Pursuit of Intrigue

22 March, 2015

‘Pursuit of Intrigue’ is the title of a new short film made about my work.

The film offers a sensitive portrait of my current work; focusing in on my ceramic and mixed media objects; dipping into my thought processes, taking a peek at how I work with clay and incorporate found materials.

The film can be viewed online here.

Here’s the story of how the film was made.

This winter Richard and Arron of the amazing R&A Collaborations came to Sussex to make a film about my work and inspirations. They specialise in creating films about makers and their processes; exploring their work, their ideas and their making.

Elaine Bolt, Newhaven Beach

At Newhaven Beach

They spent a day filming and recording with me. Our first location was a visit to Newhaven beach, one of my favourite spaces, and a place that is a strong source of inspiration for me. I was filmed walking by the sea and investigating ‘found objects’ discovered on the beach.

We then spent time in the studio as they filmed me making new work and playing with compositions of found and made objects. They filmed me throwing on the wheel, turning and hand building.

Elaine Bolt, throwing with porcelain

Elaine Bolt, throwing with porcelain

My little workshop became quite a crowded space at times as I tried not to trip over power cables or get clay on the camera. They filmed finished pieces, but mostly focused in on the details; offering intriguing glimpses rather than giving away the whole story.

They then interviewed me; asking me about my ideas and inspirations, enquiring into what it is that draws me to make the things I make. I found it quite fascinating how some of the thoughts and ideas I have, to do with my work, seemed to coalesce as the interview took place. Some things that had only been a vague notion in my head became clearer through the process of being asked to name and describe them.

Richard and Arron - capturing images in the studio

Richard Foot, capturing images in the studio

After that intense day of filming and recording, they then worked away at bringing it all together to make a short film. So many different subjects and processes had been covered over the course of the day, that I think it must have been quite a challenge to create a strong story that offers a coherent flavour of my work. But I feel they’ve really created a lovely piece – the finished film offers an engaging portrait of me and my work right now, and I hope those watching it will enjoy the journey.

Elaine Bolt 'Buoys' detail

Elaine Bolt – ceramic buoy with mixed media detail

R&A Collaborations have also made many beautiful films of other crafts people and makers. My personal favourites from their collection feature the work of ceramicist Silvia K in ‘Harvest‘, willow artist Annemarie O’Sullivan in ‘Bundles of Willow‘ and mixed media maker Samantha Bryan in ‘Desire to Fly‘.

Fence posts and bottle tops

24 January, 2015

I’m endlessly inspired by the sea and my visits to the beach, even if I don’t actually fancy a swim right now! But recently I’ve been enjoying the local hills and woods, whilst the trees are damp and the skies are gloomy.

wooden fence post - Elaine Bolt

On some walks through the Sussex downs I’ve been finding a lot of joy in the details of things and in the natural colours that pop out when you look closely. On a rainy day I discovered some beautiful subtle lichen that followed the contours of sawn wood on the top of a fence post. I probably looked like a crazy person, taking photos of a fence post. But what can you do.

I’ve also been exploring a very dark and damp woodland nearby and have been wandering through trees coated in lichen, finding derelict structures shrouded in moss and stumbling across branches with some pretty colourful fungi. I think I’m drawn to the idea of the tiny worlds within worlds that these natural forms offer. The closer you look, the more they appear like forests and landscapes in their own right.

Capturing and reflecting those natural tones in my own work is a bit of a challenge. Imitating nature is a tricky path to follow. But I love subtle blues, greens and browns, with the occasional pop of orange or yellow. So hopefully my work will continue to edge down this path. I’m also interested in how man-made things sit in the landscape and the way nature takes over, giving it a soft patina over time. I’m working towards a potential collaborative project with another maker that may explore some of these themes. It’s too early days to share details at the moment, but these inland explorations are (hopefully) heading somewhere too.

I haven’t forgotten the sea though. I’m still running around the trashy foreshore finding things that have fetched up on the pebbles.

East Wittering

It’s often the thing that looks like it’s not supposed to be there that catches my eye – bright colours are the biggest giveaway, though they’re usually just bottle tops. At the Witterings a large orange piece of plastic sat on the beach looking dramatic. At Newhaven a bicycle reflector shone out from a pile of seaweed. Sometimes I find plastic things that have mutated through their time in the sea and have come to mirror natural forms. My workshop is full of such objects and I have no idea what I will do with most of them.


