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The Column icon The Column: Issue 53

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

The Need To Make
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

During my holiday in Sidmouth, a beautiful town that nestles within the Jurassic cliffs of Devon, I spent many hours gathering objects I found on the beach and made a stone circle. I reflect on my need to do so, and the enrichment this process brought me.

A Sea View

I stayed with my family at a hotel on the seafront for a few days in mid-summer during the festival. There is no better way to visit Sidmouth than looking out across the vast expanse of water. The sky may be deep dark gray and heavy with rain, or blinding bright. The sea calm, or full with the white wash of wave. Whatever its mood, that place is a pleasure as the day unfurls from morning to night.

Stones, Sea, and Sand

I am not one to stay still for long. I need to move, to make, and the sea's edge provides a wealth of perfectly formed objects to do so. From stones and seaweed, to wood and shells. As I began to gather these things I began to better experience their difference. Their shape, size, texture, and colour. Recognizing pattern, categorizing, grouping, these are all innate abilities we all have. Building is our next step.

I enjoy making most by instinct. The flow and interaction of touch and sight is strong. Thought comes upon me more as observer than director. I become connected with the objects and the whole.

When one builds, many interesting social interactions occur. In the early stages of the build, most people respect objects only while the builder is present, although there are those sensitive souls who by instinct will not knowingly break what another has begun to make. Gradually, as the scale of what you build grows, so more recognize the structure and acknowledge its value.

I spent a short time on the sea's edge the first day. The structure was in outline. Some did not see nor care about the lines of stones and walked right through them - others recognized their form and left them be. After several hours I returned, and to my surprise the lines remained. This triggered a sense of purpose within me. In this place it was not futile to continue.

Some of the structure was laid waste by children playing close, or an act of will, and over a four day period I rebuilt the work many times. When I arrived to find people insensitive to the work, I would simply begin to build again without a word. The destruction would always cease. There was no need for words, nor for any animosity or discomfort between myself and others who had not appreciated the efforts I had made. For me this was also part of the pleasure. That I was in a place where change was inevitable, where I needed to accept the physical assertion I was making would be ignored by some, but respected by others.

As the work progressed, so people began to be drawn to it. Some would ask "what is it?". My reply would depend on a judgment I made of the inquisitor. If they appeared not to be interested in art I would point to the sun's shadow and they would be happy with knowing the structure had purpose as a timepiece. Others would approach me and refer to the work as a sculpture or artwork and began talking of Andy Goldsmith and others. This too was a pleasure as the interactions I had would be varied and fascinating. Children began to build smaller circles close by, and by the fourth day people took photos.

The greatest pleasure in this work was when others began to contribute their own offerings. The work had become more than the sum of its parts, more than one man could make. It had a life of its own as I was to leave...

Stone, Sand, and Sea, at Sidmouth

Photo montage of sculpture at Sidmouth


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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