Paperclay shoes from an installation entitled ‘Not all things go to plan’ by Alison Bournes.
Some months ago I gained a new follower on Instagram. This artist had started making shoes from porcelain paperclay and I assumed that, rather than being a coincidence, there must be a link to my own ceramic work. A series of direct messages revealed that these shoes had indeed been partly inspired by images of my paperclay shoes which she had discovered online, along with an entry relating to their meaning, symbolism and construction that featured some months ago in this very Journal.
I followed, with great interest, the progress of the project entitled ‘Not all things go to plan’, as Alison Bournes embarked on the mammoth task of making 300 pairs of tiny shoes to commemorate those, including women and children, who lost their lives when ‘The London’ – a warship constructed in Chatham Docks and about to set sail as part of a flotilla involved in the second Anglo-Dutch War – accidentally blew up near Southend in 1665.
Part of a co-curation between Greenwich and Southend Maritime Museums, these shoes were based on a footwear design bought up from the wreck site near Southend. They were shown originally as part of the Leigh Art Trail and have, for the past week, been on display at The Atelier Gallery in Leigh on Sea.
Yesterday I travelled from my home in Kent to Essex (directly due north across the estuary as the crow flies) to see these shoes in situ and to meet their maker. We Alisons spent an interesting hour or so looking at and discussing the tiny sculptures, chatting about collaborative / community art projects, the inspiration that comes from local history and historic events, the symbolism of shoes and the way they act as ‘stand-ins’ for the wearer – reflecting not only the individual’s age, personality, profession, status and place in society, but also their foot shape and gait.
Each pair of these tiny numbered shoes was made by hand, manipulated, enhanced with sprigs, impressed with textures and words or decorated with carefully drawn objects or patterns. Some were threaded or laced with what appeared to be seaweed and each pair, like the lost life they represented, was unique and individual in its design.
I know that social media has its critics and, for sure, it takes up a great deal of time that could arguably be used more constructively. However, it does connect like-minded people – artists, makers, creatives, collectors and enthusiasts of all kinds – and it does put us in touch with people and things that are of great relevance to our own areas of interest and practice.
I imagine that Alison Bournes and I will keep in touch as we obviously share an interest in ceramic shoes and local history. I very much look forward to seeing what direction her work takes in the future.
You can find out more about ‘Not all things go to plan’ at Alison’s Instagram account – @tin_roof_studio_essex.