Desire Line | 52 hand sewn boats from discarded moving blankets
1 lost wax bronze boat | 2016
First iteration | Desire Line at Back Lane West Cornwall UK | 2016
Second iteration | Desire Line, in situ at Ranger Station Art Gallery, BC | 2016
An interview by Jo McCallum from the Tender to the Sea catalogue.
JM ~ Clearly the scale of the small boat in Endangered 101 is now influencing your further, current work. Is that because of the emotional response people had?
SH ~ Consciously, I don’t think so, but possibly on another level. These boats that I’m sewing out of moving blankets evolved naturally, once again, by using the materials I had. I saw two moving blankets left by the side of the road after a couple was forcefully removed from their flat across from my studio. They stayed clumped up there for almost a week. I kept thinking about those people, and of the blankets…the colour, texture and the story they were connected to. The history of the event -of being left outside, soaked with rain and dirt -remains in the material itself. Discarded as often humans are. I saw a potential to make something interesting, to attempt to imbue the objects with history. In contrast to the event, there evolves a preciousness by creating small and intimate objects.
JM ~ The handheld aspect?
SH ~ Yes. While there is an obvious absence of any human presence, the human element is represented in the scale. The small boats are the scale of the hands and the large boat [Tender to the Sea, tea bag boat] is the scale of the body. When we see objects in groups we can tend to anthropomorphize them, to see them as people and in that sense these boats represent so much in a societal context.
JM ~ Are you referring to the migrant crisis?
SH ~ Yes, not politically but from a feeling of helplessness. Of feeling that the things I make, this job I do does not accomplish anything toward helping the pressing issues of our time. There is a sense of internal anguish that comes with working in my studio toward the single purpose of making art. Perhaps there’s something in the handsewing that works through that frustration.
JM ~ You do enjoy stories. Are you interested in folk tales?
SH ~ Very much so. I love looking at situations symbolically, and as tools for interpretation as much as I enjoy the reading, watching and telling of stories. In this case, the little boats can be seen to represent society following the bronze boat. It is in the lead but also in a state of decay. It is valued and singular but in decline. No longer seaworthy.
JM ~ In a way, your work is so much about the telling of stories…
SH ~ That’s it exactly, and I hope this translates to those seeing the work.