Home is Where the Heart Is

I enjoyed a fantastic eye and ear-opening weekend last September working at the Festival of Thrift that took place in and around Kirkleatham Museum between Redcar and Middlesbrough. I was on Artist Liaison duties, and whilst there were several memorable moments, the most moving was seeing Teesside performer and Community Engineer Mike McGrother bring three of his acts together on stage simultaneously. Those acts comprised Infant Hercules, a male voice choir named in honour of the region’s proud industrial heritage, the Haverton Hillbillies, a tribute to McGrother’s grandad and community and McGrother also performed as a solo act, the Wild Rover.

Back stage at the Festival of Thrift 2019

The men, and there were A LOT of them, dressed in flat caps, shirts, neckerchiefs and braces – they looked like extras from Peaky Blinders creating impact and presence before even opening their mouths, but when they did their accents were unmistakably, beautifully Teesside. I say beautifully, because I grew up downwind from Middlesbrough, it was my stomping ground as a teenager, so I’m fond of the Teesside accent and the sharp, frequently cheeky, raw and unreserved quick-wittedness that often accompanies it.

The men performed on a stage sponsored by Wilton-headquartered chemical firm SABIC. Many of the men had walked together to the festival site from Haverton Hill that morning. The men sang soulfully about Teesside’s rich industrial heritage, community and struggle. It was moving, very, very moving.

Photo of the Infant Hercules musicians on the Transporter Bridge – taken from the Infant Hercules Facebook page.

I felt a bit embarrassed that I’d grown up so near and yet so far from their geography and the subject matter they sang about, but yesterday context started to slip in to place… This weekend marked the first of half term, and my husband and I thought it would be nice to take the children to the seaside. We decided upon Redcar; only we overshot the turning driving up the A19.

“You know, I’ve always wondered what’s at Seal Sands… presumably seals and sands – should we go there instead?” I said.

Well, we found neither seals nor sands but a truly fascinating landscape that was completely alien to us and so intriguing!

Yesterday, on our unexpected day trip, we inadvertently stumbled across medusa-like, epic chemical sites located around the mouth of the River Tees at Wilton, Billingham and Seal Sands. The plants felt like high security ghost towns set amidst a combination of post industrial wastelands, Dutch-looking agricultural land, small pockets of residential communities, amongst them, Haverton Hill. The modest, terraced houses seemed oddly located in the landscape. With next to no apparent amenities to serve them some of the homes were burnt out, some boarded up but many were exceptionally well kept. Hardship and pride were simultaneously evident. I was transported back to the lyrics of an Infant Hercules song about reduced employment, hope, and displaced communities. I remembered tales of industrial air pollution that drove people to relocate from the Tees Estuary to ‘cleaner’ communities close by. I remembered my Granddad telling me that when he moved to North Yorkshire as a lad it was impossible to see Middlesbrough from the North York Moors for the thick smog that hung over it.

My paternal grandparents worked for the Bell family on their rural estate south of Middlesbrough in the North York Moors. My granddad was born in Norfolk but had been orphaned and the church arranged employment for him and his siblings on estates in various parts of the country. Granddad found himself in North Yorkshire, an economic migrant of sorts, I suppose, like many of the Irish communities that moved to Teesside to find work.

The Bell family played a significant role shaping Teesside during the Industrial Revolution. Haverton Hill grew as a residential area in the 1880s when The Bell Brothers set up a salt extraction plant at Saltholme, up the road from the settlement. My heritage, and the heritage of those men on that stage was interlinked after all – we were all part of the same story. I wondered if, on a subconscious level, this was why I had felt so profoundly moved by their voices on the stage that day.

In short, I’ve got to go back to Seal Sands. I’ve got to take my camera and my sketchbook and my very own thinking (flat) cap and breathe it in, all of it. It was remarkable, it was massive; it’s kind of forgotten, kind of erased, it’s pivotal, it was then and it is still very much now.

We did make it to Redcar beach, by the way. And the children had a great time!

Redcar Beach

Shining Light

Shining Light
February 2017
Oil on canvas


Mayhew Craddock has developed an interest in the earth’s layers and the earth’s relationship with its greater environment, over the past few years – intrigued by the moon, sea, land, magnetic forces and tides tides, Shining Light looks specifically at the romanticism of stargazing, and the way in which people (from around the globe) have navigated using the night sky, and looked to the stars for direction in love and life throughout history. The idea of greater forces being at work dictating behaviour on the ‘surface’, and pathways that most are totally oblivious to both fascinates and frightens the artist who views elemental forces as having the capacity to offer great personal perspective.

The layered nature of understanding is represented in this series of work through the depth of colour of the oil paints selected (working with two of the slowest drying pigments available) and contrasting flecks of constellations that allow viewers to consider their position in time and space.

In short, the work is a visual allegory for the necessity of, and the difficulty in, gaining a 360 degree understanding of any subject in order to fully comprehend a situation, and make informed decisions as a consequence… posing the question as to whether or not we ought to merely follow our gut instinct, and be guided by ‘that star’ that shines brighter than all the rest yet changes according to the environment it is seen in.

This series of works places emphasis on the mystery, beauty, and romanticism of one’s relationship with the galaxy, and those relationships we harness within in, whilst also inviting the viewer to acknowledge the enormity and influencing factors of what lies beneath and above ‘the surface’.

