After graduating in 2019 I became the artist in residence. I now, like many, find myself staying home and have been since March 18th. Unusual circumstances, but I find it an easy thing to do. However, from the making art point of view, it’s not happening.
I don’t paint or draw so many would say I’m not an artist.
So I will tell you about my practice, which I suppose refers to the conceptual ideas that lead to the end product. I research people and places within Hartlepool, where I was born and lived all my life give or take a few years spent in Sheffield. I don’t mind my own company but I need to meet people and engage with them. My practice needs the people and places to photograph, to talk to and gather found pieces that have a history and a story to them. So I will show you a couple of my images illustrating what I believe are powerful cultural traditions that are being lost. I met with people who have an understanding of the traditions of the past and have a strong spirit of individuality and the rights of the working man. Not conforming to an enforced norm.
My first interactions were with the Sea coal collectors. I had a memory from the 1960s of men pushing bikes with sacks of sea-coal slung over the crossbars. This black gold supplemented the coal supplies for their fires at home or sheds.
I visited the beaches with my camera and chased the sea-coal land rovers whenever I saw them on the roads. They were able to give me a lot of information regarding what they did, how they are ruled by the tides and that no matter what the time of day night or whatever the weather; they will collect the sea-coal. It is definitely back-breaking work shovelling heavy wet sea-coal for very little profit. Many had been doing it for over 40 years and knew nothing else. How did they come to be doing this? The answer being, it was usually passed on through the generations and was to keep them out of ‘trouble’.
I met people who bring the past to life and are only too willing to share their stories with humour and sometimes a good dose of colourful language.
I spend a lot of time researching before making a piece of art and while looking at the history of sea-coal and why people went in the 1960s to gather it, I learnt that kids used to make parcels wrapping it in a newspaper, leaving it to dry and then put on the coal fires. Some made cones, so from this information, I made an art version of the cone idea,
These were made from sea coal and after being exhibited they were then taken back to the beach where the sea-coal came from and was filmed being washed back into the sea.