Holes (again)

I am on holiday in Cornwall and a trip to the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden in St Ives has provided much inspiration.

In the museum I read:

‘Even as in music, not only the sounds but also the silences enter into the rhythm of the composition, so matter and empty space form in their harmony these carvings.’

That sums up everything I have been thinking about holes, space and material. There is no more to say ……

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Blue and white cloth

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It is almost the perfect day for me here today. Bright sunshine gives warmth (no coat!), the sharp north-easterly wind is fresh (bordering on chilly) and I can smell the ozone in the air. I’m up early and feeling energetic so I decide to walk to the beach to sea dip the cloth that I finished sewing last week.

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This is the fifth cloth that I have made in this series. I am reasonably happy with this one at the moment although I’ll have to see what it looks like when the sea has done its job and rusted the sewn iron rings. Some of the rings have been waxed so the stitching will resist the rust staining others will go quite brown/orange. I think I might salt it as well – the embedded salt crystals will give a subtle sparkle to the pale coloured cloth.

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I decide to wait until high tide to dip the cloth. Although I like the extremes of the tide (and there is more significance to putting the cloth in the water at a known point in time), the main reason for doing it when the tide is right up is a practical one – at high tide the water has covered the muddy areas and by using a sandy part of the beach I can prevent the light coloured linen from becoming too dirty.

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Although it looks hot, the North Sea was jolly cold – toe-numbing but definitely bracing!

Yellow cloth

Things are a bit frantic here at the moment what with exhibitions going up and being stewarded and two deadlines looming for future exhibitions. I am also continuing to make work for my gallery at the Knitting and Stitching show in the autumn ….. sometimes I feel as if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew!

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The good weather we have been having recently has helped my time pressures enormously. I need to paint large pieces of cloth and it is so good to be able to go out into the garden on a warm day and spread out and drip in the open air. Everything dries so much quicker in a gentle warm breeze than in a cold, dark garage which is where I have to do wet stuff in the winter. Only a month ago it was taking 4 or 5 days to dry an equivalent cloth.

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It is so much easier not to have to worry about covering the floor as outside the drips just soak away into the grass.

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The shadows stand out on the vibrant yellow ochre ….

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and as the cloth is a loose weave linen so you can see through it as well.

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These marks were a very serendipitous and timely surprise!

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Of course within half an hour the sun had gone in and it was raining which is good for the garden but it’s back into the garage to paint the next layer today!

 

Select Festival 2016

Textile group Studio 21 are taking their Exhibition The Sewing Machine Project to the Select Festival 2106, Stroud. I am helping to put up the exhibition next Monday and it opens on Tuesday until the end of May. Do go along and have a look if you are in the area. I’ll be there on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 May and also for the ‘meet the artists’ session from 12-2pm on Saturday 7 May.

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There is a lot going on during the festival with exhibitions, lectures, workshops and the Select Trail where you can meet artists and buy and work. There is more information and a copy of the Festival brochure here. 

 

Sluice Creek

You close your eyes and see

the stillness of
the mullet-nibbled arteries, samphire
on the mudflats almost underwater,
and on the saltmarsh whiskers of couch-grass
twitching, waders roosting, sea-lavender
faded to ashes.

From Here, at the Tide’s Turning, Kevin Crossley-Holland

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The work I have been concentrating on for the past 9 months is for the autumn Knitting and Stitching shows and is, as always, inspired by the North Norfolk coast. It comprises a major new body of work The Sluice Creek Cloths.

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Sluice Creek is a narrowing watercourse that runs off the main channel at Wells-next-the-Sea and from it spring a network of meandering creeks and tributaries. Running through the saltings its banks are rich with mud, sea lavender, samphire and birds. Rotting posts, the remains of bridges and jetties, dot its edges. On the highest tides the whole area is totally covered by water but at low tide the water drains away to leave a slick, shining surface rich in nutrients and teeming with life. It is a complex, ever-changing place and I have sailed here at high tide and walked over the mud. I know it well, but its twice daily ebb and flow  means there is a continuous transformation and it hasn’t given up all its secrets to me yet.

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The cloths reflect a series of vividly remembered encounters and engagements with this place: things I have heard and seen and noticed.  Each work notates an ordinary but memorable, event: the movement of the tides, the sun moving over the marsh and creating shadows, the clink of halyards knocking against masts, the call of a curlew or the moment the moon rises above the horizon.

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So far I have made four cloths and I hope there will be more. I’m not ready to show them yet (I will do before long), so in the meantime I have been playing around with my new printing press and these drypoint, collograph and carborundum prints are trials! They are of Sluice Creek and are drawn from memory.

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Rainbow

It’s been a week of dodging showers – typical April weather. Here are some notes from my sketchbook written whilst weather watching from the comfort of the beachhut….

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‘At the moment I am sitting in the sun, but all around me are clouds and the grey cloak of falling rain. The clouds don’t appear to be moving fast but the weather is changing by the minute.

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The sky darkens overhead, but on the horizon the wind farm is suddenly illuminated as the sun catches it with passing light. The slow-turning tri-sailed arms stand brightly in front of a darkening sky but they quickly change as the sun moves across them. One moment the front rank of windmills are shining white and the back ones are black. Seconds later they reverse and the back ones appear white and the front ones dark. One lone white windmill stands out – the light moves on and it too turns dark.

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To the east the dark, dark outlined shadow of the pines dominates the skyline. To the west a heavy grey line of clouds lets go its moisture. In the foreground the wet and dry tones of the sand reflects the clouds above.

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A motorboat chugs in towards the quay on the flood tide and chattering voices float on the air from far across the sand. Suddenly, with a slight change in wind direction, I hear the sound of breaking waves.

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The heavy clouds, that are moving west to east, disgorge their load over the East Hills and immediately after is sun and a brilliant cyan sky. A rainbow slowly emerges. Rising upwards from its base it slowly joins to make a full arc.’

Sea Dipping

I have finally got to the stage with part of my latest piece of work where I can dip it into the sea and I have been thinking about why this process is so important to me.

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Recently, I have placed the finished cloths into the sea two or three times. This, I thought, was principally to rust the iron rings that I had sewn into them, but it has become obvious that the process of taking the cloth to water has more significance than just the visual effect of the rusting.

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The cloths are inspired by vividly remembered encounters and engagements with the coast: processes, sights and sounds of the the sea, the beach and the marshland. Placing the work and photographing it in the environment that inspired it somehow brings the whole thought process back full circle.

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For me the work I make in response to a place is about the experience of looking, touching, hearing, light and space. The work, for me, is not separate from the original experience. The energy of the place is within the energy of the piece, although its form and material come from my imagination. The introduction of the work to the place brings together two halves of a whole.

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The photographs I take of this ‘introduction’ are not a work in themselves, but the documentation of bringing work and place together is highly significant to me and the photographs form a visual record of the act. The other record is of course the resulting rust marks that stain the cloth from the contact of sea and iron.

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Without this baptism in the sea the work would not be complete.