4th October 2012
The essence quoted Â from my original proposal.
I chose the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford for the initial research. It contains a huge diverse worldwide collection of objects from many cultures past and present.
“Â What did strike me then was the direct use of natural materials, inventiveness of construction and range of application.”
“……..how the rich diversity of our ancestors interacted with their environment and how theyÂ regarded the objects they made.”
“……consider the creative mind of the sophisticated â€˜primitiveâ€™ maker and how they connected with their environment and communities needs. A vernacular process, where there is a need, materials to hand and a skill.”
“To me mending suggests far more than repair. It embodies empathy for sustainable living. Mending speaks of being cherished, loved. It speaks of wise council, evolution,Â tenderness, resourcefulness and, the value of our material world and prolonging life. It talks about more then making a thing last longer. Mending manages a cyclic process. Its action is a form of love. Love in action.”
AND a quote from Soetsu Yanagi’s book The Unknown Craftsman. It has remained an inspirational reminder:
â€œUtensils wait for men, just as men wait for them. It may be easy to use things, but how many know how to use them.â€ Â Â
6th October 1012
I am passionate about and principally an object maker. My work, my sculpture, is informed by different aspects of my historyÂ Â -Â Â in particular, where the anthropomorphic language of furniture meets architectural references, drawing and teaching. Through an abstract language, using metaphor, ambiguity, symbol and myth (when myth transcends time and meaning), I am interested in making objects that portray feelings about everyday life, whether dark or optimistic. They are vehicles of expression that reflect or comment on the mystery of being human. The work tests a range of possibilities, using a variety of materials.
â€˜Borrowingâ€™, â€˜traceâ€™ and â€˜inner consciousnessâ€™ inform my working process, whether lifted from the immediacy of studio life or drawing on my history and knowledge. I am interested in the richness to be found in the memory marks left by making, telling the viewer about that aspect of the objectâ€™s humanity. There is a pleasure to be found in the materials worked.
I am also interested in the emotional and sensory implications to be found in the narrative of a piece, in particular when the physical encounter, transfers to an intellectual dialogue. I look for the moment, during the creative process, when this occurs and the relationship with the object tempts one to move between these two states.
I am interested in the demands of the working process and when the developing object ceases being a thing and becomes a sculpture, possessing its own heartbeat. â€˜Stumblingâ€™ across and taking a step, that acts as an â€˜interfaceâ€™ seems to allow this moment to happen.
My first research trip to the Pitt Rivers Museum is scheduled for next Thursday/Friday (11th/12th) October.
This starting point Â presents such an exciting opportunity to work in a different way, maybe exploring the possibilities of using other materials.
8th October 2012 Â Â Â Â
This recent piece of sculpture I titled ‘Standing in silence’, where the combination of materials extends the metaphoric references.
16th October 2012
Pitt Rivers first research visit 11th & 12th October 2012
In advance of my arrival, the assistant curator had laid out all the objects I had asked to examine. Eight pieces were presented, carefully lined up on a large table covered with a thin layer of foam. An angle-poise light and magnifying glasses were provided. I used neither, preferring the natural daylight coming in from the overhead roof windows.
All my usual messy methods of drawing had to be abandoned, soft graphite and coloured chalks applied with fingers. I was informed that only a pencil was allowed and my other bits and pieces brought to sustain my day, left at a distance that would prevent any likelihood of harming the artefacts. I was provided with purple surgical gloves and invigilated from a seat behind me.
Although feeling enormously privileged, I was unsettled and felt the morning had been wasted. The imposed lunch break provided a moment to take stock and shake off my tension. A very different approach was needed, so I purchased a new A4 sketchbook and a fine black drawing pen. And on my return adjusted to the quiet meditative process and began to concentrate on the unexpected task. As my thoughts locked in, the â€˜storiesâ€™ of each individual piece began to reveal themselves.
