This morning I went to Stiffkey for a mosey around. Boots, hat and gloves were needed as there was a sharp wind and it was cold, even though the sun was bright and its faint warmth occasionally managed to penetrate my waxed jacket. I had a backpack with a sketchbook and drawing stuff.
Picking my way along a path straight out towards the marsh the mud sucked at my boots. I had to scan the ground in front of my feet to find the driest, least slippery route – the slick, wetness of the mud would have had me over in a trice without concentration. Although looking intently at the ground I was still aware of what was going on around me. A skylark hovered just above, its wings barely visible, flickering up and down as it rose higher into the sky, its song becoming fainter. My clumsy footsteps disturbed a flock of brent geese that rose, chattering, into the air and the wind ruffled the dry grasses either side of the path.
Out on the marsh I faced north, looked towards the sea and drew.
My tendency is always to look north – here on the North Norfolk coast the sea always draws me. The mutability of this edgeland is endlessly fascinating – nothing is ever the same as the tide washes in and out twice a day. But today I turned around and looked back towards where I had come from. The sun shone through a stand of trees on the edge of the marsh, their winter bones, lace, as they stood silhouetted against the fields beyond.
I am absolutely delighted to have had three works accepted for the 62 Group Now exhibition at the Upfront Gallery, Unthank, Penrith. This is the first time I have exhibited with the group and I am very excited.
The exhibition is on from the 17 March to 10 May and the address is Upfront Gallery, Unthank, Nr. Hutton in the Forest, Penrith, CA11 9TG
I submitted three Salt works:
a wall piece ….
9 Hanging Salt Pots
and two free standing pieces ….
5 Blue Salt Pots (series 2)
3 Black Salt Pots
If you are in the North of England please do go along and have a look!
Last weekend I had a very enjoyable day running a workshop for Phoenix Contemporary Textiles Group. They chose to do the Exploring Colour workshop that is inspired by the colourful and exuberant work of one my favourite artists – Terry Frost. The workshop is based on a painting exercise that Frost devised for his students while teaching at Reading University where he taught painting from 1964-1981.
The aim of this exercise is to create a full palette of colours using only red, blue and yellow paint. The colours range from almost black (which is created by using all three colours together) to pure red, blue and yellow. Papers are painted and then used to make abstract collages that reference Terry Frost’s work and are inspired by colour and shape.
Here are some of the fabulous pieces of work that Phoenix produced…
It is wonderful when something you have to do coincides with something you want to do and this has just happened with a Studio 21 short project. The brief was to make something with a sewing machine, from any material and that is capable of making a repetitive sound. Well, this of course is right up my street.
Having spent the whole of last summer making Aeolian Pipes that sounded in the wind (look for the Aeolian Pipes and Air-Songs Booklet link in the righthand sidebar to read all about them), I have been considering making a series of works that will sound when they are picked up and touched. The Studio 21 brief has given me the impetus to start.
This is the first pot ….
…. it starts with a rough, low, grating as you run your fingernails slowly up the lower seams and then the pitch rises at the end to add a full stop to the sound. It reminds me of the rhythmical creaking of wood on wood as boats are gently pushed up to a jetty by rising and falling waves.
I always have the radio on as I’m working especially if I have a mundane, repetitive task to do. This afternoon as I was making samples for a forthcoming workshop, I caught an episode of Ramblings with Claire Balding on Radio 4 which was particularly interesting. It has left me thinking and I thought it was worth mentioning it to you.
The present series of Ramblings discovers how walking can be a way of bonding; with friends or other people etc. Today’s episode was with travel writer Philip Marsden and considered how walking could be a way of bonding with place. Philip Marsden has just written a book, Rising Ground, in which he explores why we react so strongly to certain landscapes and what makes them so special.
His new book includes thoughts about the area of Cornwall where he now lives. He talks about falling in love with the place – with all the feelings, sensitivities and yearnings that go with that state. It is, he says, an intense and physical response and one that is fundamental to whom we are – we define ourselves through the experiences and stories that we encounter in that place. It is an idea I relate to. The more you know a place the more you learn to love it. You become sensitive to its little quirks and changes; you can become upset by careless planning verdicts or if an eyesore is allowed to ruin a view. You’re elated when you encounter an animal or bird in an unusual place (like the first time I saw a seal up Sluice Creek in Wells far from their normal stomping ground …. Do seals stomp?).
So why do we react in such a way with certain places? Is it because of the associations we have with places we knew as children and the value we put on those places? Or is it the shape of the land? Marsden talks about geographical characteristics that have historically attracted people to a particular spot– he calls them collective places. These locations have an extraordinary presence that has always been special and consequently stories and myths have built up around them.
However what I love isn’t necessarily going to be what you love – your feelings won’t be the same as mine. Each one of us senses a place differently. Our mind and our eyes are in constant interaction – how we see, or indeed use all our senses, is conditioned by our brains and so our feelings for a place are personal. They are determined by prior knowledge and experience, subjective perception and selection.
There is much to think about and if you were wondering about the title of this post: Topophilia is a love of or emotional connection with place or physical environment. The photos are from a ramble of my own taken at Wells last weekend.
I have known for a long time how important drawing is to my practice and I also know that I tend to scribble things down in a rather inconsequential manner on scrappy bits of paper. Consequently I’m on a drive to do more drawing and to actually produce something worthwhile – something that works in it’s own right but that could also open up ways to extend my textile practice.
Some of you may have noticed some photos of etching plates popping up in my instagram feed in the sidebar. Printing is something I’ve dabbled in before – on my MA and other courses – but now I feel the time is right to set to and really understand the process so that I can begin to make the medium my own. I’m at the beginning, but I’m really enjoying the slow process of building up tonal layers on the metal plates.
Here are 3 drawings. They are studies or formative ideas for possible aquatint prints. I’m using my pen to get my mind around the layering process required.To stop out with varnish and dip in acid again and again to produce light to dark tones. They are of course images of the saltmarshes in North Norfolk and are quite small – approx. 15×10 cms.
It may be a while before I’ve got a finished print, but I’ll keep you posted!
It’s always interesting to make something that’s out of the scope of your own practice. As a member of a group that usually sets a brief for their exhibitions I relish the opportunity to get my teeth into something different. The textile group Studio 21 have an exhibition coming up in the autumn that is inspired by ‘the sewing machine’ – The Sewing Machine Project. We started by pulling apart some old machines, looking at their mechanics and drawing, painting, rubbing and generally getting to know the bits you don’t normally see. The project has developed and many of the members are now looking at the social and historical implications of the sewing machine. It is very interesting and I’ll write about this more as my ideas develop.
For now here is a tiny new work made for the project. The brief was to make something which had the dimensions of less than 20x20cms, was blue and made of cloth. It was to use machine stitching only. I have called it Seam (I think even small work should be titled). It may well be the first of several ‘seamed’ pieces as I think I am moving in the direction of cutting, piecing and seaming.