Category Archives: letting you know

The Signalman (part 3)

I have finished the last flag in The Signalman series (you can read about the other two flags and a bit of background  to the work here and here). This last flag is made in response to events that took place during the 3rd night action of the Battle of Jutland and specifically the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron engagement.

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This action was devastating for the HMS Southampton as it was hit by twenty 4.1” and 5.1” shells. Three guns and two searchlights were knocked out and the ship’s radio was destroyed. Lieutenant Stephen King-Hall wrote: ‘75% of the upper deck men on Southampton had been killed or wounded. It had been a point blank engagement. Southampton was burning so badly that a friend of mine who was five miles away on one of the 5th Battle Squadron ships read a signal on the bridge by the light of our fires’.

My grandfather was very lucky to survive the action.

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Flag 3: Night action

Fires started. Flames engulfed the forebridge.

Signal method: Flags

Linen, cotton duck, cotton, brass

Written by Charlie Sewell in his memoire.

 ‘… at 10.20pm the roar of the claxon sounded and action stations were manned again. I took my place on the upper bridge and as soon as I could accustom myself to the darkness it was clear that a line of light cruisers was just before us on the starboard beam, steering, what appeared almost a parallel course, gradually closing upon us …. finally, both seemed to challenge at the same time and immediately there were exchanges of gunfire and torpedoes, an action which historians state lasted 15 minutes, but to me five minutes….’

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The ‘U’ flag – The Royal Navy Handbook of Signalling (1913)

I am having a bit of a dilemma. My original intention was to set fire the flag in order to blacken it (but obviously not to fully destroy it). Now it comes to it, I can’t decide ….. I wonder if it may seem trite rather than powerful …… what do you think?

The exhibition details are:

The Archive Project @The Cello Factory

33-34 Cornwall Rd., Waterloo, London. SE1 8TJ

Thursday 4th May – Friday 12th May 2017,

Open daily 11.00-17:30 (16:00 on last day)

MEET THE ARTISTS Saturday 6th May 11:00-17:30.

 

The Signalman (part 2)

I have finished the 2nd flag in a new body of work that I have titled The Signalman. The work is for a new group exhibition, The Archive Project@ The Cello factory . The exhibition is at The Cello Factory, 33-34 Cornwall Road, Waterloo London SE1 8TJ from Thursday 4 May 2017 – Friday 12 May 2017.

The starting point for my work is a personal archive – a journal that was written by my grandfather, Charles Thomas Sewell, who was a Leading Signalman on the Light Cruiser, HMS Southampton, during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. He survived the battle and left a concise, but personal, account of the events of 31 May and 1 June. The main events of the battle are told using key words and phrases that have been taken either from my grandfather’s memoir or from the record of Naval signals that were sent during the battle. The Signalman takes the form of three ‘flags’ where the narrative of each is notated with a different method of signal communication. Each flag commemorates a different part of the battle. 1. The beginning, 2. The day action and 3. The night action.

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The semaphore code on Flag 2 spells out, ‘Urgent. Have sighted enemy battle fleet.’ It is part of  signal 497 that was sent from HMS Southampton to the Commander in Chief of the Battle cruiser fleet at 16.38 GMT on 31 May 1916. The original message was sent by wireless telegraphy and announced the first sighting of the enemy during the day action at the Battle of Jutland.

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Flag 2: Day action

Urgent. Have sighted enemy battle fleet.

Wed 31 May 1916, 16.38 GMT

Signal Method: Semaphore

Linen, felt, cotton, wire, brass

Written by Charlie Sewell in his memoir:

‘Incidents in the action were taking place very rapidly; we in HMS Southampton with our squadron ahead of HMS Lion had a close view of most events, some discouraging. At about 4.30pm we sighted the enemy battle fleet and reported the fact to Admiral Jellicoe in HMS Iron Duke…. In order to obtain the disposition and composition of the enemy battle fleet Commodore Goodenough led his Light Cruiser Squadron in between the lines and it was for all the staff on the upper bridge a very thrilling experience.

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Making Space

Next week I am helping to put up the 62 Group, Making Space exhibition at the Knitting & Stitching show, Olympia. This is the next stop in the tour for this exhibition that was first shown last year at the Silk Museum, Macclesfield. The theme of ‘Space’ has been interpreted by members in diverse ways using hand and machine stitch, print, weave, installation and mixed media inspired by textile techniques. I will have one salt work showing, Holed Cloth.

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‘A hole is just a space – an immaterial emptiness that is surrounded by a physical material that describes its shape and allows us to see a nothing. Debbie has made holes in cloth to give form to space and to make visible the invisible.’

I’ll be stewarding all day Saturday if you want to come and say hello!

The Knitting & Stitching show is open from 2 -5 March, 10am – 7pm Thursday and 10am – 5.30pm Friday  – Sunday.

