My first animal love was the slug. As a child, I would stroke them from head to tail and enjoy seeing their tentacles retract and their black ridges respond with a quiver. If slugs were on a path, I would move them to the side so no one stepped on them. They were so vulnerable, like internal organs without a skin (what a sensation if you stepped on them in your bare feet). In the morning, slow, glossy trails appeared round the frame of the front door and occasionally disappeared under it — evidence that one of them had squeezed its body into the house at night. The slugs had left dry, gluey paths; I preferred their fresh, sticky residue.
I am still attracted to sticky bodies and materials. I have made drawings and sculptures with spider silk, embraced the stinging tentacles of a giant green sea anemone, and forged diamonds from the decaying creatures of the River Thames. In all of these processes, stickiness is more than a property of a material or a method of making: it is a way to think through desirable and undesirable attachments, or what the philosopher Christine Battersby describes as the “sticky boundary” between our self and another. The original meaning of “stick” is to stab — to pierce another, to rupture the skin. It is a visceral and viscous connection that leaves bodies and objects changed, a reminder that the edges of forms are mutable, open to invasion. It is in the sticky sweetness of a glazed doughnut along with the oozing puss of a wound. It is found in our bodily secretions and in the joy of peeling glue from our fingertips.