Tag Archives: landscape

Fish Traps

P1050804

My studio was formerly an old whelkshed – a place where fishermen would bring mussels and whelks to be to be washed and cooked. It is in an area which is still very much the working part of Wells-next-the-Sea and I am surrounded by buildings and paraphernalia that are used today by fishermen and the staff who keep the harbour running efficiently. In the unadopted lane that runs past the studio there are always stacks of both old and new lobster creels and traps, and old anchors and massive pieces of worn oak (the remains of wooden sailing ships) rest outside the boat park having been scooped out of mud by the dredger as it keeps the channel clear for boats. These are all an indication of both the town’s past and present activity.

IMG_1646

Although my work does carry latent indications of man’s intervention in the landscape as I echo man-made objects such as jetties, sluices, and the remains of old wooden structures that can be found all across the marsh, I realise that I don’t very often directly address the idea of man in the landscape as my bias is mostly towards the effect of natural processes. With this in mind I have looked just outside the studio for inspiration to the objects lying there that are the immediate evidence of human activity in this environment – lobster pots.

P1050800

The pots, or creels, used here on the North Norfolk coast for catching shellfish – mainly lobsters and crabs –  are D-shaped and covered with black netting (apparently black netting is more effective at catching shellfish than any other colour). There are usually 2 or 3 entrances, each with a conical inner net that leads to a hard ‘eye’ to allow the shellfish to crawl up and then drop into the ‘parlour’ or main body of the creel.

IMG_1657

P1050793

So here is the first ‘fish trap’ that has been inspired by some of the features of the traps outside the studio: black net, a crawl space and an inner ‘eye.

P1050814

I’m not a weaver or a knotter but I am a knitter, so that was my chosen method. The material I am using is Habu Textiles, Shosenshi Linen Viscose Paper. It is a 4mm wide flat tape that is made from 100% linen and covered with a permanent viscose sizing. It is very crispy and crackles and crunches in my hands as I work with it. It is a posh sort of raffia and when knitted up I like that it looks a bit like Thongweed, a long thin type of seaweed.

P1050785

This is my first ‘fish trap’ and there is another on the needles now. I must say I am really enjoying the process of making these objects that relate so directly to the Norfolk landscape.

P1050781

The protective coast – 2

Last time I spoke about some of the research I have been doing around tidal surges and rising sea levels, and the ability of salt marshes to protect the coast by buffering wave actions from the force of the sea.

P1050764Ordnance Survey Norfolk Sheet 111 SE, 1907, 2nd edition.

This is a concern that is very real here in Wells. During the last tidal surge, in 2013, hard defences protected the west of the town – the floodgate was deployed and a glass flood wall held back the huge sea – however to the east of the flood defences the water built up flooding local businesses and houses along the quay. The solution for future surges could be to allow the eastern marsh, Slade Marsh, to flood. Lowering the height of the sea wall (or possibly removing it altogether) would relieve the pressure created by the ‘hard’ defences during exceptional tides by releasing the high water over the marsh and farm land and therefore protecting the buildings along the quay. This of course sounds counter-intuitive but this area used to be a place where the tide regularly flowed before the land was reclaimed for farming in around 1719.

P1050753Sample 1 – taken directly from map

My studio sits to the east end of the town and during the 2013 surge the water rose up flooding the building to about 1 metre (a former occupant has marked the level). This issue is of importance me.

P1050754Sample 2 – taken directly from map

So where to start with a project that addresses some of these concerns? Well I decided to start with a map of Wells and in particular the area to the east of the town. The map is an Edward Stanford Ordnance Map of Wells, dated 1907. It was very kindly given to me by a friend (thank you Helen Terry) and shows the creeks, the marsh and the town very clearly and in great detail.

P1050755Sample 3 – taken directly from map

When you don’t know what to do, or which direction to take, I think it is often best to start simply, and in this case I began by just copying parts of the map. I like that these first efforts depict the creeks as they were over 100 years ago as it gives me scope to research the changes that have actually occurred since then.

