Category Archives: paying attention

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.

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!

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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

Connections

I’ve been in the studio everyday recently making new work. I normally have several things on the go at a time and between all the stitching, painting and general making there are quiet times where I’m waiting for things to dry or when I just need to think.

Last week during one of these quiet periods I sat down at the window and with Radio 3 playing and a cup of coffee in my hand it was an opportunity just to look, to sit still and to be.

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The tide was almost at its lowest point and water was still draining slowly out towards the sea. At low tide the main waterway in the channel is on the side furthest away from the studio, towards the northern bank, and tidal action has recently moved mud and sand so that it slopes down towards the bank on which the studio sits.

The water was falling away from the channel in small rivulets that rippled around and about sculpted sand and mud. Twisting and turning they merged and parted before finally coming together again in a smaller secondary channel to continue their gentle journey out to sea.

I drew this movement.

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And then drew again.

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Trying to capture the gently flowing lines of water moving.

And then on the radio I heard the Dolorosa from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (you can listen to it here). This is the most beautiful of pieces and one I listen to often. Hearing its beautiful contrapuntal lines I couldn’t but connect the movement of the music to the movement of the water in front of me.

So often I perceive music to be a visual art and I see its rhythms and spaces and melodies in my mind’s eye. But it is rare to make such a direct connection between what I can hear and what I see in front of me. I wouldn’t have thought of Pergolesi unless it had come on to the radio at that time, nor would I have associated it with the diurnal ebb and flow of the tide. I very much enjoy these infrequent moments of understanding.

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.

 

Fragment 8

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Baleshare.

Scudding clouds and sunny intervals.

Brisk wind.

 

A long, pooled shore,

scintillating in the sun.

Sea roar obliterates all other sounds.

 

On the strandline

the translucent remains of by-the-wind-sailors,

Velella Velella.

 

I wonder how far they have floated across the sea?

 

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