It floats and drifts on Broadwater lake in an environment designed by Capability Brown it has been described as ‘majestic’ and like an ‘electron spinning around’…

Wow! I am so pleased with this project and what I have learned so far, I have had to problem solve all along the way, finding new materials and sources when what I had planned to use was no longer available, finding an anchor, finding enough rope, learning how to tie an anchor knot, getting the form to change shape by soaking it in the lake and rolling it around on the grass virtually ‘zorbing’ on it! Volunteers helping and getting equipment, rowing in a boat whilst making adjustments, discovering muscles I didn’t know I had, making a raft and finding ways to stabilize the raft with an uneven form on top – putting more air in the form of empty 4 pint milk bottles strung under the raft once out on the lake, as the rain had pelted down and soaked the base of the sculpture …and I could go on and on.

One of the many exciting things I have learned from making this giant oak form is that I have a new reference framework which encompasses so many potential ideas I already have and might develop. I have to thank mentor Judith Alder for her perceptive questioning and listening skills for this!

What became apparent making the form was the dependency between the form and the anchor and what was in between. This is something I want to pursue in more work, since my mum died recently I have been thinking a lot about what lies unseen under the ground and a sense of re composting below. I am working in an exhibition of trees (De La Warr Pavilion) where tree houses are the subject of a beautiful book to assist with audience engagement, they fascinate me as they are anchored through the roots of the tree and then reach the sky where the tree house dweller can go and experience another ‘state of being’ transcending our earthly world. We can dream, reflect be whoever we want to be in this world of possibility – our vision has been raised we have a new perspective. I love the idea they are our original architecture, pillars reaching into the sky.

So I think I have made a significant leap with my work where I understand a visual framework of reference particular to my own practice, not borrowed or appropriated, an anchor which is more resilient than just aesthetic or observation it gives me something to bite on and gives me a path to follow.

What I want to do now is take some time exploring this through using new materials. I have done a short course in metal with Andrew Revell and this was really fun, I would like to get some new skills under my belt using London Sculpture Workshop to give me confidence and again some stronger resilience to challenges and problems I will definitely keep encountering as I work intuitively in new spaces maybe still on water and with new materials.


A couple of weeks after I constructed the oak structure and rowed forth with it in tow onto the lake I am deep in other work and slightly panicking that I am not making the most of the artwork I have just created. There hasn’t even been time really to flop and pat myself on the back as frequently I have also had to visit the site adjusting the listing raft due to some rather inclement weather. This is what happens when using a natural material on a temporary form in a hand built woven fashion. Ha! That’ll teach me.

Last Friday I went back with the only person I could find willing to get into a wet suit on the side of the lake on the understanding that the only way to currently retrieve the anchor is to swim with the eels…she knows no fear.

I have just had another meeting with my mentor Judith Alder who is being incredibly supportive and asking all the right awkward questions. We discussed ‘post making’ administration – these are the issues that are bugging me, how do I make the most of this opportunity. It seems that this is where the business head needs to kick in which is a bit of a mental shift after building up to the momentous creative level of confidence required to make a big piece of work outdoors that actually floats.

We discussed project documentation (film and photography) and the need to take control of the project at every step anticipating gaps where possible and when failing to – storing that information away so I remember next time. There is also the issue that it’s not possible to get it all right all of the time. With my documentation so far I have missed getting interviews with volunteers during the construction phase but this can be fixed by re negotiation with the videographer to record responses to questions that I neglected to think of originally and can introduce at the Resonance event in June. The event involves offering boat trips on the lake to talk about the work along with a workshop to make 3-dimensional forms, a fire pit and BBQ with specially composed sound. The Blue Monkey network are coming as their June event.

Again the issue of going back to the application and what I said I would do is raised like the inevitable anchor I need to reflect and remind myself I am not alone, I am walking alongside my own words in what I set out to achieve in my proposal, this is reassuring.

We discussed evaluation and how useful it is as a two-way process, providing the professional language for the next project base on which to form. This is very exciting to me as it bookends the project with the application itself and provides logical continuity.





‘The art work that goes wrong’

Yesterday I went to see ‘the play that goes wrong’ and it was hilarious. It struck me that there was a resemblance between the work I have made this week for Revolution and Resonance 2017 and the various moments of farcical humour that develop through cause and effect in the play. In the alleged amateur production there are key characters all trying to fully be themselves whilst at the same time having to be aware of each other for example, props are left in the wrong place so the actors must carry on ad libbing or just ignore the fact they are standing holding a vase of flowers instead of a note book. In this situation, the inexperienced actor is wedded to the script and does not have the creative capacity nor the confidence to ‘manage’ the situation in front of a live audience.

