Morston is a regular haunt – I love that by walking only a short distance you reach a quietness that feels a million miles from the bustle of the little harbour and the continuous line of impatient cars along the coast road on a Bank Holiday weekend. It is a natural, untamed environment. As you walk out on labyrinthine, muddy tracks next to the creek the distinction between land and sea becomes blurred – it is a place on the edge – land for only half of the day.
There are signs of human activity at the start of the walk ….
…. and a little further on signs of the havoc caused by the tidal surge just before Christmas. This bridge was washed away as the sea rushed in, faster and higher than usual, destroying everything in its path ….
…. and here is the rather inelegant, but temporary replacement. The little mats on the lefthand side are so that dogs can walk over the bridge without their feet falling through the holes!
Posts punctuate the ever-present horizon ….
…. I like the ochre lichen on this one.
After a short while you can look out over Blakeney Pit – at low tide the mud is uncovered. In the distance you can just make out the old blue lifeboat station. This was the tip of Blakeney Point before the effects of longshore drift lengthened the spit of land.
There are miles of marsh and mud ….
…. and even though there are sounds and movement all around a sense of absolute stillness predominates.
I am running a workshop at the seaside. We will spend our time walking, noticing, collecting and making - the focus will be Sculptural Cloth.
The beach at Eastbourne will be our creative source and we will explore it with drawing, photography and beachcombing.
Back in the studio we will explore how to suggest a sense of place through shape, form and material. We will print, draw, experiment with materials, cut, stitch and construct 3-D forms with cloth ….
…. the aim is to discover through play. I am looking forward to a stimulating week in a new environment.
If you are interested in joining me on this 4-day creative retreat there is more information and you can book here.
Today has been a good washing day ….
…. and sometimes its hard to believe it is Norfolk and not a tropical island.
I have been making a new Tarpaulin Cloth and it is nearly ready to put into the sea to start the rusting process on the eyelets that I have sewn into it. I thought you would be interested in the background to the making of the series of Tarpaulin Cloths that I started for the Caught by the Tide exhibition and which looks set to continue for a while yet – I still have ideas.
The Tarpaulin series considers the processes of change that occur when cloth is exposed to the elements or left to be washed around in the sea for years.
The cloths have been exposed to different processes in order to be marked by the environment and by time. They have been left outside, hanging in a salty, coastal environment for up to 6 months or dunked into the sea so that the sewn wire eyelets begin to break down and mark the cloth. Others have been soaked in salt water that I have made up – this is a much stronger solution than seawater which only contains 3.5% salt. When the salt water evaporates from the cloth it leaves a crusted, shining residue.
Recently I have been thinking more about the ‘washed around in the sea for ages’ bit. My starting point for these cloths was the discovery of several sea-soaked, dark and twisted leather soles and insoles on the tideline a year or so ago. Their traditional construction suggested great age; they could have been floating around in the sea for 50 years or more before being washed ashore by a stray current and captured by the land. I wondered: why so many? How did they stay floating around together for so many years? Why have they ended up here?
A possible answer has been put forward by Jean Sprackland in Strands: A Year of Discoveries on the Beach. She talks about an ocean gyre – a huge, whirling current that can catch marine debris in its slow moving vortex. The North Sea is an enclosed sea – there are only three points of entry and exit. Water enters via the English Channel in the South, via the Shetland Islands in the North and exits along the Norwegian coast. It is easy to understand that rubbish dropped into the sea can get caught up in a pattern of powerful tides and currents that move it around and around until quite by chance, many years later, it appears in altered form on the beach. It could also explain the phenomenon of recurring finds – I find an old shoe sole, and then another and a bit further on another. I suppose objects of the same shape and weight can get trapped together and transported along these slowly circulating sea roads.
The thought of sea roads brings into focus the idea that the cold waters of the North Sea are a kind of highway that links the east coast of England and Scotland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Iceland. All these northlands have a shared identity that is historical, architectural and environmental ….
…. there is much to continue thinking about.
The waves photographed on Cley beach on a sharp, sunny day last autmn.
Whilst teaching last week I was asked about the processes I go through to make a body of work. I thought it worth noting part of what I wrote here …..
‘My working method harks back to the way I practised when I was playing the flute. This involved repeated playing of difficult passages to learn the fingerings or to decide what message I wanted to get across for that particular piece of music. As I practised, I got better; the notes and my playing of them changed and a performance gradually emerged from my faltering fingers.
Now I make artworks in much the same way using repetition to encourage a gradual evolution of ideas. I start with a thought and I make something. As I make other thoughts occur to me, so I make something else using the new ideas. The work changes and yet more thoughts come to me. Again and again I make things – some things work, others don’t. Sometimes I have the right colour or texture but the wrong shape so I cut it up and use the material in something else. Often things get smaller and smaller as the original material gets used and reused, but a link is created to what has gone before. Each step ends with a new work that has its own importance. I don’t make samples – everything counts whether big or small.
Repeated layers of thought and visual thinking build up on top of each other to create a body of work that meanders this way and that around a core idea. Like branches my ideas grow out and mesh together, each one linking to the idea before and the one after. I like to think that everything relates to everything else – everything I do is about everything I think.’
