Monday, 13 September 2010

What's the hammock about?

Unbelievably it's all done. It was a typical dash to the finish the last six weeks but all the thinking and planning paid off. I had to test so many things, several times, at a smaller scale to be sure how they would work. The glass, that now seems so small when hung, took 4 castings to get right and took the most time. I'm so pleased with the colour and depth, it glows in the morning light. Didn't intend the nautical feel but its interesting to see how an idea can have many meanings. I wish I made the weaving bigger in every way but love the pattern and form. Knotting for 2 weeks made me stop at 4 meters! 'Trapeze', as I call the main piece, was finally about equilibrium, a battle with tension to achieve balance. All the associations with Malthus' theory that we will outgrow our resources are woven into the piece. It seems to merge with the church – it's rough twine and primitive forms.

One of the first comments I heard was 'what's the hammock about?'. How wonderful to imagine laying up there 5 meters above the brass knight on the floor! I thought of it more as a safety net for a high wire act but perhaps hammock represents balance better.

Twine wasn't my only new material. Having used concrete for sculpture bases before, it felt like the right material to completely integrate with glass in the this setting. The chemical mix is important but hand mixing is exhausting. However the dense and rough texture is the perfect contrast with the glass. The energy of the marks I recorded from around the church is still there in my crude glass bending as it juts out of the block. They have an eerie presence in the natural light of the windows. Many people didn't realise that the glass goes all the way through, the simple effect of edge lighting.

The chancel seemed a good place for the lichen photos and a few of my humble monoprints. They were part of the process but have a strength of their own. I've learned many things while working in a large space: bigger is better; leave extra time to experiment with new materials; record your thoughts (even re-reading the blog helped); test things in the space – it will tell you more than sketching. This place has gotten under my skin and will continue to inspire me.

Monday, 31 May 2010


I am sifting through the layers of information and impressions revealed in this place. The compressed weight of time seems more tangible than a year ago. Malthus' noted that there were far more births than deaths on register during his time as rector (approx 20 yrs) which may have lead to the development of his theory about population control. In this context the font becomes a measure of life, and possibly life in the balance. The hole in the stone where the old basin would have sat draws me in. I sense water, both in it's association with lightness and weight. The windows pierce the stony space with light. Although crumbling the walls still stand. Pugin's transparent tapestry calls from another era when the soul and intellect were starting to separate and find their own paths. This church is perhaps it's most relevant as a witness to the last thousand years. Once visited for salvation by poor pilgrims now primarily by tourists and charmed but dedicated locals. Can I pull together these layers?

Printmaking has offered a new way to explore ideas. I made a tentative start at Ochre Print Studio last November and hope to do more along the way.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Journey Continues

Really, I have been there. I've made the fatal mistake of blogging in my mind but not online. Very busy holiday period doing paid work, followed by surgery, followed by more work. Due to work being done in the church and the number of blessings over the next 4 months we have decided that my residency will conclude with a show from September 7-20. Whew, gives me time to get through a string of exhibitions and press on with my interests at the church.

I seem to be fixated on the font base and Malthus' encounters with his parishioners. I feel compelled to hang something through the vast area under the whale-like ribs of the ceiling. Tension, tipping points, holes, inexplicable marks are in the mix. This place offers a glimpse at the crossroads many generations have faced at turning points in history, a repository for moments of transition. I think my work will reflect the tension created by conflicting ideas that eventually move society on.

Sunday, 8 November 2009


Finally had a solitary day in the church. A dim and damp autumn day only brightened by the orange and yellow leaves outside and a momentary visit by a family who happily used the rubbing materials I had handy to record the beloved brass knight. Many things about this old place have started to get under my skin. Evidence and layers of unknown people, building styles and mysterious marks spark curiosity. The church seems to be a crossroads for echoing voices. What voice will we leave, who will hear us in 100 years? What knots will we leave in the weave of history? Outside, nature has quickly reclaimed the markers of the past. Beautiful, abstract patterns are dissolving the gravestones that strain to keep their message heard. I am interested in Malthus's message regarding population control. What would have made him consider this problem in an era and area where the density of people was far from critical? I also am drawn to the font stone, a Roman relic borrowed from Farley Heath–it seems every era must make do and mend but how did they move it? The shape is universal, the are markings unique.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Big Draw

First in was Shere Infant School on 5 October. The children hardly needed encouragement to draw on their section... they were all over their 10 meter strip of paper (or should I say Tillingbourne) in no time. Did you know the river has mermaids? It does now. Then on 8 October 15 kids from year 5 at Tillingbourne Junior school dove into their section. An enthusiastic and inquisitive bunch, they filled the paper in half an hour before moving on to the chapel to sketch Pugin designs.

The Big Day (10 October) was brilliant. Many kids came back with parents to have a look and another draw, including a big scribble and rubbings of the Weston Brass on the floor. We had about 60 people and Stephanie and Monica served tea and biscuits so everyone took their time. Some people had just come by to see the church and were confronted with children and parents sprawled all over the floor pens in hand. I was so busy chatting and helping everyone that I didn't have a go-must go back on my own. The river paper grew and grew, it looked fantastic hanging up and spurred everyone on. We decided to leave it up for a week or so. Great day!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Shere Infant School church visit

What a lovely day we had. The sun was with us and everyone was full of energy (even the mums who came along to help). Out half hour walk from school to church turned into 1 and a half as we made many stops to explore...a gnarly tree for fairies, a secret tunnel, pheasant darting about. Amazingly no one complained, even though some carried lunch boxes all the way. It all went quiet for a few moments as we entered the massive wooden door. How wonderful to see this ancient place full of curious children! We started by talking about the senses and tested each one (well, except for smell) in a different area. Dull & bright colours, rough & smooth surfaces, listening for sounds. The tower provided an area to test our sense of distance by measuring how many children it would take to stand on shoulders to the top. First we tethered a helium balloon to the cross beam and then my able assistant Amy became our measuring stick. As we pulled down the balloon string, we measures only 11 Amys, a surprise as someone guessed 60. We looked at clues of hidden stories like the brass of Sir John Weston on the floor and the faded painting on the wall above it. There was great excitement as shoes came off to go into the chapel that we had gained special access to. The shards of light scattered on the floor from the Pugin stained glass windows seemed magical to everyone. They had a chance to go up on the small alter and several asked about the piscina openings in the wall (where sacred chalices were washed). In fact the chapel stimulated the most questions. After an idyllic lunch on the grass we went back inside to take photos, do rubbings and talk about the space. That was a week ago, tomorrow I'll go to the school so we can explore ideas about what we want to make/do there for November 20 (International Children's Day). We'll start some scrap books, do some collages and get our imaginations moving.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

First Steps

Although it seems like I've been working on this project for months, officially I start at the Saxon Church on Monday the 21st. I'm so pleased the committee have agreed to let me do this (thanks John, Daphne, Roy & Stephanie). I adore this building and know it will challenge me to dig deep and think big. It will include many firsts including running children's workshops but I'm especially excited about this – their openness and energy is infectious. I have a feeling working with them will open my eyes to other approaches to my work. The Big Draw preparations are underway–publicity takes so much time but is so necessary to get enough people in. I love the idea of everyone collaborating on a 25 meter sheet of paper representing the Tillingbourne river! Not sure what will work best on the day so we've planned several activities including a Pugin window colouring-in sheet. The kiddies from Shere will start their project on Friday so lots to prepare (in my head mostly) to tease out their imaginations. Bit of a shame I didn't get the Arts Council Grant but it doesn't take away from the value of the project.