Abigail Marsh, Janet Twinn, Rosie Baxter and Hermione Thomson share individual experiences of connections to chosen materials in their practice.
Abigail J Marsh is a designer, maker and silversmith based in Bordon, Hampshire. She graduated with a first-class degree in BA (Hons) Jewellery at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham and is a member of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths. Abigail creates unique and one-off pieces celebrating materials. Using traditional methods of making in a contemporary way her work celebrates the real craftsmanship of silversmithing and the skill of the maker’s hand. It was at university where Abigail discovered her true passion for silversmithing. Her preferred technique is called hand raising, the process of growing a piece from a sheet of metal. This method of making has gone on to inform many of her designs and pieces. Her exploration and variation of this skill has allowed her to push the boundaries of the materials, testing their limits to create new and exciting ideas for contemporary silverware. This has also gone on to inform her jewellery pieces. She enjoys bringing traditional methods together with playful and meaningful design.
“It takes time, patience and focus to create a beautiful piece by hand. A single modification can change the whole piece for better or for worse.” – Abigail J Marsh
Artist in Residence University for the Creative Arts
During my time as Artist In Residence I wanted to explore how I could create pieces to embed messages of friendship, love and bonds in an unusual way that is personal to the user/wearer. My time as AIR allowed me space to develop work that I had sampled whilst on the BA but was not yet resolved.
The idea of Little People was born. Using wax I had hours of fun carving mini characters, giving each one of them their own little personality and then assembling them into gestures of friendship and togetherness. It was a fantastic experience to play with the materials and push myself to try new things without the need to have to record everything and submit it for academic scrutiny. It was a hugely freeing experience. Alongside my own work I ran a few classes and sessions with students to share techniques, sketchbook work and build on exploration. At the end of my residency all the artists from that year put together a show in the UCA Foyer Gallery. As with any exhibition it was hard work to pull such a variety of designer makers together but we succeeded in creating a fabulous show. This brought to a close the amazing experience of my residency with a wonderful celebration of my work.
A link to some images: https://www.instagram.com/farnhamartistinresidence/?hl=en
On the pandemic.
The news of the Covid-19 pandemic hit me hard like so many of us. The first lockdown filled me with great uncertainty. As I was unable to work from home just deciding whether I could go to my workshop to work or not created a huge dilemma. I have never had an online shop having been lucky to always sell my work one to one at exhibitions and shows so I decided to spend the first lockdown at home working on my website. Using a lot of online videos it took me the first two lockdowns to get it all set up and running smoothly. Hooray for Youtube! I'm very pleased with the result and looking back now I'm glad I pushed myself to do it as here we now are in lockdown three. I am now able to go back to work in my workshop. I have been so very grateful to have a reason to leave the house in the morning and have a change of scenery that travelling to the workshop gives me. It's become my sanctuary and I have a lot more respect for the space than I had before; it's become more important to me both as a person and a professional maker.
I am spending my time working on a new range of jewellery and am finding the process very therapeutic by hand cutting patterns into silver sheet and creating new wearable pieces from them. The process of designing them on the computer and then transferring them from the screen to silver sheet on the bench is amazing. The pieces seem to come alive. Cutting the shapes takes time and great care but watching the pattern rise out of the sheet brings me huge satisfaction. I have always loved piercing as a technique and have enjoyed taking this time to improve this area of my practice.On reflection I think the pandemic hasn't hit me too badly. Where I worried I might not be able to achieve much in the way of work it has actually allowed me to grow and develop those aspects of my business I never had the time to do before. I feel much better off for it. I hope we don't have too many more times like these but it's been finding the positives in it that's helped me to keep pushing forward.
Facebook: Abigail J Marsh
Garden Wall: Riot of Colour
A new piece of work made during lockdown. I spent a long period over the summer of 2020 in dyeing and printing a selection of vividly coloured cottons. I have experimented with various leaves which I use to create the stencils for my breakdown screen prints and have found hydrangea leaves to be the most effective. I like this connection to the cycle of the seasons, I now have a collection of hydrangeas from which I am able to harvest sufficient leaves for my purpose without affecting the health of the plant. There is a rhythm and ritual to the three day process of colouring the fabric. Day one is dyeing the base colour, day two making the screens and day three printing the cloth. It is a process undertaken with much expectation, some of which is fulfilled but there is also disappointment as well. A mantra of rinse, mix, soak, rinse again wash, print, wash and iron.