I particularly like simple utilitarian objects, but the two presented, an Inuit spoon and snow scoop, with uninspiring mends, didnâ€™t grip my imagination. Six arm bands, five from different parts of Africa and one from the Jotsoma region of India, remained. As I gently turned each over in latex covered fingers, time dropped away. All but one was made from ivory, the odd one out, from a hard black stone, simple and beautifully crafted with no embellishment. The stone had cracked in one place and a comparatively crude brass plate had been riveted across the break, to restore its strength, paradoxically imbuing quite a different attractive quality.
Apart from the black stone, if an object can possess a destiny, other ivory pieces suggested a spiritual life after the death of the animals from which they were taken. Their different mends, apart from two, seemed to be predestinedÂ (as if such an idea was at all likely). Using my own terms for the mending techniques I identified six:
-Â Â Â Â Â Â The riveted bridge patch
-Â Â Â Â Â Â The wire stitch
-Â Â Â Â Â Â The decorative fine wire sleeve
-Â Â Â Â Â Â The way of string
-Â Â Â Â Â Â The soft metal infill
-Â Â Â Â Â Â The double mendÂ (although strictly speaking the addition of the string binding was Â Â probablyÂ applied by Â the collector in 1903 to make sure that it remained intact).
The predestined mend.
The notion of mending moved into a sphere that I had never considered, for example:
Reflecting on a huge segment of ivory, the only embellishment, two shallow grooves carved into the outer wall of its circumference. Worn by men above the elbow.
Written on the object: Armlet which has been cut open to remove it from the arm, and then mended. ANGAMI, JOTSOMA, NAGA HILLS. Pres. by J.H.Hutton, 1938.
A young male villager longingly imagined the moment when he would become a â€˜manâ€™ and proudly wear the emblems of man-hood. He revered the large creature he was about to slay, however he knew that it would not be an easy task, because its spirit was greater than his. The day arrived when he dared attempt the transition, knowing only too well that he could perish, in the ensuing struggle. He had judged correctly though and the day was his. The great tusk was cut into sections and being the animalâ€™s slayer he was able to choose the largest and heaviest piece. He easily slipped his slim hand through the natural hole in the segments centre. At first he struggled to keep it in place, but over the years it stopped slipping and the animals spirit remained permanently attached to his upper arm. Although its weight and size was a burden, he wore it with pride and honour. A medal representing his important status within the life of the community to which he was bornÂ Â -Â Â a brave and attractive alpha male. After many years had passed, the heavy armband was more burdensome than it was worth to his discomfort. He asked the skilled craftsman to remove it. Two fine saw cuts and, cleverly, a segment dropped away and the giant piece manoeuvred from his arm, leaving an impression where his arm had grown to know the great animal more intimately. The segment was replaced, the aperture closed and stitched through with four wire loops and handed back to the wearer. The trophy was respectfully wrapped and put away. From time to time, he would would uncover, hold and reflect upon his and the life of the huge animal he had killed.
The slayer carried a heavy self imposed penalty along with the honour.
Note: This story might not bear any resemblance to the truth of this object.
Well, when you have had a big chunk of ivory surgically removed from your body, you don’t just chuck it in the bin!
24th October 2012
From my sketch book the different mending techniques.
The double mend Â 1) Soft metal infill Â 2) String binding (probably added later) The addition of wrap around string bind and tie seems unlike a mend to me, but probably applied by the original collector to prevent it from falling apart during transit and meant to be removed. It was left in place as part of the artefact’s history.
The rivetedÂ bridge patchÂ
The way of string
A very neat double string bind through four carefully drilled holes.
Â The riveted bridge patch
In comparison to the other mends, this one is crude and almost clumsy looking fixing two pieces of ivory that don’t appear to be very special.
The decorative fine wire sleeve
7th November 2012
I found these shoes in a Covent Garden gallery on Friday. I’m not sure if they are a fashion hybrid or a genuine clog dancing shoe, either way I like the nailed on steel toe ‘striker’ and the correlation to the steel and copper riveted bridge patch on two of the above arm bands, in particular the brass hammered plate on the black stone armlet. I read ambiguity with the shoes; is the metal toe strip a fashion add on or a practical anti scuff or to click your step on the dance floor. NICE LOOKING DETAIL.