I’m sure this is the way many people work but for me the obsessive repetition of making is important. It is only by doing something and by being totally immersed in it, that new ideas can happen. It is a kind of thinking with the hand and eye.
I’ve been back in the studio this week starting a new cloth …. more at a later date.
I have taken a bit of time to sit at the computer and work out how to do some of the things I should have done ages ago. Consequently I have uploaded photographs from Caught by the Tide and Marking Time so that they are now much better organised and have their own dedicated space. I’ve worked out how to make a drop down menu, so if you click on ‘Gallery’ you’ll find three bodies of work with short written explanations. Keep an eye open – there are more new pages to come.
I have no pictures of new work so here is one of the White Waxed Pots sitting in the sunshine on the windowsill …. I think they are better out than packed up in a box.
This has been an odd week - for the first time in the last six months or so I haven’t made any work. Instead, I have been sorting out everything from the exhibition, finding somewhere to put it and packing it away. I’ve also been delivering and posting Cloths, Waxed Pots and Soundmark Books to people who bought them and they should now all be installed in their new homes across the country.
I’ve had a small pile of books waiting to be read and at last I’ve had the time to sit down and take a look at them.
I’ve started with Peter Davidson, Distance and Memory which is a memoir of a place. Set in Northern Scotland each essay is a reflection on art, place, history and landscape. I knew I was going to enjoy the book as I read on the first page.
‘(This book) began with a search through the miscellaneous pocket notebooks of thirty years for those half pages and flyleaves where I’d jotted down notations of the fall of light on a particular day, of words spoken or overheard that seemed worth recording. Many of these notations are about places – if I could draw they might have been sketches. As I gathered them together, a common intention began to emerge, an attempt to capture the moment, lost and yet preserved forever’.
I suppose that is what I am attempting to do when I make work – remembering and capturing a moment, notating it and then preserving it.
Well - the week of the exhibition flew by and I can’t believe that it is all packed up and put away. It was wonderful to see so many people and to chat. Thank you so much if you popped in and an even bigger thank you to those of you who bought things. It feels like a big endorsement when people want to take home the things that I have made – thank you.
It felt like a great indulgence to hang a whole body of work in a gallery – to see how it works together, to look at it and to think about it. Experiencing everything in a white space took away the closeness of being with it and working on it in my studio – I found that in the end I wasn’t really seeing. Therefore it came as a bit of a shock to realise how sculptural everything had become. Of course I knew that I had been manipulating and constructing the cloth but it was only when I saw how cohesively the wall hung and 3-D pieces worked together that the penny really dropped!
I greatly appreciated all the conversations I had with people – seeing their reaction and understanding what they got from the work – it helps me to see more clearly when I get feedback. As artists we often work in isolation (I find a lot goes on in my mind that goes unexpressed) and having the opportunity to speak about the work out loud has made me simplify and refine my ideas - to really get to grips with what I am aiming for.
Other people experience the work objectively and consequently offer a view that is not mine. Fellow textile artist Helen Terry has written a fantastic post on her blog about her reaction to Caught by the Tide. She has really understood what the work is all about and has expressed it very eloquently – read it here.
I’m all packed up and ready to go! The ideas are still coming for new work, but I’ve had to curb the creative flow and make a final decision on what I consider will make a cohesive show.
Please come along next week if you are in the area and have a look and a chat – I will be in the gallery the whole time. Here are the details ….
Caught by the Tide
An exhibition of cloth works and drawings that respond to the environment of the North Norfolk coast
by Debbie Lyddon
Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery
24, Rivington Street,
London EC2A 3DU
Monday 3rd March – Saturday 8th March 2014
Monday – Friday 11am – 6pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm
The cloth works and drawings in Caught by the Tide present a personal response to the landscape of North Norfolk, in particular to the salt marsh coast that lies between Burnham Overy Staithe and Cley-next–the Sea.
The work originates from thoughts and memories that are a consequence of experiencing this place and paying attention. In Caught by the Tide I have tried to think of ways of representing objects, happenings, sounds and textures that I have noticed in this landscape in a way that is not purely visual. Contained within all the works are visual notations of sound, textures and surfaces that encourage touch and ideas of material and process. I’m trying to say ‘Look what I have noticed. What do you think? What does it mean to you?’
Caught by the Tide aims to present a multi-sensory interpretation of the North Norfolk coast – one that can be seen, touched and heard.
I hope to see you there!
After the excitement of my holiday I have had to knuckle down to more mundane things and life has now been taken over by the last preparations for my solo exhibition, Caught by the Tide, which opens in 10 days time at the Society of Designer Craftsmen Gallery, Rivington Street, London. However organised I think I am there are always (too many) things to do! One of my final jobs has been to frame 8 small cloth fragments that are tiny versions of bigger cloths in the exhibition.
Each one is mounted on acid free card and placed in a box frame that is 29cm x 29cm. They will be for sale at the exhibition.
…. Waiting to be packed away ….
…. and a few close ups ….
…. right onwards …. labelling next!