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Breath, Bones & Teeth

Esme Bone talks about coming to Margate and creating a world to work in with fellow MA student, Cheri Allcock.

Esme is an artist currently moving into her second year of the European MA Fine Art: Art, Society, Nature, a collaboration between The Margate School and the École Supérieure d’Art et Design Le Havre-Rouen (ESADHaR). Esme and Cheri sit in her studio space at The Margate School to have a chat about her work and her life here.

C: Hi Esme!

E: Hi Cheri!

C: So, what were you up to before The Margate school?

E: I left university and moved to Liverpool for a year and then during covid I moved back home to Ely in

Cambridgeshire, it was then I realised that I need to do something new, I was getting a bit stuck in repetition and not really making much work. I think I really wanted to learn, and be around people that were making, I found the course ‘Art, Nature & Society’ at The Margate School and I just went for it. Oh! And I wanted to be by the sea, start fresh. I think I literally googled ‘Masters by the sea’!

C: Really!

E: Yeah, there was one in Falmouth where I did my degree. (Esme completed a BA in Drawing at Falmouth University).

C: I think we all had similar stories!

E: It just felt like it was right for me, and it has been. I sort of relied on this instinct that I knew it’d be good for me. I did such a specific degree, BA drawing, I was thinking about doing a drawing Masters, but because I felt so stuck in what I was doing, it appealed to me, because Art, Nature, Society seemed open and I knew it would take me elsewhere.

C: And you live in Westgate now right? How do you find it? And Margate?

E: I really love it, Westgate is really peaceful and the sea feels so huge. I think I really like being in small places. Margate just feels really special too. I really need that time to be at home and rest/ be quiet and where I am in Westgate is just really perfect, then I get to come to my studio at The Margate school and be in another space.

C: So, you're currently in the process of setting up an exhibition in the TMS community garden! Can you tell us a little bit about it?

E: The exhibition is called ‘Compote’ and we’ve invited 12 artists from in and out of the school. The restrictions are to use natural or found materials that aren’t going to harm the garden environment. The private view is on the 2nd of September and it’s open that weekend and then there'll be a closing day the following weekend to see how the work has changed over the week. We’ll have a workshop or performance on the last day, back in the garden.

C: Do you know what you’re putting in?

E: I’ve started making some objects using clay and will create a structure using bamboo. I think… something that comes from the ground, something that’s hanging (moving her hands around to show hanging and growing). I’m making these little clay pieces which, first of all, I can enjoy the making of, and then I’ll play around with the building of the piece once they're fired.

C: Do you think your work in general is relevant to being in a garden?

E: Yes, I’m excited to have this in the garden. Everything so far has actually been so much in my studio, I’ve been sat here building this work, this world around me is my studio. So this piece (for the garden) feels very different.

C: You said you were feeling a bit ‘stuck’ before coming here. Do you think coming to the course has changed your way of working as you’d anticipated? Inspired you somehow? What’s happened?

E: I think drawing is still very much essential to my practice, but it’s changed a lot and evolved. The drawing is still the very start of the process and the sculptures have grown from the drawings and almost have legs and can walk around – not so much in my control. I never made sculpture before, but I started off using these little threads and wool quite carefully, and it's just become this other thing that’s sort of been pulled from my insides.

C: Definitely!

E: They still feel like drawings to me though, very linear. Drawing is so fragile, paper’s so easily destroyed, I think I’m still playing with that weightiness/ weightlessness of the drawings in these sculptures.

C: And what other materials do you use?

E: I began with thread and wool, warm soft and small materials, but also hard wire. I’ve recently been using plaster and clay and I’ve been thinking about bones and teeth! The clay I’ve chosen, once it’s bisque fired – the initial fire before glazing – it’s going to be white, and I’m not going to be glazing it, so no second firing either.

C: And what are these little balls made out of? (Esme has some mushy balls speckled with colour hanging in her space)

E: They are made out of paper pulp and scraps of wool and thread that have been hanging around, I’ve been wanting to use the loose ends, these balls are quite satisfying to make and they use the leftover paper pulp from making paper, left over and squished together! They are really light and potentially mouldy! (Laughs)

C: So you’ve been making paper too?