Â 12th November 2012
Small circular table
Back to furniture, this wasn’t my intention, but hey ho, let’s see were it leads Â – Â The circular table
Due to the nature of gluing up a wide board in order to cut a circle from it for this popular concept, leaves the maker with a dilemma and four substantial off-cuts which define part of a circle along one edge,whilst the other two edges offer something close to a right angle. Usually made from hardwood and therefore far too valuable to chuck in the firewood bin.
With thoughts gleaned from the mending project, this predetermined shaped off-cut suddenly bears fruitful opportunities. Can the four pieces be reassembled for another use? This could go beyond recycling. Instead of just using the piece of wood to cut up for some other small product, perhaps, by retaining something of its original language, one also captures something of its history and previous use. Hummmmmm!
26th November 2012
Introducing the ‘Flagged Mend’
In fact this is a change of terminology, inspired by my previously named ‘riveted bridge patch’. I keep returning to this beautiful and skilfully crafted black stone armband from Timbuktu, Africa. To attempt to carve something as thin and delicate as an almost perfect circle from a hard and brittle black stone takes a fair bit of courage. If one used a metal chisel and struck it with hammer blows, it would undoubtably shatter. I can only imagine that it was slowly and painstakingly abraded, but with such care and precision. Then, one day, it is found to be fractured. What presence of mind the mender tackles this mend, it is quite extraordinary, in comparison to the minimal precise shape of the armband, a piece of recycled Â brass strip, huge but really quite appropriate, is riveted across the fracture (I have sneaked in a detail, out of focus, photo of the actual arm band, below).
This mend is clearly established and meets our eye with such audacity, that it flags its presence. Later on you’ll see how I am developing the idea.
Photo by Guy Martin Â – Â courtesy and copyright, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.
Accession number Â 1904.54.33
27th November 2012
Recording fragments from the mending journey is forcing a different focus for me. The creative process I have adopted for making my sculpture, is one of emptying my mind, so that when I go into the studio I try not have any preconceived thoughts, instead I prefer to form a ‘working dialogue’ with the ‘thing’ I am working on and allow unpredictable actions to occur. The mending project, by its nature of having research starting points is producing a different work pattern. I will therefore dare to commit to the thoughts and ideas revealed so far.
1. Â I have a sense of making three objects for the final outcome and for possible exhibition.
2. Â Each of the three pieces will try and behave as if they are an artefact, to allude to but not be specific, in the sense of representing something that has been before.
3. Â The notion of predestination intrigues.
4. Â To develop the ‘flagged mend’ as a method of fixing or alluding to fixing.
5. Â Status, power and story are somehow present.
6. Â Ambiguous. Suggests more than one possibility or can not be clearly identified.
7. Â I like the idea of alluding to something modern or contemporary, but could be ancient at the same time.
I think this list is far too long. Why did I start writing!?
3rd December 2012
PHILOSOPHY Â (Today’s self confessed wisdom)
Up to this point, I have been conscious of delivering. This requirement (sometimes self imposed) Â accompanies the territory of ‘commission’. I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with this aspect of the project and realised that it takes me back to working with design process, where one needs to adopt an attitude of working willingly within a set of identified constraints (Charles Eames said “… each project has its own peculiar list.”) This is a great process for making a table for a specific customer. It justifies the need. Now, working with the freedom of making sculpture, I want to subvert the research and not feel that there is a reason to justify it, however its presence remains strong.
7th December 2012
Pitt-Rivers Museum, Oxford
A slight side step, but worth a comment, because it is influencing my thinking. The Pitt-Rivers museum is a stunning piece of Victorian architecture, designed by Thomas Manly Deane and Benjamin Woodward and built 1885/86. It was inspired by a ‘deed of gift’ from General Augustus Pitt-Rivers. In 2007 a research annex was stitched to the rear of the original building, its architectural style is minimal, contemporary, using exposed steel and glass. Hidden from the front elevation of the original building, there is no conflict, the elements are bonded and require each other to continue to perform the service, which is growing and developing, to meet the needs of our modern society, whilst upholding Pitt-Rivers bequest.