I felt the need to make a large piece of work that I could immerse myself in. I am sure I am not alone in finding this time of covid very strange and I felt the need to have some structure to my art practice. My work is a response to the colours, shapes and textures of the natural world, it is an intuitive response, formed by walking, observing, listening and letting my imagination wander. I am thinking how the making process can be a metaphor for the landscape. The work like the landscape appears physically substantial, but it is made up of numerous small, delicate and intricate elements but like the landscape there is an underlying order and sequence. Patchwork is a process of layers. There are hidden seams, raw edges and tangles of loose threads. The loose threads allow an element of the random. I will continue to investigate ways in which I can create more surface texture both through revealing the raw edges of the cloth and through the use of stitching so the texture has a physical presence as well as an illusory presence in the screen printed cloth. Working in textiles and in particular patchwork seems a very appropriate process for expressing these ideas. I feel my practice has become more liberated through thinking how I make and also answers to some extent ‘why patchwork? ’The ‘real’ landscape is constantly changing, my practice is concerned with capturing a moment, but a moment that contains many elements and is informed by memories. By elements I am thinking of the details that capture my imagination, these maybe contrasts of colours, shadowy lines, tangles of twigs and stems, the sensuality of walking through a sun-drenched meadow. I am fascinated by the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm. By memory I am referring to emotional memory of a particular place which has been familiar to me for over forty years as well as the memory of line, pattern and shape.
Working mainly in felt, I take the dramatic, natural environment as inspiration for my work. Felt is raw, physical, earthy – the layers of fleece complement the layers of the earth and landscape, the textures meshing together ideas, thoughts and feelings. The landscape of Iceland is nature at its rawest, with glaciers, deserts of black sand, barren glacial moraine, steaming hot springs, volcanoes and strange mix of vegetation – it is a land of many colours. A trip to the interior highlands, Landmannalauger, back in 2018 is one I will never forget. So much so that it informed a body of textile work ‘Fire, Ice and Squidgy’ - 3 felt wall-hangings based on volcanoes, glaciers and mosses. That trip only scratched the surface of Iceland and we vowed to return. Leap forward to March 2020 – literally as the pandemic was underway. This was a winter trip to see the landscape bathed in snow, the waterfalls now frozen, climb a volcano, explore the ice caves, take a dip in the thermal pools and gaze at the Northern Lights. One of the most impressive sights were the black beaches, in particular Reynisfjara, considered as THE Black Beach in Iceland, with its distinctive Icelandic black sand, enormous columns of basalt, and massive waves crashing into the shore. The contrast of black sand against the white snow covering the beach was stunning. The Aurora Borealis eluded us but we were rewarded 100 times over by the stunning Vatnajökull ice caves – the highlight of our adventure. After hiking for many hours over the glacier we entered a cave where the colours and reflections were magical – even our guide acknowledged it was the best he had seen. (Each year the caves melt and re-form but not necessarily in the same place and due to global warming they are receding at an alarming rate.)
Iceland never disappoints and again offers endless inspiration for future work. I will continue to work with felt and I am in the process of felting a wall hanging based on waterfalls but I am also exploring different techniques and materials to capture the essence of the landscape. I am working with tapestry – a total contrast to felting. Tapestry is very slow and methodical whereas my felting is very physical, adventurous and playful, however just like with felt, I have fun with the tapestry – I rarely plan a design, it is organic and I just see where it takes me. To-date the tapestries are very small scale with some 3D tapestry pieces too but my latest piece has been scaled up. Inspired by volcanoes it is quite dramatic and I am excited to see it evolve. A hoped for return to Iceland this summer will offer an opportunity to see an active volcano in the flesh, the Fagradalsfjall Volcano. This trip will be a fitting ‘end’ to the past year and welcome a positive future.
PRESENCE OF ABSENCE
Aesthetically drawn to finding beauty in worn surfaces that echo time passing, Hermione’s works have a material tactility about them. Choice media, process and technique are selected as vehicles for metaphors that reflect aspects of the human condition surrounding loss, making connections between life, death and re birth.
‘Presence of Absence Series’, act as conceptual forms of loss and each one of these weighty monochromatic vessels are handmade in varying scales, to reference the individual nature of our own mourning experiences. ‘Hold me’ series of hand - held vessels afford solace through touch, something we have not been able to do much over this past year especially. The materiality of the tactile surface can be experienced in quiet contemplative moments, held thoughtfully in the hand.
Images 1-10 below
Her new work aims to reference the transformative healing journey post loss. Rust becomes a choice metaphor for both life and death for this material ‘breathes’ whilst simultaneously eroding the surface. Stitch and gold are seen as a nod to the visible mending techniques found in old Japanese ceramics and textiles which ultimately refers to the emotional scars one can bear from loss.
Images 11-13 below
Seeking Solace will be shown at Continuum@OXO SEPT 22-26th 2021