Category Archives: writing

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.

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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?

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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?

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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’.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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Fragment 3

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Fragment 3

The start.

White sand like wet putty.

Clear, green-blue water.

 

Whistling calls.

Turnstones, ringed plover, sanderling

run along the edge of the water.

 

Fading light.

Sand and water dull and merge to a grey/blue.

 

In tidal lines, shell fragments.

If I look hard I can find tiny cowries, limpets and periwinkles.

 

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Fragments 1 and 2

I have been on holiday to Scotland and have just spent one week on the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Berneray is tucked away on the very edge of Britain and is about as far away as you can get and still be in the UK. It is a small island that is attached to a very slightly bigger island, North Uist, by a causeway and it is the ideal place to satisfy my need for remoteness and stillness. It is a place to walk and to experience the natural environment in a slow and contemplative manner. Berneray and North Uist are small islands, surrounded by sea and white shell beaches and about half of North Uist covered with water.

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I took some art materials with me and a few little bags to put collected objects into. I had hoped to draw outside everyday as a record of what I had seen, heard and experienced, but it was windy ….. very windy. Paper, paint, pens and pencils became unwieldy in the high winds which were the tail end of a hurricane and so I had to give up that idea. Instead I collected objects from the walk each day and then when I got back to our cottage I spent a bit of time reflecting on the walk. What stuck in my mind? Was it a happening, or an experience, a process, or even just a colour?

Each day I recorded my memory visually on a small piece of folded watercolour paper and then wrote, as simply as I could, some words to describe the experience. I put the collected objects in the bag alongside the folded book and filled seven little bag altogether. One bag was from my experiences on Lindisfarne  (visited on the way up to Scotland) and the other six bags were for one day spent on Berneray. Each bag holds one remarkable memory taken from a whole days worth of memories – one fragment of a day’s experiences.

I will post one ‘bag’ a day for the next week and today’s two fragments come from Lindisfarne.

Fragment 1

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And now the causeway,

emerging from fast receding waters.

Puddled.

Flashed with light.

I stop and scan with awe

this place that minutes before was inaccessible.

Slick mud.

Still caressed by an ebbing tide.

 

A curlew rises. Calling.

Upwards and away from this mutable place.

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Fragment 2

Along the beach,

eyes down on slippery, tide-bared stones.

 

I pick up a lace of seaweed

and a piece of sea worn slate.

 

An eerie windcall rises from across the flats.

Looking up to qualify

I see dark movement in the distance.

Seals hauled out on dry sand.

 

A plaintive, drawn-out chorus

that describes this liminal space.

 

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

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Thin wispy clouds

cirrus

blow in fragile strands

diagonally across the sky.

 

Fall streaks that foretell

a change in the weather.

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Far away

towards the horizon

the blue sky lightens.

 

Below

deep water

deep blue.

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Blue is

scattered light.

Short waves

at the end of the rainbow

that disperse

into the air

and into the water.

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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.

Dusk

A grey day of dull flat light.

Late afternoon.

A walk along the footpath by the pines at the back of the beach.

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The rustle of dry branches and the steady, hushed tramp of boots on a slightly sticky surface is accompanied by the gentle chattering of pink-footed geese as they fly overhead to their night-time roost.

It is peaceful in the almost quiet stillness.

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Behind me, on the horizon, is a thin clearing of clouds. The dropping sun appears below, a scant semi-circle of glowing light that is diffused softly through the surrounding sky.

I walk on. And look round. Brighter now. In the clear sky is a line of brilliant orange, a streak of golden colour in a grey world.

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I walk on. Tall reeds and spiky blackthorn to my right. I glance round and look through the lacework vegetation turned black by the brilliant light beyond.

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I walk on. And look round again. The heavy sun sits poised between cloud and horizon. A burning sphere waiting to drop.

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I walk on. Moments later the light dissolves. I turn yet again. The sun has gone down below the horizon leaving a final blush of colour.

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I walk on. The light flatter, and greyer than before.