In my texture and surface obsessed mind, I often view buildings, pavements and cities as imprinted with the marks and traces of the lives and stories that unravel around them: Bumps and scrapes, fingerprints, graffiti, weathering – all these things are a record of memory.
The idea for the sculpture ‘The post box’s tale’ was borne from this fascination in the stories behind inanimate objects. I wanted to give the post box a chance to tell it’s own tale for once rather than conveying the words of others, I wanted to entice people to come close and get to know ‘Mr Post Box’ (as I affectionately call him).
I am intrigued by the narrative, the truth, the lies, the signifiers & symbols. The post box seemed particularly significant to me – as a symbol of Britishness in itself – it is a functional icon, which is the vehicle for our messages, letters & conversations.
So I set about identifying his character and history. I asked my networks of Facebook followers, friends and contemporaries – what would you say if you were a post box? Besides some rather baffled responses I also got some fantastic answers, and started to build up a few possible ‘characters’.
My favourite theme was that of the jolly, rather well spoken and slightly fastidious post box, who was very proud to serve the Queen and very keen that people use the full post code… but he also couldn’t resist being a little bit nosy when given an intriguing letter to read. The character came together from many people’s input as well as research into the history of post boxes, but a great source of inspiration came from a fellow creative, the talented print designer Leonie Richards. (It seems she was a post box in a former life).
So the story of Mr Post Box was written, incorporating his conversational, storytelling tone of voice, fragments of letters and addresses he had seen in his time, accounts of incidents and occurrences he witnessed from his old street corner, and musings on the way life had changed over the many years and seasons he had seen pass. The sculpture is made entirely from this very story, the letters and sentences of his tale becoming the structural material from which the sculpture is formed.
This was done using a laser cutting machine (plus a lot of paper, time and patience!) to carve the story into paper, and then piecing the story together in the form of a post box. The story can be read from left to right – although the overall purpose is not really to be fully legible but more to give the impression of an immense amount of words and the sense of messages being spun and woven into a story.
The fact that real letter writing is now a rarely used manner of communication – as life becomes digitalized – evokes for me a sense of nostalgia. The reverse of the post box was left unwoven and loose, showing the ‘ unraveling’ of the words and stories, and a more organic nature to the language and form of the sculpture. The viewer can peer inside the base which contains a jumble of words and letters, before they have been fully formed into sentences…
Such great fun was the post box to make that I am now working on several other laser cut paper sculptures: The next in the post box series is still in initial stages but I have been hunting around the country for unusual suspects. As the antithesis of the very traditional post box form, I am also creating ‘Twitter Bird’ – a bird formed and sculpted entirely from your tweets! If you want to get involved tweet to me (@nicola_anthony) with the hashtag #twitterbirdart and I’ll make sure some of your tweets get turned into a work of art.
Special thanks go to graphic designer Sally Howes who introduced me to the wonderful world of lasers, & for her amazing help and patience!
The post box is now on permanent display at Debut Contemporary gallery in Notting Hill. Let me know what you think.