exhibition. I’ve sent a range of mounted small Pavement Pieces and some new Printed Fragments and these will be in the shop.
The dust has settled after the Saltaire Arts Trail last weekend. It was a wonderful three days that were blessed with lovely weather and we had thousands of visitors to the various events happening as part of the trail. I had almost 2000 visitors to my pop-up gallery over the three days, which was amazing. I had some lovely conversations with people about the project too, which was great – until people came to see the work I really didn’t know whether people would ‘get it’, but they did! It was lovely to see children’s imaginations being sparked by the different shapes I’d captured and finding delight in recognising some of the items I’d used to print with.
I’ve had a few problems uploading things this last week or so but now I can catch up on a few of the things I was going to share about the Saltaire project
Wandering round the streets of Saltaire there are a whole range of carved marks in the kerb stones. I assumed these are masons marks and they seem to be referred to as those by many people. I found some discussion on line about whether they are benchmarks for the ordinance survey, but this seems unlikely. I then had a few conversations with people during my exhibition at and it seems that these marks indicate utilities: A little less romantic, but the most plausible explanation.
Some marks are in the form of letters, some are simple shapes. Whatever their provenance they make an interesting and sometimes playful-seeming addition to the pavement-scape.
These marks found their way into my collagraph prints for Gifts from the Pavement, recreated on the print plates by string that was found on the same streets.
I’ve been working quietly away at my exhibition for Saltaire Arts Trail. This time next week the event will be in full swing and the ‘village’ of Saltaire will be buzzing with people of all ages, inspired energy and a plethora of different art experiences for visitors to sample. One of these will be my exhibition Gifts from the Pavement, in one of two pop-up galleries on Victoria Road.
I posted a while ago about finding my ‘gifts’, the result of a kind of ‘beach-combing’ or pavement combing. Farley & Roberts (see post on Edgelands) refer to this kind of collecting of objects: “This is not beachcombing, but edgecombing” (p154). Saltaire, a World Heritage Site, can’t really be classed as an edgeland; it’s far too loved and looked after. However, the discarded or ignored details that I’ve explored here are generally over-looked, so there is an edgelands quality to them.
My collection of ‘combed’ textures, marks and shapes found on the streets of Saltaire has been transformed into a series of long prints or sections of a path, which will form the main part of the exhibition. As with other recent print-based work these are built up from various layers of different print techniques and texture: There are rust prints from found metal objects; collagraph prints, some made with found items and some from paper but inspired by the textures and patterns found on the street (drain covers, worked stone etc.); mono-prints using some of the natural items I found (leaves and seed heads); screen prints featuring scraps of found text; hand stitch adding a further layer of texture to the surface and finally a layer of subtle texture, almost like a rubbing, that makes the surface even more pavement-like. There are areas of intense activity as well as quieter sections. This reflects the ‘activity’ on the streets: some stretches were rich in points of interest, others much ‘cleaner’.
In the run-up to the Arts Trail the Saltaire Tourist Information Centre has some ‘Pavement Pieces’ prints (like little fragments of the main ones) and cards. I still don’t know exactly how the long prints will actually come together in the exhibition space until I get in there later in the week. This is slightly nerve-racking but exciting too. The book I’ve published to go with the exhibition is due for delivery on Monday and until I see it in print I won’t know if it really has worked how I hoped. Although the work is all made there are unknowns and challenges for the week ahead.
I’m working on a new project. It started with my contribution to the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project (link to my book in the digital library on the right). I’m now working on an exhibition for the wonderful Saltaire Arts Trail which takes place in my local World Heritage site in May. I’m taking the ideas I started in my original sketchbook and the resulting work will form an installation as part of the trail around the village.
Gifts from the Pavement is a collection of textures, marks and shapes found on the streets of Saltaire: Subtle changes in the surface of the pavement; points of interest under foot; discarded objects like a rusty washer or squashed tin can, a dropped ticket or a scrap of something not-quite-discernable. These marks and shapes are collected and arranged, explored and developed into unconventional prints and displayed in surprising ways for the viewer to follow, discover, explore.
So I have been collecting, pavement combing, sweeping the Saltaire streets with my eyes. I have a whole bunch of wonderful photos of ironmongery, kerb stone marks and ephemera of all sorts. I also have a box of ‘gifts’ that I collected on my walks, some more beautiful than others (I avoided anything too distasteful – there were many cigarette stubs and a few other unsavoury items!).
This week I’ve been sorting through the images and items (some more of them are here) and preparing to print with them. They’re a strange mix of things: some with a history as long as Titus’s village, some dropped from someone’s pocket on a rushed journey to work a week ago.