Artist appeals for help to complete plastic bag clippy mat

Artist Jackie Sewell.  Picture by FRANK REID
Artist Jackie Sewell. Picture by FRANK REID
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An artist is in a race against time to complete a giant clippy mat with a difference.

Jackie Sewell has swapped the strips of old fabric traditionally used to create a clippy mat for thousands of shredded plastic carrier bags.

Artist Jackie Sewell.  Picture by FRANK REID

Artist Jackie Sewell. Picture by FRANK REID

The colourful six-metre long mat forms the centrepiece of her current exhibition in the Port of Tyne Gallery at The Customs House, South Shields.

But the race is now on to complete the work before the carrier bags at the end of the mat - the ones she started with - start to disintegrate.

She is now appealing for volunteers to come down and lend a hand to help her to finish the ambitious piece.

Jackie will be at her loom in the gallery from 1pm to 4pm on both Tuesday, June 27, and Wednesday, June 28.

It is a challenge now to get it finished

Jackie Sewell

Jackie, from Tynemouth, studied Fine Art at Northumbria University and graduated in 2013.

She said: “Being part of a contemporary environment at Northumbria University pushed the boundaries of my work. I was always interested in weaving, so it was trying to find different objects I could weave.

“For my degree show I did four temporary looms that measured 8ft x 8ft and I went to supermarkets and got thousands of carrier bags donated from their recycling bins and it just went from there.

“Once I finished my degree show I had nowhere to store these frames so I started to recycle them. All my work has a craft base and because a clippy mat is a form of recycling, I decided to make a mat.

Artist Mike Clay with his exhibition.  Picture by FRANK REID

Artist Mike Clay with his exhibition. Picture by FRANK REID

“It’s the same premise as a clippy mat – if you couldn’t make do and mend, you would recycle into a clippy mat.”

The mat has been a work in progress since 2015.

She added: “People have said to me ‘why don’t you just cut it off?’ If I had bought two metres I would say fine, but I bought six metres and it is a challenge now to get it finished because I think it will be beautiful.”

The hooky technique uses long strips of fabric, bringing up loops onto the surface to give a closed loop pile, while proggy is a simpler technique and slightly easier for younger children or less dexterous makers.

Artist Mike Clay with his exhibition.  Picture by FRANK REID

Artist Mike Clay with his exhibition. Picture by FRANK REID

Jackie’s work is being exhibited alongside that of Sunderland-based painter and sculptor Mike Clay as part of Transition 7 - an annual exhibition slot created specifically to show the work of emerging and early career artists from the north east.

Mike has recently worked in the field of narrative painting centred on the people and places of the north east.

Mike, who trained at the former Sunderland Polytechnic, said: “I trained as a sculptor originally, but I was painting for 20-odd years.

“I was getting a bit bored painting really so I thought I would mix and match a bit of low relief sculpture with some plywood and air drying clay.”

Cardboard, sand, an old sock and bits of the Gazette’s sister paper, the Sunderland Echo, are among the recycled items included in his work, which also features tributes to his grandparents.

The experiences of his fusilier grandfather on the battlefields and as a prisoner of war during the First World War are a particular source of inspiration.

Artist Mike Clay with his exhibition.  Picture by FRANK REID

Artist Mike Clay with his exhibition. Picture by FRANK REID

Transition 7 at the Port of Tyne Gallery at The Customs House, is open from 10am to 8pm daily, until Sunday July 23.