On being a Womble – I do attempt to take away and safely dispose of some of the rubbish I find, what little I can, just to keep it out of the sea and away from the wildlife. But I can’t clean the whole beach, it’s just too messy there. And it’s a rather futile task as it keeps coming with every tide. And perhaps it’s really just moving it from one part of the world to another, from beach to landfill. But I do it to make myself feel better, if nothing else.

On camera – I snap away with my iPhone and post lots of images like this on Instagram, so if you just can’t get enough of photos of things found on the beach or close-up lichen shots, then head over there for more of that kind of thing. I’m also back in the studio and making things. So hopefully some images of work in a few weeks, with a bit of luck.

 

 

 

 

 

Buoys and Vessels

12 October, 2014

Elaine Bolt 'Buoys' detailI’ve been developing an idea based on buoys (the kind that are often used by boats, or on fishing nets) and particularly the broken and tangled versions I sometimes found washed up on the beach. I wanted to make something that took elements of the buoy and the open shape of a vessel. I also wanted to combine the made object with found objects – principally the curls and tangles of fishing wire and rope that I find on Newhaven beach and often end up taking home.

Elaine_Bolt_IMG_0808I made the body of the shapes by throwing a vessel,  then turning the base and adding a ‘handle’ (the results shown in my last post). The dark terracotta adds a distinctive look to the fired piece.

I then added the found bundles of fishing wire and intertwined some ceramic beads and other fired pieces into the bundle, blurring the lines between objects tangled in the wire and objects deliberately placed there.

Two of the finished pieces are now heading off to an exhibition entitled ‘Vessels’ being held at Making Space in Havant. The pieces seem quite fitting for a show that celebrates the different meaning of the term vessel.

Elaine Bolt 'Buoys'

The ‘Vessels’ exhibition runs for just a week: 27 October to 31 October 2014. You can find out more on the Making Space website.

As I was going to St Ives

On the theme of buoys, I recently went to St Ives and visited an exhibition there by American installation artist Mark Dion. I’ve seen some of his work on the ‘Thames Dig’ at Tate Britain in the past and loved his sense of making collections and forming museum-like displays from found (and often discarded or everyday) objects. The St Ives exhibition ‘The Maritime Artist’ is at the Porthmeor Studios which is an intriguing mix of artist’s spaces and working (and disused) fishing cellars. The installation featured a vast array of buoys and other fishing equipment hung up in a disused pilchard cellar. The result was a quite convincing display that belied its intentional construction. It blurred the lines between what was installation and what was real, but it blended in so well with its surroundings, it could almost have been overlooked as a piece of art. That was perhaps its intention.

Mark Dion installation

Mark Dion installation

The Maritime Artist

The Maritime Artist

Whilst in St Ives I also (of course) visited The Leach Pottery and the Barbara Hepworth museum. Both offer a chance to see their works, but also to glimpse the artists’ workshops, as if they’d just left them to pop out for some shopping. I love feeling this sense of connection with a maker, even when they’re no longer around. I think I like seeing this kind of display of tools and workshops almost more than the finished works, although Barbara Hepworth’s garden with its monumental sculpture is possibly the most magical and lovely place I’ve been to in a long time. I’ve been twice now, but could just go again and again.

Bernard Leach's workshop and tools

Bernard Leach’s workshop

Barbara Hepworth's workshop and tools

Barbara Hepworth’s workshop and tools

Barbara Hepworth's garden

Barbara Hepworth’s garden

Wilderness

29 August, 2014

I have a special liking for slightly deserted landscapes with that abandoned dilapidated look going on. Dungeness on the Kent coast has to be my favourite place to experience this kind of atmosphere.                  Elaine_Bolt_Dungeness_rail

It’s a massive coastal ‘desert’ where fishing boats lie stranded on the vast stretch of shingle, slowly rusting and weathering away.   Elaine_Bolt_IMG_0556   There are plenty of people living here though, in all kinds of houses. Some old, some very smart and new. There’s also the nuclear power station of course (!), just to add to the sense of post-apocolyptic landscape. Derek Jarman created a beautiful, magical garden space in this strange landscape. There’s also a miniature railway taking day-trippers backwards and forwards. But if you walk away from that, towards the sea, there’s just the shingle and lichen and rust and fishing nets. This is my second visit in a couple of years but I still took hundreds of photos. It’s so inspirational I just want to keep going back.

