Author Archives: debbielyddon

About debbielyddon

I am a textile artist

Fragments

At the beginning of this year, just after the first lockdown began, I was supposed to be having an exhibition of new work here at the Art Gallery in Wells. Unfortunately, lockdown happened and it was postponed. For various reasons, and the fact that everything is so uncertain at the moment, I am unable to reschedule it in the near future.

I have been wracking my brain as to what to do. I am still hoping to find a gallery to show this new body of work soon, but in the meantime I am going to do what others are doing and just show some of the works to you digitally here on my blog. In the New Year, I hope that there will be a new publication with writing and photographs as well.

Day Moon, 104x104cm

I have called the whole body of work Fragments and it is a response to diverse recollections of my experience of walking the coast, both during the day and at night. I have created word-sketches, drawings, 2-D and 3-D textile works that explore evidence of natural phenomena and the continuous, and often infinitesimal processes of change that transform the landscape and the objects in it.

At the heart of this work are words that I have written. In the essay at the beginning of the book I say, ‘At first, I just write down words as I recall, and try to articulate the experience. Nothing fancy, just a stream of narrative consciousness. But very soon I find myself trying to find a different, or better word. I move words around. I cut words out. I simplify. I compose. My aim is to find an expression that is the essence of the experience.’

The first two pieces I am going to show you today are titled Day Moon and Night Walking. They highlight two really very obvious phenomena, things that you will probably have noticed yourselves, but the two works came about when I questioned what I was looking at and didn’t fully understand what was happening or I was seeing. Curiosity, I find, is one of my fundamental criteria to making work.

Day Moon, detail

Norfolk Fragment: Day Moon

Afternoon.

The first week of January.

For the past week, around midday, I have been watching the moon rise.

Hanging low in the sky a slivered crescent has slowly grown

to its present bloated, waxing gibbous state.

In a few days, after the full moon, the pale day moon 

will again become a luminous night moon.

Question – I always think of the moon as being in the sky at night, so why exactly do I see it during the day? I didn’t know, so I looked it up. The answer?

  • Half of the moon’s surface is always illuminated by the sun. 
  • It takes 27.3 days for the moon to make a complete orbit around the Earth (sidereal period)
  • It takes 29.5 days to for the moon to appear in the same phase in the sky (orbital period)
  • The moon goes through 8 phases in the orbital period
  • At the start of the cycle, when closest to the sun, the moon is hidden by the brightness of the sun and disappears for 3 days before it appears again as a New Moon.
  • The only phase that the moon is in the sky all night is the Full Moon when it rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. After that the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. (which is why we see the moon during the day).

The second piece that works very well alongside Day Moon is called Night Walking.

Night Walking – Betelgeuse, 110x108cm

Norfolk Fragment: Night Walking – Betelgeuse

Late evening. 

The beach bank, wrapped in darkness,

Catch at the back of your nose cold and very, very clear

Looking north, away from the sodium glare of the town, 

more and more stars are revealed 

as my eyes become accustomed to the dark.

To the west, an indistinct smudge of light above is the Milky Way,

Orion’s spear is clear and bright beneath his three-starred belt

and W-shaped Cassiopeia. 

To the north the Plough.

And then a star falls, and another, and again, 

out of the corner of my eye in my peripheral vision, 

another falling star and another. 

Five shooting stars in a row are a rare treat.

Night Walking – Betelgeuse, detail

Question – what stars am I looking at?

Night Walking simply satisfies my curiosity as to what stars I am looking at when I look up. It highlights Betelgeuse, the red star, and you can see it just above Orion’s Belt in the Orion constellation. It is the rusty red eyelet.

Night Walking – Betelgeuse, detail

The slightly larger eyelet below and to the left is Sirius or the Dog Star. It is in the constellation Canis Major and is the brightest star in the night sky.

Online Talks

With the ongoing pandemic and uncertainty as to whether the workshops in my diary are going to go ahead next year, I have decided not to book any more workshops in my studio in Wells for 2021. 

