A series of stones and sculptures gilded in copper will soon form a trail through Coniston’s Coppermines Valley as part of a temporary art installation to celebrate the area’s natural heritage.
Working in collaboration with the Coppermines Lakes Cottage company, artists Jessica Elleray and Siobhan Miles-Moore – both of whom are united through their use of copper in their work, will launch the ‘Copper (in our) Veins’ trail on August 10.
Following a series of public workshops – which can be booked at The Ruskin Museum on July 21 and 27, 28 August and 21 September, stones of all sizes will be placed in the landscape until 5 October 2019, as a reminder of how the world would be a very different place had copper never been discovered.
Siobhan says, “Without copper, instant global communication wouldn’t be possible, or for that matter, electricity in our homes. There has been huge labour undertaken to meld the very hills of Coniston into their current shapes. These are only seen above ground though – and the impact below ground is even more extensive, but less understood. Human engagement and endeavour in the Coppermines Valley hasn’t just shaped the landscape into how it looks now, but the experience and output of the valley has directly impacted on countless individuals, nations and empires.
“The landscape has been consumed to extract materials for 500 years. Now as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the same landscape is still being consumed, for emotional, entertainment and educational purposes. With all this in-mind, the most important thing about what we want to achieve with this project is visibility. Nowhere in the Coppermines Valley is it possible to see the colour that most people associate with copper, despite the fact that it is all around us.
“From July to September we are running a series of workshops, teaching the ancient and endangered art of gilding. During the sessions at the Ruskin Museum, people will be invited to gild their own pebble in honour of the heritage and impact of the copper mines. If people wish to add their pebbles to an element of the trail, we would encourage them to do that.”
The trail will feature a series of large, copper leafed boulders located from the Ruskin Museum in the centre of the village up the mile-long track to the heart of the copper mines valley. Each will vary in weight and size – from the size of large sheep, up to a huge boulder weighing approximately 20 tonnes. The Museum will also host an exhibition of painting and sculpture which brings context to the outdoor work, expanding on the narrative and bringing insight into the artist’s underground experiences. For those who are unable to do the three-mile walk, a film and exhibition will feature in the Ruskin Museum to ensure nobody misses-out on the experience.
Other temporary features of ‘Copper (in our) Veins’ will include gilded horse tack buckled around a tree, as well as a series of gilded horseshoes. There will also be gilded footwear – from miners’ clogs to fell running shoes, attached to a wooden base.
Copper has been responsible for many innovations, one of the earliest and most transformative, being the “copper bottoming” of boats. Therefore a further element will be part of a gilded boat hull.
The trail route has been chosen to “guide the feet of explorers over key mining features”, passing various structures and artefacts. Described by the artists as “non-invasive in-landscape sculptures”, the trail will feature sculptures that represent key stories and happenings from history.
The trail will follow existing routes and will not be fixed into the ground or impede pathways. On completion of the exhibition in the Ruskin Museum on 5 October 2019, all items except the gilded stones will be removed, leaving no evidence of having been there.
Jessica says, “We’ve got so many people to thank for helping us to make the project a reality, including Coppermines Lakes Cottages, whose owner Phil Johnston has been a huge support, both practically and financially. CAMHTS, the Cumbrian heritage society who maintain and care for the mines have been endlessly generous with their time and knowledge and we feel privileged to have been granted access deep inside the mines themselves.
“We must also thank The Ruskin Museum, Coniston Museum and Brantwood who have all offered us space and support, along with Gold Leaf Supplies who are kindly subsidising some of the costs of the project materials. Last but not least, a huge thanks to Burlington Stone, for providing us with stone and logistics worth around £30,000!”
About the artists:
Jess is a research artist whose work is inspired by heritage narratives, especially those that have been obscured over time or through human activity. She works in painting, sculpture and installation, playing with texture, copper and chemical reactions to create evocative work. She received her BA Hons in Fine Art and Creative Writing from Lancaster University in 2017 and is currently working towards her MSc at the University of Glasgow. She lives in Silverdale with her husband, Jonny, and their dog, Tilly.
Siobhan works with found and foraged materials to create copper glazes, where the chemical interactions in the kiln create the same palette, as well as using copper leaf to create light play. She lives with her husband, the potter Martin Miles-Moore and 2 cats, Philby and Blunt She has been working as an artist for two years following 15 years of working in Universities, creating links and partnerships. She is much happier creatively producing within the creative sector.