Developed through workshops and walks, this mural / hoarding along the Thames River in Putney depicts the myriad items found by the rivers edge. Commissioned by Tideway 2017.
The large-scale public artwork 14 Days of Washing Up is the result of a series of workshops organised in 2017, ranging from mudlarking (scavenging the river mud for treasures), drawing and sculpting, to exploring the value of collecting and collections, as well as a roaming performance by Putney Pier. The workshops featured mudlarking expert Steve Brooker, as well as archivists from Battersea Arts Centre’s Moving Museum. These activities took place over a period of a fortnight during low tide at Putney’s foreshore in which each day Amy would walk along the river and collect items with residents.
The mud of the River Thames is anaerobic, meaning it is free of oxygen, and is therefore able to preserve any of the objects it contains in perfect conditions, much like a museum that preserves its collection. On average only one percent of a museum’s collection is on display, and likewise the Thames washes up only small fragments of its rich stores at any given time. The practice of mudlarking dates back to the late 18thand 19th centuries when mudlarks, usually young boys or agile elderly would hunt the banks of the Thames for anything that could be sold.
Amy’s mudlarking resulted in a new collection of objects all found at Putney that connects the area to a rich history of trade, river passages and leisure activities as well as speaking of our habits as consumers over the last three centuries. The artwork features hand drawn objects from this new collection such as clay tobacco pipes, horseshoes, bones, 18thcentury pottery fragments and broken toys, accompanied by labels that offer unexpected, imaginative insights into these finds. Contemporary items are arranged next to Victorian pieces, exposing an unpredictable display of liquid history.