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.
“Medmerry” close up
3M necklace close up
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.
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.
I was recently looking at my various finds and decided that a piece of old number plate reminded me of a book cover. I rubbed it down and set about making a paper book to go inside.
Number Plate found Bracklesham Bay
Large Book III
The bound book had covers made from prints and I added a fishing line and weight in colours to match. However, I was not happy with this – I felt the interior needed to be made from found objects to match the cover. I had a rummage and found some suitable fibreglass pieces.
Large Book II
My next book project will be to make a mini book using part of this found mobile phone part as the cover ….
One day last year I found an intriguing piece of rubber on the beach at Seatown, Dorset. I can’t be sure what it started out as but it had obviously been patched numerous times and the sea had distressed the surface beautifully.
My initial thought was to keep it intact as I loved it so much, but, on reflection I felt that there was so much going, it would be better to view it in bite sized chunks. So I tore it into five pieces. This was a brave decision because, unlike with art that you have made, you will never be able to replicate a found object – once you’ve alterered it, it stays altered!
Next, I considered how I could add to the surface without distracting from the wonderful texture that the sea had created. I chose some found pieces of paper and a little more rubber from another find and added them with stitch. The original piece of found rubber was quite contorted and I considered laying the pieces under a heavy weight to flatten them before mounting – I have rejected that option because I think the twists and turns add interest to the piece but I will see what my framer has to say about it!
It is always a case of being careful to add just the right amount of stitch – too little or too much makes a deal of difference. The aspect is also important and I will play with some variations in due course.
Here they are before I visit him:
Once they are framed, I will update you with how they look!
There is no doubt that my taste is changing – I am drawn to more abstract and semi abstract work than I was when I was younger. I wonder why? I see marks and patterns that attract me in the strangest of places, even in rubbish. As you know, one of my hobbies is beach combing. I like to collect objects that are weathered and distressed by the sea – these are nearly always man made items – whilst I appreciate the beauty of stones and shells I do not feel the need to collect them.
It is unusual to find paper on the beach as it is easily broken up by the waves – not so, sadly, the plastic. These are some bits collected recently:
A crisp bag, a sandwich wrapper and other plastic. I like the way the colours and text have been eroded and altered by the action of the sea.
But, the big question of course, is how can these be used in “Art”. Well, as a start, I played around with composition, decided I needed a bit more texture and added some found duct tape. So the next stage could be to reinterpret these shapes and colours in mixed media …. a project for the New Year.