A house of stone

With the studio empty, I have been doing a couple of things, one is some stitching for a fun little project that’s nearly ready and I’m stupidly pleased with, but more of that to follow shortly.

The other is reflecting a wee bit more on the art of making art. As you may already realise, I’m pretty interested in the creative thinking process.

Here’s a personal view and a couple of thoughts about a recurrent theme of mine as well as a bit of a romp around a few favourite images of stone. Whilst inspiration is unique to us all, I hope some of what is below will get you thinking about what makes reappearances in your work, and why?

I am surrounded by stone in the Yorkshire landscape, it’s something I love. We are fortunate enough to be the latest custodians of an old stone farmhouse dating back to 1850-1890. It was a much-loved dairy farm for many years and believe it or not, the previous farmer and his wife share the same surname as us!

I just knew deep in my soul that I wanted to live inside a stone house (if only for a while) and the moment I stepped inside, I felt at home. It has a peaceful quality to it; folk remark on it despite living on a busy lane out the front. There’s something about time and presence that stone holds:

‘There is life in a stone. Any stone that sits in a field or lies on a beach takes on the memory of that place. You can feel that stones have witnessed so many things.’

Andy Goldsworthy

Stone makes me feel grounded, safe, held, contained, stilled and that these things are becoming part of an artistic vocabulary that I’ve only lately accepted. I have kicked an unhelpful whisper into touch, recognising that sometimes we have to be kinder to ourselves and honour rather than fight against our predilections. I saw some of the above as a need or weakness perhaps, but actually I’ve held this affinity to both stone and containment for a long ol’ time and remembering what I’ve loved noticing, collecting and making from being a child has helped me feel able to celebrate rather than say ‘here I go again’ with a roll of the eyes. I’m also interested in how others use symbolism and perhaps stone is becoming a bit of a personal symbol or invocation of sorts?

I love all the textures, colours and shapes of stone which provide another source of inspiration and visual vocabulary. This inspiration can be breathtaking rock formation

down to intimate details of a stone or pebble

and it seems pretty inexhaustible!

Despite the humungous collection of uniquely beautiful ‘rolling stones that gather no moss’ littering my studio, they now tend to be used to symbolise or represent: the ones that don’t roll and have gathered moss are the ones I could just dribble over!

‘Pebble’ was a set of work completed for a follow-on year after Kim Thittichai’s‘ Experimental Textiles’ course. We were exploring line as a theme and I had become deeply interested in some beautiful pebbles from North Cornwall. Line, shape, contrast and colour, all part of the visual vocabulary…

‘River Stones’ was an installation for Heart Gallery, in Hebden Bridge. Again, these were more about the visual language of pattern, colour and form.

‘Fleet’, which I have yet to finish will include many felted pebbles but these are used to represent people or communities. I hope they will be visually pleasing too, but primarily they are being used symbolically.

As are these which will become ‘secrets’ in a piece that is waiting in the wings…

And finally, I’ve started working on some ‘Treasuries’. I hope they speak of ‘drawing alongside the silence of stone’ (John O’Donohue) which feels utterly satisfying to my soul.

And of course, they are designed to hold treasures safe inside their four stone walls, which is just where I like to be!