Wednesday, 31 March 2021

By pick axe and pine needle

 


Pick axes and pine needles

"Travelling Stories" work in progress
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery 2021

The “work in progress” side of the Travelling Stories project with Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is reaching its end and all sorts of treasures are turning up in my Inbox. Picking up thoughts from a couple of our artists….


Mark Johnson has been looking at a mixture of prints from the SLS collection (see end of post), picking up on lines of connection between North Wales and the Peak District…



In the second half of the nineteenth century a small band of Anglesey men made the journey from the island to the Peak District in search of work. Most were miners from the Copper Mountain of Parys near Amlych, but by no means all. 

They were lured by the promise of employment at the rapidly developing quarries of Cauldon Low, some twelve miles south of Buxton. Families followed, and for a few generations a small, often Welsh-speaking community made its home around the quarry, a few terraces – and a chapel.

Some returned but most never did, and lie buried in the churchyards of Cauldon and Cotton. 

Mark Johnson: 

first thoughts and ideas to work with




Helen Leaf starting with some of the Sami carvings that will stay in Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, wandered into a woodland of questions, including:

- what, if any, are the traditions embodied within the object?
- what has gone into the object that is seen/unseen?
- when working from ethnographic artefacts as a starting point, how does one work around the issue of cultural appropriation?


So, the object I've made relates to our forests here. There are also themes running through it about how we relate to our natural world/materials/resources (or not), and what is used or discarded.


And the image included is just a glimpse through the pine trees of the Helen’s finished piece






And finally, another tease from the Creeping Toad work which started with carvings and prints form the far north and, again, went for a wander, or maybe more of a wade and a walrus wallow....

All the finished work will feature in an online Gallery that we’ll start opening in the next week or two

Finished work from the project as a whole is coming in. A provocation has arrived from Australia; ceremonial canoe paddles inspired work for Bristol Museum; a thought, a dream and flowers from Cumbria. 

We called this project “Travelling Stories” as this sense of objects that have been carrying stories around the world for years really appealed. The objects in the Schools Library Service brought the stories of their homelands to the people of Derbyshire, inviting visitors to investigate – or speculate – on the stories behind the artefacts. Now, those objects and their stories are moving on again. Some pieces are following long wandering trails back to where they came from. Others are moving on to new homes, taking their stories with them and hopefully sharing those stories in different ways with new people.


Mark's work included the following painting by John "Kyffin" Williams as a starting point....The painting has now gone (or is going when cirucmstances allow it!) to Oriel Mon on Anglesey







Thursday, 25 March 2021

The twitch of a lemming’s nose

The twitch of a lemming’s nose

the Travelling Stories project
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery







There is a large vase, round as a fruit, rich as a treasure with an eagle lifting her wings across its flanks, a beak open to snap at reckless folk trying to pick from whatever delights are held in that round belly. Made by William de Morgan, the vase has gone from the Derbyshire School Loans Service to the de Morgan Collection in Barnsley. For the Travelling Stories project, writer and artist Rob Young has been investigating the vase at a distance….


“I came to the project as an audience member, without any preconception. I asked the questions an eight-year-old boy would ask. Why is this interesting? What bits are boring? What bits are good? Let’s hold it up to the light and see what shimmers. To my unexpected delight, I was completely and utterly charmed” Rob Young


Rob’s work always spirals outwards in unexpected directions. He has been making activity films, printing T-shirts, creating stories, making shadow puppets. For now, here is a flicker of an eagle shadow puppet. There is more, much more, to come but we are working closely with the de Morgan collection so that everything can be released as exciting activities to do when everything is ready. Keep an eye open for “how to make a shadow puppet” and “Rob Young writing workshop”


Some of us are looking further north…..


The artists working with material remaining in Buxton have been looking at carvings from the people’s of the Arctic. There are stone carvings and kayak models of delicate skin stretched over wooden rams. There are exquisite carved spoons from the Sami of Scandinavia and an antler etched with reindeer and cut short. A drumstick perhaps?



Here are some snippets, leaves from Ingrid Karlsson’s work blown in to tempt us with what will come as a whole


Image 1: the icecap is melting at an alarming and accelerating speed


Image 2: S├ími seasons: in the autumn, frost night arrive and the reindeer llok for ground lichen to eat. Bulls are rounded up for slaughter. 


