ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: FROG AND BONE
Frog and Bone is a collective of artists who travel the country performing community-based stories and events. Heritage and folklore influences their stories, and they use a variety of props, puppets, mechanical sculptures and costumes to tell them. We caught up with Nathan Ritson, their Sheffield-based artist.
What does Frog and Bone do? What’s your role within the group?
Frog and Bone is a collective of artists from different disciplines. We put on shows and installations with a strong interactive element, aiming to involve the audience. Our work is site-specific, drawing on our surroundings to create an immersive space and get everyone into the right mind-set. My main role in the group is that of a Story Peddler. I do a lot of the face to face interaction with audiences, I also write a lot of the shows. It has to be said that positions within the group are quite fluid; I’m not the only performer, and everyone helps with making our pieces.
What influences you?
My personal influences are so broad that I can’t name them all! I feel like I draw inspiration from pieces I only half remember and bolt them together with new ideas. Folklore is a huge one, I am a glutton for our heritage. Any chance I get to read a new book on Pagan traditions or Celtic myths I take. This helps influence my story telling, there’s just something so pure about a folk tale told face to face. The world around us another influence; it might be walks in nature, political discussions, or the endless paperwork I seem to be doing at the moment! The latter of which has inspired me to work on an office-working puppet with a head made out of stone. That way it doesn’t hurt when he bangs it against the desk.
Storytelling is a big part of your work. How do you tell these stories?
With a lot of improvisation! It depends on the story really. I’ve memorised a number of folk tales, I’m currently trying to memorise more! Others I write down. If it’s a grand rambling play I’ve only had a couple of weeks to write and can only rehearse on the road, then I tend to hide a script in the pages of an old-looking book that acts as a prop and adds to the whole air of a story peddler!
How do you think such examples of art and creativity benefits local communities?
Well, this can happen in a number of ways! Personally I’m not a huge fan of gallery art. I think it has its place and I enjoy looking at it occasionally, but it always feels very exclusive. I like seeing art out in the open. I enjoy large murals, like Pete McKee’s in Sheffield that add a sense of pride to the city, or the off-the-cuff nature of the work of Welfare State back in the day. Creative projects for young people can’t be overstated either, especially if it gives them something they’ve not experienced, or even if that’s just total freedom to go crazy and make whatever they want, limited only by their imagination.
Do you have any projects lined up?
I’ve got a few puppets to make, and a lot of paperwork to do! Frog and Bone will be appearing at the Stannington Story Festival on October the 5th and we’re planning a bonfire night sometime early November. The biggest thing at the moment however is starting to form a proper company. This involves mountains of paperwork and potentially more meetings than anyone’s got time for, but we’ll get there, we always do!