It seems to me that there is something of a correlation, although on a completely different scale, from the cultural value placed upon the ivory armlets and predestined to maintain an important place within the culture that slew, but respected the animal from which they were cut. The different mends in each of the armlets are celebrated by an excess use of a ‘modern’ material or re claimed material to hand.
12th December 2012
Reflections on recent studio activity.
I have been using wood; leaving a trace from chain saw and fire; steel, fashioned into fixings and plaster, with its ability to freeze a moment into a solid. Whilst pondering the results, my imaginings returned to the role of museum. Distracted by creative play and focused to ‘look’ in a particular direction, the obvious passed me by. Museum as ‘time capsule’, their collections provide us with layers of information with layers of meaning Â – Â Â a record of things past.
Even when objects originate from different parts of the world, their stories, even in their diversity, show us commonalities, overlaps and an interrelatedness. Perhaps, in some ways, humans are not so complex, after all, our practical needs, feelings and emotions, must be similar. How we interpret and express them is the exciting bit.
The ‘dialogue exchange’ with my first object, my first ‘sculpture’ for the project, is beginning to firm up. The metaphor Â – Â capturing a moment, thoughts revealed, frozen in time, like a layer of fossils caught in compressed mud, as a legacy living on, Â something discarded by time passing.
18th December 2012
Before I go too far with my first major piece, I’ll try and articulate something of my thinking.
Early on, I pinned photographs of all the armbands to my studio wall. It helps to look at them when ever I am in there. It helps to deepen the investigation, another ‘layer’ seems to reveal itself (if I’m feeling receptive). It must seem like a curious activity to the outsider, but the focused investigation is a sobering reminder at how shallow most of my daily perception is and how unaccustomed we probably are at acting on abstract thought.
The tantalising question that continues to taunt me is; why were those armbandsÂ preserved, when most of the mends pay little attention to aesthetics, certainly as I understand it. There is only one fine ivory band where the quality of the mend, although very different in character, matches that of the fineness of making with the ivory.(The “decorative fine wire sleeve”, accession number 1935.56.52). Does it suggest another sort of value, other than the obvious, trading value? Is it possible that the original value subverts to one of contemplation once the original use has been extinguished?
By adding these imaginings to my journey, they enrich the practical work, but where will it lead?
Deconstruction, examination, subverting some findings, to make a work that possess some form of worthiness as ‘art’. Blimey!, that’s a tough question and one that constantly plagues me. I am indulging myself in making a work and maybe it can only be called an ‘art work’ after it is released into the world and finds some reception. That at the very least, touches Â others. I believe, as artists, we are engaged in a form of mythologising and only the best stands the test of time and becomes timeless.
The ‘piece’ I have been working on, feels unfinished. It lies on the studio floor, inert, asking me to raise it up in some way. To do this whilst retaining some reference to the original investigation will be a challenge. ‘Raising up’ or resurrection has a place here, I reckon.
All for now.
Ps. I love Jacy’s paper clay piece with embedded needle. Simple and poignant .
21st December 2012
A few photos to provide some practical info of one of the ideas I’m developing.
Remember the offcuts from the small circular table (ref. Dec 12th) and the notion of a predestined Â mend, also the wire and string stitching on some of the armlets and the soft mental infill mend.
These are the same pieces, scorched, with copper wire stitching and plaster infill Â – Â taking the opportunity to cast an image.
Developing the idea further by replacing the natural off cut shapes with ‘designed’ shapes, whilst retaining the essence of circle and enlarging as I go.
