Category Archives: letting you know

Teaching in Italy

How would you like to join me in Italy on an Exploring Place workshop? I have been invited to teach a 5-day course in October 2020 at the stunning 18th century Masseria della Zingara in Puglia, Italy.

The masseria at dawn

The masseria, sits in 20 tranquil acres of olive, cherry and almond groves and I’m very much looking forward to walking, exploring, noticing, documenting and making in this beautiful environment and sunny climate. I hope some of you would like to join me!

sketchbookSmall, handmade, coptic bound sketchbook

Each morning will start with a walk where the emphasis will be on paying attention and documenting our experiences in sketchbooks that we will make ourselves. Using all of our senses we will explore the contours of the landscape, objects, materials, and the effect that air, wind, light and sound have on the environment.

detail from soundmark bookSoundwalk concertina book

Back in the studio we will draw, and make and sew; feeling our way into the landscape and finding ways of documenting our own personal experience of this place. I expect to  experiment with new materials, found objects and natural phenomena such as shadows, light and the wind.

ropeObject made from found rope

The photos are examples of the type of things we will be doing. You can find more information about the workshop on the Committed to Cloth website and more information about the Masseria della Zingara here.

 

Black Beach

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I don’t know why, but I have struggled to write this post. Normally I sit down and write about my work fluently; straight off; without a second thought. But writing about this piece of work has been surprisingly difficult. On the face of it this piece of work has happened in the way that most of my work happens – by paying attention to my surroundings. Essentially it is about one of those unexpected happenings that I have noticed in my wanderings along the North Norfolk coastline, namely that after a storm at sea, marine creatures can occasionally, and extraordinarily, be found washed ashore, stranded high on the beach by the incoming tide before being washed away again by the next one.

A simple idea? But so many other thoughts have gone into this work: about materials; about processes, both within the natural environment and in the making of the work; about the history of place; and finally, about my own methods of perception, processing information and creativity. A simple idea that has taken a huge amount of consideration and that perhaps, in the end, contains more ideas than is obvious at first glance.

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I start by writing down a list of principal words and ideas:

  • A moment of being – something I have noticed and remembered:
  • Storm at sea – weather – deposition/ wave action
  • Material process – saltwater/evaporation – transformation and decay/degeneration
  • Form – mussels/beach
  • Wilhelmina Barns-Graham – perception and a way of thinking

But I can’t decide what my message is (my husband calls it my strategic statement); what is the most important thing here?

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Starting at the top of the list …..

I walk. I notice. I experience. I remember. In this instance I recall hundreds of sponge balls washed up on Cley beach by the action of the waves after a storm at sea has dislodged them from the sea bed. The weather, the waves and the water play a significant part in this shifting, dynamic coastline so that nothing is ever quite the same from day to day. They change the appearance of surfaces and seek to destroy them. They move things around and wear things down. They make things appear and then disappear. This is not a stable environment but a place of transience and uncertainty. Observation of changing phenomena is at the foundation of this work.

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Things appear and disappear. I wanted to comment on impermanence; a brief interlude of wonder, cast upon the beach by the sea only to be taken away again by the next tide and I have conjured up transient sea-creatures from my imagination. Each ‘creature’ was soaked in a shallow bath of salt water that was allowed to evaporate naturally – a process that took about 2 weeks. Although salt is intrinsic to my exploration of the processes of change and impermanence in the environment, in a dry state the residues of the evaporation process are surprisingly durable. However, a hint of water would quickly turn the crystals back into a salty liquid making it a highly ephemeral, unstable medium. Furthermore, salt is a corrosive material and I would expect the linen and wire in this work to degenerate very slowly over time.

I chose the form of the sea creatures to suggest the oval form of mussel shells. Mussels are harvested all along this coast and in the near past Wells harbour had mussel beds lining the far side of the quay that longshoremen (men who earned their living from the harbour, sea or shoreline) would tend and harvest. The remains of one of the mussel beds lies at the base of the bank opposite my studio, and every time I look out of the window I see the sharp edges of the shells sticking out of the mud. Indeed, my studio would have originally had an old copper where the shellfish would have been boiled before being packed up and sent off to be sold. Mussels are an appropriate form for this piece of work.

IMG_0315Detail of a map from 1908 of Wells Harbour. The little black crosses show the location of mussel beds.

I must also speak about Wihelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), a painter and printmaker and one of the St Ives School. Her ideas about how she understood her surroundings have been the mainstay of my thinking regarding how I experience what is going on around me. She wrote about her perception of nature as having ‘something to do with inner perception and outward observation’, and this inner seeing and outer sensing has become central to my work.

To go out, to walk, to notice, to remember and sometimes to document ‘noticings’ is essential but is only the very first stage of the creative process. I increasingly realise that most important are the abstract meanderings of my mind – my inner perception. Like a flow chart I used to draw in maths at school – data goes into one end and comes out at the other end processed and transformed as a finished artwork. What goes on in the middle is key.

Again, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s thoughts: ‘to develop one’s awareness to inner perception, collecting shapes that become my shapes. To see later what is useful, now with increased understanding of the importance to be in union with nature. To identify with its rhythm so that, again, later I can express myself in my own language’.

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To express myself in my own language is so, so important. All the information for this work, has been gathered together in a continuous interaction of searching, connecting and making. What makes my work mine can only happen when subjective perception, understanding and selection come together with the creativity of my hands and the way I compose with materials and structure. The end form is only possible as an evocation of my first observations with the coming together of all of these functions. In effect, my senses: my eyes, ears and hands, only operate through the medium of my brain. To sense is to think and to think is to make personal work.