However, I have done a few online talks via Zoom in the past few weeks and have decided to do a few more if you would like to hear me speak about my work and its inspiration. 

During the talk I describe my love of walking, of collecting, of being curious, of telling stories and of making, and outline some of the things that inform my work. I use PowerPoint with photos of the landscape up here in Norfolk and, of course, photos of the work itself.

I talk about the natural processes and phenomena that inspire me – light, weather, water – and some of the material processes that I use to evoke them. I explain why impermanence, change and degeneration play a large part in the making of my work.

I want to make things interesting and varied so I play sound recordings from the environment and video clips of some of the work being made. I have samples and sketchbooks on hand to show you, and at the end there is ample time for some chat and questions.

The great thing about Zoom, and and a huge positive since the beginning of the pandemic, is that it can bring people closer together. Already I have spoken to people in the States and Canada – incredible!

At the moment I am booking for groups only, but may well put up some dates for individuals to book onto in the New Year – I’ll see what sort of response I get first.

More information here.

Shop update

I have been meaning to address my online shop for some time and things just kept getting in the way – you know how it is. First, all my children and their partners descended on Wells for a summer/post lockdown holiday (which was wonderful); and then a local gallery asked to take some of my collages, so a few went there; and then I had an open studio and I sold some things, so, coupled with the fact that the weather has been so good and I wanted to get outside, updating the shop went to the bottom of the list.

   

Sometimes you have to welcome bad weather. We have had simply atrocious (and destructive) weather over the past few days. 60 mile an hour winds have blown down trees and sunk boats, and heavy rain has caused flooding. It is grey and damp. But the upside is that I have been able to spend a bit of time at my computer doing things that I don’t always find time to do.

I have put some work up for sale. Some collages….

Some watercolours….

And some individually painted handmade cards….

The collages have all been created intuitively and they are images of the North Norfolk coastline (mainly from just outside my studio on the salt marshes in Wells) that come from my memory: the shape of a bend in the creek, the rocking of moored boats or the outline of the creeks. They are about shape, colour, light and space. I go out with my sketchbook and draw. These drawings are never ‘copied’ in my collage work, but instead the act of drawing sets an image into my mind that I can draw on later (no pun intended).

The small watercolours have been created ‘in situ’, and I go out with my paintbox and draw my impressions of what I see and hear. Again they are about shape, colour, light and space but executed with a watery medium that I think expresses so well the local landscape.

Finally, these little cards originally came from a body of work that I did a couple of years ago and considered the connection between the visual and aural landscape of the North Norfolk coast. Again they are interpretations drawn from my visual memory, and are a combination of inventiveness and actuality. 

You can find my online shop here.

Kingfisher

Marshscape Collage – the view from the studio window at high tide

Yesterday I saw a kingfisher. I was sitting outside the studio, looking at the ebbing tide with a cup of coffee. Taking a moment just to be.

Suddenly, driving fast and low above the surface of the draining water, a flash of iridescent blue. My eyes lock onto the speeding blur it as it passes directly in front of me and, as if they are joined to it by strings, they follow the wink of coloured light as it races fast and away to the right until out of sight. 

5 seconds of wonder and excitement. 

I strain to see it again. Hoping it will turn and come back. But the miraculous bird has gone, and I am left with a feeling that something special has happened.

How, I ask myself, can I capture that brief sense of movement, absorption and marvel in a piece of work?

Drawing day

I’ve just spent the whole day outside drawing. For one reason or another this is something I haven’t done for quite a long time. It has been a very enjoyable day and I realise that I must get back into the habit of taking a sketchbook out with me as I have refreshed my mind, come up with a few ideas and generally reinvigorated myself. Drawing is good therapy!

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I sat in one spot with a good friend for four hours and drew, and chatted, and wrote. We were sitting in a slightly elevated position above the marsh between Stiffkey and Morston almost opposite Blakeney point. The tide was out when we arrived and it was high tide when we finally packed up and left. There was plenty of time to take everything in and to notice the changes taking place before my eyes.

