from stardust to stardust

This body of work takes its title from the fact that we (and every living thing on our planet) come from, and eventually return to, star dust – that is, particles of exploded stars.

Knowing that puts things into perspective.

The science behind it is so vast, so complex, it’s almost too much to comprehend. But hold a fossil or a pebble in your hand – and think of the life it might have lived or the journey it has made – and you’ll begin to understand.

The global crisis caused by the pandemic has, in some way, touched us all. It has brought us back to basics, allowing us to focus on the relationships we build with others, the values we live by and the legacy we might leave behind.

It has given rise to confusion and grief, anger and gratitude, relief and joy.

from stardust to stardust reflects on other moments of intense personal emotion, through small objects associated with those times.

It examines how objects carry history and memory – both personal and collective – and explores how the vocabulary used in relation to museum collections might also be used to describe our own treasured pieces.

It questions why we hold things in safekeeping. While none of the objects appearing in this work are of significant monetary worth, their value and power lie in who or what they represent, and the human values they embody.

Jane Poulton
May 2020

A grey stone and a blue and white dish with a lock of white hair on it
from stardust to stardust | treasure

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a gryphaea fossil found on Filey beach, 2019

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a curl of grey hair on a shallow, square, blue and white patterned ceramic dish.

I found this fossil on Filey beach. It’s a gryphaea, around 195 million years old. It measures 63 x 42 mm and weighs 104.65 grams.

When I first held it, I immediately felt connected to a curl of silver-grey hair, which I treasure – and I understood, for the first time, that we really do come from, and return to, star dust.

A group of orange coloured objects arranged to form a circle and a bracelet made of shells
ancestor | garland

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individual coral beads, spaced apart, arranged in a circle

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a necklace of cream-coloured beads, carved in the shape of roses

You wore those beads, garlanded around your neck, dressed-up for glittering evenings you could not enjoy. And I waited, sleepless, excited to hear about the gowns and the speeches, the dancing and the chandeliers.

A comb, a belt buckle, a pair of scissors, a reel of pink cotton and an emery board. Rolls of paper grouped together. A white elephant ornament
identity | belief

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a group of objects, including: an ornate silver buckle – mother-of-pearl cufflinks – a nail file and comb – a small pair of scissors – an elastic band

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tightly-rolled slips of paper containing semi-hidden texts

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a white ceramic elephant

At the end of life –

Does faith sustain us?
Who keeps our memories safe?
What is our legacy?
If there is an afterlife, who, or what, accompanies us there?
How soon do we become star dust?

A white button on a white fabric. A clear bottle filled with clear liquid

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a communion wafer resting on the corner of a white handkerchief

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a clear glass bottle of water from Lourdes, France

When we are immobilised by fear, and thoughts of the future overwhelm us, we are indebted to others for supporting us with their precious gifts of positive thoughts and prayers.

A heart shaped biscuit. A white doily. Twelve blue and white marbles.

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a heart made from moulded honeybread dough

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a crocheted collar made from white yarn, decorated at the edge with repeated clusters of small gold coloured beads

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twelve deep-blue marbles containing wave-like streaks of white glass

The honey bread heart is made of air-dried dough. Despite the years that have passed since it was given to me, it has never deteriorated.

The crocheted collar holds a memory. The crocheted collar is stored in a drawer.

In the late afternoon of a perfect day, I bought twelve blue marbles to preserve the joy.

These things are souvenirs of other places, other times, other selves.

A shell. A tin decorated with an illustration of people in a park on the lid with the inside of the tin holding a pack of needles, a tape measure and cotton reels

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an ormer shell

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an old Cadbury’s biscuit tin, the lid of which shows a painted scene of cricket being played in a park, and onlookers in Victorian dress – the tin contains vintage cotton threads, tape measures, needles, thimbles and darning tools

Sid used to talk about his childhood in Nazi-occupied Guernsey … how the locals got around prohibitions and restrictions, how a German soldier stole his bicycle, how he celebrated the liberation of the island.

He told me about ormers, and how they are harvested from the sea in early spring at full and new moons.

Sid had no family; he gave me the ormer shell and his sewing box.

An assortment of multicoloured pebbles arranged in a square shape
measuring time

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forty-one beach pebbles of various sizes, patterns and colours

Every day, during my beach-walk exercise, I collect a small pebble; it has become a ritual. I study my finds at home and, through this process, I’m learning about geology and history. As I return each pebble to the sea to continue its epic journey, I’m reminded of our own small place in the universe.