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For a while now, I have been unhappy with my materials. It has creeped up on me slowly, until the realisation, the fact, is clear. The man-made materials: wire and silk no longer embody what I wish to say through my artwork. Overtime I have been increasing aware of my impact on the environment and realised that as well as changing my lifestyle I needed to change my art practice. Materials are at the heart of my practice so they had to change first. Then when I have changed those, how will I know what to do with them? So I had finally arrived at my idea for an Arts Council ‘Develop Your Creative Practice’ grant proposal. I spent a month writing the proposal and after several weeks I heard the brilliant news that I had been successful!

I have planned several trips through a year to learn new skills, work with the seasons and think about our relationship with the environment, as well as deepening my own relationship with nature.

My first trip was to Cumbria to work with Oak. I know I was being naïve but it was a shock that the first step was to cut down a tree! The tree was cut into sections lengthways. Then we removed the bark with a tool. Underneath the bark the tree is cold and slippery. Working a section of tree, I managed to remove the bark in one piece like a jacket.

The bark was wrapped up ready to send to a Tannery. The logs were taken back to the workshop. Once at the workshop the logs were cut into 3 or 4 sections lengthways and the heart wood was removed. Heartwood is strong and can be used to make furniture and fencing. The rest of the wood was put into a vat of water which was heated, and was left to simmer overnight.

The following morning the wood was removed from the vat. The outside of it was now black! I learnt to cut the wood down into thick even strips-well that was the idea. It was difficult technical work, which would take lots of practice to perfect. I was able to keep all the material I processed, so I have some lovely strips of oak to work with. Having got them home I feel very precious about them as I won’t be wielding a chainsaw for the sake of my art. But I learnt a lot and I loved working outside.