Lichen, driftwood and geology
On the west coast of Scotland, two hours’ drive north-west of Glasgow, stands the bustling port of Oban, known as the gateway to the Hebrides’ because of the constant to-ing and fro-ing of the CalMac ferries. Just across the bay from Oban lies the island of Kerrera. By contrast, it’s a haven of peace and tranquility. To visitors, it’s only accessible by foot or bike via the small ferry that traverses the narrow strait of water between Kerrera and the mainland. Sparsely populated and with a rugged coastline, the southern tip is home to the 16th century fort ruins of Gylen Castle. The artist JMW Turner visited the castle and while there was inspired to fill a sketch book with drawings. During the half term May break, my family and I spent a week in Oban, exploring the mainland and islands close by. On Kerrera’s Gylen beach, I was completely captivated by the black sand and pebbly beach, scattered with a treasure trove of different types of rocks and pebbles, which were so varied it must be a geologist’s dream. The colours and shapes prove that nature really is the best artist. The oldest bedrock of Kerrera is black slate, and there were pieces of this on the beach, mixed with sandstones, basalt and volcanic rocks. The patterns resulting from the flow of molten rock writhe across the surface of the pebbles, worn smooth by time and tides. The sandstones lend a respite from the muted greys, offering pops of rusty reds and ochres. Also on the beach, driftwood, long since bleached silver by the combination of sun and salt. Add to this the muted sage green of a lichen dried and fallen from its host tree, and the result is a soothing palette of natural hues.
Developing woven pieces
Inspired by my beautiful finds on the beach at Gylen, I’ve been working on simultaneously developing a series of works on paper and in weave. My process usually evolves in this way, beginning with sketches, first in black and white considering the form and patterns, then in colour, exploring the textures and hues using mixed media and printing techniques. From these investigations, I can select yarns in the colours I want to begin weaving with. The photos above are of the fabric directly off the loom; the wools will soften and the colours blend once washed, and the intention is for these to become a collection of cushions.
I seek out and collect old, unwanted and waste materials with their own inherent memories, such as vintage maps, old newspapers and cassette tapes to use in my weaving. Over the past two years, referring back to the thread of an idea I had shortly after graduating in 2004, I’ve been weaving some of my collection of unwanted materials into new pieces of work. The piece shown below was woven from a vintage map found in an antique shop. The map itself is fascinating and throws up so many questions. Who was the owner, what did they do, what adventures (and drinking exploits) did this map take them on? All of these questions went through my mind as I worked at the loom. The map has been pieced together from two maps, and contains annotations and scribblings, water marks and wear and tear. If it could talk, what tales it would tell.
I’ve also been exploring different way to display my work. It’s very tempting to simply hang the work vertically against the wall. However, again returning to my intentions shortly after graduating, I want to give my textile pieces ‘depth and character, honesty and integrity’. I want to release them from two dimensions, and one way of achieving this is to suspend them in more interesting ways. Because of the stiffness of the paper, the pieces can be morphed into sculptural forms. The piece below uses repurposed used wrapping papers in the weft, and the light in my studio was particularly good on the day I took these photographs.
The piece shown below uses vintage cassette tapes in the weft, and has a much more unstable structure, partly because of the waffle weave I’ve used. The warp threads are stiff paper, linen and synthetic yarns, and it’s important to me that they remain visible since they seem to take on a life of their own, and speak of the underlying construction of the piece. In fact, the folded work laid casually on the bench speaks most eloquently.
‘zeven x weven’ exhibition: meet the artist
The exhibition ‘zeven x weven’ [Seven x weaving] at the Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort has only two more weeks to run, closing on 10th July. I have three pieces on display: ‘Into the blue I and II’ shown below, and ‘Compilation VI’, which uses cassette tape weft combined with a paper, synthetic and linen warp. Thank you to everyone who came to visit myself, Theo Rooden, Christiane Maurer and Babs van den Thillart at the meet the artist event on 18th June. It was a real pleasure to be able to meet people, talk about my work, motivations and process, and to get feedback and reactions from those who came by. The exhibition is a great example of the varied results possible through different weaving techniques, and is a credit to the guest curator Daisy van Groningen and the gallery owner Nathalie Cassée.
Blue skies and sunshine
My idyllic holiday week spent on the West Coast of Scotland was blessed with the most amazing weather – blues skies, sunshine and just the odd rain shower. As well as visiting Kerrera and Lower Gylen beach with its amazing pebbles, we also went wildlife watching on a boat trip to the Treshnish Isles (puffins, seals, minke whale and numerous seabirds) and visited Staffa, with its dazzling Fingal’s cave that so inspired Mendelssohn to write his Hebrides overture. Other highlights were the stunning white sand beach at Calgary Bay on Mull, which was as lovely as ever, with nearby Art in Nature woodland walk and gallery, and the slate island of Luing, which we happened upon by accident after a sudden downpour changed our plans.
Throughout May and early June, the Kunstuitleen Voorburg had a special 40th anniversary exhibition ‘Lustrum’, running throughout May. I was able to call by and see the exhibition in this lovely gallery right in the heart of old Voorburg. Inspired by the artist’s garden, the work was varied in every way – colour, technique, size, concept – and very special to see. My work, ‘Night garden’, combines collage and painting techniques on canvas, and is then further embellished with embroidery.
Until next time…
Thank you for your interest and support; I wish you all the very best and hope to see you again for my next blog in July. If you’d like to see more of my work and inspirations, I post regularly on Instagram @veronicapock and my work is available online at LiminalWEAVE on Etsy.