Artist Lois Walpole opens her latest exhibition, entitled Weaving Ghosts, at Broadway Gallery in Letchworth, next month.
The basket weaving exhibition made using traditional and somewhat forgotten basketry techniques and debris found washed up on the beaches of Shetland Islands, tells a story of society’s attitude towards the environment, both globally and closer to home.
Speaking about her inspiration for the exhibition, Lois said: “My great grandfather was a fisherman and crofter on the island of Yell (one of the larger Shetland Islands, the most northerly islands in the British Isles). He had 13 children, which was not unusual at the time, and he was necessarily resourceful. He made his own ropes and baskets from the materials he found around his home, which at the time was straw, marram grass, and field rush.
“Today, washed up on the beach below his house are plenty of strong colourful polypropylene ropes and assorted plastics, commonly referred to as 'ghost gear', that he would have been excited to find and would have made good use of. It is these materials combined with some natural leaves and rushes from the same locations, that all the objects in the exhibition are made of.
“I do not buy materials.”
The discovery of modern plastic techniques was a major contributor to the demise of the rural basketry traditions across Britain. It was this which helped inspire the exhibition, re-using the discarded materials which have replaced their natural, handmade predecessors.
The exhibition is made up of installations and individual items and is a deliberate mix of both functional and conceptual pieces to create a visual dialogue about both basketry skills and material values.
Lois added: “These skills may not be needed to create the baskets and ropes that were once the tools for living, but they are transferable in many ways and as such, it is beholden on us to use them in creative ways in order to preserve this valuable empirical knowledge for future generations.”
Kristian Day, curator for Broadway Gallery said: “Lois Walpole’s art, made from repurposing the discarded plastic that washes up on the coast of her native Shetland, serves to remind us all of the ecological issues facing our planet. Her traditionally woven baskets may, on first glance, appear colourful and cheerful, belie a much more serious environmental message and act as symbols for us all to reflect upon.”
Lois Walpole – Weaving Ghosts opens at the Broadway Gallery on 24 May, running until 8 September. Broadway Gallery is open from 10am-5pm daily from Wednesday to Sunday. For more information, visit broadway-letchworth.com/studio-gallery