Earthbound: a fascination with what lies beneath our feet
"The artist enters a specific state of mind when he is walking, enabling a creative space to appear. There is a reduction in conscious attention, a letting go, and the mind is able to slip into a different gear."
(On The Track of Richard Long – Juliet Miller)
Artist/papermaker Jane Ponsford and ceramicist/curator Kim Norton explore the similarities and differences in their approach to working with landscape and place. Both Jane and Kim work with materials collected or foraged from different environments to explore materiality and their site-specific creative responses.
They have been engaged for six months in a collaborative exchange project, called A6. This involved each sending a series of parcels of collected and made objects, to which the other would respond. The only rule was that they work within the A6 paper format.
Follow their conversation. (from the most recent)
4th Exchange with Jane Ponsford
30th March 2020
Large porcelain pinch bowl with Red shale collected from Lower Vellow, West Somerset
Small porcelain pinch bowls
No2: 4gms soil from Snowdrop Valley, Cutcombe, W. Somerset
No4: 4gms soil from Dunster, W. Somerset
No6: 6gms Red sandstone from Lower Vellow, W. Somerset
No8: 6gms soil from Quantock Hills, W. Somerset
No10: 4gms Charmouth mudstone from Jane
No12: 4gms Seaton redstone from Jane
All fired to 1200oc
Dried fern from Quantock Hills
2x Lower Vellow flooding
2x Quantock Hills
1x Kiln at Dunster mid 18thcentury
3x maps – material collection points
Ordnance Survey Exmoor 119 1930
Ordnance Survey Bridgewater and Quantock Hills 120 1929
1x shades of Brown from Werners Nomenclature of colours adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Mineralogy, Anatomy and the Arts. P.Syme page 51
Vellow shale and sandstone in jar
Vellow sandstone on canvas, with Vellow shale.
(the shale sits on top of the third cut our section see images in notes)
The kiln at Dunster
An updraft circular, local red sandstone kiln, internally lined with brick.
Used between 1750-1850 for firing earthenware and roof tiles.
The kiln survived as it was converted into a gardeners shed for over 150 years
(from off the beaten track in Somerset 2015)
Lime was used to dress acid soils. 18th century coal and limestone was imported from Wales
Brown is an old colour
Its ancestors are the horses and bison painted in prehistoric caves,
The clothes of our ancestors were brown.
Most skins are brown
Brown cloth always dressed the poor.
(Chroma; Derek Jarman p79)
‘When the word evolved over 100 years ago from Anglo-Saxon versions of the old English terms. ‘Eor(th)e’ and ‘ertha’ and the German ‘erde’ these words simply referred to the ground’.
(Soil Culture p20)
WEST SOMERSET a familiar landscape- we have family there. I collect and forage with every visit to Lower Vellow.
When it floods it appears to bleed………..
The Landscape has strong associations with Wordsworth and Coleridge.
This exchange has been a response to the Seaton Redstone and Charmouth Mudstone that Jane used and gave me samples in exchange no:3
The colours change -----------------
-------------- As you move -----
--------- Across --------------------------- the land
THE REDS, THE DEEP BROWNS
SOUTH WEST THROUGH ITS SOIL
THROUGH ITS EARTH
Kim Norton 2020
A6 Project with Kim Norton
4th Exchange Homegrown/Lockdown
In our most recent exchange you sent some bundles and arrangements of twigs from your apple tree. I found these familiar things rather moving and although I had already planned a new more remote location for my next period of research, I found myself similarly entranced by extremely local materials in response, luckily as it turned out.
The things that have fascinated me for this iteration of our exchange have been found on my home ground within a few yards of my front door.
The materials are very humble:
Bramble, lichen, moss, root fibres, nutshells discarded by the squirrel
I have mainly used the brambles either as a material or as a dye in making my objects and test pieces. The tannin dyes from the bramble shoots and tips make a pale brown colour, which alters in contact with iron - as you can see in the scrap of paper cast on the iron of the wire circle. This reaction formed the basis of the narrow range of colours that I used.
I gathered the other materials I that collected together within bramble dyed little containers. The idea of containment and connections was an important theme. I also loved the bramble stems for their own sharp defensive forms.
Materials I have sent you:
Root fibres (they might need soaking to be flexible again)
3 bramble twigs
3 small containers with lichen, root fibres and moss (will probably need to have their contents put back inside the containers)
1 wire ring with cast cotton rag paper dyed with tannin and stained with iron
4 sheets of cotton rag paper dyed with bramble tannins and modified with iron
1 bramble necklace
1 collection of 10 discarded nutshells
1 of the site of the growing brambles and 1 of the simmering leaves and shoots
Jane Ponsford April 2020
3rd Exchange with Kim Norton
Responding to our last exchange my initial thoughts are that I want to cast the net wider for collecting materials. While I will always be fascinated by chalk and the Downs which are the material and the setting from my childhood, I want to take the journey further. At one point I know we talked about walking the length of the path either between our two starting points or for the full extent of the link between our research areas and although I know that was an impossibility for all sorts of pragmatic (I almost wrote ‘down to earth’) reasons, that thought made me want to collect from further flung locations. So I collected materials myself and asked people to donate materials.
Materials I have sent you
Seaton Redstone, from the SW coastal path in Devon (Map ref: 50°42'10.5"N 3°04'37.4’W) and Charmouth mudstone, from Charmouth in Dorset just along the coast
25 - 30 tiny cast paper scales coloured with various earth materials including the above, partly collected from my own walks and partly given by others. These are very small but the geographic area that they refer to has spiralled out to include the West Country where my brother lives now and where part of my family originated, as well as the Downs (chalk), St Martha’s Hill in Surrey (sandstone) and London (clay).
To be arranged in a shoal.
Several sample sheets of paper uncoloured or coloured with chalk, mudstone and redstone from Seaton.
To be piled up.
A shallow hoop of greystone pigmented paper
A taller, narrower cylinder of the same.
To be arranged with / on / near the piled sample sheets.
There is something very satisfying to me about the density and flatness of these pigments and I am very drawn to them because they come from landscapes where my family have lived for generations. In my previous text about the second exchange I said that I intended to work from domestic materials for instance, dust but actually I find myself wanting to move further outwards. Next I am planning to collect material from the Fens where the other side of my family originated. I look forward to finding out what the black soils of Lincolnshire and the silt of the Great Ouse do and the marks and pigments they produce. Earthbound will then draw a line across from one side of the country to the other in tiny A6 episodes.
This iteration of the exchange feels like a leaping off point.
Books I have been reading:
Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit
The Footing, various authors, Longbarrow Press, a book of poetry about walking ‘as a mode not of travelling, but of being‘
Signs & Wonders, Marina Warner
Drawing Water, Tania Kovats
The Old Ways, A Journey on Foot, Robert Macfarlane
The Natural History of Selborne, Gilbert White
The Library of Ice, Nancy Campbell
‘Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.’
Rebecca Solnit, Tracing a Headland, from Wanderlust
3rd Exchange with Jane Ponsford
2nd Feb 2020
COLOUR PALETTE BROWNS, RED BROWNS, CREAMY GREENS.
Location: South East London, Peckham, Nunhead.
Annotated notes form the illustrated booklet
Stuart Road allotments, South East London
Falstaff Apple tree
Stripped Falstaff apple wood on paper
In bundle tied with flax thread
Circular apple bark
Bark in glass jar
London clay soil - fired to 1050oc
London clay soil with 2gms chalk, sand, bone ash, wood ash, all fired to 1050oc and 1200oc
London clay soil with 6gms chalk, sand, bone ash, wood ash, all fired to 105oc and 1200oc
Clay sticks imprinted with apple wood, fired to 1050oc and 1200oc
Bruno Munrani THE CIRCLE
Grow following a concentric circular pattern
For annual and biannual plants (see written noted for drawings)
This place/space is situated in the heart of the urban landscape
It enables me to experience subtle changes that occur throughout the year in much the same way as my garden
Cast linen rag wire and chalk made by Jane in exchange no2
12 young branches 1 for each month sewn onto paper dyed with London clay made by Jane.
LINES_________ORDER_______FENCES_________DIVISION_________OF SPACE______ALLOTMENT PLOTS ___________ FIELDS _____LAND_______WALKING_____MOVING _______
12 BUNDLED APPLE BRANCHES 1 FOR EACH MONTH
BUNDLES________GATHERING__________HAY______ STRAW BALES______TO CARRY_______MOVEMENT_______THROUGH SPACE
LINES, MAPPING, LOCATION, DIRECTION………………………….
THE TRANSFORMATION OF MATERIAL
Clay collected from Beckenham Park Pace sent in parcel No1
‘Before firing, the London clay would be mixed with sand, chalk, ash from domestic fires and bone scrap collected back doors nothing salable was ever thrown away by thrifty Victorian households
From Underlands: A Journey Through Britain’s Lost Landscape Ted Nield
Kim Norton 2020
2nd Exchange with Jane Ponsford
23rd December 2019
Uffington white horse, Oxfordshire
Sombourne quarry, Hants
Basilius Besler plate 361 from Hortus Eystettersis 1613
3x hand carved chalk chunks from Sombourne quarry,
3x chalk circles on paper.
No1: Immediate thoughts in response CHALK-WHITE-CIRCLE
No2: The three chalk circles were made using the dust created from the carved chalk pebbles. Marks and traces, nothing wasted.
No3: David Nash, Ash Dome
Nancy Holt, Sun Tunnels
Andy Goldsworthy, Pebble Circle
Chris Drury, Medicine Wheel
Maya Lin, Artic Circle
Richard Long, Midsummer Circles
The Sun and Full Moon
The circle in landscape
Responding to Jane’s first parcel using chalk, it was through this very material we both met in 2015 whilst exhibiting at 10 days Winchester-Chalk
Full circle, or beginning
Colour palette winter white
The Uffington white horse: The oldest chalk cut hill figure in Britain. Approx 3,000 yrs
I grew up in Oxfordshire- this is a familiar landmark.
INK LINE DRAWING FROM THE WHITE HORSE
The abstracted line
The abstracted Curve
This is rooted in place and unchanged by time
SOFT CLEAN EDGES AND SURFACES
Hand carved, the dust has used to make the circles on canvas
Goes hand on hand with chalk, bone like, black in the centre with a white skin.
Reminds me of Henry Moore
FROM CHROMA DEREK JARMAN
White is the
The snowdrop, galenthius nivalis (candlemas bell)
Don’t bring those snowdrops in to your house
They’ll bring you bad luck
Cold snow-white winter
Snowdrops: the first winter flowers to emerge
Galanthus derived from two greek words
Milk and flower
Milk flowers of the snow
Drops of milk
Kim Norton 2019
A6 Project with Kim Norton
Responding to our first exchange, my first thoughts are:–
We are both very concerned with actual PLACE and not just material from the place. Your material comes from a place that resembles a ploughed field and mine from a raw area of exposed chalk on the scarp side of a hill. I lived nearby when I was a child and at that time the exposed area was bigger and reminded me of the emerging fossilised bones of some enormous creature. Chalk is also the material and subject through which we first met and although I want to move on it seemed important to start there.
Your forms are very evocative of process, one a hollowed out form which clearly shows the scraping marks of your fingers to remove material, the other, a compacted shape that not only speaks of the way in which it was made but also calls to be picked up and held in the hand. So my first actual responses are ones which I cant send other than in writing; picking up the clay object and holding it cupped in my hand and pushing my fingers into the hollow grooves of the emptied block.
My second response to your objects and material was to make an echo, a nesting set of hollow rather than compacted, cone shapes which explore that inside / outside, skin / mass of your two shapes and then to continue by making objects that can sit within each other or be piled or stacked or placed together in relationship to each other. The last response was to make some sticks, dipped in chalky liquid, which could fall or be thrown in an informal arrangement, neither a massy weight nor an empty container.
I used a little of the earth dust that you sent me to colour some of these forms. The clay is built into the cotton pulp before couching the forms. I loved using it and enjoyed the colour but too late in the process, realised that I should have gone to the place it came from to find a stronger connection to the place.
Materials I have sent you:
A Petrie dish of leaf litter. When I made my objects I imagined that the small chalk bowl would hold some of this material. The rest is for you to use if you would like to.
3 nested cone pieces, cast cotton rag pulp with chalk dust
A small chalk bowl, cotton rag pulp, chalk dust
A flat chalky dish, cotton rag pulp with chalk dust
Circular Piece (wire, cast cotton rag pulp with chalk dust)
3 cotton rag pulp and clay circular pieces – one can be placed inside the flat chalky dish or can stand together with the others. One of these sheets is stained with a tannin dye made from leaf litter and bark.
Two sheets of cotton rag paper, one with a small amount of chalk dust and the other with your clay dust built into the sheet
21 sticks, cast linen rag pulp, wire, chalk gesso
Next I want to bring my materials closer to home. I am interested in investigating domestic dust
In November last year we each started with a place that spoke to us or was familiar and exchanged materials and objects we had made in relation to these places. The two photos show some of these things. Kim’s photo shows her notes and visual references and Jane's image is of a sheet of handmade paper coated with a rough chalk gesso photographed on chalk.
Jane Ponsford November 2019
A6 Project with Kim Norton 1st Exchange
Location: The Whites, Box Hill Nr Mickleham, Surrey
Grid Ref: TQ 17560 51781
A Petrie dish of chalk dust
1. A chalk bowl, (cotton rag pulp, chalk dust)
2. Circumference Piece (linen thread, cast cotton rag pulp elements with chalk dust)
To contain / enclose
To tally or count (paces, breaths, minutes)
3. Two sheets of cotton rag paper, one smeared with coarse chalk gesso, one with chalk built into the sheet
Two photos of the site (from one of the chalk paths near The Whites on Box Hill), one photo taken in February and the other in October 2019
Jane has worked here before and lived nearby as a child so it feels like home, which is a good place to start out on the journey.
Familiar / strange
Land / sea
Ground like bone
Kim Norton November 2019
Exchange No 1, Location: Beckenham Place Park, South East London
Materials: Unfired locally collected clay
The solid diamond (wet weight 376) (dry weight)
Small mass of clay soil made quite simply by using both hands, by doing so there is direct contact with the earth. Although it has undergone a process of transformation to create an object that possessing a quality of intimacy and preciousness. It links us back to ground we walk on.
The carved rectangle. (Wet weight) (dry weight)
Built within the confines of an a6 format
This can be viewed by looking down into it.
Although it resembles the vessel or container. It’s very much the opposite by digging down, carving out and removing material there’s an essence of excavation here. Where space is clearly divided
Both pieces were made using clay soil from Beckenham Park place in South East London
Dug out of the ground to construct a new swimming lake in the park and had been redistributed the other side of the park resembling a freshly ploughed field.
Both pieces have been left unfired
There was something I wanted to maintain here.
Once fired it becomes ceramic, and takes on a different language.
THE URBAN LANDSCAPE