The Women’s Wall/Wal o Ferch

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“Who are we, the quarry women of the past, present and future?”

The Women’s Wall will be an artwork, supported by Fusion Network,  that celebrates the Merched Chwarel of today and tomorrow, created by the women who live here, in the presence of the quarries.

From the very beginning, I had an image in my head of a sewing circle, but rather than stitching lace or flowers, women were working slate and discussing the issues of the day. This has become the basis of the idea for the women’s wall. We will be each making a slate tile, to become a patchwork wall that celebrates women, our stories and our relationship with the landscape. The wall will be on public display in the area, in an exciting location that has to…for now…remain a secret.

In the first workshop at Ysgol Glancegin Maesgeirchen, we worked with kids from year 4/5 and their parents to make the first 10 tiles of the wall. Everyone had a go at drilling and stitching, celebrating the great women in their own families.

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There are 4 more workshops over the summer, in which we will be drilling, stitching, sharing stories and drinking tea, so if you would like to join us, this is where we will be.

25th July in Storiel Bangor. 10am-2pm

2nd August, Llys Daffyd Bethesda. 2pm-6pm

17th August, Storiel Bangor 10am-2pm

22nd August, Storiel Bangor 2pm-6pm

Booking is essential as spaces are limited, but it’s all free.

Please fill out a booking form on our Events Page

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Y Gwisg Llechi. A work in progress

Lisa Hudson Dress detail

I knew that I wanted to make a dress out of slate right from the very beginning of the R&D process. Textiles are a direct link between myself and my own mother, and then on to my great grandmother, who taught me how to knit and sew, and who had a fantastic biscuit tin full of buttons. Dressmaking is also the skill that brought a lot of young ladies to Bethesda in the boom time of Penrhyn Quarry. When their fortunes took a downturn, these young ladies, now quarrymen’s wives, would take in laundry to try to make ends meet, On a wider reaching and more contemporary scale, women and girls worldwide are still being employed and often exploited by the garment industry. The act of sewing also has a more symbolic association; that of mending and holding together,  a role associated with women in a family setting. I wanted to immerse myself in the material, and be a slate worker myself, in my own way.

My initial experiments focused on ways of holding the slate together, mending a mountain. I wanted to make the slate work as a textile by sewing it together like a patchwork, and also to use the form of the slate as it is found. My first attempt was a breastplate and backplate with shoulder straps, which I wore at the Gwyl Llechi Ffestiniog event. I had attached it with jewellery wire, but it was not up to the task, and snapped repeatedly in many places. I moved on to trying copper wire and fishing line but neither was appropriate.

It became apparent that I was going to need some sort of flexible base to sew onto, but I did not want to make a dress and sew slate onto it. I felt very strongly that the slate had to be the fabric of the piece, not the surface.

In December I had a realisation, while sewing grid s into the Denbigh triptych, that I could construct a thin fabric grid using cotton tape, onto which I should be able to sew raw slates. This should be strong enough to hold the weight, but sparse enough for the slate to be the material of the dress. I got 30m of grey cotton apron tape and 100m of Kevlar thread and began construction.

 

 

January, Febuary and March were spent in the salubrious surroundings of Penrhyn castle, where I had the luxury of being able to spend as much time as I wanted just sitting and sewing, as the dress began to take shape.I spent at least one day a week heading out to quarries to gather more material, taking it to the studio and drilling it. I worked my way through 32 dremmel bits as the dress progressed. It was slow progress, but I was very happy with how it was working out.

 

I still needed to devise a way for it to fasten, as it was intended to be worn, so would need to be able to open and close. I wanted to corset the back but found that corseting rough slate was nearly impossible and put too much pull on the tape under-structure. I thought I would experiment with bone and rust, both ubiquitous in the quarries. I found that rust was far too delicate for the job, but that ribbon laced very nicely through a sheep vertebra. In a wonderful cosmic intervention, Lindsey found a whole sheep spine, very clean, in Glyn Rhonwy quarry. I treated it with hydrogen peroxide, separated the vertebrae and it was perfect.

