A week of collecting – Day 1

Happy New Year everyone!

To start 2016 I am doing a short, simple project responding to the brief of The Archive Project, an exhibition I am taking part in at Haslemere Museum in February. The exhibition explores ideas around collecting, selecting, ordering and classifying. Over the next seven days I will walk, select and draw one object that I have collected from the beach. The drawing will be accompanied by simple notes.

Day 1: Mermaid’s Purse – Wells Beach, Norfolk


There is little on the strandline to collect today. The tide hasn’t reached this far for a while and nothing of interest has been added to the normal detritus of dessicated seaweed and broken shells. A mermaid’s purse lies half hidden, camouflaged in the continuous dark line of weed that tops the high water line.

A mermaid’s purse is the empty outer casing of eggs laid by sharks, skates or rays. When wet the sea purses are soft and slimy, but as they dry they become soft and shrivelled. In this state they are remarkably tough and virtually indestructible.

I think this is a skate or ray case but it is difficult to distinguish them. Its capsule length is 6 cm and could be a Spotted Ray case – Raja Montagui.


5 thoughts on “A week of collecting – Day 1

  1. Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

    Oh so fascinating! I don’t ever see them on ‘my’ beach here on the west coast of New Zealand . . . if I did I’d be thinking about what I can make with them. Will they soften with soaking so I can manipulate them? Will they reach a leathery stage and can I preserve them at that stage? How much shrinkage is there? How can I weave into them with harakeke? How fragile are they when dry? See? It’s too late! In my mind I’m making use of them already and I haven’t even seen a real one! Oh, it’s lovely to have the mind of a Maker.

    1. debbielyddon Post author

      Hi Wendy, you’re right – there is a real urge to make something with them. When the mermaid’s purses are dry they are hard and leathery – I’m sure you could stich them, join them or add other things to them. They can be softened and manipulated and left to dry again …. I have tried!

  2. Pingback: A week of documenting: Cornwall – Day 1 | debbie lyddon

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