Category Archives: selecting

Little Boxes – Wells-next-the-Sea


I’ve been waiting for sunny, bright day to photograph some work I made over the Christmas break.  The work is a response to the ‘Little Boxes’ that contained found objects collected at Brisons Veor in Cornwall. These ‘Little Boxes’ hold objects that I found on the beach in Wells over the past few weeks. They aim to evoke one interpretation of that place.

Wells beach is relatively clean, and surprisingly very little rubbish and plastic detritus washes up there. I think there are two possible reasons for this. Firstly, the North Norfolk coast is caught in the elbow of the Wash and is away from the main shipping lanes, consequently less rubbish is created, and secondly, the shallow water creeps in and out slowly over the sands and the waste doesn’t get dumped in quite the same way that rubbish from a big, deep, rolling sea would. You have to look very hard on Wells beach for the usual odds and ends of discarded rope and plastic so unlike the Cornish collection, the Norfolk collection consists of only natural objects. These have been unaltered to highlight their natural beauty.

Each object has been chosen because of it’s texture or shape or some other unusual aspect and the bright sunlight has brought out all their surface qualities.


Chalk with piddock holes


Black oyster shell


Crab claw


Sea-worn wood


Crab shell with barnacles


White oyster shell


Flint pebble


Flint with tube worm casts

In Cornwall I made the boxes and then filled them. In this case I collected the objects and then made the boxes to fit the objects. There was no particular reason for this – it just happened that way. The boxes are waxed cotton duck, with a rigid board base and held together with a twist of wire.






Brisons Veor – first thoughts

Wow! I’ve been back from Cornwall for a couple of days now and my mind is still buzzing with the many impressions and experiences of the past week.


Of course, I went with expectations and pre-conceived ideas. Before I left, decisions had to be made about the materials to take and these were based on what I thought I would like to do and what I would like to investigate. Naturally, all expectations were confounded, but little glimmers of something new have been planted in my mind as a result.


The sun came out on the last day but its was still cold and windy

The process of exploring a new place, I’ve discovered, can never be pre-judged. There can certainly be tried and tested methods of working, but you never know what the environment, the weather or your own physical and metal state will be at any fixed time. You can only deal with what is happening now.


Out of the studio window

I went to Brisons Veor hoping to work with the sounds of that place. I wanted to listen actively and deeply so that I could understand it aurally. But that didn’t happen quite as I thought it would. Brisons Veor is at Cape Cornwall, a small headland that juts out into the Atlantic. The cottage is the most westerly residence in England. It perches on the edge of a granite cliff and at high tide it is only metres away from a boiling sea. We had ‘winter’ weather. The noise of the wind and the waves was constant. The howling, whistling and roaring virtually blocked out all other sounds. Only occasionally did a faint bird call penetrate the all-encompassing cacophony. I went hoping for a multi-coloured palette of sound but, if this existed, it was drowned out by the natural conditions at that particular time.


There can be no sound without movement and sitting high on the cliff by the coastguard station or down on the beach in the cove there was wild movement everywhere. The wind, eddied and gusted. Heavier gusts buffeted me so that I was physically moved. It whistled through the gap between my head and my hat, it flapped at my my coat and froze my fingers. The act of hearing the wind became confused with being touched by the wind.


Porth Ledden on the other side of the Cape

High on a cliff is, for me, an unfamiliar way of seeing the sea. In Norfolk I look at it from ground level and from that angle there is less sea and more sky. But at Cape Cornwall, from such an elevated position, the sea and sky are almost equal. Below me, the force of the waves is broken by the cliffs and the tall rocks that lie scattered all along the coast. Their crash and roar is a continuous white noise as they break and ebb. All around me is movement and noise, but far out across the waves on the horizon, is stillness and silence. The further the distance the calmer and quieter it gets.


