Curio•sea•ty lands at the Art Hostel

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East Street Arts has commissioned Curio•sea•ty to decorate a room at Leeds First Ever Social Enterprise Art Hostel –

The room will be available to stay in, from the end of February 2016 – so come visit Leeds!



Exhibition Showreel

Here is a small video snapshot from the exhibition that took place at East Street Arts in march 2015. Special thanks again to the Ocean Loiners who performed in the opening night and you can hear in the video.

Thanks to Blessing Oyebanji for editing this video for us.

Curioseaty showreel from Hondartza Fraga on Vimeo.

Curio•sea•ty workshops – Stanley & Audrey Gallery

A big thank you to the Stanley and Audrey Gallery for hosting our second series of Curio•sea•ty workshops. We had a great time giving these workshops and meeting such lovely participants! On Day 1 we were embossing on paper and clay with our second workshop on Day 2 focusing on spool knitting and grafting.

We hope these skills have sparked lots of ideas for our participants – to now take away and play with through their own work, like we have.

curioseaty workshops - embossing 5

curioseaty workshops - embossing 6

curioseaty workshops - embossing 7

Curioseaty workshop - embossing 2

Curioseaty workshop - embossing 4

Curioseaty workshop - grafting 3

Curioseaty workshop - grafting

Curioseaty workshop - grafting 2

exhibition revisited

With a couple of weeks gone since the exhibition closed at East Street Arts, we wanted to share some images from the exhibition and the works. We are currently developing the exhibition and looking for opportunities to exhibit Curio•sea•ty again.

We will also be uploading the video of the shanty-singing performance by The Ocean Loiners in our opening night soon.


Hondartza Fraga
Monoprints, water-based paint on hand-made paper.

Curioseaty research collages – salt quartz, rope, salted fish
Lorna Barrowclough
Photo collage, tape and paper

Salted Netters
Lorna Barrowclough
Installation – wood, adhesive, nails, paper, varnish, bamboo, salted string, witches stones, thread

‘Salted Netters’ looks to the physical nature in which a net can be made. A reworking of a knitting tool to produce and develop a ‘netting tool’ ; a re-use and in this instance a direct sea use, for this required purpose.

The string used to make the nets has been ‘salted’ for good luck as per the salting of nets done by fishermen’s wives before their husbands went out to sea. The gathered witches/hag stones are used as both a weight and a further means of protecting the nets. The hag stone, usually found on beaches was used to protect sailors and fishermen from witchcraft, charms and spells.

Okeanos (Deepest Points)
Graphite on paper, 150 x 120 cm
Hondartza Fraga

Oceanus is a figure from Greek mythology, personifying the great river encircling the world. Originally thought to represent just the bodies of salt water known to the ancient Greeks, but as geography became more accurate, Oceanus came to signify the stranger, more unknown waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The drawing presents a map of the world’s oceans with a constant representation of the water and the coastline, with land being omitted.

Lorna Barrowclough and Hondartza Fraga
Laser cut mdf, photo collage


For what it’s worth
Lorna Barrowclough
Installation – rope, Himalayan rock salt, sea salt, mussel shells, varnish, paper, fish knives, ribbon, thread, paper garlands and string

This piece looks to visually show salt in it’s universal and unifying role of both the land and the sea – interlinking both through how it is gathered, transported, distributed and finally consumed.

A commodity which has taken it’s place as a vital tool for preserving, creating wealth and maintaining communities of people. I am fascinated by the simple quiet life that it now lives out.

Hondartza Fraga
Pencil on paper, oyster shell. Dimensions variable.

Each drawing is carefully hand-cut and fixed onto the shell. Each oyster shell is transformed into a miniature island for the characters and narratives to unfold. The drawings are based on found images of sea-shore scenes and loosely based on the stories and histories of real islands. This work is also inspired by the book Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky.

Hondartza Fraga
Pencil on paper on seashells (work-in-progress)

Anomiidae is a family of saltwater clams, marine bivalve molluscs related to scallops and oysters and know as anomiids. They are commonly known as jingle shells or saddle oysters.

Some individual shells are decorated with portraits of whalers wives based on photographs from the late 1800s. The work seeks to parallel the delicacy of the shells with the fragility of the women’s position in maritime history.

Thank you Men in Sheds!

Over the last few weeks I have been spending my Tuesday afternoons over at Holdbeck in Leeds with the lovely Men in Sheds. Who have been kind enough to let me join them and be a lady in a shed during this time!

Curio•sea•ty initially approached Men in Sheds for their advise on our proposed Sea Map piece that we are making – which wood should we use, how to split the size of this map, ways in which we can cut the map to shape, possible ways of hanging and displaying this piece – in a table format or/and wall mounted, so that the piece can be displayed multi-purposely etc.

From these discussions, I also asked if it would possible for me to come and work on producing my Salt Netters (current name – may change!) – and from this lots of sanding of wood logs has ensued, and the Netters are being made! I’m nearly at the end of sanding process and the construction of the Salt Netters has now begun – sorting, arranging, glueing, clamping and collaging – images of all this to follow!

