A sense of place
Snow changes everything. I cycle past this unremarkable tree growing against this unremarkable wall almost every day, but during the recent cold weather the reflection from the snow cast it in a completely different the light. The orange tag sings out against the grey that has been rendered Payne’s grey in the reflected light and the trunk glows in contrast. A fleeting moment, depending on the angle of the sun and the presence of snow. Next time it snows, this tree will have grown, the wall will have weathered, and the tag may be lost.
It’s familiarity that brings a sense of place – a feeling of belonging. Knowing each twist and turn a path takes and where the uneven paving slabs are. Snow removes this familiarity and makes us look at the world with fresh eyes. I’ve become preoccupied with this image. The colours and form. It’s stored, in my mind’s eye, waiting to be used.
Black and white inspiration
With the world reduced to black and white, I’ve coincidentally also been working in a very limited colour palette. Unable to travel, I’m using old maps as a reference for memory, weaving them into my work as a metaphor for the contours of a well-trodden landscape.
On the loom
Delving deeper into the concept of fixing a transient memory, a happening, an event, into something solid, I’ve been weaving with newspaper. Trapping the stories and events of the day in the warp. This is an incredibly slow process as I can’t use shuttle to insert the paper weft. Every piece has to be inserted by hand and eased into place before changing the shed and using the beater. The result is an abstract motif which is punctuated by the highly textured warp.
This work takes reference from some very early work using various handmade, sliced and painted papers.
This renewed direction in my work has come about after working on my artist’s statement as part of the Crafting Business programme run by Crafts Council NL in conjunction with Crafting Europe. It was fascinating to be a part of the online Crafting Business Seminar, with speakers contributing from eight different countries across Europe. Participants came from as far afield as the Ukraine and Georgia to those closer to home in The Netherlands, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and it was an insight into how other programmes were run and how other craftspeople work. The seminar was recorded and will be available to view online shortly.
In winter, there’s a stark beauty in the polderlands of the Randstad region of The Netherlands where I live. Wetlands and reeds provide a sanctuary for migrating birds, and there’s a melancholy in the colours and forms. At first glance the landscape seems empty and colourless, but looking closely, the dogwood branches glow ruby red in the cold scarce light, and the trees and reeds are subtly painted with mossy greens and rich warm browns and greys. Moving through the landscape, an underlying rhythm of jewel-like pops of colour emerges: dun, ochre, earth colours and steely blue. Broken by the constantly flat horizon and the big, big sky. The wind rattles the reeds, like so many whispers, bringing to mind the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men.
We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass The Hollow Men, by T.S. Eliot
A continuous thread
Originally from the UK, I’ve lived in The Netherlands for many years now, and am beginning to feel a sense of place here. The local woods, which I’ve grown to know intimately since the first lockdown of last spring have become a constant friend. Seeing the seasons turn and the ebb and flow of the months is grounding. Limitations and travel restrictions have meant being unable to return to my home country for many months now, and I can feel the pull of the hills, the wild ancient places where history lies thick in the ground. As life moves on, with each passing year, more and more experience is gained, and all of this, a combined life in The Netherlands and the UK, is reflected in my work through the colours, patterns and materials. Experience grows year on year, and the work that I do now is an extension to that of a decade ago, and, throughout it all, there is a continuous thread that makes it distinct. A personal palette and handwriting that continues to evolve.
Thank you for joining me on my journey through the year. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in March; it would be great to have you.
With warm February wishes, Veronica