Since Sliced Bread

A visual arts project celebrating and exploring the culture and history of our windmills.

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Friends of the Mill, part of the exhibition at Ayscoughfee Hall

Part of the Since Sliced Bread exhibition at Ayscoughfee Hall Museum

Salt Dough sculpture, Millers’ handprints


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“Keep your nose to the grindstone”



It is surprising me how many everyday sayings and phrases seem to have originated from the Mills or are related to working life when Mill’s were a necessary and central part of communities.  As Since Sliced Bread is evolving, people are reminding me of all sorts of sayings and wise words that we no longer use.

As a visual artist, I have a strange relationship with words!   On the one hand, I agree with the late painter Edward Hopper “If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint.”   In other words, a picture can paint a thousand words so why do we bother with words at all?!  On the other hand, words can be beautiful, empowering and sometimes the only way to communicate.  The Since Sliced Bread collection of phrases and sayings is growing, it will be interesting to see what the overall ‘picture’ of those tells us about the past and present.

There are two schools of thought as to the origins of “Keep your nose to the Grindstone”. Was it a term used by Millers to smell the stones – checking that the grinding process wasn’t overheating?  Or did it refer to the position knife grinders adopted (with noses right next to stones) to sharpen their blades?   Either way, there is evidence that the term was used as early as the 16th Century.   Serving as a reminder that it is thought that windmills have been operational in the UK since the 13th century and for much longer in the rest of the world.

Today, we tend to use the term to indicate that we are working hard, with focus and determination – to get a job done.

I love technology, innovation and good design; design that solves a problem or improves the way we live. The fact that there is currently a revival in using Mills to create a good quality staple food is testament the great design and engineering features.  Somebody had his or her nose to the grindstone!