The events of March 2020 took me to Suffolk to stay in my sister in law’s clapperboard house: ‘Solebay Lodge’ nestled between the sea marshes and the forest.
As life slowed down and our stay was unexpectedly extended, the natural world around us came into sharpened focus: The sun was warm and we all adapted to this new pared down lifestyle, in-spite of underlying fears and worries about the evolving pandemic. A rhythm to my day took form: ‘a pebble pilgrimage’ walking the shingle shoreline, turning stones over that had caught my eye, then discarding the majority, dropping a few chosen favourites into my pocket.
These miniature sculptures became my source of inspiration.There derived a real comfort in looking at these simple objects created millions of years ago, outlasting us all, still kicking around on our beaches.
Exciting avant garde British artists such as Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Henry Moore came to mind: After the first world war they had each collected and studied the pebbles’s surfaces using them as a starting point for the simplicity of their modernist form.
It reminded me one of my favourite places; Jim Eade’s house Kettle’s Yard Cambridge. He was the first modern art curator at the Tate Gallery and amongst his eclectic art and sculpture collection were stunningly simplistic displays of his cherished found pebbles. He wrote: ‘It is saltatory that in a world rocked by greed, misunderstanding and fear, it is still possible and justifiable to find important the exact placing of two pebbles’
Conscious that pebbles also perform a vital environmental role: buffering the coastal system against wind and wave damage. I made sure my choice was small and selective, returning discarded stones to their habitat.
My stones were already part finished canvases in their own right. So I tried to complement or echo the individual pebble’s existing lines, shapes patina and markings with a few of my own.
The colour palette reflected the mirky tea coloured Suffolk sea, the sweeping lines and greys in the vast skyline and the earthy ochres and olives of the reed beds. I began bundling up small collections of pebble with, a few short messages of support and love and sent them to friends from the post office at Saxmundham.
When I had to declare what the contents of my strange shaped parcels was, it was met with a look of bemusement from the lady behind the counter.
The stones started to fill the small house: they became both a therapeutic way for me to absorb and recall the surrounding landscape and odd shaped ‘Postcards” that helped me stay in touch with my city friends in unsettling and unforgettable times.