Covered by the paper templates, these pieces are now cut from 75mm (3″) thick timber and when assembled are about 900mm (3ft.) across. I am playing with ‘flagging’ the mend as a means of connecting/fixing the four pieces, also playing with an image to ‘freeze’ in the plaster (here I have some coach screws, but they are not right). I am looking for something that suggests fossil but on closer inspection, could be of our time, but not so obvious as the screws. Something ambiguous . Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
22nd December 2012
My last entry before Christmas Â Â – Â Â warmest winter wishes to you all!
I should have included this photo yesterday. Thinking about the ‘flagged mend’ or the mend that celebrates its presence. I have developed this steel fixing to hold some of the elements of my sculpture together.
8th January 2013
The mending journey: Part Two
It feels like part two, straddling the change of year, having more or less completed one substantial piece, I say substantial because it has, spontaneously, increased in height, to nearly 7ft. It needed a title, so I started to play with the theme ‘Resurrection’, therefore,’Born Again’, ‘Arisen’, ‘Rebirth’, ‘Revival’, and, Oh no! the naff antennae glowed red. ‘Return’ might be a possibility. Do come to the exhibition in September and give me your opinion.
Returning to my studio at the beginning of the New Year inspired me to freshen up, lighten up and reassess.
Returning to the mended ‘arm bands’, I want to investigate ‘feelings’ and think more about what these objects meant to their wearers.
It seems to me, that the armbands Â – Â arm ornaments, mark ‘coming of age’, accompanied by a ‘rite of passage’, but ‘fated’ to be removed from the body when the wearers position/status changed. It also struck me that they also mark the beginning of personal identity and growing up.
Time, unrelentingly, moves on and the initial feelings, so strong in youth, of desire, expectation and vanity even, were never permanent, dissolved and were, very likely, replaced by disappointment, and disillusionment, however, wisdom develops. Do then, these symbols, of wealth and status, cease to be wearable and metamorphose, from the physical and visual, to ones of contemplation, wrapped in story, myth and memory? Certainly, by the time they became part of a museum collection, they do contain mysteries and tantalise the imagination.
I shall begin by taking a humble and simple piece of material (a section of ash bough, reference a section of ivory tusk) and carve some simple marks into and through the bark. By doing so, I make it mine, and then see where it leads.
Part of this reassessed investigation will also include the idea of revealing layers, as identified from making the first sculpture and for the layers to be discovered.
I’ll keep you posted.
22nd January 2013
Enjoyed the snow!!
I have completed two very curios objects, that I’m not sure how to categorise and a ‘Mending Tree’. Whilst I was writing a mending poem, the tree just grew before me and transformed into 3D! It stabilised very quickly by fixing it to a lump of concrete.
6th February 2013
The fruit of the ‘mending tree’
16th March 2013
On the 8th January, I recorded a need to shift my thinking, toward an expression of feelings and emotions and to try and connect to the rituals, customs or, simply the fashion suggested by the armbands.
For me, the process is cyclic, returning to ideas that lie at the heart of object making practice.
The armbands – arm ornaments, seem to tell us more about what is not there, how might they have been worn and why and bound up with coming of age and youth, when emotions are raging. Worn to be noticed and, no doubt, exploring sexuality. Are they mere trinkets, to enchant, beguile and add potency to games of flirting. Then not to lose sight of the careful removal from the wearers arm and the, equally careful, mend, the idea suggests a mild form of bondage, slid onto a slim youthful arm, then, so consumed by the idea of being attractive and important, allow the arm and its ornament to become one. They grow together, no longer able to be removed. Bonded.
My materials are familiar, wood and steel, however the chosen form is very particular. An ash wood branch or â€˜limbâ€™, stripped of its bark, to reveal the soft white sensuous flesh beneath, whilst retaining the way nature shaped it. In contrast, the steel sheet, rolled flat hard and cold to the touch.
Back on the case and the next piece for the project, playing with all of the above thoughts, the object began to â€˜writeâ€™ itself, beginning with two, stripped white â€˜limbsâ€™. Immediately, but most unusual, the phrase â€˜turning awayâ€™, struck me, as a good title. I never normally work like this, titles are always given after a piece has been completed and lived with for a while. I now have a male and female part, one reacts to the other and desire flourishes her presence. Coquettish, bound to the other, but flirting and turning away. The tricky bit, is to build up their respective characters, using the thin steel sheet and how best to attach the different components to the wood?
