This season, we have been exploring rhythm and how it is deeply embedded in our world, lives and landscapes. From the beat in a song to a framework in poetry, rhythm is all around us and plays a pivotal role in human existence.

To celebrate this, we invited you to share your own response to Rhythm through a single photograph or piece of artwork. We saw a range of wonderful, creative works that captured the day-to-day of rhythm. From observational photographs documenting the movement of the skies, to carefully embroidered postcards and graphic collages evoking calm and melody.

The winning entries came from Hampshire-based textile artist Vanessa Rolf and Charlotte Howson, who lives in her hometown of Sheffield. Vanessa’s indigo-blue, hand stitched quilt documents the patterns of her newborn’s sleep sequences, whilst Charlotte’s calming photograph of a rippled flow of water was taken when she was exploring New Zealand’s southernmost island.

Below, Vanessa and Charlotte give further insight into their winning works, which will be displayed in the window of a TOAST Shop. We also talk to the eight runners-up about the inspirations behind their own rhythmical works.Vanessa Rolf (top)

I created this quilt when my second child was born, whose arrival in the world was ahead of schedule and delivered unexpectedly by my husband. 

The experience led me to think about how other cultures have historically welcomed new life into the world. I found a Japanese method of constructing textiles in preparation for childbirth called 'bodoko', where inherited fabric from clothes, bedding and household cloth is layered and stitched, providing literal and metaphorical ancestral protection.

I kept avid records of my child's sleep, trying to find the rhythm in those newborn days. These records, shown as blocks of time, are the pattern across my bodoko-inspired cloth. I find the repetition of hand stitching a way to slow down and spend time with my thoughts, sifting through ideas and feelings as I stitch. 

Charlotte Howson (above)

This photo was taken whilst I was exploring Stewart Island in New Zealand; a very remote place with just 400 residents and a very simple, slow lifestyle. When immersed in these kinds of places you become highly attuned to the natural word of bush and beach, which functions in rhythms with the cycles of seasons and tides.

I chose to submit this photograph as a reminder of the beauty of slowing down and taking notice of the natural world that surrounds us. I am now based back in my hometown of Sheffield, and throughout the past year I have enjoyed being able to slow down and take notice of what is around me. Even if the world seems to stop, the rhythms of nature continue to thrive.Vesna Vrdoljak (left)

‘Single Beat’ is a collage made especially with rhythm in mind. I chose to depict rocks, mountains and the sea as I find a certain melody in them. I echoed the landscape with a graphic figure, offering a feeling that is both familiar and strange at the same time.

I live and work in Amsterdam, fusing photographs and bits of paper together to create new narratives. I love to play with scale and texture, and the tactility of old photos is something I'm creatively drawn towards.

Francesca Colussi (right)

I finished embroidering this vintage postcard at the end of January 2021, a piece that I originally started in 2019. I felt a certain block with it, and it is a time consuming process, piercing the paper to create the holes to embroider into without it tearing.

In the time between, I worked on other found photographs and images, the daily rhythm of my practice still carrying on. Other rhythmical patterns joined. A daily walk around the Great Orme, the headland on the coast of North Wales where I live. The tides. The calls of the birds. The newborn kids, lambs and seal pups observed on my walks. 

Somehow, after months of lockdown, I went back to my original Florida postcard. It represented a place of “other” that I could not reach. Palms and subtropical gardens. Most of all, straight and easy paths ahead. Hopeful ones to walk on. The rhythm of the colour palette seems now apt to this new state of things, to both patterns of trees and green foliage and our lives made of step-to-step actions and day-by-day decisions.Heidi Lanino (left)

‘Folded Females’ is a series of work that explores the folding and unfolding of numerous materials. In the process of doing and undoing, the subject's forms take on a new material presence each time, performing a new narrative.

