I've been working on my Make Believe Museum Shop (MBMS) that I will be showing at Newhaven Museum this September as part of the Newhaven Festival and Artwave, an annual arts festival held in and around Lewes.
I am creating pretend products that I'd like to find in my fantasy museum shop, inspired by a visit to this coastal museum. The museum has a small natural history section and a social history collection that is a treasure trove of items illustrating Newhaven's fishing, naval and manufacturing industries as well as what life in Newhaven was like in centuries gone by.
This young shell woman was the first thing I made. She's inspired by a beautiful shell encrusted box in the museum, made by a sailor for his sister and also my Fun With Shells book (Leisure Crafts 39) which is full of shell creations that were commonly seen in gift shops in English seaside towns. I allowed myself to use only shells found locally (at Hope Gap) which made it a fairly difficult job because I now know that a lot of creatures that live in shells like a sandy beach, so our pebble beaches are inhospitable to many creatures, which explains the lack of shells.
Still in the natural history section, I have created my dream rock pool, aided by inspiration from Eileen Agar.
Rock pooling is one of my top ten activities. Like many, I can spend hours waiting for anemones to open, hermit crabs to show themselves and shrimps to dart from the shadows. I love the trails left by snails as they weave their way across the stones. Inspired by vintage school posters, I wanted to make an image to illustrate all the beauty and diversity of a Sussex rock pool. I now have a small section on my bookshelves dedicated to life on the seashore. The most useful is the Collins Pocket Guide to the Sea Shore, the most charming is Dwellers in the Rock Pools by F.M. & L.T.Duncan. I learned that rock pools on the South Coast are very different (and not as bountiful) to those of my childhood trips to see my grandparents in Cornwall and, as I mentioned, is due to our lack of sand.
As an artist, I am finding the museum a rich source of inspiration. Concentrating on different items in the collection has lead me down such interesting research routes. I've learned about semaphore, researched knot tying and the history of lifeboats. I've enjoyed talking to staff at the museum and hearing about their favourite exhibit and their memories of Newhaven. I still have a couple of weeks to keep creating, so come and see my finished shop at Newhaven Museum, Paradise Park, Avis Rd, Newhaven BN9 0DH from 11th - 25th September on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 11.00am - 4.00pm. I'll be there on Saturday 18th and Saturday 25th.