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Isabella Martin has combined stop motion animation, text and field recording to create Outlines, a film that tells an abstract story of the physical presence and processes involved in traditional dry stone walling.

Outlines (2021), a film by Isabella Martin in collaboration with Jo Kennedy


Outlines is the outcome of Isabella’s Traditional Boundaries residency, which began in early 2020 and is now reaching conclusion. The soundtrack of the film came about through collaboration with Jo Kennedy, a local sound recordist, who offered a bridge for Isabella’s process to connect back to the Pendle Landscape, as Isabella was in lockdown outside of the UK. 


After coming for a couple of research visits, lockdowns made the residency far more remote than planned when Isabella unexpectedly ended up stuck in Copenhagen. In Isabella’s own words:


“A project that began as intrinsically local has been refracted through the lens of the global. I’m thinking about walls in fields and I’m looking at the walls of my home, again.”


The film has four narrators: a walker, a farmer, a waller and a stone. Across their four voices, we are guided through perspectives on boundaries. Isabella offers shifting perspectives on the habitat, regulation, imposition, resilience and spectacle of the traditional boundaries. Isabella observes and pulls together scales and weights, building techniques, creatures that make homes of and passers-by who admire the walls. It is an incredible achievement to have made a film so intimate despite the challenges of distance.


It seems appropriate then, that the outcome of Isabella’s residency should be a film, a format that enables close proximity to the Pendle landscape despite the viewer’s location. The work can be shared on a screen by Pendle Hill, or on a laptop in Copenhagen - both experiences are as valuable as the other. The work is a digital roaming of landscape, with tactile emulations, archival materials and meandering text. The process has been built up slowly, taken apart and reassembled, reminiscent of Isabella’s own words on the process of building dry stone walls.


“It is a reassuringly continuous process; stones gathered, assembled, undone, and worn smooth…and put back together again. Same, but different.”


Outlines, amongst other things, reveals insights into history, labour, geology, habitat and ownership that the walls hold. The next time you encounter a drystone wall, will you think differently about it?


If you would like to know more about Isabella’s process, you can read a blog post written during the making of Outlines here.

Outlines is the outcome of Traditional Boundaries, an artist residency funded by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund through Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership. It makes up part of The Gatherings programme, connecting people and place. 
Archive material supplied by The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading Items may be subject to further copyright restrictions.
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