Image 3: in reindeer herding, mobility is a key feature; old Arctic peoples represent cultures of large spaces where well-being equals not standing still, moving along the seasonal ebbs and flows of life





And I am sidetracking myself into shadows and the shapes of the sea people, shoals of fish moving under the ice, the stalk and strike of a polar bear, the owl's wing-tips that brush the snow like clouds. I have been resisting walruses and lemmings but I know the resistance is crumbling....


Finished work from the project as a whole is coming in. A provocation has arrived from Australia; a thought, a dream and flowers from Cumbria. There is more work on its way and in April Buxton Museum will start exhibiting the finished pieces


We called this project “Travelling Stories” as this sense of objects that have been carrying stories around the world for years really appealed. The objects in the Schools Library Service brought the stories of their homelands to the people of Derbyshire, inviting visitors to investigate – or speculate – on the stories behind the artefacts. Now, those objects and their stories are moving on again. Some pieces are following long wandering trails back to where they came from. Others are moving on to new homes, taking their stories with them and hopefully sharing those stories in different ways with new people.










Monday, 8 March 2021

Journeys and stories


Tales of ice and sky
Travelling Stories, 

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

We called this Buxton Museum and Art Gallery project “Travelling Stories” as this sense of objects that have been carrying stories around the world for years really appealed. The objects in the Schools Library Service brought the stories of their homelands to the people of Derbyshire, inviting visitors to investigate – or speculate – on the stories behind the artefacts. Now, those objects and their stories are moving on again. Some pieces are following long wandering trails back to where they came from. Others are moving on to new homes, taking their stories with them and hopefully sharing those stories in different ways with new people.

We invited our artists (or maybe challenged them) to respond to objects within the collections that were going to their individual museum. The finished works will be presented in an online exhibition in the spring. We'll keep you posted on that experience as plans develop. meanwhile, here is another instalment of "where are our artists going?"


This week, as another of the Buxton artists, I'm adding my bit to the mix....



With me it’s always stories. I am drawn to a sense of connection of movement, of emotion and depth wrapped in adventure



The Arctic collections from SLS that are staying with Buxton Museum really appeal. I have already had some expeditions into creativity with them – most strongly with Tupilak who you can meet here and who has surfaced again in the piece I am writing now.


I am drawn to the layers of stories that seem to be embedded in that Arctic collection. Most of these artefacts were made specifically for the tourist market: these are not original working tools (like Ryan's boomerangs) or perhaps ceremonial pieces ( the carved paddles that Akhran is looking at). These tiny harpoons and chunky carved lemmings were made with a view to enticing visitors into parting with their pennies. That does not devalue them as pieces of art: the detail and work that shaped model kayaks and a sled dog team is beautiful, their purpose simply offers a different story.


If the first story contained by a model kayak is tourism, a second might reflect the people behind the artistry: the resources they had to draw upon (bone, walrus ivory, whale tooth, seal skin, fur): the skill and dexterity needed to shape these small pieces and how that reflects the dedication needed to make, say, a full-size kayak. Going further, there is the relationship between people and landscape and ecology. And further still lies the relationship between people, place and wildlife:  a set of subtle and profound partnerships recognised by our artists. Theirs is a fierce world, a landscape that freeze the life out of someone in moments, animals that can kill with a paw or the blow of a broad fluke. This is also a world of breath-taking wonder from sunlight on snow to reindeer on migration to a mass of walrus on a beach to the shimmer of the aurora rippling across the northern nights


“the greatest peril of life lies in the fact that human food consists entirely of souls….”

Iglulik Eskimo quoted in “Shaman: the wounded healer” by Joan Halifax


There are prints in the collection, too, worked from slate blocks and revealing more of those relationships: a world where humans, animals and even weather features move in and out of each other, shifting from one shape to another. 






That brings me back to another carving: a small, subtle, delicate piece of a person turning into a seabird. It is exquisite and I wonder if this was made for the “tourist market” or if this was made to be slipped into a pack and kept safe, a token of transformations experienced


I am not here to give answers: I’m here to offer stories. I don’t know if this is “tourist trade”, if that was made for practical use or creative fulfilment, or all of the above, or none. It might be nice to know but for now this collection provokes me: challenges, offers ideas, Tupilak sitting in the shadows, dripping and whispering wonders or Sedna, Arnagnaksak, in the cold depths of northern sea singing the walrus from the open palms of her fingerless hands, while Quailertetang guides the shaman down to her friend. 


So I scribble notes, collage moments from prints with sketches, think of white landscapes ad shadow puppets, and play with phrases


Something is coming together.