Category Archives: making

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.

Fish Traps

P1050804

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.

IMG_1646

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.

P1050800

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.

IMG_1657

P1050793

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.

P1050814

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.

P1050785

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.

P1050781

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.

P1050758

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.

Shadow Pots

Hello everyone! A couple of weeks ago I posted about some tiny salt pots that I had made and today I am going to show you two bigger ones.

P1050328

They are both about 80cm long and I’ve hung them up on the wall so that you can get an idea of their scale. This little corner of the conservatory has become my working spot in the last few weeks, and sometimes I think I might take root in the chair. At the moment I feel uncomfortable spending a lot of time in the studio and so I have been bringing materials back to the house to work on here.

P1050331

These pieces originated from asking myself the simple question, ‘how would it be to make some big salt pots’? Their final form comes from the technical problems encountered in trying to salt them. Normally I turn the pots upside down, put them in a shallow bath of salt water and wait for them to do their stuff. But the length and unstable nature of the pulled thread work means that  I couldn’t use this technique here as they would droop and topple over.

P1050325

In the past I have filled bags with salt, soaked them in water and waited for them to dry and form crystals. So I considered putting loose salt in the bottom of the container, soaking and drying. But this would mean the salt might fall out and be messy if moved and I didn’t want that. The solution was to make a separate little bag filled with salt, a salt bag, (a bit like a sand bag), soak it until it was thoroughly saturated and then put it in the foot of the bag whilst still dripping wet. The salt has had to soak through two layers of cloth so the salting is subtle with a slight, weathered encrustation. I am really pleased with it. The salt bag also gives the work a bit of weight.

P1050322

I waxed the solid part at the top of the pot so that it would hold its shape.

P1050323_edited-1

They look great in the evening when the light is switched on as they cast shadows on the wall. The blue is cast light from the lampshade.

P1050466 2

And it this casting of shadows that has started me off thinking about other ways that I could use shadows in my work.

To Coil

Hello! I hope you are all well. With all the time I have on my hands I’ve made another piece of work. As I was sewing, I was thinking about how the work came about and also about the manner of creation in general.

P1050363

When I begin a new piece work, I usually only have a vague idea of what it will be. Normally I have in mind a work that I have previously made, or an observation of something that has happened, or maybe an idea that I have read about. There is always some sort of starting point, but there is very rarely a definitive end point. So, when and how does the thinking and deciding what the work will be, take place?

P1050364

Very, very occasionally I think a piece into existence. I have an idea; I spend time drawing it up in my sketchbook; I make the piece and the final form is as it appeared in my sketchbook. The work is the materialisation of a thought.

But this rarely happens. Even if I think I have an end point, as soon as I start making, a dialogue starts up between my hands and my materials; they start telling me things and I begin to respond. Ideas change and so does the work as my engagement with the properties of the materials and observation of what is happening generates new knowledge.  This is a knowledge that can only be understood by actually engaging and asking questions. What did I notice? Why did that happen? How can I use that?

P1050366

By using your hands, listening to the movement and transformation of your materials, and then reacting to them, you can literally feel your way forward using your imagination and improvising as you go.  This is the method of making that I prefer to employ and the anthropologist, Tim Ingold, calls this creativity in action ‘participant observation’.

P1050361

This piece of work originated from two thoughts. First the idea of enclosure that came from the two works I showed you last time and secondly from a work I made sometime ago that was coiled. My starting point was a 5 m x 15 cm strip of fabric – all I knew was that I would coil it up and place it in a container with walls of about the same height. Other than that each move in the making process was dictated by my observations of what had gone before. The turquoise paint was too bright, so as I painted along the strip I dulled and darkened it. The eyelets were too close, so I moved them apart. The seam was too bulky, so I changed the manner of sewing it. The piece looked flat and unexciting, so instead of waxing it I salted it to give texture. One exchange after another pushed the piece forward to how it is now.

P1050368

And as I write this, I have found another reason for actually doing rather than just thinking. The title of this post comes from Richard Serra’s verb list. He stated that: ‘drawing is a verb’ and compiled a list of verbs in response to this statement and used it as a guide for his art practice. The list consists of the infinitives of a series of verbs whose actions relate to ‘oneself, material, place and process’. I realise I should write my own verb list of actions related to what I do – I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this before!

New work

Hello everyone. I hope you are all keeping well.

P1050273

It has taken me a little bit of time to settle into this unusual time and to discover how I will be for what looks like to be the foreseeable future.  I had a period of anxiety and being scared in the first few days and found that I couldn’t think about, let alone focus on my work. But by not looking at the news (something I recommend) or social media I have relaxed into what is now my new normal. I am lucky to be a person who is never bored and I can always find something to do. So as well as cleaning things that haven’t been cleaned for years, I have been knitting, baking, taking a daily walk, and making some new work.

