Nic Webb on his fallen vessel project and his interest in capturing on film the journey involved in the process of making
Nic Webb is an artist and maker who works with natural materials, particularly unseasoned wood, to explore themes of function, ceremony as well as the history and cultures of human making.
'Nearly two years ago, the photographer Peter Drinkell came to the studio to film. We had no real plan as to what we would shoot but we hoped to capture some record of the process and 'journeys' of making.
At the time I was working on a large vessel in Willow. I was midway through splitting, steaming and twisting fronds of wood to bring shape and form to the piece. This process became the focus for the first film. I finished it and later that year exhibited it as part of London Design Week. When the piece was returned to the studio I decided to bury it in a pond in a field close by. I called Pete to see if he wanted to film this next chapter and within a week he was back at the studio. We shot the second film, 'Outsourcing' . The piece remained submerged in the pond for 7 months and when the time came to lift it the following spring Pete returned to the studio to film 'Market Ready' (above).
Each time Pete drove from London to the studio in East Sussex, he did not know what he might film that day. He would arrive prepared only for the moment, the opportunity and the present. For me, the making was actively without a plan or conclusive vision. Control and expectations were relinquished step by step and the piece became less about the craft and labour required to produce a finished object and more about the experience and continuing evolution of ideas and narrative that manifest as we make.
When the piece was lifted from the pond and cleaned of mud and clay, a wonderful patina of russet reds, tans and blacks had developed on the wood. The piece was transformed by submersion and decorated with natural play. Unexpectedly, all of the colour and interest that the piece that had developed while submerged in the pond faded away within a few days. The manifestation of a 7 month process was mildly underwhelming. I had also become conscious that the processes I had pursued were somewhat earthy, pure and primal; the associated tick list for the current presentations of craft and making. It was all a little too pretty and in vogue.... Whilst these are attractive and positive qualities, our world is also violent, selfish and crass. Our interactions no matter how well considered, still have a detrimental impact on the environment. So, I bought car paint from Halfords and defaced the piece, sprayed, dripped and scratched it hung upside down from a rope, lynched in the barn without record or witness and in a concluding act I drove my car over it, shattering the work into pieces. The object has gone. All that remains is the record and resonance of its existence, whether captured on film or in my mind - a memory of its being, is all that’s left.
In time, the memory of our being will be all that remains. There will be historical records and resonance that will tell of who we were and the values for which we stood. But the objects we make and the art we create will journey forwards, far further than our physical selves with the potential to speak of our time.'
Film by Pete Drinkell