 

 

By March, the dress was nearly done. I commissioned a plinth made from weathered steel from the artists and fabricator Richard Houghton. The plinth became the length of the skirt, echoing the rusted machinery and tram cars of the quarries. With all the pieces together, I was happy with the dress as a sculpture. It had come to feel like a natural thing, straight from the slate tips, and I began to think of it as a dress for the goddess of slate, if there was one. I decided to call her Mam Llechi, and the sculpture became “Gwisg Mam”

 

As we were working in Penrhyn Castle, I had been daydreaming about how great it would be to wear the dress inside the castle. It would be a chance to bring the raw and visceral quality of the quarried slate into the grandeur of the house. I tried the dress on one Tuesday, when all the other Merched Chwarel were in, and it was surprisingly easy to wear. Although it is heavy, the tapes distributed the weight very well and it was easy to move in. It is sorter than I wanted, and I realised that any more weight would have to be on a skirt, supported by my hips rather than any more weight being put through my shoulders. Like working the quarry, the dress seemed comfortable and easy at first, but as time passed it felt heavier and heavier, pulling on by shoulders and dragging me down.

 

 

On April 1st, I was given permission to wear the dress inside the castle. It was a fantastic experience. The sound of the dress echoing from the stone walls of the castle was clamorous. I had so many things running through my mind, little actions to try, that I did not manage a cohesive performance but had moments that felt like I had connected, briefly, to something real.  The thread that held it together was The Slate Song/Canu Llechi composed by Sam Frankie Fox

 

The dress will now be in Storiel until September. From time to time I will be in the gallery, inhabiting the dress, and I have begun gathering material for the skirt. I am still quarrying to find the full meaning of it all.

 

MERCHED CHWAREL, DDIM YN DAWEL

Rhiw Bach Sewing Banner (38 of 45)

On June the 10th, 2018, women will march together in all 4 capital cities of Britain to mark 100 years since the Women’s Suffrage movement finally achieved their goal of votes for women. (Votes yes. Equality, presumably, will catch up in time) PROCESSIONS 2018 is commissioned by 14-18-NOW, the UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.

Merched Chwarel will be attending PROCESSIONS in Cardiff, raising a banner and representing the women of quarrying communities who’s voices have been silenced by HIStory.

In the spirit of the Merched Chwarel of the past, present and future, the four of us and Pwdi the dog, walked to Rhiw Bach quarry village to make our banner.

Read more……..

Merched Chwarel and Walking Women : Getting Back into the Rhythm. Lindsey Colbourne

Merched Chwarel

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As the days have been getting shorter and shorter, and winter sets in for real, the Merched Chwarel have been settling down to think about the next phase of the project.  As well as getting out and about meeting people involved in contemporary quarry activities and with potential galleries and spaces, we’ve been wondering – and wondering while walking (as above at Cwmorthin) – about the walking element of Merched Chwarel. Not least because that is where we started.    read more

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LLIF/FLOW: BACK IN THE LAB.

 

Updated nail board saying dyffryn Adda (1 of 1)

 

This is how the marble crew from “Llif/Flow” at Pontio Synthesis came to find ourselves reunited in marbles and music in the Lle Celf at Eisteddfod Bodedern 2017.

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Back in the cold dark days of late winter, early 2017, Lindsey Colbourne, Jonathan Malarkey and I were invited to a meeting at Pontio with Manon Awst, curator of the Arddangosfa Arbenig/Special Exhibition for the National Eisteddfod. We were presented with the opportunity of exhibiting the next incarnation of Llif/Flow as part of her Troelli  exhibition in the Lle Celf when the Eisteddfod comes to Anglesey. There was no hesitation on our part: getting the crew back together, exhibiting at the National Eisteddfod, working with Pontio and being part of Manon’s vision of presenting an alternative view of landscape art, it was too good to miss.

“Here’s an opportunity, says Manon Awst, to gather information and present research by local artists and scientists concerning the landscape of Anglesey which includes paintings, sketches, sculptures, films, performances together with maps, geological samples and plants connected to the island. There is no hierarchy to the different aspects either. By promoting art as a interdisciplinary and collaborative research method the aim is to further discussion concerning how we understand the landscape today.”

The challenge was to create a marble run that would be in a gallery space for 10 days, that had to be robust enough for public interaction,  and that investigated the landscape of Anglesey. Parys Mountain was mentioned more than once, so Lindsey, Rhys Trimble and myself took a road trip out there to see what we might find.

