Walk 3 – Hunstanton

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Hunstanton is a bit out of my way. I know it’s only a fifteen miles along the coast but it’s not a place a generally go out of my way to visit. However, recently I wanted to go and look at the stripy, white, red and orange chalk cliffs as research for a new piece of work.

These are the notes from my sketchbook:

‘Grey/white on top – brick red below.

Gulls nesting on ledges – croaking calls.

Grass – thin layer- on top.

 

 The cliffs come to an abrupt and brutal end as they turn the corner.

Sharp ridges and ledges where the cliff face has fallen away.

Fissures diagonally across its face.

Grass clinging.

 

Underneath, brick red chalk holds up white chalk.

Large chalk boulders at the base of the cliff.

Smaller chalk stones and pebbles are washed away from the base of the cliff and have been dragged over the beach by the sea’s action.

 

Bleak, stark, uncared for.

North-west facing – dank, cold, damp.

I imagine the sun rarely reaches the cliff face and so never has the chance to dry out.

Green/grey coating to the white chalk.

Grass in all the crevices.

Large mossy stones on the beach.’

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The looming cliffs cut out any warm southerly light; the beach is in shadow and the resulting cold and damp isn’t helped by a wintery day and a sharp northerly wind. I collect a few chalk pebbles to experiment with – they are freezing cold – and hurry back to the car. I need a cup of coffee …. perhaps it this place would feel more welcoming in the summer.

Walk 2 – Burnham Overy State

Winter. It is a grey, drizzly day that bodes only to get worse. However, I decide to go out for a walk anyway. As I pull onto the hard standing at Burnham Overy Staithe my first thought is, ‘I should have bought my camera!’. Although the wide grey sky is giving off a surprising amount of light, everything before me is drained of colour and blurred in the mist. It is a monochrome landscape. There is detail in the foreground, but horizontal lines of mud, water and sand dune fade into the haze.

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The raised dyke is slippery. Flints stick up out of the mud; slick and shiny, they add to the feeling of instability underfoot and I have to look at the ground to stop myself from slipping. A few yards on the path gets better and I can look up – there are birds everywhere. It’s low tide and they are dotted, like tiny ants, across the wet, silvery marsh. They are too far away to make out what they are, but with binoculars each one is revealed and there is a huge variety feeding on the mud: Dunlin, redshank, several curlews, and a couple of golden plovers. Suddenly a flock of lapwing rise up into the sky, their frilly wings flap as they twist and turn; dancing in the sky.

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I walk on and movements on all sides grab my attention. A great flock of Brent geese fly over in formation; as they pass over more come in from the west. They are looking for a place to land and graze. The formation breaks as they glide down towards the marsh and chaos breaks out as each bird tries to find a space to land. Their chattering calms to a contented honk as they begin to feed.

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The mud flats are slick and shiny, and in this misty, light they are devoid of colour. Deep channels are cut into the smooth, flat surface by the actions of the tides and here meandering black shadows echo the outline of dunes in the distance. Almost colourless tones of layered marsh and mud fade to the feint smudge of horizon.

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A tinkling, tinselly sound catches my ear: goldfinches. A flock of these small birds fly in from behind and land on a bush just ahead of me. As I get nearer, they rise up and I catch small flashes of yellow as they flit through the air before swooping down into a small bush just ahead. This game is repeated several times more as I follow them along the dyke. Finally, they rise up for a final time and dart off over the marsh to find a new feeding place.

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At the beach it’s really too cold to sit, but with a cup of coffee from the flask I note down the birds out on the sand. In the distance, by the sea edge are a flock of cormorants holding their wings out to dry. Closer in along a curving sea-river are more redshank, oystercatchers, dunlin and a ruff. Just in front of me two turnstones are pecking around in the tideline; there must be goodness amongst the dying sea debris.

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As I turn to walk back along the dyke I notice that the clouds have lifted. Maybe there is a hint of sun low on the horizon. Everything definitely seems brighter and more defined out here on the marsh.

Walk 1 – Cley

There is a ‘big’ high tide and I decide to go for a walk at Cley.  Driving past the quay at Wells I see the environment agency people out in full force and so decide to drive down to the quay at Blakeney on the way, just to have a look.

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A strong northerly wind is pushing the water higher than it is supposed to go, and the water is lapping over Blakeney quay. When the wind pushes the tide in like this it becomes obvious why tall, sturdy poles line its edge. The boats strain their moorings as they level with the top of the quay and are pushed up against the restraining posts by the wind and the water; without these poles the boats would be grounded, high and dry, as the water ebbs away.

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I carry on to Cley and driving down the road to the beach I can see enormous waves topping the shingle bank – it is going to be a dramatic sight. The car park just behind the beach is full of water; the sea seems to be seeping through the shingle and filling the lower ground. Out of the car I’m hit by the full force of the wind and quickly realise that a walk along the beach would be potentially dangerous as huge waves are crashing high up the beach, higher than I have ever seen them go before. In places they top the bank and surge down the other side onto the marsh.

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As I stand and watch, other people appear, and also stand mesmerised by the boiling sea. They have cameras and take photos but I have nothing to record the scene with. Instead I just look.

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Spray is blown high into the sky by the wind as the waves peak and then crash down. The sound is deafening: a loud, thundering roar that resonates deep inside you and the rasping, scrape of stones as they are pulled by the back draft. Seagulls are swooping low, flying just above the waves. They seem to be playing dare, as every now and then one flies below a breaking crest into the seething belly of the wave, before rising up again to glide, unconcerned, above the foaming water.