Iâ€™ve just reread thisÂ Â -Â Â it must sound a bit barmy.
Here are a couple of tasty details.
and the steel straps are both bracelet and manacle.
20th March 2013
Dear blog readers,
I donâ€™t want to leave you with the impression that, because this record looks neat, tidy and organized, therefore it follows that I must be working conscientiously in my studio making art. For me the process is very erratic, but has a pattern, sometimes it feels as if I am clawing at the walls even to put something, anything in the right place. Knowing myself well, I turn my back on the jumble and do something completely different, either energetic in the garden or house/office work. Anya and I have an unspoken arrangement, where she manages through, flour-up-to-the-elbows, discarded-wrappers-in-abundance, to create the most fabulous meals. I clear up. I cook once a week, and still clear up. In contrast, my studio is in a constant state of pervading mess or more appropriately, state of flux, layer upon layer of activity, whether itâ€™s tools or â€˜work in progressâ€™. This can be where ever a space presents. Then like the housework, it becomes abundantly clear that a whole morning of studio tidying is a necessity before a new cycle of creativity can begin.
The point to this declaration is, the little bit of clawing at the walls moves me forward, because it is during those moments that I am on the look out for something Iâ€™ve never seen before and to catch it in my minds net. There are other times when I just have to get down to doing a bit of crafting it all together, to make it work, practically.
For a number of years, I have referred to the metaphor of making bread (by hand) to describe the creative process. It could be thought of as a spiritual process, where one is totally connected. To take some known ingredients and mix them together, getting stuck in, bashing, pushing and stretching them together, then leave the resultant lump of dough to prove in the right conditions and, the yeast will grow the object into another dimension. I watched Paul Hollywood (celeb chef) on the box last evening and became mesmerised by his application of skill, knowledge and artistry. Following a first proving, he returned to the task to give the product a second â€˜beatingâ€™, then allow the â€˜seed of lifeâ€™ to take it to the next stage, before baking. A little tap on the loafâ€™s crust, informed his highly sensitive ear, as to whether the â€˜workâ€™ was ready and could go out into the world and be tested by others, not only to nourish our hunger but also our souls. It imparts the love of making.
Iâ€™m just off to search for a quoteâ€¦â€¦.. Of course! The Internet. In 1957 Marcel Duchamp said of creativity:Â â€œThe creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus his contribution to the creative act.â€
My bursts of playing at mess, remains like a seed, active in my imagination, where it mixes with the pace of living and, if I am very lucky, a really big gift drops into the lap of my imagination, obliquely, because I needed to walk away from the earlier linear thinking and allow some fermentation, then low and behold, the â€˜workâ€™ takes a leap forward.
I have been struggling to figure out how to present my â€˜worksâ€™.
Â Anthony Caro reputedly â€˜removedâ€™ the plinth from sculpture, where he considered the â€˜newâ€™ experience of connecting to sculpture should be from the same space as the viewer. He made his sculptures directly on the ground (and left them on the ground), the same ground occupied by the viewer. Later he made â€˜tableâ€™ (white boxes) sculptures, pieces that clearly needed to sit at tabletop height or, even falling over the tableâ€™s edge. Further on in his career, he coined the word â€œsculpitectureâ€, creating sculptures that referenced architectureÂ Â Â Â -Â Â Â Â â€˜Childâ€™s Tower Roomâ€™, being the first, where there was a clear invitation to enter the inside space and participate in the interior of the sculpture.
Â Earlier in my career I was deeply involved with furniture design, which enabled me to investigate some of the anthropomorphic qualities and intimate contact one makes with furniture. There exists an unspoken exchange when we learn very quickly how to use/interact with furniture. After all, furniture, for most of us, is a domestic aid for enjoying our homes. Furniture, because of its size and function, is usually comfortable to live with.
