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Coniston’s ‘Copper (in our) Veins’ trail begins to take shape

Credit: Coppermines Lakes Cottage/Jessica Elleray and Siobhan Miles-Moore

The first milestone has been reached during the creation of a special trail in Coniston’s Coppermines Valley, designed to highlight the area’s industrial heritage.

When completed in the next few days, the ‘Copper (in our) Veins’ trail will see a series of stones and sculptures gilded in copper dotted across the landscape as part of a temporary art installation, working with the support of Coppermines Lakes Cottages company.

Last week, artists Jessica Elleray and Siobhan Miles-Moore completed the gilding of their first giant stone – a six foot tall boulder, ahead of the trail’s launch this coming weekend, Saturday August 10.

Following a series of public workshops – two of which can still be booked at The Ruskin Museum on 28 August and 21 September, stones of all sizes will be placed in the landscape until 5 October 2019.

Credit: Coppermines Lakes Cottage/Jessica Elleray and Siobhan Miles-Moore

Siobhan says, “It’s really a great reminder of how the world would be a very different place had copper never been discovered. Without copper, instant global communication and electricity in our homes wouldn’t be possible, so the most important thing 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, and has been mined here for 500 years.

“There’s still plenty of time for members of the public to get involved, too. Later in August and also in September we’re running some more workshops at the Ruskin Museum, where people can gild their own pebble and add it to the trail if they wish.”

Credit: Coppermines Lakes Cottage/Jessica Elleray and Siobhan Miles-Moore

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 the huge boulder (pictured), 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 a gilded boat hull and footwear – from miners’ clogs to fell running shoes, attached to a wooden base.

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.

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 has been working as an artist for two years following 15 years of working in universities, creating artistic links and partnerships.

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