The Archive Project

Yesterday I spent the day helping to put up an exhibition, The Archive Project’, at Haslemere Educational Museum. The Archive Project originates from an idea conceived by four artists using textile and mixed media: Mary Morris, Debbie Lyddon, Poppy Szaybo and Denise Jones. Thoughts about collecting, selecting, ordering and classifying have been collaboratively discussed and explored for this project, and are evidenced in this first exhibition of their work.

Here are some pictures of the exhibition.





The statement of my work says:

‘Looking around the museum I was attracted to the Natural History collection and in particular the coral and shells. I particularly liked the sign next to the Razor Shells (Ensis Siliqua) that tells us that these creatures ‘burrow in the sand’. This prompted me to look more closely at the objects I find lying around as I walk on the beaches of the North Norfolk coast (many of which are indeed buried in the sand). I have created two series of work for this exhibition: one is based on a real collection and one is imaginary.’

I am pleased with the work (titled Liminal Objects) as it sits simply on the table. Enclosed in acrylic boxes and placed on sand I think together they look a bit like a scientific collection.






You can look at and read my Journal and Sketchbook that I documented earlier in the year here on the blog.

More information on the other artists can be found here.


A sunny day. A walk at Cley starting at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust visitor centre and then out across the marsh, along the beach and back along the East bank.


There are hundreds of geese on the marsh which for some reason suddenly take off and fill the air with their chattering.


On the beach the tide is out. It is probably as far out as I have ever seen it go – the tidal range on this part of the coast is quite small and often it is hard to tell the state of the tide.


Half way along the section of beach we are walking I see regularly spaced posts sticking up out of the sand. I haven’t seen them before – I don’t know why not.



I love the way that some of the larger posts have pebbles caught in the cracks. I wonder how often the force of the tide wrenches them out and replaces them in a different order?




This must have been a man-made structure, possibly a jetty or some sort of sea defence. There are the remains of brick buildings buried in the sand and they could be connected to these …. I’ll have to find out.



Walking back along the dyke the sun is dazzling and it lights up the frothy tops of the reeds. They whisper as they move gently in the wind.

Back at the visitor centre we have an excellent cup of coffee …. perfect!


A week of collecting – final outcome

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the Week of Collecting project that I finished last week. It was such an satisfying, yet simple, exercise and one that I will definitely do again in the future.


The project was rewarding on several levels. Firstly, it was of course good to get out and walk and look and decide what to pick up and take home. It was good practise to write concisely about what I had collected and to hone my thoughts about that particular object. Finally it was very good to draw everyday.


This was quite nerve-wrecking as I had decided to do my drawings on one continuous piece of paper so that I could bind them into a concertina book at the end. If I went wrong the whole thing would have been ruined and by the end of the week I was beginning to get quite nervous about putting paint to paper. Drawing this way makes you think and observe and consider much more carefully than normal.


I did  however have one shot at getting the drawing right in the journal that I recorded and documented my findings.


Both of these hand-bound books will be on display at The Archive Project exhibition at Haslemere Educational Museum in February.

Along with the books I’m also showing a series of small sea-purses and other imagined objects that could well have been found on the strand-line. Here they are photographed on the beach and give a clue as to how they will be displayed in the museum.





I’ll give you a preview when they are ready ….

A week of collecting – Day 7

Day 7: Wells Beach – Oyster Shell

(Ostrea Edulis)


I found this pockmarked shell on a dry sandy part of the beach that is only covered by water a few times a year. It is old and worn but nevertheless there are still parts that are shiny and pearlised. The tiny holes scattered across the surface of the shell are evidence of a former infestation by boring sponges.

A week of collecting – Day 6

Day 6: Wells Beach – Bladderwrack

(Fucus Vesticulosus)


It is a dull, drizzly sort of day with a damp mist obscuring the horizon. On the beach it is totally calm with not a breath of wind. I walk to the sand dune that lies in front of the beach-huts. The dune is ringed with a strand-line flecked with black calligraphic lines – bladderwrack.

Fragments of this seaweed can be found strewn right along the North Norfolk coastline. On the shoreline, close to the sea, the dark fragments are limp and slimy, but high on the strand-line  they become dry, curling, dessicated strands that have a red tinge to them.

I have made whistles out of the larger air sacks which when dry are very tough.

A week of collecting – Day 5

Day 5: Wells Beach – Common whelk with Acorn Barnacles

(Buccinam Undatum, Balanus Balanoides)


A late afternoon walk, which at the beginning of January means about 3.30 in the afternoon just before the sun sets. As we walk onto the beach the low sun breaks through the clouds and illuminates the surf which is running diagonally across the water on the outgoing tide. It is quite spectacular .

There is still not much to find here on Wells beach. It is surprising how little material, both natural and man-made washes up. I choose something that could be picked up any day – a common whelk (Buccinam Undatum). This one is encrusted with large, sharp acorn barnacles (Balanus Balanoides). Acorn barnacles are the most common barnacle found around our shores. They attach themselves to hard surfaces such as rocks, wooden piers, buoys and the bottom of boats. Razor-edged, they remind me of summer, bare legs and feet and scratchy cuts.

A week of collecting – Day 4

Day 4: Holkham Beach – Vertebra


I’m out early to avoid the rain forecast later in the day. Walking through the pines I come out onto the beach over the dunes and almost immediately I see a section of thin, spinal bone sticking up through the sand in a stony section of the beach. Although partially hidden, it is a completely different shape to the small, round pebbles surrounding it. It is small (55mm x 55mm), white and spiky. It must be quite old as the edges are worn and rounded by the action of the sea.

I can’t identify it. I think it is too small to be a bone from one of the Common or Grey seals that breed further up the coast at Blakeney Point. I wonder if it could be a section of spine from one of the sheep that used to graze the salt marshes at Wells years ago?