Poor stone. You’ve wrapped it, hidden its serene and uncomplicated self. I can no longer feel its smoothness, its emptiness embodied in touch. You have brought it in from the beautiful silence of its solitary state and covered it around: a net, a bag, a coverlet, a coating of thread through which we can only see something of itself.
There is a consistency here: in this doing, a reflective doing as much as conscious making. You’ve moved from the mending of damaged acorns, splintered leaves, forlorn detritus gathered off the sea strand to making tiny homes, shelters, enclosures, that sometimes have no perceivable openings; so some stones are wholly netted, completely wound and threaded around so there is no escape. But some, it needs to be said, are like the lasts of the cobbler, there to provide a form to hold the stone shoe firm, in place, and around which the woven thread in your hand can ply and knit . . . and then it is sometimes cast away, this last of stone, having only provided a stone shape; so only its shape-memory persists for the viewer. And when touched - this garment, this cloak of thread is pliable, and moves with the fingers’ touch and press.
I should like to capture this stone in the process of its enclosing; what seems to be from a viewer’s stance a not wholly planned journey with the needle - around and about, in and out and under. So I imagine a stop-motion sequence of photographs, beginning with the lonely undressed stone in your hand. As time lapses we watch the intricate play of your hand, your deft fingers, that particular pinching and holding to place the thread here and here and here, the pulling through, the special holding in place while one thread knits together with another thread by going underneath and up and along, and all the time the hand turning, the fingers dancing in the hand.
Then will come moments of rest where the stone moves from the hand to a still surface. It regains its shadow - and rests. The hand moves away and we are left with the silent stone, the journey of its dressing interrupted by life’s necessities. The maker’s hand moves to other tasks; the preparation of food, the writing of notes, the tapping of virtual symbols on the mobile phone (now there’s a surface that shares with the stone a hardness and smoothness – once we held stones for comfort in the pocket – now we stroke the mobile to remind us that we’re safe in the dark street, not ever alone, connected to our thousands of followers, admirers, friends, our loved ones, and that repository of what is and where to go, and the whole world of music and photographs - of woven stones).
Let’s go back to this stop-motion. To lift the stone from its precious private place, usually alone (no other stones around), index finger and thumb come together to lift our stone from its shadow – a shadow that disappears, magically, into the surrounding light. Oh surely no more, the stone cries in its shadowless voice. No more of this twisting turning, upside downing, the sense of the stone recalling a time beyond time when in a storm-laden sea one dark winter’s night it, and countless companions, were lifted from the sea bed and rolled round, around, round, and swept, afloat in a turmoil of waves that break and break and break until finally onto the sloping beach - where the stone is left – alone, motionless – at rest - to dry in the morning sun.
Gradually the movement in her fingers becomes slower, even sporadic. She is looking at this stone with her grey-blue eyes, intently. There are pauses; moments of reflection where our stone is set down and viewed, picked up again and moved into a different light (its shadow returns momentarily, fitfully, knowing perhaps any stasis is only temporary). The camera keeps clicking; stop, a 300th of second motion, stop for a second. Already there are thousands of images collected in the camera’s silicon memory chip.
And so movement gradually becomes stillness. The light changes. The camera’s incessant stop-motion ceases. The stone is placed on a white surface for a final photo-call – a single click. Once naked; now clothed. There is no longer the possibility of return to its original stoniness. It becomes an ‘object’ to place on a surface for wonder and admiration – not the stone of course but its clothing, its covering, its embodied shape in thread, perhaps that thread soaked in mud that in itself holds a distance memory of water, even water that has moved from sea to the coastal strip, the estuary, the river’s bank.
Later, after being wrapped in tissue paper, perhaps boxed, and moved into a total darkness, the stone is brought again into the light. It finds itself placed among other stones, stones and shells, rusty objects even, and laid out variously on a pristine white surface. Its stoniness is now shadowed with words: a description, a title, its ‘found’ location, a date of finding – a date of making. That this stone, once beached, and picked from the sand, from amongst so many other stones, and thought unique and carrying potential as a last, a shoe-maker’s frame, a steady 3-dimensional surface for wrapping, now becomes something more that a solitary stone. It has been given a new life, a life of an object imbued with the thread of a maker’s curious mind; that in so threading has come to know this stone so intimately, and with so much love and care that its clothing, whilst having no pre-formed pattern, becomes something in its maker’s eyes that seems - meaningful, poetic, ‘right’?
Through this stone-weaving with thread, this stone-covering and describing in thread, you have made a poem of the nature of stoniness. Your fingers now know this stone, and perhaps, if we can in our imagination follow that partly accidental / partly planned journey, we can read your poem – of touch, of turning, of minute viewing, of so careful observation of every millimetre of its surface. Yes, perhaps that’s it, what this is all about . . . only our stone has had its wonderful serenity and solitariness, its smoothness and surface taken from us. It will no longer lie in the pocket to comfort the hand. It will no longer lie on the desk to be a tangible remembrance of a place and time, treasured.
‘And now I remember a poem, portraying a stone, a pebble placed in a child’s hand, picked up on a pebble ridge. A pebble to place in the pocket where we finger it until it becomes warm. Its shape and certain¬ty is firm and sure. It consoles us. And, as we change and decay, it remains lodged with us: *a thing that contains nothing save the mystery of life.’
This prose poem is inspired by the stone weaving of the artist Alice Fox http://www.alicefox.co.uk