The work takes its title from the song Shining Light by Ash – a song that resonates from the artists’ youth.

Look Up!

So, sometimes it’s impossible to shake off an idea. An idea for a piece of work just stays in your head, often goes through various changes as time and thoughts progress, but the concept remains the same and stays with you.

Well, I’ve had a yellow disc dangling from the ceiling in three different studios now, a blue sheet draped in the air, and a kaleidoscope tacked to a window. They relate to a series of three sculptural works all inspired by the perspective offered by time spent in the great outdoors.

The Sun Never Stops Shining is a bright yellow transparent disc that towers overhead offering shelter, and a space for reflection. Through the grey days, life’s difficulties, and hard times some things remain constant, wether one’s aware of them or not – the sun never stops shining. Get out, soak up some essential vitamin d, feel the breeze on your face!

Similarly, Look Up! offersa place to shelter, to gather, to chew the fat, and contemplate. A place to look up from one’s smart phone, to interact with real people, real environments, in real time.

The kaleidoscope idea (working title, Chasing Rainbows) is far from being fully resolved, but it won’t go away. I just know that I want to create a piece of sculptural work that uses prisms to catch and reflect light. A piece that can be approached from any angle, and reveals the “magic” of daylight – the beauty that exists in the simplest things – the beauty that exists in nature!

Mirror Paintings

As a continuation of current explorations in mapping I’ve been looking at the ‘Communications’ keys on Ordnance Survey maps; considering again the nature of decision making in life, and how one picks one’s own route through life choosing either to follow specific paths, or go ‘off piste’. Similar to The Natural Course of Things, I’m attempting to highlight the ability, on inability to follow paths according to an ability to read those ‘markers’ that guide the way. In this body of work, however, I’ve chosen to paint imaginary routes, dictated by imaginary landscapes (or voids) that are filled with the viewer’s reflection, by nature of the fact that I am painting on to mirror glass, fractured mirror glass asserting an imperfection or lack of complete control in each piece of work / reflection / route.

I’ve been selected to participate in North Yorkshire Open Studios 2017, and this body of work will be shown for the first time as part of the Open Studios exhibition at my home on South Parade, Northallerton, 2/3/4 and 10/11 June 2017 (look out for the posters in the window!).

For a free NYOS 2017 catalogue, contact the NYOS team on info@nyos.org.uk  /  01756 748529 – I look forward to welcoming you in June!

Knowing Which Path to Follow

I’ve been thinking a lot about pathways through life recently – the different directions that we all take, for various reasons, through choice or otherwise, the paths these “choices” lead us down, and the way in which our movements influence the people and places that we ‘land’ in.

I’ve been thinking about infrastructure, about man-made routes designed to channel, and more natural routes, many of which become identifiable, and established (in some way, shape, or form) over time… which makes me think about sheep tracks in the moors that carve through the heather, and Richard Long’s A Line Made by Walking, 1967.

This got me looking at political maps, and the way in which boundaries have changed (largely through conflict) throughout history. In turn, leading me to think about hostility towards migrant populations. Which set me off thinking about the migratory routes of animals, and the way in which these are so often protected; from frog crossings in roads, and newt conservation areas in construction, to positioning wind turbines in locations avoiding the flight paths of migratory birds. Many UK migratory birds enjoy latitudinal migration, flying north and south between summer and winter ranges; though there are many other types of migration taking place across the globe, such as; circuits of the land and ocean that enable turtles to return to their nests, and altitudinal migration up and down mountains as seen in North American Quails, and also in Copepods, tiny sea crustaceans that migrate up and down the oceans’ water columns… all these animals crossing arbitrary boundaries, just to get by, just to survive, and we help them to do so… because they’re not humans, who we appear to take issue with all too often when they try to do the same!

Interestingly, birds are known to use different visual landmarks, such as mountains or bodies of water, along with using the sun to navigate during daylight and the stars at night for directional purposes.  More amazing still, birds can also use the Earth’s magnetic field to help them navigate, made possible using the magnetic substance magnetite (a substance that has been found in the beaks of different bird species). Magnetite reacts to the Earth’s magnetic field and allows the bird to orientate itself  accordingly.  Although each of these senses plays a big part in the ability of animals to migrate, the most vital factor is genetics.  Migration is instinctive, most migrants’ brains are programmed to tell them to set off on a specific route, in a specific direction, at a given moment of time – totally amazing, and so wonderfully intuitive.

I was watching the Disney film, Moana (based on stories from Polynesian mythology), recently with my nearly three year old daughter, and wondered what she might be thinking as she watched the Polynesian fishermen brave the high waters taking their direction from the stars… which made me think about a small body of artwork that I created recently called Shining Light.

Anyway, having studied lots of migratory maps now, having thought about the way in which animals instinctively navigate paying no attention to political boundaries, I think there’s great beauty in migrational routes, and I’m going to make a body of artwork to highlight that, in an attempt to help others identify this beauty, and the joy and richness that cross-cultural exchanges, and respectful freedom of movement can bring.

p.s. This is a very cool project – http://www.flywaysmusic.org/the-music/videos/#flywaysmusic