This construction week I started with a script, props, actors and by the end even had required a live audience. I have stepped between moments of lucid clarity and blind confusion. Reflecting even at this early stage I have to admit that there were a few seat of pants moments when serendipity played a vital role, like an anchor being found onsite just when I needed one or a volunteer turning up just as I needed to go out on a boat or to get sandpaper and perhaps the most entertaining, me realising I needed to let go of the anchor as it fell into the water before I followed it at speed. All of this is inherent in the unpredictable nature of scaling up work, working in the vast outdoors and floating work, so I found myself inadvertently being a ‘material’ inhabiting an unpredictable situation just like the one I was trying to create, a play within a play, performance within a performance.

Day one

Volunteers came and were extremely hard working, cleaning, sanding and sorting the oak strips laid out like a huge gappy floor on the grass. Luyba from Kazakhstan, Karoline from Brazil,  Regina from Austria, Dinah from Switzerland, Bayah from Argentina. …

As we worked John French turned up with two scaffold towers and a long pole, this was erected and the scale began to dawn on me….despite this I was still greedy for more and imagined it bigger. Oh the innocence (or arrogance) of someone who has always managed on her own before…

So after scavenging for pallets – the previous week there had been loads onsite- we found 4 that would line up together and which might be approximately the same weight. Such was the scientific method of preparation I was using, we spent the afternoon attaching them together and then tested it out on the lake and thank goodness it floated. So far so good, 60 strips of oak were now soaking ready for the next day and the scaffolding frame was up.

Day two

Judith Alder my project mentor came with Anna Winter my videographer and again volunteers Dinah and Regina came to assist. First job was to get the oak out and lay it across the middle of the scaffold in a basic basket weave so that I had a framework to start construction with.  We attached straps and winched it up like a giant dead spider using a rope noose over the pole, once anchored around a post we could cross over the lengths and tie loosely with cable ties to form a canopy. Here began a very amicable tussle between engineer minded Annemarie and freestyler rule breaker me. Due to my inexperience on this level I gladly bowed to her greater knowledge of how the woven structure constantly moves. I was aware I perhaps should have been more directive at this stage in breaking rules but was nervous it just would not hold itself together for weeks or months out on the water so was faced with a bit of a frustrating compromise. In these situations I believe its better to just keep going and then make a decision when clarity emerges. This clarity did not emerge for me until the evening and I had got home. I felt very uneasy about the overall shape of the form (in my mind it had gone wrong) which due to my need for scale had grown down into a lozenge or egg shape construction I had walked around it several times looking or rather thinking I was looking at it critically. It was a recognisable shape and I realised very firmly that this is something I cannot work with in this instance. The original drawing was of a spherical form and was looser and more abstract. This shape was dictating what people thought it was from egg to pineapple! What HORROR to an artist’s ears – I can laugh at myself but boy does it matter.

Day three

After a night of scheming I arrive determined to destroy the Egg. After all this is a learning experience and it is only a temporary work…. So I bring it down after its execution at the scaffold roll it into the lake and lie on top of it zorb style to try and squash it. It doesn’t really move so after Annemarie and Anna arrive we roll it around more and then get brutal. We bring it back onto the grass and Annemarie, because she knows, because she’s not scared, because its not her stupid egg is delighted at the thought of rolling it around on the grass cracking and heaving as it turns and compresses, groaning with pressure and covered in silt and mud, weeds trapped and still dripping. We stand back a little overwhelmed with hysteria and laughter. I had by now got lost in a new sense of destruction having threatened it with the saw more than once already.

Walking full circle around it from one side, taking it in fully now, it looked like a pebble, from another place a sphere with a growth, from another it looked square but from one side it looked great! And it was this that motivated me to persevere if one side could look OK then with more rolling and trying adding in looser drawn lines of oak it had the potential to be more evocative of the original line drawing.

Adding looser strips worked to achieve this but also revealed a need to engineer them so they would stay in place for as long as possible, it would also be necessary to put them in once it was on the raft as rolling it after would break them.

