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.
Dungeness, at the Southernmost point of Kent, is unique – no boundaries, a desolate landscape with wooden houses, power stations, lighthouses and expansive gravel pits. Yet it possesses a rich and diverse wildlife within the National Nature Reserve in one of the largest shingle landscapes in the world.Dungeness has been designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). It is home to 600 species of plants which is a third of all plants found in the UK. The National Nature Reserve stretches across Dungeness to encompass the vast RSPB reserve and is intended to help protect the landscape and its wildlife.
My husband and I visited for the first time recently and it is an extraordinary place. As the introduction above states, it is desolate. We were only there for a few hours and will return without our dog so that we can explore the RSPB reserve and spend more time walking. Even if you were only to stay for 5 minutes you would be struck by what a special place this is and I urge you to visit NOW before the changes that are starting get a real grip.
The Dungeness Estate
Derek’s Jarman’s Prospect Cottage
Poppies in June
Miles of shingle
The end of the line
Red and Green
Artists at Work
Nuclear Plant and Lighthouse
The contrast between the decommissioned nuclear power station and the beautiful flora and fauna is quite shocking. The windswept 468-acre estate, on Romney Marsh, has just 22 properties, mostly converted railway cottages, which are largely owned by fishermen. But change is happening – some of the old wooden property is being replaced by mini “Grand Design” houses. Although the new properties are fitting in well, being a modern version of their predecessors and remaining low-key and modest, I could not help but wonder if the replacements are owned by second home owners. As the owner of two holiday cottages, I cannot be so hypocritical as to condemn this but, in such a small community, I feel that even a few holiday homes would have a massive impact. I note that when the estate was put up for sale in 2015 at £1.5m, the agent said: “It has considerable potential for increased income from tourism on top of the substantial income it already produces.” It is now owned by EDF Energy and a quick search today found 7 holiday homes there.
Before, During and After ….
Having said that, Dungeness is far from ruined and there are few outlets for the tourist to spend his money. Long may it stay that way! So go, take it in, draw, paint, walk, photograph, and enjoy … while you can!
With apologies to my husband, Alan, I could not resist turning a few images into black and white – it so suits the place!