These are my drawings which I have interspersed with some of my written ‘noticings’.

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Prickly grass on my back

Itchy

Crickets

Grass gently bobbing

Water laps, wind hisses.

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Purple sea lavender is smudged across the marsh. It will have faded to brown in a week or two.

The sun comes out, and sand in the distance out by the sea flashes a bright creamy, white.

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Boats move gently back and forth on their moorings. Blown one way by the wind and then pushed back again by the incoming tide.

Pipit

Chaucer

Why Knot

LN5 Kings Lynn – Mary Jane

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A cobweb is caught in a gorse bush – the wind blows it but it doesn’t break.

Birds like boats take off from the surface of the water.

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Light, dark, light, dark

Seagulls fly over and their wings flap light, dark, light, dark. Reflecting fluttering bunting from boats on the marsh.

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Birds, high, high up

Tiny dots

flying together like a pepper pot against the clouds

extend and curve out into the blue sky.

Fish Traps

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My studio was formerly an old whelkshed – a place where fishermen would bring mussels and whelks to be to be washed and cooked. It is in an area which is still very much the working part of Wells-next-the-Sea and I am surrounded by buildings and paraphernalia that are used today by fishermen and the staff who keep the harbour running efficiently. In the unadopted lane that runs past the studio there are always stacks of both old and new lobster creels and traps, and old anchors and massive pieces of worn oak (the remains of wooden sailing ships) rest outside the boat park having been scooped out of mud by the dredger as it keeps the channel clear for boats. These are all an indication of both the town’s past and present activity.

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Although my work does carry latent indications of man’s intervention in the landscape as I echo man-made objects such as jetties, sluices, and the remains of old wooden structures that can be found all across the marsh, I realise that I don’t very often directly address the idea of man in the landscape as my bias is mostly towards the effect of natural processes. With this in mind I have looked just outside the studio for inspiration to the objects lying there that are the immediate evidence of human activity in this environment – lobster pots.

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The pots, or creels, used here on the North Norfolk coast for catching shellfish – mainly lobsters and crabs –  are D-shaped and covered with black netting (apparently black netting is more effective at catching shellfish than any other colour). There are usually 2 or 3 entrances, each with a conical inner net that leads to a hard ‘eye’ to allow the shellfish to crawl up and then drop into the ‘parlour’ or main body of the creel.

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So here is the first ‘fish trap’ that has been inspired by some of the features of the traps outside the studio: black net, a crawl space and an inner ‘eye.

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I’m not a weaver or a knotter but I am a knitter, so that was my chosen method. The material I am using is Habu Textiles, Shosenshi Linen Viscose Paper. It is a 4mm wide flat tape that is made from 100% linen and covered with a permanent viscose sizing. It is very crispy and crackles and crunches in my hands as I work with it. It is a posh sort of raffia and when knitted up I like that it looks a bit like Thongweed, a long thin type of seaweed.

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This is my first ‘fish trap’ and there is another on the needles now. I must say I am really enjoying the process of making these objects that relate so directly to the Norfolk landscape.

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The protective coast – 2

Last time I spoke about some of the research I have been doing around tidal surges and rising sea levels, and the ability of salt marshes to protect the coast by buffering wave actions from the force of the sea.

P1050764Ordnance Survey Norfolk Sheet 111 SE, 1907, 2nd edition.

This is a concern that is very real here in Wells. During the last tidal surge, in 2013, hard defences protected the west of the town – the floodgate was deployed and a glass flood wall held back the huge sea – however to the east of the flood defences the water built up flooding local businesses and houses along the quay. The solution for future surges could be to allow the eastern marsh, Slade Marsh, to flood. Lowering the height of the sea wall (or possibly removing it altogether) would relieve the pressure created by the ‘hard’ defences during exceptional tides by releasing the high water over the marsh and farm land and therefore protecting the buildings along the quay. This of course sounds counter-intuitive but this area used to be a place where the tide regularly flowed before the land was reclaimed for farming in around 1719.

