I last made work with bluebell stalks just over a year ago, and am surprised to see that I have now run into exactly the same problems, so I must be a very slow learner!
However, I did eventually get some results that pleased me last year. Here’s a couple of the photos:
This year, I wanted to see what I could do with the end-of season stalks by loosely binding them with ground ivy creepers. At the same time, I needed to communicate one of my perennial themes – that of aligning with the movement of life all around, and responding to a particular place.
“I worked for a long time on the repetitive task of gathering stalks. Bent to the ground, slowly creeping forwards, felt a bit like being a peasant farmer. I enjoyed the sense of continuity, but it was tiring work, and I was thankful I was only ‘playing’ at this task, and not obliged to work long hours on it every single day. The stalks were not so plentiful and easy to collect this year, maybe because it was a month or so further into autumn, or perhaps because I’d chosen a slightly different location.”
I made a few tentative versions of my ‘stalk rope’ over a couple of visits – eventually settling on a spiral form, which, I thought invited respect to the tree, and allowed people to walk around it closely, and back out again.
The finished work looked completely at home: a part of the place. And as the sun moved across the sky, it became almost invisible amongst the dazzling ever-shifting light patterns flitting across the woodland floor. It was impossible to photograph well!
I took masses of photos, and cursed a lot: even more so when I got home and looked at the images on my computer. But this was no help at all! So I came back the next day, and photographed the work in a dull drizzle. Grey skies and flat light made it look much better.
“On arrival, I found someone had changed it into a sort of heart shape.
I like it when this happens: when people make it their own. I tweaked it a tiny bit more, took a couple of photos, and then reverted to the original spiral. I liked that the piece, in all its versions, looked as though it belonged here.
Without my tripod today, at one point I braced myself and leant back against a small tree – and it fell over, nearly taking me with it. Sometimes I just don’t know my own strength!”
With this sort of work, I am not very interested in imposing my personal will upon nature: but sometimes it is difficult to get the balance between showing off the work, and truly integrating with the surroundings.