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It’s hard to describe the power and insistence of the sea, but when I get home I do some drawings to try and capture its movement …. I think they are rather too tame!

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Reading

The Knitting and Stitching shows have finished. It was a wonderful experience and so good to speak to so many enthusiastic people and to get such positive feedback. Thank you to everyone who came, looked, asked questions and were fantastically encouraging. I was exhausted at the end but have spent the past week catching up on domestic things and having a bit of a sit down!

For me this has meant catching up on some reading. I divide my reading matter into ‘upstairs’ books (a secret love of detective fiction) that are for reading in bed and ‘downstairs’ books (books I can get my teeth into and learn something new). I read from a wide range of  topics: anthropology, history, natural history and science, and both poetry and prose, to name just a few.

At the moment I have a pile of books waiting to be read

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and two journals that I have recently bought.

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Elementum describes itself as a journal of nature and story that includes writing from Cornwall showcasing art, photography & features inspired by our connection to the ocean & landscape. This is the first volume and it explores the theme of Calling. It is beautifully produced on nice paper and has wonderful photographs and artwork. I have ordered the second volume that will arrive soon. The second journal, Reliquae, is printed by the Corbel Stone Press and is also a compendium of poetry and prose about landscape, place and philosophy.

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There’s nothing I like better in the winter than to draw the curtains when it gets dark, make a cup of tea and sit down and read …. this lot will keep me going for a while. (I always have a pencil for marking interesting passages and this one above is particularly good!)

I’m taking a break from all social media over the Christmas period. It will be a time to relax, recharge and catch up. I’ll be back in the New Year to let you know about an idea that has been percolating in my mind for a while.

Finally, you may like to know that I have put four Marshscape Collages into my shop.

 

Harrogate Knit & Stitch show

This week I’m gearing up for the next Knitting and Stitching show that starts in Harrogate next week. My gallery is a slightly different size and shape to the one at Ally Pally and so I’ve had to do a rethink of what I am going to show and how it is going to look.

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This gallery is squarer and smaller than before and so, like at Ally Pally, there won’t be room to show all of my Sluice Creek Cloths. At Ally Pally I was able to include the largest of the cloths – Curlew Song, but there won’t be room for it in Harrogate. Because of its large size, Curlew Song needs to be hung on an outside wall of the gallery, (inside it dominates the space and overpowers the other exhibits). On an outside wall it has space and you, as a viewer can look at it from a distance. Unfortunately I haven’t got a large enough outside wall this time around but I am very pleased that the wall is big enough for the Sluice Creek ClothTidal Flow, which I haven’t previously shown. This means that I will be able to hang all the smaller cloths together for the first time.

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I want the gallery space to look uncluttered and let the cloths have room to ‘breathe’, but I think there will still be wall space and so I have made some more small Marshscape Collages to replace the ones that I sold at the last show. I’ve made quite a lot! There are two groups of nine – one greenish/black group and one bluish/black group. They are the same format as before: 20 x 20cms, mounted on painted board with a waxed linen ‘frame’. Until I get there I won’t know whether I will hang both groups – it depends on the space, how I feel, how they look etc. etc….!

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Here are a selection of photos from the greenish group.

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Do come and say hallo if you are at the show.

Workshops

I’ve had a spell of doing workshops recently and as a result I’ve had a few enquiries about future ones. I will be teaching  Waxed and Stitched Collage at InStitches, Wokingham, Surrey on 19 and 20 January 2017. This is already full but it is worth contacting them to go on the waiting list as they will be adding another date later in the year.

We’ll be doing this sort of thing ….. these are mine!

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I’m also teaching an Exploring Place workshop for Tex Art Academy  amongst the chestnut trees and mountains in beautiful Mugena, Switzerland. This will be an exploration for me as well as you as I haven’t been to this place before. It is a wooded environment full of light, shadows and birdsong rather than a coastal landscape and I am very excited to have new materials and experiences to play with.

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We’ll be sensing and documenting the environment using drawing, mark-making, sound recording and writing and then back in the studio will experiment with paper, cloth, stitch, collage and printmaking to create a record of the explorations.

Here is some student work from a previous workshop – mark-making and collage.

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We’ll also do some 3-D work …

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The student work above was made on the Sculptural Forms workshop that was held recently at the wonderful Studio 11, Eastbourne and I am going to do another Textile Re-Treat there in 2018. Details are yet to be confirmed but again it is worth contacting Christine Chester to go on the waiting list.

I update my website as new workshops come up so if you are interested please keep an eye on it.

Breathing deeply

I haven’t been up in Wells for a month as my life recently has been taken up with exhibiting and teaching. It has been hectic but exciting. I had a flying visit yesterday for one night as I wanted to go the the AGM of the North Norfolk Exhibition Project. I showed work for this wonderful organisation at Cley Church in the summer and I’ll be putting in a proposal for CLEY17 next year.

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I managed to fit in 2 walks in the 24 hours that I was there – a chance to stretch my legs and to take some deep breaths of fresh air. This morning I got up at dawn (which isn’t that early at this time of year) to have a look around.

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It was high tide and there wasn’t a breath of wind. The sun was just coming up, peeping through building clouds and silhouetting  the pontoon and boats as I looked back towards the town. The still water was like a mirror as the sunlight was reflected back into the sky. Geese were chattering, out of sight, over on the marsh and every now and then there was the peep of a redshank. The wash of a lone fishing boat split the flat water in two as it wended its way, twisting backwards and forwards, along the channel out to the open water.

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I sat on a bench quietly to look and listen – there was no one else about.

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It’s good to breathe deeply and relax.