5 min read

postcards from squam - sticks & stones

postcards from squam - sticks & stones

i am bursting at the seams to tell you about all my classes though this one seems to want to come out first, so here it is….

sticks & stones was my choice of class for the 2nd day of SAW and was one i wasn’t sure i would be able to bring any ideas to. i really needn’t have worried as we were given amazing direction from our teacher chris frost.

we began our day with an introduction from him. he’s done some pretty great stuff himself and one of my favourite pieces of his is called a mile from any neighbor. i love how he incorporates a story, or message, or a piece of history into each artwork… something to get the viewer to stop and really consider the whole message surrounding a piece of art.

before he let us loose in the wilds of the camp, he gave us a few things to consider including:

  • site – choose a site appropriate for the piece
    does the piece encompass/highlight a particular characteristic of the site (a boulder, tree etc.)
  • nature – these works are a reflection of their natural surroundings. what is the pieces relationship:
    – contrasting: difference of scale, colour etc.
    – accentuating the surroundings
  • materials – choose materials (local or foreign) that are appropriate for the vision (all materials bring their own histories)
  • construction considerations
    – scale
    – durability – how long will it last?
    – quality – is the human hand present?
    – are your techniques reflective of your vision?
  • documentation. in almost all cases, the artworks remain on the site, decompose, destroy themselves, or just fade away
    – your documentation is often the only record of the pieces existence
    – document as the work changes or as it’s surroundings change: by the minute, day, year etc.
    – document with photography, painting, drawing, samples etc.

he also had a heap of books available for us to look at, a lot of andy goldsworthy stuff and another guy i’d never heard of before called nils udo… his piece pre-cambrain sanctuary really caught my attention.

as a warm-up we were all to have a piece of clay, the size of our choosing. we had 1/2 hour to go out and make something with it. i have got to say (and will probably say again) that everyone’s creativity and imagination was mind blowing… every single piece was different – some big, some small, some subtle and some not.

after a walk around of everyone’s pieces, he gave us another prompt – work with sticks and make something else until lunch, then afterwards we could spend the afternoon on a big piece. as we were walking around, discussing potential sites for our work i had a brainwave. as i had no clue whether i would have time to do it, i asked him for his opinion and was really happy that he thought my idea was brilliant too – he even helped me get started with digging my first hole – what a guy!

my grand idea was this…

i was thinking about the pathways all around squam that everyone has access to and what it would be like to build something to block a path. something that would confront people, surprise them, stop them in their tracks. i was thinking also about the different ways that people approach, and deal with, barriers. dependant on the circumstances, i myself would probably ignore it and find a way around, or over it, though i do know of other people who would simply turn around and go back the other way.

i started by choosing my site. it was hidden from view until turning a corner after a fairly straight piece of pathway. there also happened to be a tree growing right beside the path which was a big help with my construction.

for materials, i chose to work with what was there (the tree by the path), as well as fallen branches, and young saplings that i cut down with a saw

i dug four holes (chris did help me with the first one and with securing my first post) and found two sturdy fallen branches, which i cut into four. these were placed securely in the ground (or as securely as they could be given that my only tools were a phillips screwdriver and a small trowel that i had a disagreement with and ended up bent & useless).

sticks and stones 1

next, i cut a whole heap of saplings of oak and beech and wove them through the posts in the ground. i was going to cut the leaves off originally, then decided to leave them on for additional barricade emphasis.

sticks and stones 2

i was mindful to cut my saplings from various places, rather than cutting them all from one spot, and was assured by chris that cutting them is actually okay…

so, the weaving continued until i had a barrier erected that was fairly obvious. i also wove the cuttings into the sides of my barrier to create more of a blockade, leaving the middle two sections of the construction open.

sticks and stones 3

i did this because the mischevious part of me not only wanted to make a statement to people about not being able to go any further, i also wanted to show them what it was that was over the other side of the barrier that was inaccessible.

i’m pretty sure i got the contrasting nature consideration covered!

it wasn’t until sunday (2 days later) that i saw this piece again when i took nic to see it as we were heading back to boston. already the site showed signs of it’s limited durability – the leaves had wilted and were dying, showing a little more of the skeletal structure of the piece beneath.

sticks and stones 4

i really love how this came together. the class was amazing. my clothes were filthy and i had dirt under my fingernails that i’m still trying to extract. i had such a fun day and really loved sharing it with the group of people that were also taking part in this day – their own creations and stories are not for me to tell, though i am hoping that they share them in their own ways. every single piece created that day filled me with amazement and delight.

i think the ultimate of this piece would be the installation of a red velvet rope on an urban footpath… with a bouncer holding a clipboard checking credentials to let people by. instead of simply checking for names on a list, the guy would be asking people questions such as:

  1. what kind of car do you drive? with extra points for:
    1. i don’t own a car
    2. who needs a car? i have a bike
  2. what makes your heart sing?
  3. what/who inspires you to live creatively?
  4. when did you last go for a walk outside without your ipod?

of course, the answers would vary wildly & letting people past would have to be determined by the individual responses. still, my mind goes crazy, and the cheeky side of me is creating all kinds of mischief, simply thinking of this as an installation on the busy streets of london!

now, i’m also thinking about learning how to weld and how to make my own moulds. whether i actually do or not, is a story not yet written.

a heartfelt thanks to chris and all my classmates, for helping to make my day unforgettable.