This week we are in conversation with Sarah Burgess.
For my work as part of the Insights project I wanted to continue to investigate the theme of rising sea levels that I began to work with for the Textile Study Group DIS/rupt exhibition. But this time I felt I needed to investigate what is happening due to the climate crisis in the UK; so last year I travelled out to the Norfolk coast several times to walk, draw and talk to people. One of the places I visited was Hemsby where it is very clear to see how the land is slipping into the sea. Increasing storm surges have meant the loss of homes, walking on the beach the remains of lives lived in those houses are obvious; broken pots, rusty metal reinforcement and cascades of plaster litter the sandy cliffs and concrete and tarmac paths are broken off.
I live about as far from the sea as it is possible to get but even in the middle of the UK we are not immune to flood and the effects of torrential storms.
Back in the studio I try to immerse myself in what I have found and also to research what’s happening elsewhere so that my ideas are not limited to one aspect of sea level rise. This is a worldwide issue. I like to use a large sketchbook so that I can draw, collect news clippings and add trials and tests so that I can try and move my ideas on. I also like to write – just notes and questions at this stage. I think I am trying to ask myself both objective and also crazy questions to provoke myself and stimulate further thoughts and ideas. Once I start working with mono-print on fabric or paper it becomes easier to be spontaneous and less in control which has become, for me, part of working with the climate crisis as a theme. We are not in control. Print enables me to have something to react to – with stitch or further layers of print – or scissors. It stops me becoming too precise and measured which can sometimes kill the life in a piece of work. Adding liquid dye has become very exciting and watching the take up of dye across different fibres is fascinating.