So we’re back in the old routine now term has started again and the kids are back at school. Our holiday seems a long way off but my head is still full of the sights, sounds and smells of the Outer Hebrides and my sketchbook is full of moments captured in one way or another. Those empty white shell-sand beaches that turn the sea the most wonderful turquoise greens and stretch for miles are just fantastic – the stuff of dreams (mine anyway!). I have been to the outer isles before but not the Uists and this trip took me to places I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time. It takes quite an effort to get to these remote parts and I love a good ferry journey, which is necessary (made even more special by the dolphins and porpoise we saw from the boat). This is the very edge or Europe, and apart from the tantalising St Kilda, which we saw on a particularly clear day, when you look out across the sea the next land is Canada. Highly recommended: this fascinating exhibition, which is based on St Kilda but also deals with amnesia, was on in Lochmaddy. It will be moving to London soon here.
I’ve been back to Spurn for the first time since my residency ended 3 1/2 years ago. It felt so good walking the whole peninsula again, some parts very familiar and some bits significantly changed by the elements since my last visit. Some great wildlife encounters made the day really special too: a dolphin (sadly dead, but fascinating to see), a short-eared owl, a lizard, curlew, deer, butterflies…
The lighthouse is now spick and span in its newly re-furbished state, with a new coat of paint inside and out. It is now open to the public regularly and there is some sensitive interpretation inside to help the visitor understand the history of this wonderful heritage building and the unique location it overlooks.
Luckily it was a beautiful day, although with a cold wind, so the views were long-ranging and at their very best. As ever there was all sorts of weird and wonderful (and not so wonderful) stuff washed up on the beach, including various balls of fishing line caught up into bundles with other debris attached, like un-natural tumble-weeds.
I took along some of the work I made during my residency and have donated a piece to The Wildlife Trust, who manage Spurn. This will go up either in the lighthouse or in one of the other visitor spaces. The other pieces I took with me are now on display in the Bluebell Cafe in Kilnsea. It’s lovely to have some of my work back there, where it came from and where it belongs.
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…
Anyone who follows me on Instagram (where I post images almost daily) will know that I am starting to develop new work based on a series of collections of objects. Ultimately I am working towards an exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Shows 2016, which I’m really pleased to have been selected for. My working title is Findings. I have been developing ideas for this over some months now, thoughts whirring away in the background while other things happen. Findings will be a series of responses to objects I have collected in different locations.
1. the action of finding someone or something.
2. information discovered as the result of an inquiry or investigation.
The first group of objects I am exploring are a collection of limpet shells I brought back from Anglesey in the summer. I didn’t collect the complete shells: it was the ones with holes in that I was drawn to and I came back with a couple of hundred of these. I love the subtle variation in a series of items like this: they’re similar but all unique. Some are really worn down and smooth; others are rough and intricately mottled; some have a jagged broken top; others are almost perfectly smooth rings. I’ve been experimenting with replacing the broken section with a stitched/woven ‘patch’. Some of them end up mended completely, others partially filled. Some are being filled in across the inside, leaving them with a sort of woven plate across that reminds me of the limpet’s ‘foot’.
As I work away at these experiments (inquiries, investigations. . . ) the results are starting to form a new collection: a collection of my Findings.
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.
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.
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.
After a long and busy summer things have finally returned to the normal routine of term time. Autumn is in the air and I have a lot to do! I have work to finish for a number of exhibitions this autumn (there is an updated list on my exhibitions page now), the biggest of which is Tide Marks, which gets its first showing at Gate Gallery in Grimsby towards the end of October.
As with Textures of Spurn and Gifts from the Pavement I am publishing a book to accompany this body of work and I am busy pulling that together to meet the print deadline. It’s a satisfying process to bring something like this together, to see the images sitting alongside each other and look back at how the work has developed. I like this documentation of a project, recording the process and bringing that together with elements of inspiration and finished work. It isn’t a catalogue and it isn’t a description of how I have done what I’ve done. It is more a commentary on the project and a way to take the viewer deeper into where the work has come from.
This time round I’m doing everything myself: becoming publisher and graphic designer as well as artist. It’s a steep learning curve but I like a challenge!
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…