I like the idea of making my sculpture human size (akin to furniture), often incorporating devices into their construction which refer directly to human scale: the touch of a hand, thoughts of figure, even furniture symbols, to invoke a sense of relatedness and scale.
Yet again, this mending project has presented another chance to explore the concept of â€˜accessibilityâ€™, wanting to raise the sculpture up to adult human standing height and how to offer them. The question therefore, when does a â€˜standâ€™ cease being a table or a plinth or a device on which a sculptor can work at standing height? Marcel Duchampâ€™s legacy proposes that anything can be a sculpture (perhaps the true source of liberation for twentieth and twenty first century sculptors). His â€˜Fountainâ€™ (urinal) is usually presented on a plinth or box, where the physical distancing is, in a sense, pertinent to the cerebral engagement invited. Its physicality is in the imagination with the objects familiarity and change of context. It is also a furniture object.
So far with my two mending works, I have attempted to design a â€˜standâ€™ that belongs to and is part of the sculpture. I returned to thoughts about museum presentation. Museumâ€™s often need to make nifty display furniture that are so personal and integral to their respective artefact that they come to belong to each other in the preservation context. The new Mary Rose museum should be a fine example, due to open this Spring. I did begin to wonder whether there is a correlation to how some of my selected armbands are â€˜savedâ€™ from breaking up. Both my latest sculpture stands are customised, with a variation of the â€˜tableâ€™ plane to accommodate their respective pieces.
In September, please come, see and tell me what you think.
20th June 2013
My last entry.
Over the course of twenty one years habitation of Crown Cottage, here in the North West corner of Dorset, once straddling the county boundary along the stream that borders the property, we have made it our home. On purchase of the land there was not an inkling of an indication that the trickle of water wondering around two sides of the property, known as Temple Brook, could possibly become a torrent of raging brown water that would gradually eat away our lovely garden and to deposit it in the English Channel.
Last Autumn’s rains dislodged another huge chunk of garden, carrying treasured roses and other carefully nurtured plants. All attempts of getting financial assistance to prevent further destruction failed, leaving the only possible solution to DIY. The years had generated some thoughts and research about how restoration might be achieved, but all for vast sums of money and some damage to the garden with the to’s and fro’s of heavy plant. By this time I was deeply saturated with thoughts about the mending project. Some of my sculpture, began to use the strength, characteristics and personality of wood, strapped together with steel bindings, nuts and bolts.
At both a subliminal and conscious level, an idea about how to tackle the shoring up and, indeed, reclamation of lost garden, began to take shape: 38 steel poles, 48 metres of heavy steel strapping, 200 stainless steel nuts and bolts, 80 metres of stainless steel wire rope, other quantities of various nuts and bolts, about 15 tons of rubble and hardcore (donated by various goodly friends and neighbours), 20 tons of clay and 20 tons of topsoil (provided free and willingly dug by our farmer neighbour). About five months after taking delivery of 100 untreated jarrah (Australian hardwood) reclaimed railway sleepers (each far too heavy and dense to carry about), our section of river bank garden is now almost completely MENDED.
I am told that nothing in life is ever a coincidence and that all actions caused have an effect. Part way through the river bank project, I was given for my birthday, a beautifully, woodcut print illustrated book: ‘The Roadmender’ by Michael Fairless (the pseudonym of Margaret Fairless Barber, born into a Yorkshire family in 1869, needless to say, when women writers weren’t taken so seriously). The story, is a philosophy of life which uses the metaphor of road mending and journeying and the apparent endless, undignified task of mending the highway (almost a Buddhist way), to debate many things about the human condition.
Hopefully during one’s life, a vision is formed, the means is found and the journey starts and when a task is complete, it opens up a whole new range of possibilities.
This little preamble makes an uncanny link to the Nature of Mending and the Journey encountered, therefore the last sentence in my statement for the catalogue reads “…the spirit of mending will remain with me and continue to nurture new things.”