P1050757Sample 4 – Using shapes from my observation of the landscape and ‘colouring in’

The samples are 50 x 50 cm, sewing cotton on painted linen. The white on blue hints at blueprint maps. I have to say I really like these first three samples and learnt quite a lot stitching them, but they are much too literal…. too map-like.  So my next move was to come away from the obvious map shapes and to use shapes that come from my own observations of the landscape.

P1050756Sample 5 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching

Again, I feel they are sterile – there is nothing for the imagination to work with. So, I tried making my own marks with paint rather than just ‘colouring in’ and there is much here that I like, especially where in sample 5 the paint looks like a stain that is almost accidental.

P1050758

Sample 6 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching. 

I thought I might be ready to make a larger version – to make a ‘finished’ piece – but I put everything away for a week and now I look at them again I know I’m not ready to go bigger or finished. I like the fluid, wavering lines that suggest shifting boundaries. I like some of the painted marks. I like the distressed cloth background and the eyelets. But the imagined shapes in the later samples have no meaning for me.

P1050760Sample 7 – Making marks with white paint and then stitching. Couched wire.

My next move? Well I think to do more research. I need to walk the creek at low tide. Draw what I see and notice the effects of the water on the mud and the sand. And then I need to move inland and walk the sea wall and the fields behind – to look and to listen in order to really understand what is at stake here and to give meaning to the marks I paint and stitch.

This is a long term project and I have no idea how it will end. Maybe some of these ‘samples’ will turn out to be actual work (it often happens), but I intend to document each move here, so next up some drawing.

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.

2 2020_edited-1Marsh Watercolour Book #2/2020

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.

5 2020_edited-1Marsh Watercolour Book #5/2020

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.

4 2020_edited-1Marsh Watercolour Book #4/2020

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.

P1050414_edited-1Slip covers

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

Sea Dipping

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

P1040764

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.

P1040757

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.

P1040771

 

P1040781

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.

P1040783

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.

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.

P1040620

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’.

P1040607

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.

P1040604

P1040602

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.

P1000312

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.

C3F16F0E-B5EF-4AAE-8A1E-45157B60FE10

8FE31EFF-553B-4B17-9877-4C6F66633AB4

And then drew again.

E436B734-503E-46A2-90FB-75F3A013D013 2

84B9D8B3-07C6-4094-B70E-BED941F625EB

11C35D0B-1AF7-4983-8A0C-AF2F123841AA

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.

 

Painting

Looking through the catalogue of work that I have made this year I notice that I have done more watercolour paintings than anything else.

IMG_0678

Painting is something I enjoy. If the weather is good I will take paints and paper and walk to a place outside; if it is raining, I’ll paint in the studio, from memory.

IMG_0679

Painting gives me two things: an exploration of mark making and materials – in this case paint and paper; and it gives me the opportunity to consider something that is becoming increasingly important when I make work – that ambiguous space between an experience and how I may evoke it, either immediately or later. These ideas feed each other as I paint.

IMG_0669

A painting comes from my manipulation of materials to exploit their specific properties. How does paint move around paper? What tools should I use to move it around? What marks can I make? How much water should I use? It is a process that is largely intuitive and each time I squeeze paint onto a palette and pick up a paint brush something different happens. What I discover whilst working with these materials feeds the expression of the image that appears on the paper.

IMG_0670

These paintings were made in the studio and come from my memory. I find I am increasingly making work from the memory of an experience: the remembered sensation of seeing, of hearing, of touching that constitutes a moment of being in the world. These paintings explore that space between the original experience and how I might evoke it here and now.

IMG_0671

I have spoken before about artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and her idea of ‘outer sensing and inner seeing’. These paintings are an expression of contemplation and imagination and come from an amalgam of experiences within me: of space, of light, of time, of rhythm. They are the result of the interaction between my inner perceptions, my materials and my hands.

IMG_0681

These paintings are done on half a sheet (approx. 56×38 cm)  Bockingford,  300gm, not, watercolour paper.

Fragment 8

P1040534

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?

 

P1040504

P1040508