2 artists : #OurBookWalks
Mel Anie: I moved to Cumbria at the end of prolonged geographical lockdowns. Artful Ways presented a new way for me to make connections with creative strangers in Cumbria. But, that is easier said than done – especially if I’m walking.
When I realised that none of the group walks started within walking distance of my home, I contacted Sarah Dye, a book artist in Frankfurt, who had alerted me to the Artful Ways project in the first place! I suggested that we both send each other – via post – instructions for a walk we had done, and that we each walk these walks in our respective countries.
Because I didn’t know anybody locally and because I was restricted geographically by walking – for low carbon reasons – ironically, my Artful Ways walks are about me connecting at a distance via international post with someone I haven’t met. Alarmingly, I discovered it also costs less for me to post something internationally than it does for me to use a bus locally.
The Kendal Start
I walked a linear route in 3 sections that included Kendal Cemetary, Kendal Castle, yards and arches, postboxes, a book shop and Kendal Library. Based on my recording and response to these walks, I made a walk book about ‘Both Views’ for Sarah and posted it.
In Frankfurt (Germany), Sarah took my walk book and was inspired by some of the text that led her to new things or to see familiar things differently. This included a book swap stand, a bookshop and a book that translates as ‘The Two Archers’. She created another artists’ book – “2 Archers” that she will post back to me in Cumbria.
The Frankfurt start
From Frankfurt, Sarah first sent me ‘The Journey – a field guide” book in a box. The field guide was made in the garden that her walk led to. The book contained pocketed inserts with instructions, drawings and multiple choices. I did 2 walks based on these.
I used the instructions in the book to add a 4th walk to my initial three: I started at the twin postboxes that ended my 3rd walk, and this ended up as my piece ‘Another Green Way’. At the end of the walk, I should have ended in a garden. I ended at a golf course just beyond the edge of Kendal where the Twinned with Rinteln (Germany) sign is located. When I returned home, I went through the garden gate and dug up some roots of 6 beetroots and turned them into a ‘greener way’ organic ink. This pink ‘green’ ink was used to write the text in my pieces. All the cutting lines in this piece have been formed from hand drawings of my walked routes. The beetroots had been sown and travelled across county borders to Cumbria, just as I had. What happens to these roots when we pull them up? We have to find another way.
Beofre this fourth walk, I had also taken the box and gone in search of a vegetarian Cumberland Frankfurter. I collected things on the way that included visits to Kendal Farmers Market, Kendal Library, and Crosslane Projects art gallery. It seems a Cumberland Frankfurter is all yellows and pinks, enveloped in green.
I made duplicates of these pieces, and one set will return to Sarah in Frankfurt.
Both Sarah and I have enjoyed this project so much, and have found multiple threads of inspiration from it. We are going to continue this correspondence adventure through a new project called ‘Our Book Walks’. If anyone would like to join in this project, you will be most welcome. You will be able to find out more on Instagram from me, Mel Anie (Kendal) @tumblingfumbling, and Sarah (Frankfurt, Germany) @sarah_grace_dye #ourbookwalks.
I am also thankful for Artful Ways because it has also got me making early connections with Cumbrian creatives through e-mail. And my walks included a physical visit to a Kendal artist too!
Answering the three Artful questions
Creativity – What does creativity/culture mean to you?
For me, creativity is going on an unknown journey and making little leaps along the way. Make these leaps anyway you like and anyway you can.
Culture is ways of life that are rarely ever still. It includes everything that I encounter: natural environment, built infrastructure, and the ways creatures moving in and across them all.
Both Sarah and I have adopted spontaneous and organic ways of responding to each others’ walks. By using the postal system and interpreting, experiencing and building on each other’s walks, our recordings of them and our creative sharing of them through artefacts, we have made little leaps by moving the walks across time, place, space and cultures.
Connectivity – Covid-19 has forced us all to reimagine ways to connect. What have you missed – and what new possibilities have opened up?
I missed so much during lockdowns but especially making eye contact during conversations with people and being able to touch things. Overnight, I found I was dislocated: it almost didn’t matter where in the world I was. Instead of turning to zoom, I turned outwards and to things I could touch: I set up creative correspondences with people all over the world; creative strangers sending things to each other in the post, in a correspondance.
I really missed proximity to people and the freedom to move and roam.
How to collectively care for the environment?
Pay attention to what’s around you – Julia Cameron in her Artist’s Way wrote: “More than anything else, attention is an act of connection.” For me, everything around me is new and I wanted to explore and become familiar with everything in Kendal town, and how all the different parts work (or don’t) together.
Go first – if nobody does, no-one ever will.
Offer a hand – or two or even more.
Consider our roots – where did we sow them and did we ever dig them up?
Boundaries: On my walks, at first, I walked a path that had become familiar but then a diversion and further barriers led me somewhere else. How many barriers are in place and what are they protecting or defending? Does Kendal end at the Twinning signs? If the Yorkshire Dales are in Yorkshire and in Cumbria, where does Cumbria start and end? Who says so and why?
In my pieces, I paid attention to ease of access and have used simple structures with basic materials that I have to hand so that it is easy for anyone to make something similar themselves. I’m giving them the right and means to roam.
Mel Anie, Kendal, August 2021
You can take a look at more of Melanie’s work on Instagram: @tumblingfumbling
And find Sarah Dye’s work here at sarahgracedye.com.