At this moment I had a brain wave, I should attach the anchor and the rope to the raft now…I thought I was being clever wrapping it around the middle corners of all 4 palettes – I had 8m so why couldn’t I lose one of those metres ensuring it was secure? (I think now I had gone too far and should have trusted the knot and clip as well as the batons we had fixed underneath)

Once we had rolled it onto the raft we positioned it as near to the angle that it had been on the grass as we could, tricky to do with a form this size that looks pretty much the same close-up. Our plan had been to attach it while in the water, this was ridiculous I could now see we needed dry land as a base. All was going well, Annemarie was screwing in the batons I was attaching the loose strips of oak ‘drawing’ with them to give it a more sketchy look. By now we had an audience of visitors who had even come back with more people to watch the launch. Annemarie fended off keen and curious questions grappling with what they saw and being told it was a piece of art work.

We embarked with anchor on board after testing where the lake floor drops steeply away, I was keen for the anchor to catch and not let the raft drift right down the reeds at the far end of the lake. It was hard work towing the raft, heavy now with the structure probably weighing more than me but we got to the edge of the water lilies, dropped anchor and the 3 dimensional drawing really did drift and move on the water with the wind. A dazzling moment mixed with a sense of disbelief I had actually managed to pull it off, just for now anyway!

It was physically an exhausting three days, I went back the next day to put air under one corner of the raft which had got damaged in the launch, amazingly five 4 pint milk bottles were perfect wedged out of sight under the palette. Today I want to go back and lengthen the anchor rope as the drift potential is too limited, this may be very difficult as I had wrapped it to the middle of the raft and this means retrieving the rope and then pulling up the anchor from a rowing boat alongside may prove problematic. I’ll let you know!


Later the same week I spent the day onsite with Annemarie O’Sullivan who is supporting me with her expertise and experience as a basket maker and willow artist who has made large scale work previously. Annemarie raised some valuable points and throughout the day we distilled the focus onto one piece which will float and drift (we tested this out) in the centre of the lake attached to an anchor.

This combines all the elements of the idea for me as we will make it on the grass above the lake – then roll it physically into the lake. (this is an adaptation as I had hoped to leave the forms for the public to roll, but as the oak strips will become too fragile as they dry this will simply destroy the forms before they can be fully explored.)  Once in the lake we can attach it to a raft made out of palettes which with the weight of the structure will sit just below the surface largely unseen. Then we will swim or tow it out to the centre of the lake, drop the anchor and leave it to drift. Annemarie is keen on swimming I am keen on boating!

I have made a presentation to the volunteers and staff at Ashburnham Place appealing for help with making the structures and will see what interest develops. I am planning a revolution workshop in June which will be followed by a fire pit and  resonance this will be an event to which public and particular people or groups such as Blue Monkey Network will be invited as an opportunity to show and talk about the project, the process and the work.

footnote – the idea of an anchor is so exciting and since drafting this post Ashburnham Place have found an old anchor they had in the workshop I can use. This is perfect and I am now familiar with anchor knots and how to prevent anchors from becoming stuck with snapped ropes thanks to several kayaking/fishing you tubers.

The anchor has a deep association and meaning for me, excuse the pun, I have often been told to trust my inner ‘rudder’, my gut reaction, my instinct. The anchor is also a very evocative link for me to my mother who died late last year – she loved hardware like this and her funeral was full of references to boats, water and the sense of transformation. I feel very protective of the anchor Ashburnham have given me to use and have spent some time making sure I can retrieve it after the project is over. What goes down must provide security and stability for the life of the project, but also must come back up in order to move on…. a cycle, a rotation, a transformation.



this post is a roll together of images, arising questions and an exciting delivery of materials!

…its a chaotic post because its holidays, the boys are home, my Dad is staying and we have tons to do. It has been noted that in the holidays I burn everything….my mind is elsewhere and things drift….well so what?

..but to important matters such as questions arising:

who else works with this idea of rotation?

who else has made a work that is associated with rotation?

I could go on… and I will but not till the next post!

So I am continuing my research into art works that associate with rotation. Sara MacKillop and Paper Column shown here. I love this piece for its simplicity and its scale. We all have a familiarity with paper but perhaps in a digital age this will become a vintage novelty.

and now to what I made at Ashburnham last week …as soon as I made some bigger maquettes and started playing with them onsite it was clear that they work best rolling on the ground and hopefully drifting around in or preferably on the lake. I will be making 3m size models next using strip of oak, ramping up the scale…

I have just taken delivery of the next level up – the actual material (now oak) in 3m strips…can’t wait till next Tuesday and I can start maquettes in the real material I can test when it breaks, if it needs soaking and how it looks…