I spent a week in the studio at the De La Warr pavilion about 18 months ago. A whole 7 days. It was to be a heavenly chance to explore my return to Bexhill on Sea after a year of travel to its namesakes. I was so excited about it, had so much I wanted to do. A whole week in one place still seemed like a huge amount of time, and with a wonderful workspace to do nothing but my own thing, it seemed like a total luxury with enormous possibilities. I printed images of Bexhill in New South Wales and Bexhill in Saskatchewan and fixed them to the walls for visitors to the space to look at. I installed lengths of lining paper and invested in a set of multi coloured sharpies for people to share their own stories and memories of the town. I wanted to see the place anew. I got so side tracked with all the things I would do with other people, all the things I wanted to share and discuss, to listen and discover, the week went by and all I had done in the way of making new work was to catch a wave. An afternoon where I had space to myself I took a walk along the beach, emptied my cup of tea and collected a wave in it.
I don’t want to misrepresent this, the week in the space was just what the project needed – I reconnected with people. They generously shared their stories and memories of place with me. I had huge wall charts and maps of how we connect, things that unite and divide a community, what makes it special, a celebration of a town. It likely fed much of the writing I have started since, laying geography with architecture, people and landscape.
What I can return to now though, is that wave. The wave in a cup. It came home with me at the end of the week and I swore I would return it to where I had found it. Weeks and months passed, however, and when I found the cup again, in the kitchen, where I’d left it, the wave had gone. A covering of salt crystals lined the bottom, a small shell is all that was left. The wave had evaporated. Thinking of it now I feel less sad about it, I have a wave in my home, a bit of the sea lives with me. At the time it seemed like a lost chance, a missed opportunity.
In fairness, the wave was not wasted. I ran some workshops at Bexhill Museum for people accessing mental health services. We explored the museum collections and the town, experimented with materials and techniques. The group visited me in the studio and were so taken with my wave in a cup it triggered long and wonderful conversations. M made a postcard, a photograph she had taken on the beach that same day with the text “I caught a wave”. It was very lovely to see how my half thoughts, part actions, translated to others.
Writing this blog seems pertinent. I can draw on these pockets of things almost started, research made, walks taken. I can catch a wave again and see where it takes me this time…