She Sews Sea Shells by the Sea Shore.
I have a longstanding obsession with the tones and textures of the sea shore. I moved from the suburbs of Manchester to the small fishing village of Pittenweem in Fife when nearly 8. The change was dramatic. Red brick terraces and busy roads were replaced by stone and pebbledash cottages and the freedom to head down the beach with friends. I loved scrambling over the rocks and drawing in the sand.
My Mum was (and still is) an avid beachcomber, collecting random things off the beach both natural and manmade, shaped by the ocean. Our car dashboard & fireplace were covered in a collection of various shells, interesting stones, bits of glass & tile, driftwood, crab claws and bird skulls.
I too have love beachcombing and even though I have moved back to Manchester, I return from holidays back at Mum’s with shells & rocks, twisted dried seaweed & old nylon rope from the fishing boats. My holiday photos have more pictures of rocks and seaweed than my family. I particularly love layers and juxtapositions of structure and colour. I love the sedimentary rocks shaped by millennia of life by the sea dappled with lichen, coated with patches of seaweed and colonies of limpets & barnacles. I love barnacles and how they cluster on other shells and discarded manmade objects. I love the flashes of orange & turquoise as old fishing rope & nets peak through the sand having been washed up & buried.
I promised in my New Year’s Resolutions that I would make more art work inspired by the beach and the treasures I gather there. I booked myself onto a Dionne Swift workshop last year as felt combining collaging textiles using an embellisher and sewing into this with free-motion embroidery would be an ideal way to explore my interest in layers of texture. I loved the day and treated myself to my very own embellisher and a eventually a proper free motion foot (my first experiments were footless) and started exploring building up tones & textures based on rocks & shells.
Initially I just worked flat but soon found that replicating the natural contours of the shells in stitch, led to me being able to manipulate them into three dimensional forms. I am liking the shapes I am creating and want to make more; small ones in pairs and large ones complete with more structured barnacles as not happy with them yet – need more experiments with hand embroidery and building up with fabric not just stitch. I want to experiment with using the rag-rugging technique I use in other work to add the notion of seaweed or shaggy lichen and explore using my prop & mask making techniques to create larger 3D forms from these textiles.
My obsession with natural textures extends beyond the shore. I love the shapes created by lichen, moss & fungus as it makes its home on trees and walls sometimes completely engulfing a fallen trunk or ruined building. But that’s a whole other project…