Tag Archives: salt

Landscape Change, Material Change

Here on the coast nothing is ever the same.

I have many routes that I regularly walk. Some I do more frequently than others and my favourites may be done once or twice a week. At a glance the landscape doesn’t seem to alter, but as the months go by seasonal change brings different light, colour and weather. Year on year the birds that fly overhead come and go and the plants that bloom at the side of the paths grow and die back. Twice a day the tides ebb and flow and move the shifting sands up and down the beach.

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9 Hanging Salts Pots – 2 years ago

Yesterday I walked at Burnham Overy Staithe. This is one of my favourite walks (at least once a week) as it is always varied and interesting. On this occasion the tide was coming in. There was a brisk northerly wind and a few sailing boats were tacking against it up the creek to wider waters. The sun was warm on my back but high cumulus clouds were threatening rain inland.

DSC_19559 Hanging Salts Pots – 2 years ago

At the end of the raised dyke I turned left to walk along the side of the marsh round the spit of land called Gun Hill. Something had changed – the large, floating and rather ugly, grey shipping container that had, surprisingly, sat on the edge of the marsh, (I think it may have been an artist’s studio) had been taken away. This was a blow as the low, wooden slatted shelves built into its side have provided a place to sit, drink coffee and draw many times in the past. Last time I was there the wooden slats had been prised up; pulled violently away from the container I thought it had been the fault of vandals, but maybe it was time for this temporary shelter to move on.

P10108149 Hanging Salts Pots (detail) – today

Round on the beach a large flock of birds was flying low over the sea edge. Skimming the water, they curved round and landed on the shingle just in front of me. They were well camouflaged by the grey, white and black pebbles but through the binoculars I could see that they were a huge flock of little ringed plovers. I’ve never seen so many together – there were perhaps fifty or sixty birds hopping around. Suddenly another flock flew in and landed beside them. They were sanderling: another, slightly smaller flock of small grey/white birds. I stood and watched them until a passing dog ran towards them and up they rose to land, in safety, further along the beach.

P10108219 Hanging Salts Pots (detail) – today

With the large spring tides we have been having recently, a result of the autumn equinox, I noticed another change in the landscape. The force of the incoming water had pushed the sand up the beach into undulating, shelved ridges. I don’t suppose it will be long before the wind blows it all back down the beach and flattens its surface out again.

P10108089 Hanging Salts Pots (detail) – today

When I make work, I always have this mutable environment in my mind. I aim to evoke the shifting landscape and the consequential implied passing of time in the processes and materials that I use. Salt is one of the materials I use to suggest this as the cyclical transformation of the material from to solid to liquid back to solid is a transformative, time-based process.

P10108029 Hanging Salts Pots (detail) – today

A couple of weeks ago I had reason to look at one of my saltworks, 9 Hanging Salt Pots, that had been packed away for a couple of years. As I took it out of the packaging I was initially shocked to see how much the work had deteriorated. I am, of course, aware that salt is corrosive, but other works have not corroded and broken down in quite the same way as this work. The iron wire that I use to stiffen the rim of the works had completely rusted through – eaten away over time by the continuing action of the salt that surrounds it, so that the eyelets were broken in several places. The cloth was still intact, but the areas coloured by the rust were thinner and beginning to rot. I feel as if it is just a matter of time before the cloth also breaks down.

P10108139 Hanging Salts Pots (detail) – today

My first reaction was ‘on no!’. But on reflection this action has to be a good thing. I want my work to appear weather-worn and to look as if it has had a previous life. What better way is there to achieve this than for the materials I use to actually do their job and to break down the works over time? This is a lesson to be learned and I will definitely exploit it in the future. The only problem is that I might have to put it away in a box for two years!

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Making Space

Next week I am helping to put up the 62 Group, Making Space exhibition at the Knitting & Stitching show, Olympia. This is the next stop in the tour for this exhibition that was first shown last year at the Silk Museum, Macclesfield. The theme of ‘Space’ has been interpreted by members in diverse ways using hand and machine stitch, print, weave, installation and mixed media inspired by textile techniques. I will have one salt work showing, Holed Cloth.

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‘A hole is just a space – an immaterial emptiness that is surrounded by a physical material that describes its shape and allows us to see a nothing. Debbie has made holes in cloth to give form to space and to make visible the invisible.’

I’ll be stewarding all day Saturday if you want to come and say hello!

The Knitting & Stitching show is open from 2 -5 March, 10am – 7pm Thursday and 10am – 5.30pm Friday  – Sunday.

 

 

Liminal Objects

I thought that in the lead up to the Knitting & Stitching show I would give you a taste of the work that I will be showing and a short explanation of it’s inspiration. Liminal Objects is the collective name for the salt works that I am exhibiting.  I originally made them for an exhibition early on this year but I have made more pieces and will be showing the complete series here for the first time.

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I first started using salt in my work when I noticed the tide marks seawater left on my navy-blue sailing trousers (another ‘Moment of Being’). I thought that saltwater marks on cloth had potential and I have experimented with salt water solutions extensively to get the effects I presently employ. When salt is mixed with water it dissolves. As the water slowly evaporates the salt’s crystalline structure is revealed. This cyclical process takes time and many of the small salt works I make can take up to six weeks for the process to be completed.