I was careful not to change the scene – I want others to enjoy it as much as I do. But I did collect a very small bag of washed up flotsam from the shoreline – nothing that would take away from the landscape and nothing that too many other people would want, just newly fetched up little things that are replenished every day with every tide. But I’ll hopefully be making use of the some of these things – little bundles of fishing wire and beautifully weathered tiny sticks, if it’s only just to wonder at their beauty. Photos of my small collected flotsam to follow, hopefully soon.

 

Mudlarking

28 June, 2014

Thames River Bank

Thames River Bank

Last week I went on a very exciting trip to London to go ‘Mudlarking’ on the banks of the River Thames. Beach combing, to seek out unusual ‘found objects’, is one of my favourite activities, but I’d never had the opportunity, or courage, to go foraging for finds in London before. My friend and fellow potter Fay de Winter planned the adventure as an unusual treat!

There are some rules and regulations about what you are allowed to do and pick up there. You can’t dig or even ‘scrape’ the surface for example without a permit, and there are certain areas that are out of bounds. But if you time the tides right, there is a large area, right in the city where you can walk along and find all sorts of things ‘by eye’ on the bank, with new finds refreshed with every tide.

Garnets found whilst Mudlarking

Tiny garnets

My intrepid friend and I descended down steps to the somewhat unpromising looking river banks at low tide and found an assortment of unlikely looking people already down there. I’m not sure we quite fitted into the scene but the people we chatted to, doing the same as us, were all as friendly as you could ask. There were one or two with metal detectors, looking for treasure, but most were like us, looking for the kind of treasure that isn’t worth anything to anyone else.

The kinds of things that caught our eyes, perhaps because we’re both potters, were things like pottery sherds (the most colourful items shining out of the mud) and clay pipes, pieces of which carpeted some areas of the bank. I also have a particular, somewhat crazy, attraction to hand made rusty boat nails and there were plenty of those there too. With the help of more experienced mudlarker ‘Dave’ who we got chatting to, we also found things we’d never have spotted otherwise; including tiny hand made pins and, most surprisingly to me, unpolished garnets.

I don’t know enough to date any of these finds or even really know what some of them were, before they became lost and then found again. Maybe I can do some digging around on the internet to find out more.

Of course they had to be organised and grouped into tidy categories of my own. Putting them in a row and photographing them, as if they were important archeological finds, affords them a status they probably don’t deserve. But it gives me joy anyway. All of these kinds of things have an influence on my creative work. I don’t know what kind of influence these objects will have – they may even find their way into a mixed media piece I make in the future. I just know there will be an impact, somewhere.

Various pottery sherds

Pebble Beach

19 March, 2014

I take a lot of inspiration from the beach. Sometimes it’s oblique; things catch my eye and then filter through in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s as direct as the things I find on the beach becoming part of a mixed-media work. The beaches I take inspiration from aren’t the idilic ones with golden sand, they’re the ones with pebbles and a line of seaweed and flotsam, or with concrete harbour walls and ferry ports. I often go to Newhaven and Seaford nearby. They’re not glamorous places, but they’re beautifully empty, with only the occasional dog walker or brave surfer to share the space with at this time of year.

On a recent trip to Norfolk I took some close-up photos of a concrete harbour wall. I loved the textures, colours and lines. The images are now floating around in my head, nagging me to do something about them. I’m not sure what will emerge yet; maybe nothing, but maybe something some way down the line.

Line blue and beach white

14 August, 2013

I’ve recently been finding lots of things that appeal to me in the colour blue, mainly around the home. And, almost by accident I’ve also been re-discovering lines. I rather like objects and groupings that combine rounded forms with straight lines so this may be why I’m particularly drawn to the image of the blue circle of paint on lined wooden decking.

The lines in the wood reminded me of the throwing lines I make in my terracotta ‘grounds’. When I throw vessels I often smooth these away, and sometimes incise other lines during the making process. But when throwing lines are left alone, they can provide a subtle surface feature, reminding us of its hand-made nature.

Elaine Bolt vessel composition

 

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I’ve also been finding inspiration at the beach. I recently went to Birling Gap (not far from where I live) and found myself drawn again to the flint lines in the chalk cliff face, as well as the debris on the beach. Here a pile of rope and twisted coils of fishing wire sits, guarding the entrance to a white walled cave.

Seashore inspiration

28 September, 2012

seashoreI’ve been taking some photographs down at the seaside; finding some inspiration amongst the pebbles. There’s a real rugged beauty there, in the concrete, twisted metal and seaweed coated structures. The Lost and abandoned things that find their way to the seashore have been a strong influence in my recent work.

So I’m getting stuck into the workshop now.
I’m sure these recent trips will seep into the making process…