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BALANCE and GRAVITY…

 

My balance was lost on a cliff top.  I fell backwards, three months pregnant, into the sea and sank onto rocks covered with bladderwort – the slippery ampoules saved me from serious injury, though I did miscarry later that night…

 

The sensation of falling between one element to another has prevailed. Decades later I am still creating sculptures that explore the relationship between balance and gravity.

In my college years I made large boulders using crank clay; boulder after boulder - my tutor, David Cowley, encouraged this exploration, though the kiln firing was up to 72 hours before the cooling process could commence, many hours later for the  kiln opening. There were many disasters, but the occasional breakthrough. 

In my fourth year the shapes evolved into ‘mother and child’ – encouraged by Henry Moore, who I had the great privilege to meet at his home. The theme persisted and is still being practised many incarnations later. In fact forty years later. I sold my first piece to the Roehampton college library, and hope it it still exists.

 

Throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s I held exhibitions of abstract sculpture in London, Hertfordshire and Surrey. Themes consistent with my earlier training, but with new knowledge and dimension. My work was grounded in exploring balance - practising carving away the mass to produce a slender point of matter that remained poised in space…without falling!

New work mostly consisted of sculptural vessels. Abstractions of the human form but now functional: bowls, chargers and vases; still sculptural but with a purpose. With sales that supplemented my part-time income teaching autistic young people.

 

Taking early retirement following a back injury sustained when teaching – a second act of gravity with profound consequences  - I went to “Brisons’ Veor” founded by the Tracey Katz Foundation in Cape Cornwall.  Within days I had seen the amazing white granite bounders and the low overhanging cliff-face. It resonated: my trauma and survival, and the consequent years of ongoing therapy.

Large‘boulderesque’ forms emerged, expressing a paradigm of mother and child balanced over the void – the void being the omnipresent gravity…

 

I bought an ancient granite cottage and pilchard press-cum-net loft in Newlyn and began work in my new studio in 1996. Birds, birds and even more birds: gulls, cormorants, guillemots and terns. I sold to the Tabernacle Gallery, and continued to exhibit, notably the Free Painters and Sculptors Gallery in London.

 

Open Studios was becoming established and I was one of their first ceramic sculptors  My first entry consisted entirely of bird studies using white earthenware sourced from Foster’s Pottery, Pool.

 

Balance and gravity always at the core of the piece – edgy and risky, breakages were plentiful but a  learning experience, and sometimes successful. Many local exhibitions ensued and several years of subsequent Open Studios – all enjoyed and modestly profitable. The shows’ themes were variable, an eclectic mix of abstract ‘mother and child’ alternating with sculpted vessels, boulders and several birds in flight - birds diving or dying, sometimes dead. Such emotive pieces attracted buyers, even though it was hard to sell them! A London therapist told me that the dying albatross that he intended to place in his consulting room “would hold many things for many people.”

 

Several times over the years customers have told me their reasons for purchases. Most memorable was young woman and her partner who bought a hybrid piece, a vessel-like mother figure, that expressed her grief at losing her still--born baby. Usually customers are simply pleased with their purchases, sometimes concerned about the journey home, will the bubble wrap suffice?

 

My last solo sculpture show was at the Penzance Arts Club in July, 2011. All birds on that occasion. In the spring I had been ill with viral pneumonia. Years of clay dust and cramped studios had taken their toll. Sadly I gave most of my materials away and prepared for retirement, though over the years I have occasionally taken part in festivals - including Newlyn Arts Festival - exhibiting previously shown work, sometimes loaned for the exhibition.

I was developing my poetry, even performing my work. Forming new friendships and gradually accepting my life’s work with clay was over – or so I thought!

 

Early in January three years ago, I had a Stroke...

 

One moment I was normal and the next I was fragmenting: one part of my body was continuing to stand, the other was falling…The crash in my head bewildered me but I was aware of the need to hang on to something solid to slow the descent – an electrical cord! It held for just seconds, time to lower me to my knees – before the blackness....

Some time later I crawled a one-legged ‘gait’ to the telephone to call for help. It was three weeks before I was discharged from hospital. Several months of therapies followed. I have aphasia, but it has slowly improved, though humorous slips are still very plentiful.  However, I feel very much alive and creating again is a delight.

For the first year of recovery I mused, mooched around, learned to drive again, and then the breakthrough: I wanted to create and I wanted to create with clay.  I bought a wonderful white clay called Ashraf Hanna from Potterycraft and began moulding without tools, just sitting at a table and relearning the textures, the tensions and drying cycles. The first piece I called 'The Lovers' homage to the collateral damage caused by the stroke.  The second piece I named, ‘Stroke’ – an elongated, misshapen oval bending into the void created by the elusive force known as ‘Balance’ and its nemesis, ‘Gravity’…

 

In 2017, I was part of a six-woman show at The Morvah Gallery that I instigated in 2015, and which they so kindly held over whilst recovery was underway. It was exhilarating to work again; exhausting but enlightening: the embodiment of all my themes were intact but with a new perspective.

 

Mass’ had become ‘Space.’ The clay gouged out to create ‘holes’, held together by interacting ‘solid’ shapes intent on identifying my signature themes:

 

The balanced boulders; the mother and child interpretations; edgy birds dicing with gravity, sculpted vessels teetering on falling. And now a new purity of form:  shapes emerging from my subconscious driven by emotions experienced and long-held memories.  A physical exploration of the anguish of loss, of mendacity, the fear of strong feelings, and the inevitability of death…

 

In the meanwhile...

 

My Open Studios shows in my refurbished studio/gallery features a new body of work  embracing nearly forty years of waltzing with balance, tangoing with gravity. Falling in and out of love; illness; periods of despair and always, always creating.  Creating -  from the very essence of my soul: CLAY.

 

The most pliable, tactile, deceptively malleable and unforgiving substance worked since prehistory, and one of the most practical, reliable and beautiful known to mankind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.