P1050753Sample 1 – taken directly from map

My studio sits to the east end of the town and during the 2013 surge the water rose up flooding the building to about 1 metre (a former occupant has marked the level). This issue is of importance me.

P1050754Sample 2 – taken directly from map

So where to start with a project that addresses some of these concerns? Well I decided to start with a map of Wells and in particular the area to the east of the town. The map is an Edward Stanford Ordnance Map of Wells, dated 1907. It was very kindly given to me by a friend (thank you Helen Terry) and shows the creeks, the marsh and the town very clearly and in great detail.

P1050755Sample 3 – taken directly from map

When you don’t know what to do, or which direction to take, I think it is often best to start simply, and in this case I began by just copying parts of the map. I like that these first efforts depict the creeks as they were over 100 years ago as it gives me scope to research the changes that have actually occurred since then.

P1050757Sample 4 – Using shapes from my observation of the landscape and ‘colouring in’

The samples are 50 x 50 cm, sewing cotton on painted linen. The white on blue hints at blueprint maps. I have to say I really like these first three samples and learnt quite a lot stitching them, but they are much too literal…. too map-like.  So my next move was to come away from the obvious map shapes and to use shapes that come from my own observations of the landscape.

P1050756Sample 5 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching

Again, I feel they are sterile – there is nothing for the imagination to work with. So, I tried making my own marks with paint rather than just ‘colouring in’ and there is much here that I like, especially where in sample 5 the paint looks like a stain that is almost accidental.

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Sample 6 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching. 

I thought I might be ready to make a larger version – to make a ‘finished’ piece – but I put everything away for a week and now I look at them again I know I’m not ready to go bigger or finished. I like the fluid, wavering lines that suggest shifting boundaries. I like some of the painted marks. I like the distressed cloth background and the eyelets. But the imagined shapes in the later samples have no meaning for me.

P1050760Sample 7 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching. Couched wire.

My next move? Well I think to do more research. I need to walk the creek at low tide. Draw what I see and notice the effects of the water on the mud and the sand. And then I need to move inland and walk the sea wall and the fields behind – to look and to listen in order to really understand what is at stake here and to give meaning to the marks I paint and stitch.

This is a long term project and I have no idea how it will end. Maybe some of these ‘samples’ will turn out to be actual work (it often happens), but I intend to document each move here, so next up some drawing.

The protective coast

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About 6 months ago a friend popped an article through my letterbox and it has been percolating around in my mind ever since. From an issue of Horizons, the University of Cambridge’s research magazine, the piece focuses on the East of England and considers climate change and flooding. It questions whether manmade barriers are the best coastal defence and with predicted rises in sea level of up to 1.5m by 2100, in the future these hard defences would only have to be built bigger and higher and become more conspicuous.

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The East coast is a low lying ‘soft’ coast. The energy of tides and waves brings silt and clay that accumulates near the shore. As the water shallows, the particles are trapped by salt tolerant plants and salt marsh begins to form.  Salt marshes are a valuable environmental resource as they can absorb and bury carbon from the atmosphere and offer habitats to unique plants and animals

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Although salt marsh changes daily with each tide, and is particularly vulnerable to coastal erosion, tidal surges and flooding, the article, written by Sarah Collins, suggests that it could actually provide a more sustainable option to hard, concrete defences and act as a protective barrier, buffering wave actions, reducing their height and therefore their potential for damage. It has been shown that a narrow strip of salt marsh 40m wide reduces wave height by 20% and strip 80m wide can reduce waves to zero – the saltmarsh is able quite literally to swallow the waves.

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Here in Wells, low-lying reclaimed farmland is protected by man-made sea defences – high sea walls that were built to protect the land in the aftermath of the flooding of the 1953 tidal surge. These walls do protect the land, but they also create a barrier, stopping the shore from moving inland and squeezing the saltmarsh between the sea and our coastal defences.

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To act efficiently as natural flood defences the sea and salt marsh needs to be able to move landwise naturally and freely and with the projected rise in sea levels it is unlikely that the coastline will stay as it is at the moment.

