Clare Robb

This month...
Carnoustie, Scotland
November — 2021

The blog this month- On Keeping a Sketchbook ruminates on the meditative and productive qualities of trying to pin thoughts down- visual sketches and with words- each day. 

  ‘A sketchbook is quick, it 
is available- it’s the easiest way to feel
productive while exerting the least amount
of effort. But it is also a safety blanket,
the most undemanding passage to creative stimulation, 
to immediate expression.

We hone our craft
with each page
filled, and the
point is to
keep going.’


Pictured: ‘Lapsana Communis’ 1, 2 & 3. 2021. Monoprint. 

17 Nov 2021
Clare Robb


                                                                                                         On keeping a sketchbook                                                                                                     17 November— 2021

            I’ve been carrying a black A5 sketchbook and a pack of B pencils which I robbed from my partner’s pencil case last year.
            I’ve been packing them into tote bags, my backpack, pockets, and transporting them around all the places I have visited
            recently. I’m quite obsessive about it, feeling calmer just knowing they are on my person- which is probably just as well
            as some of the time
           the bottom of my bag is where they remain.

           I draw on the train, in the park or whenever I can catch a spare moment and I’m unsure why this little ritual brings me
           such comfort, but it really does. I think it’s about visual conjuring or record keeping- some of these quick drawings
           I don’t particularly “like”, but as long as I can convey ideas to others, and to my future self.

            I’m trying to get myself into the habit of filling up a page or so a day and sometimes this is just scribbling quick
           thoughts rather than even sketches, but it feels satisfying to fill up the blank space. A sketchbook is quick, it
           is available- it’s the easiest way to feel productive while exerting the least amount of effort.
           But it is also a safety blanket, the most undemanding passage to creative stimulation,
           to immediate expression.
           We hone our craft with each page filled, and the point is to keep going.


Published: 1 December 2021                                                                                                                                                                                                           Clare Robb

CLARE ROBB: Cross Currents Residency, 2021                                                                                                                               21 - 28 August — 2021

                                                                                                                                                                     The maker at work,
                                                                                                                                                                      perched upon the rocks.



      The coming of my second week on Eigg, marks the beginning
      of making, of forming with my hands.
      Within the best kind of workspace, in the open air and with the
       faint rush of the sea and the staunch rocks for company, this practise
       comes easily.  The pitted surfaces and converging faces of the coastline
       continue to fuel the work, an attempt to capture these
        inconsistent hallmarks feels futile, and yet it is what I would like
        to do most.

        I find myself foremost using clay, I want to carry it away from the bothy
       desk and use it to create a cragged surface with the sand and rocks so the
       work appears grown from them. So, I bring a bag of clay down to the bay with
       me and use my hands to create work within the sea-thrashed rock.

                                                    A happy accident.

                                                                                                          The tipping of molten metal missing it’s mould;
                                                                                                           it flows downhill to follow the labyrinthine veins of the rock.
                                                                                                           A silver tendril bathing in sunlight, it stands out against burnt orange.
                                                                                                           It’s path is preserved- the surface mimicking the rough rock from which it took form.

                                                                                                                                                                                Being involved directly with the land, the rock is a tool and a source of
                                                                                                                                                                                innovation to mimic, if I can, in creative ways.
                                                                                                                                                                                Rigid but surprisingly yielding,  metal once annealed and repeatedly struck
                                                                                                                                                                                against the beaten surface, becomes a souvenir of the fabric of the rock.                                                                                                                                                                                                           This performance is the most direct way I could think of, to even attempt to
                                                                                                                                                                                 record, such an implausibly formed characteristic of this land.

                    I lay out the products of my making and I see a synergy between works,
                   which has more to do with a state of mind, than a visual similarity.
                   A combination of activity; woven, knitted and plaited seaweed sits comfortably
                   alongside rock-hammered wire rings. For me, their maker, the correlation
                   is site specific, it lies in the changeable realm of time and place.  With new ideas,
                   waiting to form in the studio, these tokens formed on Eigg, signal the beginning
                   of  my exploration into the circadian rhythms of both nature, and
                    ways of working

                                                 for the sea;

                                                                                The washing line at the Bay of Laig intersected my time on the island; initially it was somewhere to hang seaweed,
                                                                                 to dry swimming costumes a dip in the sea and in the end, it was a place to review the work I had made.  
                                                                                 A favourite memory,  my samples are pinned here for the appraisal of myself, the peaks of Rum, and a few sheep-
                                                                                 and to mark the end of my two weeks on Eigg.
                                                                                 These objects- carefully folded in bubble wrap, and tucked at the bottom of my back-pack- boarded the ferry to 
                                                                                 travel home with me, so I now have a piece of the island in my studio.

Published: 8 Oct 2021                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Clare Robb


The sea meets our gaze, for the duration of this moment we take a glance into the unknown and sense
how insignficant we are, in the scheme of things.
Beyond, the dark expanse of the sea retreats: closer to us, the water surface is transcendental; the sea suffused with an odd clarity of light- there’s something almost spiritual about the play of movement and sunlight here. 
On the island and on the beach, there is a sense of being at the outer edge of things; the extremities.
Yet, there is also a feeling of boundaries being transcended, edges blurred, as waves meet haar and rain. Coastal places have always been a liminal environment- a threshold to be crossed
in both directions. 

                                                                                                          14- 21 August — 2021

Rock and water, ice and sun- these things which we consider inanimate, yet, to me, the land is a living being. It shapes us, as we shape it. Life is simulated in the meandering channels or converging veins of the rock, and acknowledged in the squat or stringy roots, of timeless endurance, burrowed in the soil. It’s sinews- the land’s labyrinth of being. It is seen in the hollows of the rock bed, here so cognate to bone cavities- hip joints and eye sockets-

the connection between body and land is liminal.

Rubbings of the serpentine rock face, the veins beneath its surface, are superimposed; a layered formation which mimics the nature of the monolith.

Vast ribbons of burnt orange dulse a nd more minute fronds of its amber pepper kin, litter the strandline- there, where the seaweed thrives.

The action of gathering is one which has been continually performed here.  On the Isle of Eigg, the tideline has been scoured for mussels, cockles and razorfish, whelks and limpets.
‘ For the abundance of limpets ‘ , proclaimed the islanders, throwing their limpet hammers behind them after a days gathering, to assure more shellfish the next

I remember picking whelks, sliding in the network of rockpools which fringe the beach of my home- a teenage scheme to make pocket money, plonking them in jars and offering them to everyone we knew. An intrinsic act, gathering is performed instinctively and this memory follows me as I walk around the island.

I go for these walks and see living sculpture. I try to decipher the ways in which these structures may have come about. I plan new systems of making, materials, tools, places to work and mainly I gather here, in the hope that I can make my mark; one which, perhaps impossibly, speaks of a system formed by a millenia’s lapping of waves.

I peer into Massacre Cave;
the archway, a portal I hesitate to cross.
The craters of the rock are deep, alien; a landscape which to me resembles a darker, sinister version of the moon.
On one of the walls words are scribbled, a cryptograph, scored into the surface- not readable to me, but the intention is palpable. 
At low-tide in Cathedral Cave I see a make-shift cross; two planks of driftwood hammered together, a pledge of devotion which stands out, white against the black cave walls. I think about the interventions we execute upon the land, the work I wish to create and the ways I will explore
this threshold, which encompasses both the cave mouth, and the moment of stillness as I begin to contemplate my own living sculptures.

An afternoon, tracing the ancient coastline ...

... a palatial entrance in rock disguise.

Published: 21 Sept 2021                   Clare Robb