River Dresses

This body of work is about where I live, nature and the river, I first started doing work on my closest neighbourhood in 2012 with ‘Purses from the river Medway’.

My ideas converge through drawing, textiles, ceramics, installation and performing, it is how I gain a deeper insight into the world.

I live and work at Allington Lock, where the upper reaches of the tidal Medway meet the river, here the Saxons, on their journey to Rochester, came down through Lock wood and crossed the river on foot at low tide, they would have witnessed the same river bed of mud and rock as I do today.

In this place the tides go through you, the river is like breath, my family know the timings of high and low tide each day and the position of the moon. The place is a tough working environment with a historical and romantic narrative. Reflections from the the distant past help me to think about my relationship with the Lock today.

Riverbanks offer a transient existence, the river is a boundary, a lawless zone on the fringes of society with it’s own community. I have collected stories from people who live on or by the river.

When the Medway is in flood, the banks break in Maidstone town centre, the flow is fast and menacing, and the river changes in colour from grey to green to brown. Amongst this turmoil everyday objects and fabric gets swept into the river, evidence of human lives.

When I’m making work ‘I feel it’, I become the work, I see moving pictures and stories and I want to be amongst the work, being with it, doing it. This draws me to performance and film, here I am no longer limited by the static 2D and3D pieces that I have made. My performances feature objects, costumes, ceramics and extensions of my own body.

As the ‘River girl’ I pretend to be someone else, I made a small likeness of myself and attached her to my dress. Together we  submerged hundreds of tiny dresses into the river and left them for weeks. When we hauled out our bounty, mud and river life had collected in the bundles of dresses from the ebb and flow of the tide at the Lock.

Ringlestone hall is a plain and vacant building close to the banks of the Medway river, it is a quiet space, with warm coloured floor boards. Here the ‘River girl’  and her puppet performed with an entangled  mass of branches and miniature dresses. I play with the idea of the viewer slipping from watching me to watching the puppet, I put my energy into the animated object, she is part of my character and so there is a double magic, the puppet and the puppeteer together, acting out their task.

My creativity and identity is immersed in my attachment to the Lock and river, this work marks my time in this place and the value I put on locality. How will my work be found and my life on the Lock remembered in the future and connect with those who have gone before?