Location: East Budleigh, Devon
Date: 30 January 2012
SiB team: SB and CD
The bundles of unworked rushes fill a stall-like space in the back room of Brigitte Graham's workshop, a former chicken coop repurposed to house her chair repair business. The bundles are rough, varied in hue, the stalks carrying a faint trace of their silty bed on the banks of the River Isle. In this state, the rushes seem earthy and unremarkable, unsure of how they could be useful. A makeshift toy spear? Padding for a swan's nest?
Then comes the transformation. Brigitte selects a rush from a bundle, testing it for the requisite pliability and strength. She draws the rush through her hands and twists it swiftly, then brings it towards the chair she is working on. The new rush is fastened to a loose rush from the worked seat, and twisted further as she works it into the pattern. She occasionally runs her hand down the as-yet untwisted trailing length to squeeze air pockets out of the spongy pith--they give way with a sharp pop. When the rush is bound tightly against others, what had been raw matter a moment ago is suddenly tamed, tucked into a neat formation. But the faint green of the new against the old signals the addition, the once-growing rush seeming somehow startled to find itself set into the seams of a human world.