P1050280

After the first few unsettling days I found that my mind was beginning to clear and ideas started to percolate. I began to make. There was no great concept, just some materials and my hands. I let things take their own course and allowed myself just to do what I like to do. I have finished these two small pieces of related work. Both sets are made up of 24 tiny little thumb-sized pots. One set is salted and the other set is waxed. One set is enclosed the other set isn’t. The pebbles at the bottom of each pot have been gathered on my daily walk down to the beach.

P1050283

P1050285

P1050289

This is an extraordinary and exceptionally challenging time but I am trying to think of it as special period where I can quietly be and let my mind wander where it will. I have already started another piece of work and will show that to you when it is finished.

Whelkshed workshops 2020

Come and spend creative time with me at my studio and be inspired by the ever-changing coastal landscape of Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk.

I have put the dates for three new studio workshops into my diary for 2020

DATES OF COASTAL EXPLORATIONS WORKSHOP 2020

Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 June 2020

Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 June 2020

Wednesday 1 July and Thursday 2 July 2020

Student work Coastal Explorations Workshop 2019

About the Workshop

Be inspired by the ever-changing coastal landscape of Wells-next-the-Sea and take the time to observe, document and create in these beautiful surroundings.

Part of the Coastal Explorations workshop will be spent outside by the sea paying attention and recording observations with drawing, collecting objects and writing.

Back in the studio your collections will form a starting point for experiments with paper, cloth, stitch, mark-making, collage and printing to create a unique and personal record of your exploration of place.

Cost: £200

Includes basic materials and a simple lunch. Coffee and tea will be available all day with homemade cake.

There are 6 places available for each workshop.

To book please email me for availability on debbie@debbielyddon.co.uk

Booking is on a first come, first served basis.

About the Studio

Debbie’s studio is in Wells-next-the-Sea on the north Norfolk coast, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that offers stunning views, wonderful wildlife and beautiful beaches, tidal creeks and salt marshes.

The studio is a former fisherman’s whelk shed and has an enviable position overlooking the sea and the salt marshes and is a stunning place to be inspired and to work creatively.

The studio is a large, fully-equipped working space (approx. 10 x 5 m), with water, electricity and a wood-burning stove for chillier days. NB. There is no toilet, but a ‘nice’ Portaloo will be available just outside on workshop days.

The view through the window is wonderful and looks over the water and the marshes.

My Studio

 

Sea dipping again after quite a while

I haven’t been down to the beach to dip a piece of work in the sea for quite a long time. I seem to be having a creative rush at the moment with one piece of work following another. This is the first of several pieces to be sea dipped.

P1040620

Words are becoming more important to me (an imperative really) and each of the works that I am making are a response to words that document the memory of an experience. I have given them the working title of ‘Fragments’.

P1040607

This is what I wrote after I arrived home after a walk along the raised dyke

Burnham Overy Staithe.

The sun is warm on my back as I walk out to the beach,

but coming back the wind gets into my ears and chills them.

 

Low tide.

The blue sky is reflected upwards again by the shiny, smooth marsh:

a bright, slick brown/blue/green.

 

Recent spring tides have moved the sand and mud.

Where before the marsh was formed into deep crevices;

it is now flat.

Where before the marsh was flat;

it is now sculpted into twisting channels

of high banks and low, slowly seeping waters.

 

On top: sunlit, sparkling.

Below: deep dark shadow.

P1040604

P1040602

As I was dipping this in the sea (to rust the small iron wire eyelets sewn into the cloth) it occurred to me that although I was on Wells beach the experience that inspired the cloth was of another place. It is interesting that the memory of a place from then has been transcribed to now. The original memory has been reshaped and as a result another layer of meaning has been embedded into the cloth.

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.

 

Blue is ….

I was at the beach on Saturday. These were my thoughts:

 

Warm

A south westerly breeze

brings

a slight chill to the air.

 

Sunny

Blue sky

Blue sea

IMG_0591

Thin wispy clouds

cirrus

blow in fragile strands

diagonally across the sky.

 

Fall streaks that foretell

a change in the weather.

IMG_0590

Far away

towards the horizon

the blue sky lightens.

 

Below

deep water

deep blue.

IMG_0594

Blue is

scattered light.

Short waves

at the end of the rainbow

that disperse

into the air

and into the water.

IMG_0595

You can’t touch

this blue

because it isn’t really there.

 

This will be a concertina book – watercolour on one side and words on the other. It will be bound with blue cloth. I’ll show it to you when it’s finished.