Get Stranded at the Maritime Museum

Joanna Atherton - Flotsam Weaver

The saying goes that one person’s trash is another’s treasure and that is certainly the case with a new exhibition opening on February 2 at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth.

Stranded features the work of artist Joanna Atherton, who creates colourful tapestries from fishing line, netting, rope and other unexpected items left washed up on our beaches by the great ocean currents.

Joanna’s weavings command a closer look. The orphaned objects, a miniscule fraction of the millions of tonnes of marine litter that enter our seas every year, are rescued and gathered together to tell new stories.


Joanna says: “I don’t know whether an obsessive personality is a prerequisite of the diligent beachcomber, or if I am stirring up something much older; a primeval instinct from our hunter gatherer days. Either way, I am leaving the beach a little bit cleaner as a result of my flotsam weaving.”


Tehmina Goskar, Exhibitions Registrar at the Maritime Museum says: “The Maritime Museum has been wanting to highlight the serious and growing problem of marine litter in our seas for some time. Jo’s highly original and thoughtful flotsam tapestries presented us with a great opportunity to explore the detritus that washes up on our beaches in a playful and unexpected way. I hope Stranded will make our visitors think differently when they are next taking a stroll on the coast.


I am also delighted to be able to feature clips from the film, The Wrecking Season, made in 2005 by Jane Darke, and featuring Cornish playwright and beachcomber Nick Darke. Fossicking, the Cornish word for beachcombing, is an important part of our maritime heritage and Jane and Nick Darke have portrayed this beautifully in their heart-warming film.”


As well as the opportunity to view Joanna’s tapestries, visitors to the exhibition can also contribute to their own flotsam creation. Visitors are invited to choose from a selection of found objects including bubble wands, fishing lures and flowers or bring along their own pieces of flotsam to add to a lobster pot art installation.


Joanna says: “For as long as I can recall, walks on the beach would result in me proudly gathering an assortment of treasures and well-travelled trinkets. I am awestruck by the disparate collection of flotsam I find on the high water mark of British beaches and am continually fascinated by their origins.


After one particularly cold walk on the beach gathering a collection of coloured fishing lines, tattered fabrics, worn driftwood and distressed rope, it occurred to me that these would make an exciting tapestry. By weaving these items together into one composition, I could consider their stories – where did they come from? Who did they belong to? How long have they been at sea?”


The Stranded exhibition opens on 2 February and runs until 5 July at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth.

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