I’m part way through teaching a workshop at Committed to Cloth in Surrey. We’ve been blessed with beautiful weather this week: it has actually felt like summer! This has made a real difference to how we have been able to get out and explore the area around the studio.
We have recorded walks in a variety of ways and used what we found along the way in a range of print and mark making techniques.
We worked out in the meadow, and at the edge of woods, a short walk from the studio; yesterday printing outside, today manipulating grass and leaves and other gathered materials.
Tomorrow we finish, bringing things together in some simple book forms and whatever else appears out of the mix of ideas and starting-points we’ve explored.
I’ve had a welcome few days away with family and surrounded by beautiful landscape that was abundant with wildlife. The warm summer we’re having is glorious but I love the relief of the evening air and the light at that time of the day can do wonderful things to a field of grasses.
During walks I gathered grass and twisted it into this ball of string. I enjoy exploring a material like this: manipulating it and seeing what it will do and improving my technique as I go. It dries quickly and the fresh green above is soon dulled. Working the grass I find there is a sweet point where it is dried a bit and so a little firmer but once it dries too much it becomes brittle. The ball is my little record of the places we walked.
I’m really enjoying my walk to work here in Cumbria, despite the grey and wet conditions (Sedburgh isn’t getting the heatwave that the rest of England have been enjoying). I’m staying about 15 minutes walk away from Farfield Mill and I have a choice of walk across the fields or round the lanes.
On Tuesday I walked up the lane, picking wild strawberries on the way, then across the fields. I saw a roe deer and then a hare in quick succession: both exhilarating experiences. The footpath wound its soggy way but I couldn’t have been happier, arriving at the Mill very wet.
Yesterday I took the lane the other way and found all sorts of bejeweled plants. The hay has either been cut and sits waiting for a dry spell or it hasn’t even been cut yet. Things are so damp but also lush and green as a result.
These lanes are absolutely amazing: they’re jammed with a rich mix of foliage, flowers, insects, mosses, birds flitting about, trees and the most lovely smells. I could spend hours lingering in them, but I have work to do…
I’ve had a couple of days of meetings, which have been really useful and stimulating. One was about the development of a new collaborative project (more on that another time) and the others were about my main project this year. As a result I have renewed hope about possible funding. I know I keep being vague in these posts about projects I’m planning and that is because I don’t want to announce things until everything is in place... hopefully that won’t be long now.
We’re in the middle of a cold spell here with snow coming and going. Yesterday was particularly wintery, with ice, remnants of last weekends’ snow and then rain just to make things extra slippery. I drove over to Hebden Bridge to see Angie Rogers, an artist who’s work I admire and who was kind enough to give me some time to talk through various aspects of her recent residency.
The drive over the water shed between the Calder and Aire valleys is one I love. You climb up from Haworth, through Oxenhope and then on the the moors that separate the two river systems. Whatever the weather is doing in the valley, suddenly on the moors it can be so different. It gets me every time! Yesterday it was shrouded in mist and rain with the residue of recent snow marking out the features in the landscape. It was bleak, cold and wild – bracing and breathtaking. The subtle colours of the grasses, rushes and exposed peat are interspersed with patches of snow, which make a clean backdrop for stark stems.
Persistent rain made getting out of the car to take photographs a fairly quick affair, but sketches in the warmth of the car were possible.
Coming down off the tops the fields were suddenly visible, but still through mist. A different layby, a different view. Snow drifted along the walls mark out a pattern, almost a negative of the land without the snow. Snow transforms the set of marks that make up the landscape; accentuates different features. It lingers in dips and hollows in fields, revealing something new about the surface of the land.
The bleating of sheep (why do they always sound so desperate?) and incessant rush of water in the river, low with lack of rain, was the sound track to my Saturday afternoon.
This was the Ribble near Settle, in the Yorkshire Dales. A dipper in the river darted back and forth, alighting on rocks, doing as its name suggests. A baby great tit, surely too young to fly, sat helplessly in the grass, its mother shouting at us to go away from the riverside trees. Warm air; sun comes and goes amidst broken cloud and is then further interrupted by the ever moving leaves of a large ash tree. The perfect place to spend a langourous afternoon.
Then suddenly the mood changes, cool breeze, spots of rain, dark clouds looming.