E: Yes I have, that’s what we’ll use for the posters for the show. I’ve accumulated so much scrap paper, you just don’t realise! Doctor’s letters, receipts, bus tickets, I need to make a new batch, though it’s taken me quite a while to get the perfect paper consistency.

C: So soft! I like all the orangey bits, I wonder where they came from?

E: I think the bus tickets!

C: Of course!

C: Have any of the making modules on the Master’s course particularly influenced you?

E: Having sculpture to start with has definitely started me off with something that I’ve built on throughout the year, bringing in an object at the beginning according to our brief, I brought in a sunflower seed and that has stayed within my work throughout the year.

Though initially hesitant about a ‘video’ module, it led me into the making of something that moved and looped and also thinking about sound for the first time, which I hadn’t done until then, the sound of making small repetitive sounds which were just made by the body.

C: I remember in the beginning, in one of your initial presentations, you were focused a lot on breath in your work. I was just wondering if there’s any connection still there?

E: It’s still in my work. Recently, I read a quote by Giseppe Penone because I saw a piece of his in the Tate, a clay sculpture called ‘Breath’, the quote is:

‘When we breath there is a volume of air that goes back into space which is different from the volume of air around us, and that volume of air is a sculpture, a sculpture that lasts an instant but is already a sculpture’

I see my drawing like that, it is my breathing, and you know, I feel like my drawing’s just… ‘are’, they just happen and then they’re done, they are necessary – which is probably why there’s so many, because I just do them. I guess together they make up me and my life. Tying knots feels like breathing too.

C: Yes, there’s still something repetitive and quite time-consuming happening…

E: Yeah, I felt that recently making the little clay things, I felt like I could do it forever

C: Clay beans! They look like giant beans to me.

E: The Maker and Body module (a module focused on drawing), felt like a really big realisation, that my work has become very much of my body. And I think the drawing has become a conversation with myself which feels more to do with the body than it had done before, allowing things to come up through the drawing, a process of discovery almost.. like ‘oh I’ve just drawn a spine or veins’ for instance.

C: Seems everyone got a lot out of looking at the body, even if it made some of us become aware of how much our work is distanced from the body somehow…

E: I think it fed directly through into ‘Making Visible’ too, (the photography module). A sculpture like a bed, a little cynotype book I made onto a pillowcase that felt like night time. Initially I bought the pillow cases because I wanted some fabric for dying, but in the end it became a book.

C: And if you had to describe your work in 5 words?

E: Cycles, time/ repetition, gravity or ground, body.

C: Do you still have your cocoon? How’s it doing? (Esme had woven a huge pink/ fuschia cocoon like structure which everyone said resembles a womb)

E: Yeah, I put it over there, it’s good! I don’t know what to do with it!

C: Seems like something will be born out of it at some point!

C: Is there anything theoretical that’s driven you or sent you in a certain direction?

E: The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula Le Guin was quite inspiring, because I always felt like I was collecting as I’m making, containing, holding, weaving baskets. Also Tim Ingold’s ‘Bringing things to Life: Creative Entanglements in a World of Materials’ He mentions things leaking, For me, our bodies which are also containers hold in leakage. Things I make leak from their bodies too. While threads hang and crawl to other threads.

C: Do you ever think of your work in relation to any feminist practice?

E: I didn’t until recently, I like that it’s come through my work without me pushing it, it is a part of me. I had a conversation recently and I was talking about duality fragile-strong weightless-weighty. People remark on the femininity that’s there, the red and the pink I’ve been using for so long now, thinking about bodily fluids and blood and the materials, the wool and thread, the small things you spend a lot of time making with your hands.

C: And do you have a title for your memoire? (The final dissertation due next year)

E: My working title is: Weaving worlds with worms

C: Oh yes, but you didn’t mention worms today, perhaps you’re in a new phase!

E: No I didn’t, but I want to learn more about worms!

E: So Esme, last question…Why do you make work?!

E: Honestly, I feel so lucky at the moment to have a studio, when I make work I feel connected to myself and to the ground and the space around me, I feel that I don’t have that in other times, and so I need it, it’s essential to me, building this world around me that I can feel safe in but also that I don’t fully understand.

C: Wonderful. Thank you Esme!

E: Thankyou