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Can Found Objects help writers? Zoom talk with Jackie Baker and author Amelia Marriette

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

When I began my year of walking, I deliberately decided not to have a plan - to allow myself to be curious and open to all and every possibility. I am a trained curator and any experience and learning, whatever that may be, inevitably informs our responses to our surroundings. When I was working as a Keeper of Art and as part of my CPD (Continual Professional Development), I attended a Found Objects Workshop with one of the masters of the art, Jan O'Highway. I was living on the South West coast at that time. As a group, we went and collected flotsam and jetsam from the beach, of course, this is one of the oldest forms of Found Object art, so our more contemporary investigation of this form was still part of a long tradition. We collected bottles, bits of plastic, worn pieces of wood and glass, and Jan helped each of us to think about stories that would connect our items. I remember that my pieces - barbed wire, some rusty metal, a battered faded paper, plastic British Legion red poppy, and piece of faded ribbon brought to my mind the trenches of the First World War. Jan was very keen to allow us to have a personal response to our objects. We had paint and glue, and there was a child-like element to the process that opened up, for me at least, an emotional connection with the pieces that paradoxically led to a deeper intellectual reading of the items.

I thought that I had forgotten about this workshop, but when I began walking, I realised that some pieces were speaking to me and seemed to have a mysterious appeal, so I started a small collection. - a rusty piece of metal; another day a rusty bolt and a little white stone. My partner Katie Gayle is an artist, metalworker and jeweller, and we began to work on these objects together. On the 18th May we completed a small sculptural piece:

As I rounded the bend and began the first major climb of the walk, I happened to glance down, and I saw a stone which looked like it was shaped like a heart. I used one of my hiking sticks to prise it out of the ground. In fact, the shape of the heart had been formed by the tyres of vehicles which have to move to one side at this juncture to allow oncoming traffic to pass. We see the world through our own experience and our own unique world view, my passion is for Shakespeare, so I immediately thought of Othello and the terrible speech he has before he murders Desdemona. He is not quite sure that he can or should complete his fearful task,so encouraging himself he states: “No, my heart is made of stone”. This is the first walk I have done properly since 23rd April and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, so I plucked up the stone and took it home. Katie and I worked on the piece together and it took a matter of moments to complete the design. It was one of the easier pieces that we completed together. (Extract from Walking into Alchemy: The Transformative Power of Nature by Amelia Marriette)

These objects have provided me with so many ideas especially when working alone in my study and I can remember particular walks because of the items that I now have. They have helped me to talk about my book in new ways: talking about three-dimensional objects is easier than discussing ideas, concepts and text alone. We have also run Nature Workshops here in Austria, and we hope to have an exhibition in due course - COVID-19 allowing. So this one idea created so many paths of enquiry.

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Have you made some art from Found Objects? Please comment and add a photograph of your work. Have you worked in this way as a writer? Please let us know

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