Artist Tom Berry has read hundreds of reflections on the sea ranging from stories of love and loss at sea, to seagulls and the seaside. He has been diving into an archive amassed last year in the Maritime Memories Machine project - over 2,000 memories were recorded from people in 16 locations across the UK. Tom used these responses to inspire his artwork: a series of six 3D illustrations going on display in the new gallery, Sea Things. He spoke to us about what the sea means to him, the process of creation, and his excitement for the new galleries.
by Kate Wilkinson
It’s quite a complicated process. First of all I did the flat illustrations in black and white, involving lots of these themes from people's memories of the sea.
It’s a flat drawing, but there are elements behind and in front of each other. What I’ve done is separate those elements onto pieces of plywood.
Each layer was laser cut, and I screen-printed the illustration back onto those shapes and then painted some details.
The best way to think of it is like a collage, but in plywood rather than paper.
You can see that it was originally a 2D image but it’s been split into layers. It’s a big sandwich of layers.
Where Land and Sea Meet
So many of our memories are defined by the seaside: that narrow strip where a special world exists and defines much of our cultural character. This image shows many of our coastline associations in the form of a crab; that cheeky animal which is perpetually half on land and half at sea. My Granny lived in Southend-on-Sea which couldn’t be more typically that British seaside experience; there were RAF displays and donkey rides.
Moving by Sea
We have almost all moved by sea; physically floating, swimming and paddling, or on vessels which take us to new countries and new homes. Large, life-changing migrations are deep in many family histories and characterise our nation. Lots of people, like my mum who is originally from Romania, associate the sea with movement and migration. The departures, arrivals and the journeys themselves are not always easy, and are inevitibly bound up with local policy, global affairs and the fates of populations. This image explores the hopes, fears and enterprise of such movement by sea.
The Imagination of the Sea
The minds of our nation are filled with sea-inspired dreams, and we embody the mystery and imagination of deep waters. The Imagination of the Sea is about people being quite playful in the way they respond to the sea, like imagining they’re a mermaid. That’s not an invalid response and this piece celebrates the whimsical tall stories from the archive. Those are very real ideas that we have of the sea that I wanted to encapsulate here.
Fruits of the Sea
Many accounts from the archive associate the sea with food - either those connected to a day at the beach or fresh hauls from from the sea itself. In this image our narrator proudly presents the story together with the fruits of his labour.
The Power of the Sea
This image depicts the many accounts from the archive where people have felt wonder and respect for the power of the sea, either by experiencing the tidal power of waves themselves, running into trouble navigating at sea, or by watching waves wreak havoc on fishing vessels and coastlines.
The Working Sea
Many accounts from the archive recalled careers made at sea, either through fishing, cargo, tourism, or the navy. The details of working life at sea are presented here inside two whales, huge and powerful like many of the industrial seafaring vessels and long connected to the human working of the sea.
It’s very exciting to be part of all this. I live locally and can walk here, which makes it even more special. I’ll really enjoy showing my work and the gallery to my friends and family.