Art students have helped create a new interactive arts trail on Swanage Pier, linking the heritage of the town’s tourism with its industrial past.
Nine Purbeck stone plaques have been installed along the 125 year old pier, each featuring a marine design carved by fine art students from The Swanage School.
Swanage School students test out the stone rubbing trail on the pier
Artwork will last a generation or more
The aim is to inspire visitors to the pier to make their own pieces of art through stone rubbings – similar to brass rubbings, using the medium of crayons, chalk or oil pastels, transferring the raised carving to paper.
The first to try out the trail were young adults from the Swanage community interest company Allsort’d, who were delighted by the art pieces they produced.
An official opening for the trail was held on Monday 17th October 2022, with Year 11 students who had studied stone quarrying, carving and Swanage’s marine history to create artwork which will last a generation or more.
Swanage School students visited Haysome Quarry to learn about Purbeck stone
Stone carving took place in early summer at Burngate Stone Carving Centre
Stone played a huge part in local economy
Zara Saganic, art teacher at The Swanage School, said:
“We were asked to collaborate with Swanage Pier Trust and the Burngate Stone Carving Centre to celebrate local heritage.
“The students went to Haysome Quarry to find out about local Purbeck stone and then developed their own artwork in response to the history of the pier and how stone used to play a huge part in the local economy.
“They studied lino cuts and existing stone carving work, then carved their designs into blocks of stone which have now been mounted on plinths along the pier.”
Fine art students from The Swanage School carved the artwork on the pier
The Swanage School art teacher Zara Saganic with one of her pupils
Themes of nature, science and landscape
“It’s a celebration of the pier through art making art – where visitors to the pier for at least the next 25 years will have a chance to make their own art rubbings using the carvings our students have created.
“It has really helped the students with their art context, to work themes of nature, science and the landscape into their work and achieve a higher level of understanding.”
Relief stone carving features a dolphin
Carving of destructive gribble worms
The nine rubbing stations along the pier feature relief carvings of jellyfish, starfish, dolphins, seahorses, landscapes, Victorian lampposts and the destructive gribble worms – tiny crustaceans which are responsible for eating away the pier’s wooden supports.
The students who created the carvings as part of their Fine Art GCSE and helped to open the trail were Alfred, Ava, Charlotte, Lily, Lola, Mollie, Wicktoria and Zack. Student Olivia also created one of the pieces of art but was unable to attend the opening event.
During autumn, when it may be too wet and windy to make stone rubbings, the plinths will be moved closer to the pier entrance so that visitors can admire the stone carvings.
Swanage Pier Trust’s learning and education officer Ginny Carvisiglia said the idea had been to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the pier and the town’s heritage through the eyes of the next generation of artists.
Young adults from Allsort’d were first to try out the stone rubbing trail
Some of the stone rubbings completed by Allsort’d
Stone is a very tactile art medium
“We have been so impressed by the quality of the carvings and already there has been a lot of interest from visitors to the pier who want to interact with the stone art – it is a very tactile medium which people want to touch.
“We will have stone rubbing kits for people to use and believe that it will be a fun activity for visitors of all ages from the youngest children through to adults.”
Art students Wicktoria and Zack try out the rubbing stations with Ginny Carvisiglia
Crayons need to be biodegradable
“A few changes will be made – we have discovered that the slots in the pier’s wooden deck are exactly the same size as crayons, so we need them to be biodegradable in future, we don’t want too many crayons floating about in the sea!
“We may also have to work out a way to clip paper in place while the rubbing is done, as it is quite often a little bit windy along the pier!”