Exploring the environment with Sarah Smith and Natasha Mayo

As an experiment to see how our environment affects us, we took three balls of clay and modelled something from each in three different locations along the Taff trail.

Stop no.1: The woods
My eyesight doesn’t respond well to low light levels, so being in the shade of the trees made my surroundings very blurry. I felt enclosed by the darkness and as a result felt slightly panicked and anxious. My cold only added to this feeling of anger and frustration and probably contributed to the spikiness of the shape. This capsule form I made encloses an acorn cap, the tentacle forms referencing the twisting branches overhead and the sense of being among living things. The air felt damp to breathe in and there was the earthy smell of decay all around.

Stop no.1

Stop no.2: The River Taff

This next stop was much more pleasant. It was open and bright, warmer than the woods and the burbling sound of the flowing water inspired a meditative state. The place we sat down underneath the bridge looked vaguely familiar and I wonder now if parents took me here when I was younger. I found myself contemplating the geology of the river, rock layers and sediment, and began rolling lots of tiny clay balls which I sandwiched between thin clay sheets.  Watching the downstream motion of the water I pinched and twisted the layers into a wave like form. Off the public footpath itself it felt a lot calmer and I built more slowly, taking time to look up and watch the dogs splashing and birds flying overhead. The layers of clay might also represent layers of memory – distorted by time just as the rock layers are.

Stop no.2

Stop no.3: Close to the main road, by the river
I felt most self-conscious working here because there were lots of people passing through. The juxtaposition of natural and artificial made for interesting subject matter although I struggled to create the sharp, geometric shapes I wanted without any tools. I pressed clay into the bolts holding down the railings which made some nice impressions then tried to form the clay into square blocks, pressing it into the flat surface of the metal. I tied the clay like beads along a shoelace I found, thinking how the line of the rope might represent the river and the clay the bridge over it.

Stop no.3