On our way home from Scotland recently we stopped off for lunch at Middleport Pottery near Stoke on Trent. As an aside, the cafe was recommended in an excellent book “The Extra Mile” which we picked up earlier that day at a very good and unusual service station, “Cairn Lodge”.
Having had our lunch by the canal, and had a mooch around the pottery and shops, we had a little wander and came across Harper Street. My husband and I were both drawn to investigate further:
I love rust and texture saw the street scene as a series of beautiful textural portraits:
Whilst I love the street as it is, we were glad to see that, rather than sitting empty, Harper Street is going to be redeveloped and repurposed in a way to pay homage to the industrial past and present of the area
At the weekend, I spent time with the lovely Mary Crabb at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichcester together with other like minded ladies learning the basics of “looping.” Working with a variety of fine flexible materials, Mary weaves using adapted traditional basketry techniques to form a range of beautiful objects.
The purpose of the workshop was to explore the process of stitching to create a fabric. Mary had brought a huge range of flexible textile materials for us to play with, from fishing wire to rope, from rubber tubing to yarn made from nettles. We experimented with working flat, working in 3D, in the round and from side to side, comparing stitch variations, materials and tension. The aim was to play and to start developing individual items as to how we might use this technique in our own way.
Thicker paper twine
Samples using a variety of materials
I am particularly interested in combining this technique with my found materials. I may use the looping with actual found “yarns” such as fishing line, rope, electrical wire and so on but also combine the found with other yarns using them as a holder or as a mould. More play required! For the time being, I thoroughly enjoyed just exploring what one can do with a length of yarn!
When I started to work with found objects, I began walking along the various bits of coast that I could access on my morning exercise with the dog. I collected any items that caught my eye with a view to using it in my work. However, it was not long before I felt compelled to start collecting the “trash” as well as the “treasure” and, sadly, there is much more of this. People often ask me what has been the most interesting find so I thought I would compile a post to let you know!
In January 2017, I was walking at East Head, West Wittering when I found this object. I had no idea what it was and took a couple of photographs, hoping to discover it’s identity when I got home. I belong to an excellent online group of beachcombers and after many suggestions of coconut or coco de mere, someone suggested that it was part of a human cranium! And so it was! The police was called and the skull sent off for analysis. Sadly, I never got to find out the results but believed it was mostly likely to be from an ancient burial at sea . The Daily Star headline ran “Mystery as ‘shipwrecked sailor” head found on British beach in odd circumstances” and for a day or two I was famous as the story went viral. Of course I did not find a “head”, we don’t know who it belonged to and the circumstances were not “odd”!
I am drawn to all things rusty and confess to having quite a collection of items for use in rust dyeing and assemblage. Here is one I particularly liked sitting on my kitchen windowsill: Once again, it was not long before the alarm was raised and the police followed by the bomb squad visited! I have found several objects since which have been more obviously questionable and now know to call the coastguard rather than bring the item home!
I would guess that most of the litter than I pick up has been either dropped at the beach by visitors or has washed in from the sea somewhere else in the UK. I regularly find old shoes and shoe heels and soles and I think that these come from an old dump on the Isle of Wight some 24 miles away as the crow flies.
I often find objects labelled from overseas. Whilst I can see that some of these have made the journey by sea from their apparent destination, some may have been purchased in the UK. I recently found a label from Brazil, often find European packaging and occasionally things from the USA such as this lobster creel tag from Maine:
I am now in touch with this gentleman’s daughter who lives on a small island in Maine and the family are amazed that I found the tag belonging to Melvin who has just retired from 70 years as a lobster fisherman!
Some of my finds demonstrate the sad fact that plastics are prevalent in our seas and that they will take many many years to decompose – a drinks bottle will take 450 years to vanish! Here a few examples of relatively recent finds (CLICK FOR DETAILS):
2008 walkers crisp packet found 2019
Safety first milk bottle from the 1950’s
War time Dentrifice tin
Elizabeth Arden Blue Grass c 1940 – 50
And, finally, I occasionally find an object and cannot ascertain it’s purpose. I have now found nine of these little rubber items and am still none the wiser – they were found at differing locations but all within 5 miles or so of Selsey. I know someone who has found a couple on the North East Coast of England too. We agree that they are not rubber balls and can only think that they are some sort of protective cover. If anyone could enlighten me I would be delighted!
I now feel settled within my niche of working with found objects. But how did I get to this point? An early influence was Cas Holmes who creates wonderful textiles using found and recycled materials either directly or as tools (I well remember her printing with a malted milk biscuit!) and it seemed to make sense to me to re-use as much as possible in one’s creation. Later I came across the beautiful work of Alice Fox and very much enjoyed a course with her at Studio 11 in Eastbourne. We started each day with a walk along the shoreline collecting items that we could use – in this instance we were particularly looking for items with which we could rust-dye. Before the class started, I was away walking along the beach each morning – there was something about the absorbing way I searched which allowed my eyes to see but my mind to wander in a creative meander. I have never stopped!
Alice suggested that we lay out our finds so that we could take in what we had and how the pieces might work. She also introduced us to the work of a silversmith by the name of Stuart Cairns. Whilst I do not have the ability to make the beautiful objects that Stuart makes, he inspired me to continue to work with the found. I do not seek to copy his work (I do not have the skill!) but I greatly admire it and so jumped at the chance to see his current exhibition which runs at “Make”, Hauser at Wirth in Bruton, Somerset until Saturday.
If I had to sum up Stuart’s work in three words they would be: beautiful, delicate, fragile. Each piece is so perfectly judged – just the right amount of detail, just the right balance between found and made. Do have a look at his website but the objects really do need to be seen to be appreciated in full.
I would also just like to mention the work of ceramicist Elaine Bolt. Elaine also appreciates Stuart’s work and has been supportive of me in the past. I think you will see that same sense of balance in her pieces and the apparent simplicity of the work. I say apparent because of course none of these artists produce their work with ease or without a great deal of hard work and study. I tried working with porcelain with Elaine once – an unmitigated disaster!
So, I will continue to work in my own way but always admiring these various artists and makers. They continue to inspire me and hope that you will gain something from looking at their work too.
Studio 21’s current exhibition ‘Colour Notes’, celebrates the group’s 21st anniversary and explores how each artist expresses and interprets their own response to colour through narratives and memories.
Launched at the Knitting and Stitching Exhibition in October 2018 (where the majority of these shots were taken) to great acclaim, Colour Notes comprises a broad range of hues and tones in a varied imagery of texture, light and shadow. All of the pieces represent searching and thought provoking responses to the effect of colour on each artist’s life and practice.
Instead of a riot of colour, the exhibition comprises a broad range of hues and tones in a varied imagery of space, light and shadow. All of the pieces represent searching and thought-provoking responses. With a wide range of responses including: material colour in and of the landscape; colour created by the changing light of day or season; and capturing a…