“What’s mudlarking?” I innocently tweeted. The next thing I knew I was crouched at the edge of the Thames at low tide looking for treasure.
I wrote a creative spaces post about about Alexandra Abraham way back in July 2011 and was fascinated by her work using found objects to create art and jewellery. I featured film-maker Richard Foot’s studio in June. When they both replied with the film above in response to my question and asked if I’d like to come along on a mudlarking trip, I jumped at the chance. We were joined by a little gang of creative types, most of whom were on their first expedition just like me.
Alexandra suggested that we split up so that we wouldn’t all be looking over the same ground – and recommended the shoreline as a good place to start. We were there at low tide, so as the tide started to come in, new treasures would be washed in. She also advised us of the rules of mudlarking: you may only pick up something that you can already see on on the surface – you can’t dig to look for things. As low tide is the best time for mudlarking, Alexandra also suggested that we made sure we could see the exit at all times to avoid getting cut off by the incoming tide.
Within seconds I was absolutely absorbed. It’s almost meditative - the sound of the waves lapping the shore, the repeated clink of things you pick up landing in your bag, the crunch of pebbles beneath your shoes – and a task that you quickly become completely immersed in. I had arrived quite stressed about a busy day ahead and in a very short space of time, I was absolutely calm and focused. I wish I could start every day like this!
An hour passed in the blink of eye and before I knew it, Alexandra was calling us together to share our finds. I was amazed by how different each person’s collection was – and inspired by the fact that mudlarking is about what you were drawn to and can make use of, rather than any external definition of value (although I must admit to being quite excited when Alexandra identified a piece of 16th Century Delftware amongst my finds!). It was lovely to see people admiring each other’s discoveries and even swapping a few pieces.
My collection is at the top and in detail on the left and right of the middle row. I tried to limit myself to blue and white china because I knew that would look great in my guest room, but I couldn’t resist the mottled grey and white clay pipe sections or the sculptural pieces of metal. Textile designer Helen Foot‘s collection is in the middle of the middle row, and I was particularly impressed with jewellery designer Gina Melosi‘s finds at the bottom – her collection to the right was unlike anything anybody else picked up.
Once home, I sterilised everything I’d picked up and set about finding homes for each piece. Even my very cynical other half was impressed when we started looking through what I’d found. Almost all of them have found somewhere to live and I’m already planning my next trip!
Further reading for the especially geeky: