I’ve been a bit quiet recently but the walking, noticing and making has been continuing everyday.
This morning I spent three hours sewing iron wire eyelets into a cloth and by the afternoon it was ready to take down to the beach and dip into the sea to rust the wire and mark the cloth. Recently I haven’t been taking my camera or sketchbook out with me (I do like to walk unencumbered by stuff) but today I remembered to take a camera to record my activities.
Last night I was woken by a howling wind and this morning it seemed to have quietened down, however on the beach the wind was very much in evidence. It was whipping the sand across the beach and the waves were blown up by its north westerly direction. It was just after high tide.
With a calm, flat sea dipping a cloth can, sometimes, be a gentle activity. However today, with waves forced further up the beach than normal it was a bit more frenetic and I had to move quickly to dodge the incoming water. I ended up with wet feet and trousers.
I can be a bit risky with this type of sea as the power and the movement of the waves can take the cloth out of reach.
But it got washed back up the beach and the cloth is now hanging in the studio to dry out. It’s quite cold in there at this time of year so it will be a slow drying time which will give the wire plenty of time to rust.
I just wanted to say hello! I’ve had my head down recently getting on with stuff and there haven’t really been any new developments to tell you about.
I’m presently working on 3 large cloths for an exhibition next year. They are going to be coloured with hand-collected and hand-ground pigments: probably chalk, sea-coal and yellow clay. After that they will be waterproofed and dressed with a wax and linseed oil concoction that will change their nature completely so that they become glossy and stiff.
At the moment I am preparing the cloths prior to the colouring and waxing process. The one shown here has been dipped in the sea to rust the eyelets and it is presently hanging in my studio so that I can get to know it. I like to live with things for a while to see if they need changes. I’ll put it away presently and then look at it again in a week to two to see if my view has changed ….. it often does when you turn your back.
The balance I am trying to get in the work is tricky. It is between having enough interest in the way the cloth is put together: the utilitarian seams, reinforcements and eyelets, without detracting from the the pigments and wax which are the main reason for the work. I want the pigments and wax to speak for themselves.
I feel that I may have been a bit fussy with this first cloth, so the one I am working on at the moment will be much plainer – almost a blank canvas with just one row of eyelets.
I have finished sewing the last Sluice Creek Cloth for my gallery at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in the autumn ….. phew! This last cloth is a twin to the very first cloth I made in the series this time last year. Both these cloths are based on the regular and rhythmic sound of halyards knocking against the masts of boats in the wind and they focus on the way the sound of the chattering ropes shifts slowly in and out of unison.
I took the cloth down to the beach in the evening to give it its first dip in the sea. At the moment this cloth is clean and unmarked and the unpainted part of the linen and the stitched rings are pristine white. It won’t be like this for long! I intend to dip this cloth into the sea and dry it around five times so that the rings rust and mark the cleanness of the cloth. I want the look of a utilitarian tarpaulin or work cloth that has been used, is dirty and has had a life.
This Masts and Halyards cloth has been quite a task. There are about 250 rings sewn into it. I average about 5 rings an hour …. you can work it out!
It was a beautiful evening for sea dipping at the beach.
Looking one way ….
and the other.
I will write more on all of the Sluice Creek Cloths in due course …..
It is almost the perfect day for me here today. Bright sunshine gives warmth (no coat!), the sharp north-easterly wind is fresh (bordering on chilly) and I can smell the ozone in the air. I’m up early and feeling energetic so I decide to walk to the beach to sea dip the cloth that I finished sewing last week.
This is the fifth cloth that I have made in this series. I am reasonably happy with this one at the moment although I’ll have to see what it looks like when the sea has done its job and rusted the sewn iron rings. Some of the rings have been waxed so the stitching will resist the rust staining others will go quite brown/orange. I think I might salt it as well – the embedded salt crystals will give a subtle sparkle to the pale coloured cloth.
I decide to wait until high tide to dip the cloth. Although I like the extremes of the tide (and there is more significance to putting the cloth in the water at a known point in time), the main reason for doing it when the tide is right up is a practical one – at high tide the water has covered the muddy areas and by using a sandy part of the beach I can prevent the light coloured linen from becoming too dirty.
Although it looks hot, the North Sea was jolly cold – toe-numbing but definitely bracing!
I have finally got to the stage with part of my latest piece of work where I can dip it into the sea and I have been thinking about why this process is so important to me.
Recently, I have placed the finished cloths into the sea two or three times. This, I thought, was principally to rust the iron rings that I had sewn into them, but it has become obvious that the process of taking the cloth to water has more significance than just the visual effect of the rusting.
The cloths are inspired by vividly remembered encounters and engagements with the coast: processes, sights and sounds of the the sea, the beach and the marshland. Placing the work and photographing it in the environment that inspired it somehow brings the whole thought process back full circle.
For me the work I make in response to a place is about the experience of looking, touching, hearing, light and space. The work, for me, is not separate from the original experience. The energy of the place is within the energy of the piece, although its form and material come from my imagination. The introduction of the work to the place brings together two halves of a whole.
The photographs I take of this ‘introduction’ are not a work in themselves, but the documentation of bringing work and place together is highly significant to me and the photographs form a visual record of the act. The other record is of course the resulting rust marks that stain the cloth from the contact of sea and iron.
Without this baptism in the sea the work would not be complete.