Close-up of stitched lines onto paper
Ruth Broadbent Stitched Map (detail) 2023

Conversations from a Log

August 11, 2023

Letters, words, walks and maps 

Conversations from a Log was a year-long project with Tamsin Grainger, an exchange of letters that became words, both spoken and written, walks and maps. Through our correspondence and conversations we reflected on the nature and process of collaboration, from walking somewhere to hand-write a letter from a log (or other emplacement in nature, including from a boat on the sea), to sitting at home typing (and editing) onto a computer. We allowed the project to gently meander wherever it led us. 

The letters were hand-written onto paper in situ and sent to each other via WhatsApp photos. Using a combination of WhatsApp and Zoom, we shared our thoughts and making processes. 

The kind offer of a house besides Ilkley Moor for a mini-residency gave us the opportunity to meet up in-person and spend a few days walking, talking and creating with the aim of bringing the work together ready to present at Convergence / Divergence*.

Prior to meeting up, we had each read through all the letters and selected a list of words that jumped out at us. I ended up with a long till roll of words and Tamsin wove her words together. When we turned them into a word cloud, ‘log’ and ‘conversation’ were top of the list, reflecting our choice of title for the project, Conversations from a Log. We cut up the words and put them into a bowl as one of the works to take to the Walking the Land* spring gathering.

A spiral of till roll with handwritten words visible
Ruth Broadbent - Word Roll (Log Letters), 2023

We mapped our walked paths of the moor and combined these with our letter-writing walks, creating a map-like drawing which we each turned into a stitched work, with colours inspired by the moor. When I returned home, I quickly realised that I wasn’t interested in stitching onto material and found some antique Losin** linen paper in my studio, probably from my grandparents, and perfect for stitching into. I immediately felt that it was more of a drawing and was much happier working onto paper than fabric. 

Close-up of stitched lines onto paper
Ruth Broadbent Stitched Map (detail) 2023

On our last evening in Ilkley, sitting in the kitchen, we spontaneously found ourselves reading aloud the word cloud and created an impromptu sound recording from it. You can listen to it below or on Soundcloud. Something clicked into place, with the rhythm of our voices echoing words in response to each other, somehow completing the cycle of these letters and conversations. 

Photograph of a path on Ilkley Moor

Incorporating walking and writing by hand in the landscape rather than / alongside using a computer is something that I like to do in my work, from lesson planning to my own artwork. It was valuable to step outside of my own practice and take time to explore in more detail the effects of this as a way of working. It also gave us the opportunity to reflect on collaboration in each of our creative practices and where our boundaries lie, our reasons for working with others and what works for each of us in terms of convergence and divergence. This was an unexpected and unpredictable project that has left me with lots to think about and during which I learnt a lot about my own way of working as well as how I work with others. 

two plinths on the floor with a line of artworks on the top
Ruth Broadbent and Tamsin Grainger - exhibition of works at WtL (2023)
two plinths on the floor with some of the artworks on the top
A spiral of till roll with handwritten words visible and red thread

Neither of us expected to end up with the work we did, especially using spoken word, a first for me. For Convergence / Divergence we played our sound recording and presented our words (both written and spoken) and maps on a low plinth, a hint towards our various logs. I still check in on these logs and think of Tamsin whenever I pass them and will never look at logs in the same way again.

Ruth and Tamsin sitting on a log
Ruth and Tamsin - first in-person meeting, on a log (2022)

In my next post I will write about another project I took part in which was also exhibited at this spring gathering of Walking the Land artists: Chalk Lines Image Exchange. My previous post, Walking the Land: Convergence / Divergence, gives background context and describes two other works, Abandoned Walks and Roll of Emplacement. A search for Walking the Land on this website will also bring up previous and future works, such as Watermarks (2021) and Solargraphic project (forthcoming).

* Convergence / Divergence was a gathering of artists from Walking the Land to exhibit work and share current and upcoming projects (read more here). If you’d like to find out more about Walking the Land, or become involved, drop us a line, or join the WtL mailing list here. As well as various projects involving different members of the group, there are also regular First Friday Walks (in-person or remote participation) and Last Tuesday Cafés (online).

** If anyone knows how I can get hold of more Losin paper, or an equivalent, please do let me know. I think it probably came from what is now a paper museum in the Czech Republic  but I’ve been unable to find any in the UK.

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