On Woodside beach, if the water is very low, a mysterious row of abandoned cages reveals itself just under the tide line. If I'm there at the right time, I pick my way out to talk to them. They are heavy, plastic covered cast iron cages, with four large bricks in the base to ensure that they will stay where they are put. In more abundant times, they were used to house excess lobsters until the orders came in, but now they are becoming an artificial reef of sorts, sinking slowly into the mud while the sea life gathers and grows.
One wondrous day after a storm, I found one of the cages washed up high on the beach - right up to the woodland that borders the sand. Some type of heavy marine craft must have smashed into it since there is a massive v-shaped dent in the iron. This collision must have altered its centre of gravity enough for it to be rolled by the waves towards its transformation - into a work of art.
I had an idea that it would be perfect for the upcoming SIX exhibition at Quay Arts but I couldn't carry it myself, so had to get help from the long suffering other half to pick it up from the beach; and then from a surprised neighbour with bolt cutters to take off the blue repair mesh, attached with corroded lead clasps.
I removed two of the bricks and the heavy, crusty rope. I used all the strength I had to bend in the rusty points sticking menacingly out to catch passers by. The final step was to pressure wash and scrub it to within an inch of its life. And then it was ready. Ready to embellish with silk (it did used to be somewhere we wanted to be) and silver feathers (left behind when we found it wasn't any more).
The silver feathers were made using fine silver wire and silver clay. The silver molecules in the clay sinter together on firing to become 99.9% fine silver.
The feather motif seemed fitting. I wanted to give the impression that something beautiful had left. And it is also possible that the cage may have housed a dropped feather or two at some stage.
When setting up, I was standing in the gallery considering whether and where to add an extra travel weary feather somewhere outside the cage. Quay Arts curator Ian Whitmore suggested we hang it on a silver thread from the ceiling. We
tested this and loved it, like something magical reeling the feather up, supporting the former resident on their journey to new ways of being. This also provided a novel (and cool!) opportunity to label a shadow. Thank you Ian.
There is also a silver ornament mounted on the front brick. It is a response to the encrustation patterns and just seemed to nestle in there perfectly.
cage: 60cm x 60cm x 60cm
small feathers: 1cm x 1cm; large feather: 5cm x 10cm
Hand built fine silver ornaments, sealed against tarnishing; flotsam cage; brushed silk and silver thread.
For some, the cage of cultural and societal conditioning gently melts away until its absence is one day noted with surprise; but for many, something much more calamitous has to happen. It is only when something shifts, often radically, that we come to realise: perhaps it was others' fears that kept us in this cage.
An opening has appeared, and with it the chance to step through, to take this precious opportunity to redefine ourselves beyond the confines of who we thought we were.