The found object as a starting point

I thought some of you might be interested in the journey between my finding objects and a finished piece of work.  Sometimes I pick up an item immediately knowing how I can use it, but, more often than not, the idea develops over time.

On each of my last two walks at Church Norton, I found a small plastic square inscribed “P.W.C” – 6 days apart and on different ends of the beach.  I believe P.W.C stands for Portsmouth Water Company.

I had no definite idea when I found the first, but when I found the second, I immediately knew how I was going to use these rigid plastic squares.  The uniform shape and size and the rigidity brought to mind covers for a small book!  Next, I started to think about what form the book would take, how I would hold the pages in place and how I would secure the finished article – it seemed an obvious choice to try and use the drilled holes.

After some experimentation, I decided that rather than have conventional flat pages, I would consider some sort of Origami form.  Using the squares as inspiration, I created the inside pages and found a format that I liked and that suited the “covers”.  Here is the outcome:

I have a few mobile phone parts with which I may be able to construct something similar   so I’m off now to have a play!

Hand made Paper

My fascination with beach-combed objects stems from the fact that man-made items enter the sea at a place and time unknown.  At this stage, they are often useful, in good condition and are similar to many many other such times.  By the time, I retrieve them from the shoreline they are no longer of any use, they are worn and distressed by time and tide, and they are unique.  It is the alteration that occurs during this unspecified time period that interests me – it raises so many unanswerable questions: When did it enter the sea, why and how?  How long has it been in the sea?  How far has it travelled?

One particular fascination is brushes.  I find many plastic brush handles but more interesting are the bone or wooden ones.  These sometimes present with bristles, whole or partly intact, but the really interesting ones no longer have bristles, just the holes where bristles once were.

I like the contrast between the worn finish and the precision of the holes.  I am starting to explore this idea further, combining the found with the made; the old with the new; the perfect with the imperfect.

These three pieces combine hand made paper with found elements.  I’d love your feedback!

New ways of presenting my found objects

I am always looking for new ways of presenting the found.  Some of the items that I collect are large, some are heavy and some are very small.  I rarely know what I will do with an item when I pick it up, I just know that it has “something”.  I am fascinated with the process by which an item enters the sea and is later washed up, altered.  Hence, the things that I collect are the man-made rather than the natural and organic.  They are also not conventionally pretty – no sea glass or pebbles for me!  But what to do with them …. that of course is the big question.

An idea that I have had for some while, is to make pieces of art in the form of jewellery.  Given the nature of the found objects that I have, they will not necessarily be worn, although they could be, but rather I liked the idea of forming the objects into the shape of necklaces or brooches or bangles.  There are many talented silversmiths working with found materials be they plastic, wood, metal, or stone and when I saw a course at West Dean College, I thought I would try and learn the basics of making with eco-silver and brass.

Since my last encounter with a blow-torch (think creme brûlée) resulted in a visit to        A & E, I viewed the two torches on display with a little trepidation but, I am pleased to report, no injuries ensued!  Attaching tiny pieces of solder to bent wire and using the flame in a controlled way to join the two took a little practice, but I managed to produce a series of chain links to be used in conjunction with the found.

Circuit board earrings 1

I look forward to receiving comments on these pieces from visitors to Chichester Art Trail which runs 10.30 – 5.00 on May 2,3,8,9 and 10.  Anyone local who cannot make these dates, is welcome to get in touch direct with any queries.

Paper making

I recently attended a course with Jane Ponsford and learnt the basics of hand made paper making.  We used cotton rag and in some cases, I combined this with found clay to add colour.

I wanted to combine the hand made paper with some of my found objects and went with some ideas in mind as to how this might work.

Three bowls on a shelf
Hand made paper bowls either side of a found object

Having kitted myself out with the appropriate gear, I am looking forward to experimenting more with the combination of made and found to produce a series of work.  The images above are all starting points rather than finished works but I have thoroughly enjoyed learning this new process.  Another course beckons in the Autumn looking at sculpting, folding and moulding with paper – can’t wait!

INSPIRATION ….

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!

Beachcombing Day 1.jpg
Beachcombing Day 1 at Studio 11 Eastbourne in 2016

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.

SC - Bound and left vessel 2 - silver, stainless stell wire, linen thread, driftwood, rose thorn and washerSC Wetlands Vessel - iron wire, driftwood, oxidised silver, bobby pin, fishhookSC Traces & Fragments vessel 2 - silver, stainless steel wire, beach pebble, found sardine canSC 5SC 3

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.