The weather conditions continued for the whole seven days. Each time I stepped out of the cottage I was confronted by the same symphony of wind and waves. Whilst I was there I was disappointed. I felt that this ‘noise’ blocked out the sound detail. But I was wrong. This wildness and movement and sheer, overwhelming sensation was the most important thing about the place at that point in time. The sound was uncontrollable and immense and the movement that produced it was ever-moving, ever-changing and multi-layered.

From my sketchbook:

There is no movement without sound.

There is no sound without movement.

All around me, extending outwards

the duet of sea and wind.

But out on the horizon is stillness.

No sound reaches me from there.

I’m not sure what will come out of these first thoughts. All week I wrote and drew and printed and made. I have collected a lot of data and documented it. Next time I’ll show you some of the things I did and give my thoughts on them ……

A week of collecting – Day 7

Day 7: Wells Beach – Oyster Shell

(Ostrea Edulis)


I found this pockmarked shell on a dry sandy part of the beach that is only covered by water a few times a year. It is old and worn but nevertheless there are still parts that are shiny and pearlised. The tiny holes scattered across the surface of the shell are evidence of a former infestation by boring sponges.

A week of collecting – Day 6

Day 6: Wells Beach – Bladderwrack

(Fucus Vesticulosus)


It is a dull, drizzly sort of day with a damp mist obscuring the horizon. On the beach it is totally calm with not a breath of wind. I walk to the sand dune that lies in front of the beach-huts. The dune is ringed with a strand-line flecked with black calligraphic lines – bladderwrack.

Fragments of this seaweed can be found strewn right along the North Norfolk coastline. On the shoreline, close to the sea, the dark fragments are limp and slimy, but high on the strand-line  they become dry, curling, dessicated strands that have a red tinge to them.

I have made whistles out of the larger air sacks which when dry are very tough.

A week of collecting – Day 5

Day 5: Wells Beach – Common whelk with Acorn Barnacles

(Buccinam Undatum, Balanus Balanoides)


A late afternoon walk, which at the beginning of January means about 3.30 in the afternoon just before the sun sets. As we walk onto the beach the low sun breaks through the clouds and illuminates the surf which is running diagonally across the water on the outgoing tide. It is quite spectacular .

There is still not much to find here on Wells beach. It is surprising how little material, both natural and man-made washes up. I choose something that could be picked up any day – a common whelk (Buccinam Undatum). This one is encrusted with large, sharp acorn barnacles (Balanus Balanoides). Acorn barnacles are the most common barnacle found around our shores. They attach themselves to hard surfaces such as rocks, wooden piers, buoys and the bottom of boats. Razor-edged, they remind me of summer, bare legs and feet and scratchy cuts.

A week of collecting – Day 4

Day 4: Holkham Beach – Vertebra


I’m out early to avoid the rain forecast later in the day. Walking through the pines I come out onto the beach over the dunes and almost immediately I see a section of thin, spinal bone sticking up through the sand in a stony section of the beach. Although partially hidden, it is a completely different shape to the small, round pebbles surrounding it. It is small (55mm x 55mm), white and spiky. It must be quite old as the edges are worn and rounded by the action of the sea.

I can’t identify it. I think it is too small to be a bone from one of the Common or Grey seals that breed further up the coast at Blakeney Point. I wonder if it could be a section of spine from one of the sheep that used to graze the salt marshes at Wells years ago?

A week of collecting – Day 3

Day 3: Cley Beach – Rubber Fishing Float


Cley beach is a shelving pebble beach. It isn’t very deep and strong breaking waves seem to change its contours with each tide. There is not usually much detritus on the shoreline as I think the force of the sea sweeps away any flotsam and jetsam twice a day.

At best I was expecting to pick up a small, smooth, grey sandstone pebble (my favourite). But I struck lucky and found a rubber fishing float. This is the first I have found hereabouts although I have collected many of them along the south coast at Hastings and Dungeness. I love the ‘thingness’ of this float. It is something to turn over in the hand – rubbery, rather grubby, worn and very satisfying.