This rhythmic process is a visual metaphor that alludes to the body as well as conceptions of identity, femininity, and the folding and unfolding of the self. The process entails revealing, both literally and figuratively. The figures portray different emotional stories when folded into a new form, and each new iteration supports an overarching movement whilst focusing on transition and transformation. Improvisation, intuition, and impulse are essential.

Helen Cass (right)

Line, repetition and rhythm are important in all of the work I make as an artist and teacher. For this particular image, taken from a series of woven monoprints, I took inspiration from Ann Romines book The Home Plot. A certain quote has always stayed with me: “The ritualised rhythm of dailiness is a central fact of existence and a medium for or solace from some of the most powerful passions we feel.”

Hannah Devereux (above)

As a photographer, I am always looking at abstraction in landscape. This particular image was taken in the northwest Lake District a couple of winters ago, a place I have spent my life returning to. 

There is something magical about seeing a flock of Canada geese assume such elegant and choreographed forms mid flight. Life felt tough on the day I took this photo, but looking up at the sky and thinking about the reliable rhythm of nature lifted my heart.Leia Morrison (left)

I have a very powerful connection to the sea. Growing up in West Wales, I spent every summer and winter in the water. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or anxious, the sea always provides calm, as well as inspiration for my work. 

This image is no exception. Taken as part of a wider project celebrating and exploring the intangible relationships that people have with the sea, this image captures four women from the Battery Belles of Battery Rocks in Penzance – who swim each morning, come rain or shine. The rhythm of the tide helps them to regain emotional balance in their lives, bringing a sense of calm. 

Kayleigh Harris (right)

I see rhythm as movement. The rolls of waves, exchanges of birdsong, or even the gentle passing of light through a room. It’s a sign of life, and in these unpredictable times, the rhythm of drawing has kept me moving forward.

There is a rhythm to drawing, the flow of line through the mind, body and space. Drawing not only moves us through time, but it also moves through us in process and in observation; internally and externally. The correspondence between maker and material creates an often irregular but familiar rhythm as they join together.. Although this drawing is a static document, the beat of each mark calls the eye to reinvigorate the rhythm of creation.

Naomi Hill

In one of my favourite paintings, The Laundress by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a woman is portrayed looking into the distance mid-task, revealing her inner wandering, while the tension in her arm suggests she’ll momentarily return to the pace of her work. 

In my life, this familiar arrangement between external and internal rhythms has been significantly altered by the pandemic. I prefer the slower pace, though not the cause, yet at some point I know the composition will change again. 

In my image, an eroded crescent is placed next to a water-mark circle, both fished out of the Northumberland Strait during a walk. I’ve sculpted a porcelain companion piece, which balances within the marble crescent. The pieces are meant to be played with, always changing, and allowing the inner shape to balance in various ways.

Clara Zimmermann

As a Textile Designer, I often start my creative process by experimenting and creating haptic samples. I use materials from my surroundings, as I find it exciting to rediscover the obvious and normal, and learn to appreciate it once again.

Responding to rhythm, I wanted to look at the simple repetition of colour and shapes. I used two different layers to create my work, sometimes overlapping with the colours and forms blurring.

For me, rhythm is something that repeats itself, or comes back in a slightly different way. Like weaving, repetition can create an overall image or impression, with one small element growing larger and larger. Through lockdown, a lot of us had to find our own new rhythm in everyday life, and the repetition of activities helps to create new structure.

Thank you to everyone who entered our Rhythm competition. You can view all of the entries through the hashtag #TOASTRhythm.

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2 comments

I agree with Eve. I too prefer privacy to sharing every moment with the world through social media. I need privacy to transform my ideas into a final ‘product’ and careful thought goes into whom and where I send my work. It would be great to see an announcement of competitions in the Toast magazine.

Frances 6 months ago

I enjoyed these works and reading the thoughts behind them. However, I am disappointed that once again this competition was announced only on social media precluding those of us who prefer not to use it. Please, Toast, could you announce future competitions on your magazine page (as you did for the window postcards a couple of years ago) it cannot be that difficult?

Eve 6 months ago