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!
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.
After three weeks at the Oxmarket Gallery in Chichester, the time came last Sunday to take down our work. I thoroughly enjoyed the run, meeting lots of new people, chatting to other artists, and of course handing over five pieces of my work to their new homes. Nicola Hancock did a great job of curating the exhibition, displaying her own work along with four other artists who each came from different walks of life, offering up different methodologies and outcomes, but whose work all reflected on how creativity offered release to those suffering mental anguish in some form – here the title “Creative Redemption.” Several visitors told me how good it was to see some contemporary work displayed in this gallery in a new and exciting way.
I sold two collages and three pieces of sculpture …
“Porcelain in orbit”
… and, just as importantly, received lots of positive feedback and encouragement from visitors. Several said that they were off to the beach to see what they could find and I would love to hear from them – as long as they took a bag to pick up the rubbish at the same time, that is all fine with me! Others related to the theme of the exhibition and chatted about the restorative power of stitch or other forms of creativity.
So, I am now thinking about my next project. I will certainly exhibit at this venue again and am thinking in terms of combining my found objects with recycled everyday items to create a new body of work.