Common Land is a journey by foot around the UK. Starting in the south west. I am making my kit and costume from landscape – slowly exchanging the everyday international wardrobes for things I’ve made from the landscape. I’m trying to find the British wilderness, staying outdoors, bringing shared foot paths to life and seeing the materials around me in a different way.
I’ve begun working with a Horse, Airmid, and the wonderful Natalie from the Dartmoor Pony and Training Centre to prepare for the journey.
So far it’s become clear that you can plan as much as you like but it’s going to unfold in a different way and with a different pace.
Pin hole photos by Mary Shuldham.
I’ve been studying several techniques for how to make fire using the sun. After fruitless efforts to replicate clear ice to produce lenses, I’ve turned to glass and water.
Schusterkugel were used to focus candle light for shoe makers and carvers. I’ve used the same quality to burn patterns in wood. Here is a little video of the process. Capturing the sun over time.
The feet are being electroplated with copper. Though they look metal and heavy, the wax has been removed and now they are incredibly light and almost fragile.
Here is a video from Austria. Looking at the Magic in everyday objects.
I’ve been looking at how I walk.
I’ve just come back from a course in primitive skills with Lynx Vilden. It was a very special treat. We worked with flint knives, we killed, ate and worked a lamb. Creating and tanning hides, cordage, pouches, broth and bone tools like the ones pictured. We picked plants, shared stories and walked together. It was great!
It feels relevant to share this here as I’ve found these techniques hugely inspirational, people who have taken the time to learn and test these crafts have a great simplicity, honesty and skill. It gives such an insight into the history of technology, our environment and human ability.
You can watch a video about Lynx here. I think it’s in French (I haven’t watched the other videos out there on the internet).
For the next piece I will be working on I’ve been to visit Campbell Young Associates in Bristol to discover the art of wig making.
Hairs are aligned using a very impressive brush of sharp nails, keeping the thick tops of the hairs and thinner lighter ends in place. The mesh base is moulded to an individuals head and then individual strands of human hair are knotted into place taking growth direction and density of hair into account.
Each head has its own form to work the wig on. They used to be made in wood like this one but have been replaced by styrofoam.
I’ve tried to make a stool based on the process of greenwood broom making. It’s ended up shuffling around the studio as quite a little character, hanging out with the plastic brushes. I don’t like the way it’s turned out but it’s humoured me.
Playing with the recipe for ‘Bon Bon de Terre’.