I’m not really a lithics man and the nearest I get to interesting stones is when hobbling over them on Brighton beach …
However, when detectorist Merlin Harker showed me a painted pebble inscribed with a number, curiosity got the better of me. I had to find out more – especially as Merlin said that it was a beach find. A little research was needed …
I know some people who take pebbles from the beach, but sculptor Pete Codling liked to take new ones and leave them there. For 16 years – and in the name of art – he was hoping to add a million clay pebbles made by him to those fashioned by nature. Alas, his dream was dashed after the funding dried up, leaving him 500,000 pebbles short of his target. He had been making them in a kiln at his home, numbering them and inviting people to decorate them before throwing them into the waves off Southsea beach.
He called the artwork which has dominated his life One Million Pebbles and estimates it had cost tens of thousands of pounds before funding from the Arts Council, local authorities and sponsors eventually dried up.
In a way Pete Codling has succeeded in what he set out to do. The project has become a great talking point because people like Merlin are finding the painted pebbles.
Even though you may think he’s crackers, people like Pete enrich the fabric of our lives. Even if they do no more than bring smiles to our faces, that is no mean achievement in these troubled times! Our English eccentrics should be celebrated … provided they don’t drain the public purse!