Northey Island

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.

published

Chaptern 6 Sense of Place

My book is published today! So now it is available to buy from all good bookshops. Of course there are various ways of getting a copy (and various prices on the internet) but if you want to buy one directly from me I have signed copies available in my shop.

I’m really grateful to the contributing artists whose work is also featured in the book, enriching it with their inspirational words and stunning images: Jilly Edwards, India Flint, Claire Wellesley-Smith, Catherine Lewis, Dorothy Caldwell, Joanne B Kaar, Lotta Helleberg, Jennifer Coyne Qudeen, Hannah Lamb, Debbie Lyddon. The practices of these wonderful artists’ are all bound up with their own experience of and respect for the natural world.

I’m just getting ready to go off to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC. I will be demonstrating in the Virtual Studio on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. Do come and say hello if you’re there. Oh, and I might have some books with me…

edgelands

Alice Fox train tracks

I’ve really enjoyed reading Edgelands by Paul Farley & Michael Symmons Roberts: a wonderfully playful mix of observations and poetic writing about those in between places that are not quite city, not quite countryside, not quite classifiable as one thing or another.

in their words:

Somewhere in the hollows and spaces between our carefully managed wilderness areas and the creeping, flattening effects of global capitalism, there are still places where an overlooked England truly exists, places where ruderals familiar here since the last ice sheets retreated have found a way to live with each successive wave of new arrivals, places where the city’s dirty secrets are laid bare, and successive human utilities scar the earth or stand cheek by jowl with one another; complicated, unexamined places that thrive on disregard, if we could only put aside our nostalgia for places we’ve never really known and see them afresh.  (p 10)

Edgelands are constantly shifting and being re-developed.  That’s part of what makes them dynamic, hard to pin down.  Some crop up in pockets close to city centres, where waste ground and industrial decline has offered space for the edgelands to self-seed. (p 213)

When I walk to my studio I go along part of the Leeds Liverpool canal, along the back of industrial buildings, offices, under roads, beside railway.  This is a classic example of an edgeland, an un-cared for piece of land that is pretty much left to its own devices, complete with rubbish, graffiti, weeds, ducks, magpies, blackbirds…  And this is the magic, the wildlife that just gets on with things.  The resilience and sheer bravery of some of the plants you find in these scruffy places, pushing up through cracks and flowering away no matter what, brings an enchantment to these walks and the sudden flit of a long-tailed tit can make my day.

Alice Fox pansies in the cracks

In Robert MacFarlane’s The Wild Places, having visited some of the most remote parts of the UK, he comes to recognise the wild all around him in his local landscape.  This is certainly true for me too.  While the call of the coast is never far from my mind and the lure of remoteness is always tempting, it is the wild of my streets and pathways that keeps me engaged with my landscape on a day to day basis.

Further reading: Weeds, Weeds & Wildflowers

Alice Fox stone and growth

>exhibitions

>

Sense of Place: Spring

This Wednesday (26th January) my work will be exhibited as part of the Wakefield Art Walk. The textile panels of Fifteen Images will be displayed alongside a digital presentation giving the background to the whole collaborative project. My four Sense of Place pieces will also be on show for the first time.

The venue is Space@55Westgate (WF1 1BW) and the Art Walk is on from 5-9pm.


This is prior to Fifteen Images going to Plymouth next month for a performance at the Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival on 12th February and the project is the subject of the festival lecture on that date. On the same day Taking Time opens in Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and I’m absolutely thrilled that my physical textile work and the digital presentation will be included in this exhibition until 9th April.

>new work

>This morning, as I was sorting out my stock to take to the maker’s fair at the weekend, I thought through all sorts of things to do with my cards and how I will sell them or not sell them in the future. I’ve made and sold cards for 6 years now, stocking various local shops, selling through different craft fairs and maker’s fairs. It’s been a kind of bread and butter. It’s the more substantial and more satisfying (to do) pieces that are what I really want to be making and selling but cards have been a really useful and accessible way to make a few pennies and get people to see my work. Many of my cards are small versions of things I’ve done on a bigger scale or I treat almost as samples for trying out ideas that might get used for other things. I have various ideas about where I want things to go after my degree and, although cards will hopefully not be the main thrust of my business after that point, I recognise how that they are a good way of people being made aware of your work and can sit really nicely alongside other things.

I was musing over the fact that I have stock I’d like to shift and wondering at what point I actually stop selling certain things, make a break. It felt like everything I was putting in my box was stuff people have seen before (not always a negative thing but something I’m conscious of). Then I found a little piece I did earlier this year as a trial for the work I did connected with Sense of Place. I trimmed it and found the right canvas to mount it on …


… so now I have a new piece that says something about where my work has gone to recently. Its just small and quite simple but I like it and it means that I have something new to put on my stall at the weekend.

>Getting ready

>
I spent Friday morning at Gallery II at Bradford University setting up my textile installation for the performance of 15 Images on Monday.


It was an exercise in measurement and fine adjustment and one which took twice as long as it should have done due to one of us having been up all night listening to election coverage and the other of us having travelled the length of the country and back during the previous couple of days.


My textile panels will sit alongside a projection of digital versions of the same images that have been animated. The animation will be controlled by Matt Robinson who will be performing the piece on electric piano from an interactive score on a computer screen rather than from the more traditional paper score. If that doesn’t make sense you’ll have to come along tomorrow and experience it for yourself!


As for the trip south, Monday saw me at Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset (18th century landscape garden, Arts & Crafts garden and Victorian garden all rolled into one!)


Tuesday found me at Dartington Hall garden in Devon …


along with the opening of Jilly Edwards’ exhibition Sense of Place at the magnificent Modernist High Cross House (see previous blog entries).


On Wednesday it was Hidcote Garden in Gloucestershire, a veritable feast of ‘garden rooms’, each with their own particular atmosphere.


This is one of the borders in ‘The Red Garden’.

Devon trip listening: Seth Lakeman of course.

>Nothing much to show…

>I’ve been busy reading, researching and writing so have nothing practical to show for the last couple of weeks…


Things in the garden carry on regardless though and there was a point a few days ago when everything was very still, waiting almost. Then we had a night and morning of rain and it seemed the next day that it was this that it was all waiting for because everything seemed to suddenly relax and fill out and grow into the space around it.


There is a dominant white swathe across the garden at the moment, formed by the fragrant clematis armandii, which spreads from by the gate, across the side of the garage, into the ceonothus and beyond.


This is then continued on the other side of the garden by the white damson blossom and then similar blossom on next door’s tree (which is something similar to a damson but we’ve never quite worked out exactly what).


On my round of inspection the other day I noticed that the tiny flowers on the gooseberry bush have little swellings at their bases with promise of fruit!


As well as beavering away at my essay for college this week I did attend a meeting at Bradford University about the forthcoming performance of 15 Images on 10th May, which will include the projection of my textile based digital images alongside the live performance of the music, as well as my actual textile images being on display at Gallery II for the evening.


This collaborative piece was premièred last August at Farfield Mill, Cumbria and it is exciting that it is soon to receive its second performance on my home turf. Later in the year it will go to Dartington in Devon in connection with tapestry weaver Jilly Edward’s exhibition Sense of Place at High Cross House.