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The issue of the changing coastline has occupied my mind for some time now and I have been considering how I could make a piece of work that considers these issues. The drawings here are some of my first ideas and explore ideas around the destructive tide, inundation and shifting boundaries. Next time I’ll show you my next steps in this project.

Swallows

I’ve just spent a lazy hour sitting in the shade at the studio looking at what was going on and watching the swallows swoop and dive around me.

These small, elegant black and white birds arrived about three weeks ago, (or maybe a bit longer – I can’t remember exactly)  and they will be here now for the rest of the summer.

Swallows feed on the wing and their flight patterns are mesmerising as they hunt for insects. So of course I grabbed a pencil and started to draw – flight path, over flight path, following their movements with my eyes.

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Another page and the side of a graphite stick varied the marks,

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and on further page a few more jottings.

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The words read:

Swallows fly past

Now high

Now low

A glide and then a short flap of wings.

Rise higher and another glide.

A sudden, flutter and turn, flutter and turn – switchback

Falling – wings back – they chirrup.

From the left a straight, confident path,

swift and low

to rest on the far bank.

 

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I have used the swooping shapes of a swallow’s flight in my work before but it is always a pleasure to have another look.

Finally, on another note, you may be interested to know that I am giving an online workshop for TextileArtist.org as part of their new TextileArtist.org Stitch Club. The workshop starts next week and in it I talk about how objects can tell a story and take you through the processes I use for making small containers for some objects that you have chosen yourself. I think the last day for registration is tomorrow!

Where’ere you walk

Hello! I hope you are well.

Today I am going to take you for a walk. We’re lucky here to have lovely places to walk to from the front door and as it was warm and sunny on Saturday we decided to do a long, full circuit that skirts Holkham Park, down to the beach, through the pines and along the beach bank back home.

A  few minutes from the house is the path that leads to the East Gate of Holkham park. I love these old twisted holm oaks, quercus ilex, that hold their arms up and over the path. There are a lot of holm oaks scattered all over the estate – apparently they come from the acorns that were used to pack cases of artefacts from the 1st Earl’s trips to Italy in the 18th century.

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Just through the East gate there are more trees, beech, ash and silver birch. The sun shines down through the new lime, green leaves – bright, fresh and full of spring. Another sign of spring is the cuckoo that seems to follow us along the path with its loud, intermittent call.

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A beckoning pastoral scene, but we head off down a path to the right towards the main gate.

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Through the gate is the long sweep of the road right down to the beach. You can just see the pinewoods at the very end, and beyond that is the beach. Estate worker houses line the top end of the road, and beyond the main coast road, that crosses the path about half way down,

P1050522and past the cow parsley …..

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…. is Lady Anne’s Drive. Looking back up the drive from the beach end you can see the beach carpark that is usually full of cars but at the moment it is completely empty.

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So, along the duck boards that skirt the pines ….

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to Holkham gap and the beach, where the tide is out.

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Today we decide not to walk on the beach as there is a stiffish breeze coming from the east that would blow straight onto us, so instead we head into the pines.

The pinewoods run for three miles from Wells to Scolt Head and there are three kinds of pines that grow in the woods, Corsican (grey trunk, small cones), Scots (orange upper trunk) and Maritime (large cones in tree-top clusters). They were planted over 150 years ago to stabilise the sand and to form a barrier to stop the sand blowing onto the crops growing on the reclaimed land behind.

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Apparently there are little owls in the woods and every time I walk through I look up into the trees in the hope that I might see one – but I never have.

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The end of the beach huts appear …

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… and before long we’re on the beach bank that runs for 1 mile from Wells to the beach.

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Back to the quay and home for a cup of tea and a piece of cake …. we’ve deserved it!

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I think the words to this aria from Handel’s opera Semele are very apt.

Where’er you walk
Cool gales shall fan the glade
Trees where you sit
Shall crowd into a shade

Where’er you tread
The blushing flowers shall rise
And all things flourish
Where’er you turn your eyes