I wanted to write a blog about some work I’m doing.

The project is inspired by artist Katie Patterson’s First there is a Mountain project taking place nationally – what a title!

I am managing a piece of engagement work in Northumberland schools with Ceramic Artist Judith Davies.

Judith and I have worked together before in Ashington.  We had out first session in a school today in the coastal town of Seahouses.

We kicked off by asking the children what they might see on the sand walking  along their local beach…

We were searching for authentic answers from the children but also to gauge understanding of plastic pollution and coastal care and their take on it all.

In answer to the question;

“What types of things would you find at your beach?”

At first, the expected answers flooded in; “stones”, “shells”, “seaweed” “jellyfish”.

Then, as they became more visual in their memories and bounced off each others enthusiasm…they told me; “Mcdonalds wrappers”, “Rainbow straws”, “Bits of Blue Balloons”, “Red Balls”, “Toys”, “Dog toys” , “Plastic cups” ,”Tiny pieces of plastic” “a shoe”, “fishing things” and so it went on.

Once we started to collect words on our word shower, more unique and interesting stories were shared as the children searched their imagination for a deeper and more unique suggestion;

“A dead frog”, “once we went for a picnic” “I always look for a bin”  “sometimes the bins are too full though, overflowing” “a yellow welly boot” etc etc.

Either for effect, or to share their reality, two children talked about their parents throwing litter away into the sea.

One talked about a dead whale.


Most probably this one… washed up with tonnes of plastic in it’s stomach.  Another talked about their dad sailing from the top of the country to the bottom in a kayak and another about their dad being a fisherman and encouraging them to dump litter overboard.

We ended up with a visual word shower of both pictures and words describing things we’d find one the beach.  We also made a pact to pick up (with parental permission) at least 3 pieces of litter if we were ever out on a walk, in play-parks or at the coast.

fired ceramics

The children understood that rubbish blows from the sides of roads into the sea and we worked through how waterways work so they could understand that eventually EVERY piece of litter discarded except those collected would end up in the Ocean and be there for 500years+

Coastal collections

The children chose three pieces from a selection of natural and man-made materials found on their local beaches to impress into clay.

As you can see the collection was vast and varied!!  From a statue with a missing head, parts of fishing nets, shells, straws to a sadly dead mussel which had been naively taken and killed in the enthusiasm of collecting.

Judith supported the children to think about a tidal shoreline, from ancient to present day to avoid using patterns in the clay and to add layers of random texture the way we might experience if walking along the beach.

Next, the clay pieces will be fired and glazed and gifted back to the school to form an outdoor installation and mural.

We hope to see lots of the children down on St Aiden’s beach with their families on Sunday 4 August 2019 as part of Katie Patterson’s ‘First there is a Mountain’ where they will be invited to be special guests of the project at 10.30am.

Children writing about plastic pollution

For more information on the event and to find out how you can get involved click here.  

You can also follow the hashtag  #firstthereisamountain

(c) Katie Patterson Studio

The project is kindly funded by National Trust, Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Beauty and Northumberland Arts Development and managed in partnership with Berwick Visual Arts