Mary Anning has long been an inspiration for me and my daughters, particularly contemplating her incredible achievements through adversity whilst scouring the wave beaten shores of the Jurassic Coast for fossils. So I was really excited to have the opportunity to join a project celebrating Mary Anning’s work and life with the fantastic Electric Voice Theatre. It has been great to get back into school again, bringing clay art and science into Sidmouth CofE School for some messy fossil-themed group artwork. In 2021, as part of the Sidmouth Science Festival I kicked of my contribution to the Mary Anning/ Judith Bingham project working alongside the Electric Voice Theatre team; palaeontologist Emma Barnard from the Natural History Museum; and science historian Dr Patricia Fara on a project which has brought together some of my favourite subjects – Art, science and music!
The brief was to run a workshop to create a communal piece of artwork for the school based on Mary Anning’s work. We felt that a ‘puzzle theme’ would reflect the process of finding fragments of fossilised remains and piecing them together to create a picture of life long-ago. The final piece (shown below) is comprised of C30 individual 12X12cm art-board tiles, marked and distributed to school children from ‘squirrels’ class. Each artist followed the basic guide marks to attach, mould and shape air-drying clay. Each tile represents a unique piece of artwork, which when assembled came together to form a replica ichthyosaur fossil. The fossil was assembled, dried, rendered mounted and sealed for display at the school and hopefully elsewhere!
Ixy – the name given to the ichthyosaur represented by the artwork – was the main character in a song written and composed by the children with Frances, Herbie and the team at Electric Voice Theatre and I produced a film to accompany the song using images from the workshop and of the final piece, which was premiered during a live event as part of the Sidmouth Science Festival! and can be seen here. It doesn’t end there though! I am currently designing 3 additional fossil ‘puzzles’ to take to schools in the area over the next couple of months, so expect to see some more characters joining Ixy on their adventures!
Voices for the Future – Mary Anning was funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Marchus Trust and was also supported by Mary Anning Rocks, The Geological Society and Sidmouth Science Festival.