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Durham Cathedral commissions new installation from local paper artist Ellie Clewlow

15 October 2021

One Small Step is a paper installation exploring the ways in which we learn, created by local artist Ellie Clewlow. Made of 3000 interlocking origami pieces, it will be on display in Durham Cathedral from November. 

The new installation is inspired by human exploration of the moon, the cathedral’s architecture, and the Way of Learning, one of the Northern Saints Trails which criss-cross our region. The installation was commissioned by Durham Cathedral in response to Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon.

As humans, we learn in various ways: through research, repetition, communal sharing, by example, and exploration. Each of these will be represented in One Small Step and the process of its making.

The sculpture will be made from pages from discarded reference books and constructed using modular origami. This craft technique builds larger works from smaller repeated patterns, which echo details of the cathedral’s own architecture.

Over the coming weeks visitors to the cathedral and its online community will be invited to share in the making process, through sharing ‘One thing I have learned’ written on squares of paper to be folded into the sculpture, and through drop-in workshops to fold modules that contribute to the final work. 

For those who take a closer look, encoded within the work will be lines from Bede’s inspirational life of Cuthbert along with the placenames along the Way of Learning. 

One Small Step will be displayed cascading down the steps of the St Hild altar, a nod to the Oxford college of the artist, and pointing towards the historic destination of pilgrims, the shrine of St Cuthbert. 

The relationship to Museum of the Moon is one of contrast. Where the Moon draws the eye upwards, impresses with its scale, and draws upon digital imagery, One Small Step will draw the eye down to a handmade sculpture on human scale. Where Armstrong took one giant leap on the moon, so the learner and the pilgrim take their own small steps to explore, grounded in the everyday.

About the artist

Ellie Clewlow is a paper artist living and working in Sunderland. Ellie works with discarded books, using traditional craft techniques to explore place and identity. Her work was recently exhibited in the Baltic Gateshead in their Open Submission Exhibition, and she has been selected to take part in Assemble 2021 Festival of Making in Derby. Her first solo exhibition, Presence of Absence will take place in Sunderland in Winter 2021, and new works will be shown in group exhibitions as part of the Sunderland Indie in 2022.

Ellie will be documenting her progress with the commission on her Instagram account @ellie_clewlow_studio and Durham Cathedral's social media channels.