 

 

The Signalman

I am making new work for an exhibition that is coming up in a couple of months time.  It is  for a group exhibition, The Archive Project. The group consists of four artists that explore ideas through responses to archives and collections, using textile and mixed media. The exhibition is at The Cello Factory, 33-34 Cornwall Road, Waterloo London SE1 8TJ from Thursday 4 May 2017 – Friday 12 May 2017.

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The starting point for my work is a personal archive – a journal that was written by my grandfather, Charles Thomas Sewell, who was a Leading Signalman on the Light Cruiser, HMS Southampton, during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. He survived the battle and left a concise, but personal, account of the events of 31 May and 1 June.

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The morse code spells out: ‘The sea was very calm with a light haze.’

The main events of the battle are told using key words and phrases that have been taken either from my grandfather’s memoir or from the record of Naval signals that were sent during the battle.

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During WW1 signalling methods in battle were a mixture of flag, semaphore and Morse code: both wireless telegraphy and searchlight. Flags had been part of the Navy’s core skills since the Napoleonic Wars and a signalman would be able to read and transcribe messages with ease.

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The Leading Signalman ‘badge

The Signalman takes the form of three ‘flags’ where the narrative of each is notated with a different method of signal communication. Each flag commemorates a different part of the battle. 1. The beginning, 2. The day action and 3. The night action. I have finished the first flag …

Flag 1: The beginning

Message: The sea was very calm with a light haze.

Signal method: Morse Code

Materials: Linen, wire, cotton, brass

Written by Charlie Sewell in his memoir:

‘On Tuesday afternoon May 30th 1916 the Battle Fleet under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe (in his flagship HMS Iron Duke) and the Battle Cruiser Squadron under Sir David Beatty (in the fleet flagship HMS Lion) put to sea on customary sweeps…. my job was as a Leading Signalman, acting foreman of the Action Watch and my place on Monkey’s Island was the passing of orders to make signals.’

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My Grandfather’s Official Number

 

 

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.

Cley16

For the past couple of days I have been at St Margaret’s church, Cley-next-the-Sea, helping to get the Cley16 exhibition off the ground. Today I hung my large suspended work, Curlew Song.

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I have been working on this piece for the best part of four months and it has been a stupendous effort to get it done on time. Because of its large size (350 x 150 cms) I haven’t been able to get a proper sense of its scale and proportion. Hanging in my studio it seemed enormous, but I knew that in the vast, airiness of the tall church aisle it was likely to get lost and I felt very nervous this morning as we suspended the pole, slung the cloth over it and hoisted it aloft.

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I think it’s ok. There are other works around it (a 6m tall dress, a swan in flight and an angel)  and it feels right. The open, drawn thread work reflects the black leadwork of the latticed glass windows that line run top and bottom all down the side of the church. The large, sewn rings provide ‘holes’ through which there is a clear view to the other works and the beautiful architecture of the church. It has been made so that it can be viewed from either side. It moves back and forth gently in the breeze from the open door. Yes, I think I’m pleased.

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You can read some of the background to this piece here and here.

The exhibition starts next week on 7 July and runs for a month until 7 August at St Margaret’s Church, Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk.

Right …. I’ve got to get on with the work for the Knitting and Stitching Shows in the autumn now …. I’ve a busy summer ahead!

 

 

Exhibitions

I have work in two exhibitions that are showing over the summer.

The first exhibition is The 62 Group exhibition, Making Space at The Silk Museum, Macclesfield which opens on 17 June and runs until 3 September.

Holed Cloth 1 and Holed Cloth 2 are wall hung works. They are both made from one long piece of folded cotton duck that has had iron rings sewn into it and then soaked in a saturated salt solution for about 6 weeks.

‘A hole is just a space – an immaterial emptiness that is surrounded by a physical material that describes its shape and allows us to see a nothing. I have made holes in cloth to give form to space and to make visible the invisible’.

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The second is CLEY16 , a group exhibition at St, Margaret’s Church, Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk. It is from 7 July until 7 August, 10am-5.30.

I have two works in this exhibition that are inspired by vividly remembered engagements with the North Norfolk coast and explore how I can communicate visible and non-visible processes such as light, movement, sound, rhythm, erosion and regeneration.

Curlew Song notates the call of a curlew: a low drawling sound that rises to an eerie, trilling, bubbly ripple. This is a large, suspended work that can be viewed from either side. It measures 350 x 150 cms and consists of one large cloth (300 x 350 cms) that hangs double, over a long varnished spar.

Here are a couple of details.

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Molluscs are objects from my imagination that could well have been found on the strand line – the threshold between the land and the sea. 40 salt, encrusted ‘tubes’ stand upright, partially buried in sand.

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