Leigh Art Trail – finally!

The Leigh Art Trail has been a long time coming, or so it felt. Originally due to be held in May 2020 it was yet another event in an endless list that was postponed due to the pandemic.

I had begun preparing for the Trail, along with the other artists in SEVEN, back in September 2019. We were excited to be exhibiting at a new venue – The Refill Room, which is the first zero-waste shop in Leigh-on-sea. In response to the values of the shop we chose the theme of ‘Reclamation’. Our starting point was to find old, unloved second-hand books that we could turn into altered books.

SEVEN’s venue number

Crewel embroidery

The book I chose was on crewel embroidery. The pages in the book were a mix of photos, text and embroidery stitch diagrams, which gave me plenty of material to work with. The idea of an altered book is that you can respond to the content already there (if you want to) or cover it up (if you don’t) and remove any surplus pages – the choice is yours. In my book I seemed to find a heading on each page that I wanted to respond to, and tried to work with the imagery already on the pages. Plus as the subject was embroidery, so I decided to stitch directly into the pages.

Close up detail of stitching
Working on my sketchbook in the garden

Fast forward to September 2021

The event date suddenly arrived! Having waited so long for it, it seemed to come around in a flash!

SEVEN’s venue number

The event ran over two weeks and three weekends, instead of the usual one week; we were in a different month; and in a new venue, so all in all the September Trail felt a bit odd.

We usually stay in the venue for the duration of the Trail, but two weeks felt a bit too long to do this (plus life got in the way), so we only spent the weekends at the venue. While the number of visitors seemed to be less than usual (perhaps some were still unsure about going out, plus there were so many other events on in September), the visitors we did have were very engaged in our work and an absolute joy to chat with!

The Refill Room – view from outside
LAT sketchbook – crewel embroidery

In addition to our sketchbooks, this year we also decided to create a window display of ‘flags’. The shop already had a branch hanging in the window and we were kindly allowed to use this. We decided to hang a lightweight material that was sustainable; allowed the light to come through; and also revealed the image on the back of the fabric, so it could be seen from both inside and outside the shop. We chose a bamboo fabric, scanned a page from our books, and had the image digitally printed by Textile Town.

Bamboo fabric flags, digitally printed

We’re now starting to plan ideas for LAT 2022, which will be the 25th anniversary of the Art Trail. Bring it on!

The Water Replies – Estuary Festival 2021

Back in March 2020 I signed up to ‘The Water Replies’ journal project, led by Metal Southend and Cement Fields, as part of the second Estuary Festival. The festival takes place along 107 miles of the South Essex and Kent coastline with artists, events and workshops responding to contemporary issues surrounding the estuary.

The project began just before the pandemic hit and the UK was put into lockdown. During lockdown, when everyone was confined to their homes, we were allowed to go outside once a day for solitary exercise. For me this meant a long walk along the seafront. I’m so thankfully to have the estuary and beach a few minutes walk away from my home.

As contact with the outside world was reduced, I found that during my daily walks or runs along the estuary, I became more focused and mindful on what I saw and what captured my attention. The tidal times change daily. The mud flats appear and disappear. Sunlight glistens on the water. Big skies. Bold silhouettes of the pier and groynes…etc

For my journal I wanted to record my impressions of the coastline beginning at Southend Pier and travelling along the coast towards the QE2 bridge. I chose landmarks and areas of interest along the way: the pier, Gypsy bridge, incoming tide patterns, barnacles, silhouettes, sea birds, beach textures, seaweed, shells, Two Tree Island, views across to Kent, Coryton oil refinery, QE2 bridge…

This is a selection of pages from my journal:

Journal cover – The Water Replies
Silhouette of the groynes
Abstract map of the estuary
Gypsy bridge
Beach textures
Vintage postcard of Southend-on-sea

You can view a short turn-the-page video of all the journals entered into the exhibition at: www.estuaryfestival.com/water-replies-films.html

If you are in the area, find out more about the Estuary Festival, which runs from 22 May – 13 June 2021. Enjoy!