It’s been great working within the Shedders, spreading the word as to the great work, facilities and hospitality they provide and I hope to be able to work with them again in the future!

For more information as to how to get involved in Men in Shed, click on this link:

If you are thinking about wanting to learn new carpentry skills – beginner or wanting to enhance or pass your own skills on, this is definitely the place to go and be part of a great motivating team of people.

all the maritime museums…

So now that the year has ended, I wanted to do a bit of a recap on all the museums, collections and libraries with maritime collections that I have been to over the last 12 months. Before Curio•sea•ty launched officially in June – actually, since 2013, when I was artist-in-residency in Hull, I have been interested in maritime museums not just for their contents but for themselves, their space, the atmosphere in which we experience them. It started with the whale skeletons at Hull Maritime Museum. I started taking footage of the bones, suspended from the ceiling with chains, while a projected blue light simulates the ocean reflections on the dark carpet and humpback whale song can be heard when the museum is quiet. I started thinking of museums as a second natural habitat for these bones, artificially arranged in full shape.

I have been taken footage and photographs of whale skeletons in all the other museums we have visited. But also of the different ways each museum displays their contents. Some in a very theatrical, constructed way, like the fantastic dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History. The Ocean wing has a single life-size model of a blue hanging form the ceiling, presiding the darkened room majestically, miniaturising the surrounding dioramas of oceanic life. The model at London’s Natural History Museum sadly seems a bit underwhelming after that; as it stands in a crowded room, rammed against many hanging skeletons and other animal models.

Amsterdam Maritime Museum
National Maritime Museum (Amsterdam)

After over a dozen maritime museums, I feel I’ve got a reasonable idea of what I am going to find. And is I mentioned in a previous post I am particularly fascinated by the differences between research centres and public facing collections. Still, each new museum always manages to surprise me with a slightly different feeling. Some have an audio-visually immersive and high-tech (yet minimalistic) atmosphere, like the recently renovated National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. With astrolabes and other instruments floating on invisible glass cabinets in rooms that remind you more of science fiction film set than of times long gone. In others, you can think yourself walking inside a victorian cabinet of curiosities, mismatch of beautiful old wooden cabinets filled with objects in slightly discordant order. Old dollhouses and miniatures are next to fossils and harpoons, in the wonderful Whitby Museum.

Whitby Museum
Whitby Museum

Either with futuristic style or a ‘frozen in-time’ approach, each museum’s own idiosyncrasies are inseparable from the cities that hosts them. Each museum presents the particular relationship between its city/country and the sea. I think in a way, they reflect the conversations and the contradictions between the past of the objects they are home to and the ever changing ‘now’ they themselves inhabit.

Complete list of museums visited this year (with a maritime connection):
Hull Maritime Museum (UK)
Bilbao Maritime Museum (Spain)
National Maritime Museum (Netherlands)
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Whitby Museum (UK)
Rotterdam Maritime Museum (Netherlands)
Museu Marítim de Barcelona (Spain)
Mystic Seaport The Collections Research Center (USA)
Mystic Seaport The Museum of America and the Sea (USA)
American Museum of Natural History (USA)
American Folk Art Museum (USA)
New Bedford Whaling Museum and Library (USA)
Natural History Museum (London, UK)
National Maritime Museum (UK)
Cantabrian Maritime Museum (Spain)

Salted ideas

‘Salt: a world history – Mark Kurlansky’

Salt has become a real area of interest for me throughout Curioseaty – from it’s form, it’s function and it’s history – I have been fascinated! It has given me lots of inspiration as to several pieces I want to produce and explore further. Mark Kurlansky’s book ‘Salt: a world history’ has been of great help and a brilliant source of fact, history and legend which I have throughly enjoyed reading;

Here are but a few of nuggets of information I have taken on board, which have sparked my salted pieces of work!

‘Salt is a potent and sometimes dangerous substance that has to be handled with care. Medieval European etiquette paid a great deal of attention to how slat was touched at the table – with the tip of a knife and never by hand.’

‘Romans boiled sea salt in pottery, which they broke after a solid salt block had formed inside.’

‘Salt was served at the table, in a simple seashell at a plebeian’s table or in an ornate silver saltcellar to a patrician’s feast. In fact since salt symbolised the binding of an agreement, the absence of a saltcellar on a banquet table would have been interpreted as a unfriendly act and reason for suspicion.’

‘From the Black Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar, salt production was usually placed near fishing areas, creating industrial zones that produced a range of salt-based products, including various types of salt fish, fish sauces, and purple dye.’

‘Wilfredo the Hairy rebuilt an abandoned eighth-century castle on a mountain fifty miles inland from Barcelona. Alone on what was then a distant mountain top, the highest peak in a rugged , sparsely populated area, he could peer from the thick stone ramparts at his prize possession, the source of his wealth, the next mountain.
This next mountain was striped in pattern and colours so lively, it was almost dizzying to look at it – salmon pink rock with white, taupe, and blooded stripes. It was all salt.’

Gathering thoughts and Open Studios

It feels like a very long time ago since we came back from New York, and although we have gone a little quiet here, we haven’t been idle.

Over the last couple of months we have been gathering our images and thoughts from the USA trip, and some concrete ideas for works have started to take shape and it is getting really exciting to plan for the exhibition and the artist publication to go alongside it next year.

At the end of October we took part in East Street Arts Open Studios and we used this opportunity to show the gathering process in the form of walls filled up with notes, photos, sketches and nautical ephemera that it’s inspiring us. We had many interesting conversations over the course of the weekend, and met interesting people with whom to have follow up conversations, in particular we are very excited to have met Sarah Jones who forms part of The Ocean Loiners, a Leeds-based sea shanty group, and we will hopefully attend their next meeting to hear some lovely sea shanty singing! We can’t wait.

Also, thanks to the sustained support of East Street Arts who allowed us to use their newly acquired badge machine to produce a bit of Curio•sea•ty merchandise to help our ongoing fundraising… We made some badges and rosettes for sale (if you are interested in getting some, simply use the donate Paypal button on the right column).

So what is next for us? Next week we are down to London for another mini Curio•sea•ty trip, this time to visit the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the Natural History, the V&A and the British Library at least. We only have a couple of days down there so we have a lot to pack in.

After that we will start getting more hands-on with making the works and narrowing the details for the show and the book. But not before having another public event in the meantime! In December we will present an exhibition of artists’ postcards responding to the sea in pocagallery in Portugalete in Spain. An open call for artists about this will follow promptly.

Curio•sea•ty in USA (part III)

After visiting various maritime museums and centres, I have been thinking a lot about the limbo of objects.

There is an interesting balance between representation and remains at Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea. A sense of ‘reproduction’ soaked the village, somewhere in the blurred line between quaint and kitsch. But this is of course a real place, exposing the maritime activities it once lived from, it is now an open air museum for the public. The research centre is all about preservation away from public eyes. Anyone can book an appointment and have limited access to their massive collection of objects, from whale eyeballs to compasses, ship models to uniforms.

Carefully arranged in drawers and shelves, these objects have now only one more function: to exist as they are, to not deteriorate any further. To remain. Their original function, whatever it was, it has now become obsolete or outperformed by new technologies and new objects. They are signposts to the past, with their primary user changed from the whaler to the researcher.

Some of these objects will go for long or short periods on display in the public rooms of a museum. The loose bones that rest on the shelves in the research centre will be orderly put back together to form the full skeleton of a blue, a sperm or a humpback whale, and hang from the ceiling to welcome visitors from their new artificial ‘natural habitat’.

New Bedford is a sea city, ‘the whaling city’ to be precise, that’s its nickname. It is now the number one commercial fishing port in America. Signs of its whaling past are not just everywhere, but also celebrated. Street names, shops, monuments and of course buildings. The Whaling Museum is the biggest in the world. It is fantastic. By the time you get to their enormous scrimshaw collection you may be in the brink of being whaled out. There is just that much. Besides the whaling, I really enjoyed the temporary exhibition ‘Arctic Visions’, an exhibition based around one single artifact: a beautiful, giant leather bound book with the same title, by William Bradford. The gorgeously embossed elephant folio recounts a three-month journey along the Western coast of Greenland aboard the Panther; a 325-ton sealing ship and it was published in 1873. Departing from St. John’s Newfoundland on July 3, 1869, the voyage was organized by Fairhaven artist William Bradford (1823-1892) solely for “purposes of art.” The book is filled with great photographs of arctic local people and landscapes, specially icebergs, which are becoming an increasingly interesting objects for Lorna and me. I felt quite privileged that our project has allowed us to visit these very important exhibits. I felt my intrigue with and attraction to whales reaffirmed and renewed and I can foresee that whales will be yet reappearing in my work.

I still don’t know how I feel about objects in museums. There is something precious and sad about this limbo of ‘preservation’ between their functional past and their contemplative future. I also don’t know what draws Lorna and myself towards past relationships with the sea, towards the archive, towards the safety of the museum. Perhaps as artists we feel more connected to the realities of the researchers than to that of the whalers or fishermen. Personally, perhaps the sea in its vastness is just too scary, too ever-changing, and too-present for me to even attempt to explore it in my work. The sea acts as a screen in which I see no past of future. Looking at the sea from objects and museums seems like a more manageable place to start…

These are a few images from New Bedford Whaling Museum:

Review and artist talk at Wayfarers

We are very excited this morning because our exhibition at Wayfarers, Brooklyn, “The Whales of August” hosting our work has received a lovely review in the Bushwick Daily, by the hand of Candace Moeller.

Here is a link to the article:

Lorna, myself and David (Scout) McQueen will be at the gallery this coming Sunday (17th August) at 3pm for an informal discussion about our works. If you are around, please join us!

Wayfarers - The Whales of August

The Whales of August” is on until August 31. Wayfarers is open on Sundays from 1-5pm and by appointment.
1109 Dekalb Ave NY 11221