Returning to Derby to undertake the Artcore No Matter How Strong Residency I was interested in how I could re-root myself in the landscape of Derby. Having moved from Derbyshire ten years prior the city centre felt full of ghosts; half-forgotten memories and uncanny recollections of streets and other open spaces. As an entry way I began developing a fieldwork method of research. Following routes and pathways through the city I found respite by the river edge and began to think about the intergenerational relationship of early settlers also coming to the river, interacting with the same site and mud, the same material heritage.
I went to Derby Museum and learnt through material fragments about early settlers and the development of Derby as a city, how layers of mud have held onto memories. These excavations have enabled us to trace the land through forgotten tools and drawings left in dwellings. As someone who works with clay and pottery, remnants of early pottery vessels connected my process to early ancestors, working through the ground their skills and techniques have been passed down into the way my fingers shape clay today. Metal working further rooted my material practice, connecting my sculptural material to land extraction and alchemy, and closer still to my grandads work at Stanton Iron Works in the 1970’s and 80’s after moving to England. A fragment of a carved monument encouraged me to consider the hands which had so carefully chosen this stone, taken it from the earth and skilfully carved it, tracing its edges and building its form. Now separated from its site and original purpose the stone has become a relic, a ghost holding onto this physical encounter, it is a material memory which informs us of its importance.
I picked up a leaflet from Derby museum titled ‘Block by Block’. Inside is a map which takes you around ten points in the centre of the city, following the traces of different types of stone used within the city’s architecture. It includes information about the process, history and geological sites of the different stones. I was inspired to explore and understand the city materially through this path marked out for me and informed by geological and material connections to other landscapes, histories and conditions for making. As a simple and immediate gesture, I traced these material memories with my finger tips as I followed the map, connecting my sense of touch with these sites to enact a tacit encounter. Through this material investigation of the city I was able to knowingly connect to Finland through red granite and through green lavarkite to Norway, and trace my journey back to where I currently call home, Leeds in Yorkshire, through Sandstone quarried near to the city. I consider this material knowledge traced through my finger tips and remember, as the map encourages ‘the strength of sandstone, the decorative qualities of granite and the textural bedding planes within blocks’. I have seen the city anew and have traced some of its roots along passageways and excavations to different areas of the country and across the seas. Inspired I hold onto this tacit experience and consider ways I can re-root myself through the material of the landscape and the possibilities of mapping in my own practice.