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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

Marsh Watercolour Books

1/2020Marsh Watercolour Book #1/2020

I have painted some watercolours, folded them into concertina books and bound them with hard covers. They were done in my studio overlooking the marsh just before the lockdown started. I am finding that a lot of the work I am making at the moment is in response to past experience and each of these images is an interpretation drawn from my visual memory. The shapes, lines, spaces and light are a combination of inventiveness and actuality.

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The writer AS Byatt said, ‘Memories can be polished, like objects taken out, burnished and contemplated’, and indeed we do not record experiences precisely, as in a photograph. Instead we take parts of the experience and reconstruct it rather than retrieve an exact copy, adding feelings and knowledge of other experiences into the mix. Each time we remember, we remember differently.

3 2020_edited-1Marsh Watercolour Book #3/2020

I have discovered that the very act of remembering has enabled me to create a distance from an experience so that the original observations and thoughts have the opportunity to re-emerge from my mind transformed by my imagination (and other past experiences) to make a new and more lively construction of a remembered reality.

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We are all, of course, distanced from all sorts of experiences at the moment so the opportunity to remember and to reconstruct in order to create something new is very pertinent.

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These Marsh Watercolour Concertina books have been painted on Saunders Waterford HP watercolour paper, with a black bookcloth cover and I have put them in a simple paper pocket cover for protection. They are 16.5 x 75.5 cm (open) 17 x 10 x 1 cm (closed) and each book is signed on the back with a catalogue number.

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I have just put them up for sale on my online shop.

Cutting and sticking

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Yesterday I spent a very happy afternoon sifting through a huge pile of discarded watercolours to see if there was anything in them that could be of use.  I have a box in the studio where I throw ‘stuff’ that doesn’t quite work – little drawings (and big ones as well), stitched pieces, maquettes …… I have been meaning to go through the drawings/watercolours in particular for months.

The rejected drawings were all shapes and sizes and had come from several different projects. Some had been folded up in disgust and others not. The intention was to crop out the interesting bits and glue them into sketchbooks so that they would become a readily available resource for possible new work (most probably stitched cloth collages).

These bits came from a series of long drawings that had been folded to form concertina books. I simply cut out the bits I liked.

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Other bits were whole drawings (quite small) that although they had been discarded I still thought had something interesting about them. So I stuck the whole thing in.

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And some I collaged together or extended to make something new altogether.

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And then there was a whole slew of bits, mainly from quite large, boring drawings, that nevertheless had interesting marks or shapes that gave the possibility of being reinterpreted in cloth and stitch. So first I selected, and then cut out those sections and stuck them in.

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I love watercolour; it is such a fluid and spontaneous medium. The drawings are wonderful in their own right but can also be a source of inspiration when they don’t quite turn out the way you hoped and now I have two sketchbooks full of ideas ……. a good afternoons 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.

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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!

New work

Hello everyone. I hope you are all keeping well.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sea Dipping

I’ve been a bit quiet recently but the walking, noticing and making has been continuing everyday.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.