Stunning, mind boggling colours and rock formations. An incredible, overwhelming, otherworldly  place but as always, we were looking for the flow. Is it the veins of copper that flow here? Or is it the lava flow that created it? Or is it that red water?  Lindsey began delving into research and soon found the story, beautifully detailed in her blog “The Strange Case of the Afon Goch Goggledd”

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The Marmaladies, Katherine Betteridge and Sioned Eleri Roberts, agreed to join us again, Iolo Price began to make beautiful Parys Marbles for us and, artist and fabricator, Richard Houghton set to work constructing the skeleton of our “Labordy” at The Old Goods Yard Bangor.

Lindsey and I visited beaches along the coast from Mynydd Parys and took plaster and wire casts of the ripple formations there, both tidal and wave formed.

The tower that was our Anglesey Laboratory began to take shape. The restrictions of creating a marble run withing a small self contained space made us work with much more control and precision than our previous free runs, making the collaboration closer than ever. On Saturday. 5th August, Llif Labordy Mon was ready and functioning for the enjoyment of the Eisteddfod audience.

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As people began running marbles,  they followed the journey of water through Mynydd Parys, into the caverns beneath, to collect, marble by marble in the sump, ready for the release of the Afon Goggledd Goch during our performance. Lindsey’s video, “Tirlun Llif” played on the wall behind, describing the patterns and processes of flow and copper collection.

 

On 10th of August, Ocean Scientist Cai Ladd, Rhys Trimble, the Marmaladies, Lindsey and I presented a performance lecture in six parts. Through science, poetry, music, drawing, computer animations and marbles, we considered and explored the Afon Goggledd Goch story, and ultimately, the patterns created by chaotic systems.

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And that’s not the end of the story….

 

 

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LLIF: LABORDY MON is on show in Pontio Bangor, level 2 until January 2018.

Gallery

Rhannu/Sharing

Merched Chwarel

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On 1st March Merched Chwarel concluded our R&D project with a caban-style, day – long ‘sharing’, kindly hosted by the Amgueddfa Llechi, Llanberis.

The day was in two parts: A drop in exhibition of our work in progress (incorporating sketch books, video, sound, 3-D work, photographs, installations and research) attended by all four artists and about 40 guests, followed by an hour-long caban debate with tea and bara brith. The debate was attended by invited guests from the arts, archaeology and womens studies, as well as those with a strong personal connection to the quarries and quarrying.

We created the space for dialogue to happen, questions to be asked, artistic ideas and information to be shared.

This followed a more public ’Open Day’, again hosted by Amgueddfa Llechi Llanberis, on February 22nd  where there was an opportunity for the public to observe our working processes, to share…

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Yma/Absennol -Presence/Absence Marged Pendrell

Merched Chwarel

Documentation has played an important role in my artistic process. I need to witness, reflect both visually and contextually alongside my more practical experiential approach.

This project ‘Merched Chwarel ’has given much to reflect on personally and even more within its collaborative context. It was interesting to see how differently the four of us engaged with these journeys and although we interacted and discussed throughout we remained, in most cases true to our own processes.

In order to digest the conceptual content of these quarry visits I have to relive aspects of the journey, maybe it’s the storyteller in me.

A sunny January day and an opportunity created by Jwls to have a guided tour of Penmaen mawr quarry, the only working one in our choice of quarries(hence being guided) and a granite not a slate quarry. Penmaenmawr translates as ‘The Head of the Great Stone’ and its location on…

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Of Slate, Granite and Keeping my Feet on the Ground. – Lisa Hudson

Merched Chwarel

Our next two walks were in the dis-used slate quarry of Dinorwig, and the working granite quarry of Penmaenmawr. These two walks were separated by only seven days, and are connected in my mind by their contrasts.

We began on a grey still day in Nant Peris, in Lindsey’s cosy kitchen, at the bottom of the valley, on flat gentle terrain. It felt safe, nestled and protected by towering steep sides. The villiage church and the graveyard also had that gentle sense of nurture and protection, a sense of strong community. The headstones were well tended, with clasped hands engraved and soft grass wrapped around the feet like a blanket.

We crossed a road, through a gate, over a stile and came across a river, – so many boundaries – to the edge of the quarry tips. There was a mound of old slate carts rusting under the bracken, neglected…

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