Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of creating a small collection of works for The New Craftsman Gallery in St Ives.

It is serendipitous that my first experience of selling my work through a gallery should be in Cornwall, my county home for two decades. It was in Cornwall that I my love for the sea and its treasures began, on family holidays as a child. Later, I moved there permanently and met Matt and we raised our family there until our move to the Orkney Islands in 2019.

So when Ylenia Haase first contacted me a few months ago I was delighted. 

I showed my first piece (Winter – shown below) there, at the beginning of this year, which went really well, so I started making plans for several new pieces to send southward.

 

Putting my little sets of sea treasures together is a sort of puzzle and one that I very much enjoy. A shell or piece of pottery might sit on my worktable for weeks or even months, before I find just the right pieces to go with it. Other times, I might find a whole set in one day.

I am often out walking with my family, or at least some of them and they will ask me what I’m looking for. My answer is usually, “I don’t know, but I’ll know when I see it.”

It might be the colour, texture or shape of a piece, that draws me to it. Quite often, I will spot it from a distance. It might be half buried, amongst seaweed or being pushed back and forth by the waves, but something about it will catch my eye.

I decided to make three sets that were very different from each other. The first, Sea Foam, brings together an oyster shell, a limpet (that is sea-worn and covered in tiny spirals, left behind by tube worms), and an unusual piece of sea pottery.

It is rare for me to find anything green that is a suitable size, so it was a treat to find both the beautiful oyster and the grey-green limpet in the same week. I considered various finds for the third, but none seemed quite right until I rediscovered a pottery piece, in the bowl of finds that I keep on my worktable.

Oyster shells are always challenging because of their very irregular shape. Although the interior of the shell is delightfully smooth, the outer surface is often full of bumps and crevices. I like to follow the shape as closely as I can, not only to create a tight fit but also to keep the personality of the object.

However, it is also important that the finished piece should feel nice in your hand, so a certain amount of compromise is needed when following the exterior of an oyster. 

In the second piece, Glimps Holm, I selected a larger fragment of ceramic, that had been smoothed by the motion of the waves and retained a small glaze detail (a singular stripe). I grouped this with a piece of copper pipe, a painted topshell in rusty-brown tones and a brown limpet shell.

So many of the colours that are seen along the coastline are cool, so my eye is often drawn to warmer toned objects along the shoreline.

All of the coastal treasures used in this piece were found on the small island of Glimps Holm, which can be reached from our island home (South Ronaldsay), by crossing two causeways.

It is a favourite for walking with our family, because of the enormous variety of shells that wash up on the shores there. There is always something new to discover!

The third and final piece of this spring collection is Cresting Waves. The starting point for this set was a small triangular fragment of blue and white pottery. 

I was able to match the colours of the pottery shard, with a beautiful mussel shell and two white shells. The limpet had such an interesting interior, that I left it exposed, in the same way as the mussel, creating a basketry border around the edge of each shell.

I completed the piece with a smooth, bean shaped nugget of terracotta. Terracotta always creates such a striking contrast to crisp blues and whites, so it just lifts the whole piece.

The colours are so evocative of the cresting waves on a bright spring or summers day, which we are just starting to feel the promise of, here in Orkney. After a very hard winter, the long, bright days are eagerly anticipated and I took great pleasure in capturing a little bit of summer’s magic in my work.

One of the lovely things about making this little collection has been having so many of my cocoon baskets with me at one time. I usually pop them in my shop as soon as they are finished and they’re gone before I start the next one.

I have always thought of my pieces as being interchangeable, where pieces could be swapped in and out and moved around, just as the tide moves everything around on the shoreline. So having three sets together, has been a treat for me and I was sure to get some shots of them all together before sending them off.

All three pieces are now headed south and will be in The New Craftsman Gallery very soon.

I am sure that I will be creating more pieces for the gallery later in the year, but for now, it’s time to make some pieces to pop in my little shop and also squeeze in some creative playtime.