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The series of works in Liminal Objects come from my memory and imagination. They could be the remains of creatures that have been washed ashore and caught on the strandline – the threshold between land and sea.

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The works here are Sea Purses. They are small, salt encrusted containers to remind you of the seashore.

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The first of the Knitting & Stitching shows is at Alexandra Palace, London from 5 – 9 October. Please do come and say hello to me if you are there.

 

A week of collecting – final outcome

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the Week of Collecting project that I finished last week. It was such an satisfying, yet simple, exercise and one that I will definitely do again in the future.

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The project was rewarding on several levels. Firstly, it was of course good to get out and walk and look and decide what to pick up and take home. It was good practise to write concisely about what I had collected and to hone my thoughts about that particular object. Finally it was very good to draw everyday.

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This was quite nerve-wrecking as I had decided to do my drawings on one continuous piece of paper so that I could bind them into a concertina book at the end. If I went wrong the whole thing would have been ruined and by the end of the week I was beginning to get quite nervous about putting paint to paper. Drawing this way makes you think and observe and consider much more carefully than normal.

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I did  however have one shot at getting the drawing right in the journal that I recorded and documented my findings.

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Both of these hand-bound books will be on display at The Archive Project exhibition at Haslemere Educational Museum in February.

Along with the books I’m also showing a series of small sea-purses and other imagined objects that could well have been found on the strand-line. Here they are photographed on the beach and give a clue as to how they will be displayed in the museum.

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I’ll give you a preview when they are ready ….

Happy Christmas

Christmas always feels like the end of the year to me even though afterwards there is still another week. I set myself deadlines – work that has to be achieved by a certain time – and Christmas feels like the biggest deadline of them all. However I have just finished my ‘set’ tasks, so now I can allow myself to put everything away and relax until the New Year (did I say relax? Cooking, wrapping presents, tidying up, washing ….. it still goes on, only more so!).

The work I have just finished forms just a small part of several projects and exhibitions that I have to look forward to next year – it is going to be busy. Some of the work I have already finished, some has been conceived and I have started making it but there is still a lot of thinking and making to do. It is very exciting.

Here is a taste of what I have been doing recently:

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Holed Cloth being washed around in the sea – the second of three dips to rust the wire eyelets. This is the second of several cloths.

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Liminal Objects – these tiny works have been soaked in saltwater for a couple of weeks.

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A particularly calm day on Wells beach.

There will be more on everything next year as things get finished and ready to show.

Happy Christmas!

Collecting/Documenting

I’ve recently started a new project that responds to the collection at Haslemere Educational Museum. This is a traditional museum – dare I say, rather old-fashioned. It was founded in 1888 by Sir Jonathan Hutchinson as a centre for learning. All the artefacts were at that time on open display as Hutchinson ‘believed that people could learn as much through their hands as their eyes’.

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I am of course a great believer in understanding things using all the senses and not just the eyes, so this idea appeals to me. Unfortunately the artefacts in the three permanent Geology, Natural History and Human History galleries are now all behind glass. However, the work I am making for the exhibition responds to the idea of open display and will be highly textured and tactile – it will encourage exploration with more than just the visual sense.

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You will not be surprised to hear that I was drawn to the Natural History galleries and the collections of insects, bones, marine life and shells. Most of the artefacts  were collected by naturalists and collectors at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. These collections show an obsession for exploring, learning and understanding new and mysterious things. Many of the collections are neatly labelled with the artefact’s scientific name, date of collection and locality.

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I am a collector. I can’t help myself. It is as Rachel Whiteread says, a type of ‘absent-minded browsing, like doodling in a sketchbook’. I wander along the beach, eyes down, mind whirring as I bend down and pocket stuff. I take it all home and put it in containers – often the bottom of milk cartons (which now I look at them are interesting in themselves as they are dated and the supermarket they come from gives me a clue to where the ‘stuff’ was collected). This, up to now, has been the limit of my rather crude form of documentation.

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The plan for this project is not to use my collection but to take inspiration from it. In the spirit of the Victorian collector I will  gather and place together mysterious objects to be wondered at. I will make a collection of imaginary marine debris that will consist of things that could have been found and collected along the beach strand-line – objects that could have floated ashore on the waves and deposited as the tide retreats.

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So far I have made one set of objects. I will make more sets over the next few weeks and I intend to make drawings as well …. I’ll keep you posted.

Sand and salt bags

I’ve had some little pieces drying in the beach hut and they are now done. These are experiments. I don’t know yet if they will be developed into something else but they have several properties that are quite promising.

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The pieces have been filled with a mixture of sand and salt and soaked in the sea until wet through and then left. They have taken between three and four weeks to dry out fully.

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The smaller pieces were inspired by heaving lines – a lightweight line with a weight at the end, made to be thrown between a ship and the shore, or from one ship to another, and used to pull a heavier line across. The weight in them is really pleasing. I often feel that 3-D textile work lacks heft so I am really pleased with their heaviness.

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The longer piece was made simply to see how much sand/salt could be stuffed into a small work before it became too heavy…… it’s not too heavy to hang! Again I really like the feeling of gravity – you can see the weight of the sand/salt pulling the cloth down towards the ground.

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Food for thought …..