We began with a slightly unimaginative bungalow and we wanted to make a new home which would ‘fit’ the plot. We wanted to be sensitive to the needs of those further up the hill to keep their view and we did not want to begin by knocking it down, lock stock and barrel before putting up something which occupied the entire site and disregarded any feelings of those around us. Instead we took away the terrace, built rooms underneath it and then put it back on top. View intact, house extended, neighbours happy.
It’s been hard work but so worth it!
Now we are in and I have a wonderful studio attached to the house in which I can work at any hour of the day and night but it has taken vast quantities of time and energy and my blog has suffered.
In addition, I am working towards is a major exhibition in Great Walsingham, Norfolk in May and June and this has taken the rest of my reserves.
Jar for the exhibition in Norfolk using found materials from Burnham Overy Staithe
I am working with Candide Turner Bridger , to create a body of work about the North Norfolk Coast Path. Because we are both very process-led makers we wanted to document our journey towards the exhibition and to that end we have set up a website and a blog on which we are detailing our progress. A number of people have recently begun to follow me and there are also many others who must be wondering where I have gone. I would hate you all to feel neglected but I am not likely to blog on this site until the exhibition is up and running. So if you want to know what I am up to for the next couple of months you might be better following me here for the time being. Let me know what you think.
As some of my readers know, when I am in London I live on a boat. This week we cast off our moorings and set sail on the River Thames with few plans except to go up the river. It is wonderful to be so free to chose how to spend our time. By day two we were chugging gently past Runnymede and thought we ought to take a look around.
History is everywhere in this place. I knew about the Magna Carta. I had at least done THAT much history when I was at school but it did me a lot of good to read about it again and consider what the signing of this document actually stands for. Obviously there is more to it than this and I know that King John was not quite as good as his word so it was some considerable time before we enjoyed the freedoms which is lays down but I am absolutely clear that during the time since it was originally enshrined in history it has been considered a true milestone in the fight for individual rights and freedoms.
Both the United States Bill of Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights owe a great deal to Magna Carta, to name just two. Without it the world would be a poorer place. When I reached somewhere with a wifi signal I did a bit of searching and found this wonderful clip on the British Museum website which, for those who are interested, gives a ‘nutshell explanation’ of this incredibly important document. It is worth a look.
There are a number of other memorials in recognition of the struggle for liberty at Runnymede and so, puffed up with pride that it all started here in Britain, we set off to take a look. Eventually we found ourselves on the hill over looking the river. Here there is a haunting reminder of the loss of life by Allied Air Forces during the Second World War. In one year, 1943, there were more than 30 men killed with the name Smith. That is to say there were 30+ men with the surname Smith who were sergeants in the RAF killed in that year. This does not count other ranks called Smith. Nor does it include members of other Air Forces: Canadians; New Zealanders; Australians to name just a few. Nor does it include anyone with surnames which include ‘Smith’ and some other suffix or prefix. as I looked at this particular column of names – one of 300 – I found myself shivering with some intangible and deeply sad emotion. More so that when I tried to digest the fact that 20,000 men are remembered on the monument. Maybe that number is too large to comprehend.
The combined Air Forces memorial at Runnymede.
I hate war! I cannot understand why differences of opinion cannot be thrashed out over a plate of Nachos and a beer or two. But the fact remains that in the early 20th century the world was plunged into despair and huge numbers of people died for the simple reason that they believed in Freedom. I have never felt more appreciative of their sacrifice than I did standing there in the solitude as the daylight was dimming.
I need to make something very special from the small handful of clay that I picked up in a tree throw on the slope of Cooper’s Hill below the memorial.
I want it to be as open and welcoming as possible.
I have started on a large dish which is as open as I can make it. I want it to look as though anyone might be able to approach it and rinse their hands. I also want it to be as fragile as possible in recognition of the fragility of the peace and freedom which we are so privileged to enjoy in this country. If I don’t get it right the first time I shall keep remaking it until I do because this matters!
Sorry, I am at it again. This time poor old Mark Twain is getting misquoted but not without just cause if you ask me. You see I have been out and about collecting mud again, this time in a torrential rainstorm, and the residents of a small, respectable town in Devon are probably expressing grave concerns!
This all started because I have been invited to be the featured artist in an exhibition called Escape by The Hybrid Gallery in Honiton this summer. I am excited by this opportunity and thought it would be sensible to begin my making by making a visit to see the space.
We lay like sardines in the back of the car
I remember Honiton. We used to have to drive through it on our way to visit grandparents in Torquay. Then we lay sardine fashion in the back of our Morris Traveller estate, watching the lights and the telegraph poles swoop by on seemingly endless journeys. Now you flash past on the bypass with children firmly strapped into child seats.
Then it was famous for lace and there was a pottery in the town employing quite a number of people making slipcast functional ware. Now many of the shops are gift or good food orientated and there is a Pottery Café on the site of the old pottery which hosts parties where you can decorate pre-fired wares whilst sipping smoothies and tucking into a panini.
It was years since I had visited the town and the rain on this particular day was not at all conducive to sight seeing but Honiton is a true gem! Having had a bit of a look around I squelched my way to the public library where a quick search of the local history section revealed that the original pottery had, for many years, made use of a seam of clay running behind the workshop. That was all the invitation I needed!
I was off – scampering up the main street and leaping puddles like the sure favorite in the National. Lo and behold the house beside the pottery was having building work done and so, swathed in my sodden jacket and dripping with rain clutching trowel and zip lock bags in my damp, little hand, I knocked at the door. Just then a young lad came round the corner of the house. His expression on hearing my request was one of mild shock and incredulity but he agreed to my request and so, before he could call for men with straight jackets, I was down on my knees. Three sandwich bags later (and, some would say, several short of a picnic) I was back at the car with my trophies and ready to start making.