I had a session yesterday, with Marged Pendrell, my art tutor/mentor. It was, as always, incredibly helpful to stop and talk about where I’d got to. She could see all the work I was doing with research, coordinating and facilitating the ‘Digging Down’ project, but asked what was going on with my relationship with the objects and the ground they come from? Was, for example, I going to choose 3 things from the hoard I’ve laid out in the barn?
I wondered whether my selection should be based on the three that are most evocative for me? Or three most reminiscent? Or three most me? Which make me feel most connected? Which do I like best aesthetically? Which 3 would I keep if I had to get rid of all the others?
In the end, I think my choices were in response to a mix of all of those questions.
My choice 1: The tin cow
I love the size and weight of this tin cow. It was one of the first pieces of treasure that I dug in the garden and I remember the excitement of feeling the shape of it in the hole in the soil with my hands, of bringing it out and wiping the soil to reveal patches of its (Friesian) markings. It makes me think of children who lived here, and why it had been thrown away. I used to save up for months as a child, to buy a plastic farm animal to go on my toy farm. I used to know them all by touch, priding myself on being able to tell them apart with my eyes closed. I’d never have thrown any away, no matter how broken. I think my parents still have them. So it makes me think of an unfinished childhood, one where something intervened in its natural flow. It makes me feel protective – to the object itself, to children, and to the child in me.
My choice 2: The ladder
Ladders are about transition, the promise of the new (Jacob's ladder and so on). I found this little ladder fragment lying on the ground in the garden one day while we were working on the dry stone walls. I love the colour of it, the look of it. Three years or so ago, when I decided to give up everything to be an artist, I made hundreds of ladders from different things like wool and branches and bits of metal. I think I was doing it to help me feel the transition physically, to acknowledge that it takes bravery to let go, to go somewhere new. When I found this ladder fragment, and when I look at it now, I think of how happy I am now to have made the transition. It represents my new life. Perhaps this is why I took it with me to Poland when I had an exhibition there in December.
Lindsey’s choice 3: The crackled pot
There’s something in the curved, crackled nature of this pot and the sheen it has on it, together with its broken handle and the beauty of the terribly-faded-but-just-visible decoration that appeals to me. I think of the use of the pot Coed Gwydr, the number of times it’s been filled, carried, placed and washed up. It came from the main midden in the garden, and I believe it was Ellen Williams who used it to cook for her family in the late 19th century. She must have buried it there when it broken, perhaps broken by one of her sons. I like to think of me, now, at 47, being linked back to – and forward from - Ellen, who died at 43. This would be the closest to a self-portrait in a fragment.
Next relates to Maggi’s other question. What of the ground they come from? What role does the earth play? I've been thinking of making giant heaps of earth in the barn. I feel the lure of it every day. Slightly overwhelmed by what I've already got, I’ve been resisting digging for more treasure, although I can see hundreds more fragments and objects that have been unearthed by the rain and frost. Maybe I need to just go and sit there for a while. At least in March, Gerallt is coming back to work on the old terraces, so we’ll be digging and building and finding treasure to our hearts’ content.