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So, what is my message? What is the most important thing here? Well, for you the viewer, the work is about the observation: a transient happening that is fleeting and to be marvelled at. But for me, the most important thing that has come about through this particular work is the growing realisation that creativity comes from the processing of my emotional and intellectual experiences of the phenomenological world deep inside my mind. The resulting work is not an imitation of the world but a way of revealing my personal observations of its innumerable manifestations.

I am delighted that Black Beach has been selected for the 62 Group exhibition, CONSTRUCT and it will be at Sunny Bank Mills, 82-5 Town Street, Farsley, Pudsey, W. Yorkshire, LS28 5UJ from 20 July – 15 September 2019.

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Staying ever curious

P1030781Small watercolour, 20 x 20 cm

I’m sitting in the gallery for another days stewarding, spending my time making some new work and chatting to visitors. I thought I would reproduce the introduction to the exhibition that Mary Blue Brady has written. Mary has identified, and written, about the concept behind the exhibition so succinctly that I thought you might like to read it for yourselves.

‘Moments of Being.

The title for this exhibition is taken from a collection of autobiographical essays by British modernist author Virginia Woolf. The collection was first found in the papers of her husband, used by Quentin Bell in his biography of Virginia Woolf, published in 1972.

Virginia Woof was a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness and this exhibition celebrates the heightened state of consciousness experienced when one feels most alive. Both Caroline Fisher’s porcelain landscapes and Debbie Lyddon’s mixed media cloths share common ground in commemorating moments of focus felt by the artists when visiting the North Norfolk coast.

Both artists have inventive approaches to their chosen materials and employ them to create a sense of wonder and impart an atmospheric response, drawing attention to a moon rise, a flash of water, or the rustling of halyards on boats, for example. In short, these artists raise our awareness of what surrounds us.

Caroline and Debbie’s work also prompts us to remember the preciousness of time, to savour each moment and to tune into individual occasions through deeper observation. For us mere mortals, it is imperative not just to look down at our feet, but also to gaze up at the stars, staying ever curious and open to the wonder of the world.’

Moments of Being at Wells Maltings

IMG_0170Sluice Creek Cloth: Moon Rise

The exhibition has been up for a week now and it is such a thrill to be showing Moments of Being in the place that inspired it. Visitors can walk a few steps up from the reality of the marshes and the quay to the Handa Gallery at the Wells Maltings and see my work that is an evocation of the same place. I am delighted that people have understood the connections that I have been trying to make between the way we sense this coastal environment: its imagery, sounds and materials, and the processes of change that take place here on a daily basis. Many of the visitors know this coast as well as I do and have been able to relate the work to the environment.

I am sharing the exhibition with Caroline Fisher and her ceramics sit so well next to my cloth pieces. You can see some of the cobalt glazed bowls in one of the photos

Here are a few gallery shots.

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IMG_01753 Marshscape Collages

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The exhibition is on daily until 6 April from 11am – 4pm, free entry. I will be in the gallery every day except 21 March and 6 April.

 

Exhibition

At very short notice, I have been given the opportunity to show my Moments of Being work here in Wells-next-the-Sea. I am absolutely delighted about this as this is the place that inspired the whole body of work and it will be the first time that it has been shown here.

Moments of Being is inspired by a series of vividly remembered encounters and engagements with the marshes and beach here in Wells and each work notates the memory of a commonplace event or observation: the sun moving over the marsh and creating shadows, the clink of halyards knocking against masts, the shape of a bend in the creek, or the way saltwater marks my clothes. These are not unusual experiences, but are personal and intensely remembered moments.

I will be showing The Sluice Creek Cloths which are large wall hung cloth pieces….

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several new Marshscape Collages….

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some Salt Works….

Debbie Lyddon Liminal Objects - Wrack

and some new small Watercolours

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I will be in the gallery almost everyday and  will be setting up a mini studio in a corner. There will be sketchbooks to look at and I will be drawing, painting and making work for the duration of the exhibition.

Moments of Being is on from 14 March – 6 April 2019 at Handa Gallery, Wells Maltings, Staithe Street, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk NR23 1AU

 

 

 

 

 

For one day only (again)

Viv and Kev at ArtVanGo have asked me to come and be one of the artist’s in residence again at the Knitting & Stitching show in Harrogate. Because I had such a lovely time at Ally Pally and, because I have to be in Harrogate to do my stint on the Studio 21 ‘Colour Notes’ stand, I have said yes!

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I will be on the Artist’s in residence stand all day on Saturday 24 November.

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I am going to be exploring ways of using the pigments that I have gathered from the environment – red clay, yellow ochre, chalk and sea coal – and I will be making paint. I will be processing the pigments in order to make watercolour paint, acrylic paint and a type of printing ink. I will then be painting and printing with them on paper and cloth (that’s the plan at least).

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These drawings use synthetic colours, but the yellow/orange colour is yellow ochre that I have collected from the cliffs at West Runton. It has been roughly ground so that the silica grains are still quite coarse and mixed with a binder so that it stays on the paper.

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I love the way the fine pigment and the silica separate out as the water and paint runs through it. It is much like the way sea or rain water would create runnels through the earth outside in the natural environment.

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These small drawings will be for sale in Harrogate …..

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and during the day I will be making some big ones as well.