Thursday, 23 December 2010


...  thankyou for your support this year and wishing you all the best in 2011

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


At the weekend I collected holly sprigs for decoration and the little displays made me happy.  I adore holly - not just its shiny, deep green, spiky leaves and red, red berries (which are beautiful), but it impresses more deeply.  Of course it is inextricably linked with Christmas festivities and celebrations.

Holly Scraperboard

For the Pagans holly represented the spirit of vegetation and the waning forces of nature, and the male counterpart to the female ivy - it has become part of customs and superstitions the world over, not only for winter solstace celebrations. 

It is a remarkable tree, the close-grained white wood is used for making tool handles and the holly's male and female flowers are found on separate trees, and the berries exclusively on the female tree.

In Roman times sweets were hung from twigs of holly and given as gifts - although to cut down a holly was very unlucky, and also to cut a branch which instead should be pulled off.

Holly carved in Yorkstone

The red berries have long been believed to ward off evil spirits and demons and holly trees and hedges were planted round houses for protection.  The holly is also thought to protect from lightening strikes.  Pythagoras mentions the power of holly in that the flowers could solidify water and describes the strange controlling properties of holly to draw people to it, bound to touch it and then are made weak.  Pliny writes that an animal hit with a holly stick will be subdued and compelled to obey the wielder of the stick - horses are particularly affected.

In the North of England it was believed that if nine leaves of smooth-leaved holly were placed under the pillow, it would result in prophetic dreams!  This I am going to try - I'll let you know the results.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Ice Sculpture

It is starting to feel like a major expedition to get to the workshop now - the snow is well over the top of my wellies!  But remains a visual delight, with rows of icicles jaggedly trimming  gutters and roof, glistening and dripping.  Some snapped off as I opened the workshop door,  tinkling shards shattering.

I wrote my name and drew in the snow with them, which excited the interest of my geese, who came to see what was going on.

And joined in the antics.  They seemed to think they were better to eat than draw with!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Best way to work

Luckily I don't have far to go, and this is how it looked on the way to the workshop. 

And I had to dig my way in when I got there.  Once in, I felt safe and warm (all the digging), and the snow covering gave a quietness, a silence which is like no other, and which enfolds and concentrates thoughts.  Just perfect for detailed carving, and I had a good day chiselling eyes and folds of skin, cocooned by the soft downfall.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Out in all Weathers

It's a good job stone doesn't mind the weather - it just stands there proud against the biting wind, sleet and rain, and even shelters me as I carve.  Sometimes it is good to see a sculpture wet, especially when finishing off - it shows up all the bits that need attention, and the good lines look sleek and fluid and the liveliness is exciting.  Anyway, all the wet and cold was worth it when the sun came out and turned the stone to gold.

Friday, 19 November 2010

From Basho and the Fox

Summer moon over
Mountains is white as the tip
Of a fox's tail.
(read story)

Scraperboarding could become addictive.  At the moment I am enjoying using it as a drawing medium, but I want to get the feeling of etching and woodcut and to work the surface in an engraving way and get the lighting and contrast right.  I've been looking at Charles Tunnicliffe's work - very inspiring and also Agnes Miller-Parker's wood engravings which I can't take my eyes away from.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


After noticing their nest earlier in the year, I haven't seen much of the Tree-creepers - but over the last few days they have been scampering around the trunk of a tree outside the workshop and flitting back and forth with a group of Blue and Long Tailed Tits.  It reminded me that I had done sketches previously, and combined with these sightings, thought I might have enough for a drawing. 

Rather than pencil this time, I have attempted a scraperboard (it is a sort of carving!), although I have been a bit heavy-handed in places.

This bird has such a determined expression and sort of primitive look, I think, with hooked beak and long, long curved claws - so the aim in the next board is hopefully  to bring these characteristics into sharper focus.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Fox Fires

I love the crackling inferno, heat of the blaze, bonfire toffee, sparklers and shared glee at the bangs of fireworks - so it might not seem obvious to show you a fox, though they are fire-coloured.

Fox - carved in sandstone

And, in Finland the aurora borealis is known as 'revontulet' - meaning fox-fires.  It was believed that the lights were produced by a fox painting the sky with its tail as it ran through the night.

This one is asleep though, perhaps dreaming of flames and light tricks.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Autumn Feeling

Wondrous colours, smells and skies at this time of year - Autumn's blustery blaze.  I'm certainly aware of the frosty nights and mornings, it is bitter cold first thing in the workshop and difficult to get going.   Luckily the sun soon thaws things through and I've made a huge pan of warming soup for lunch.

It is a great soup season, with butternut squash, swedes, pumpkins and root vegetables - couldn't resist these gourds too - though I have kept them (sculpturally inspiring) to look at rather than eat.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Launching tomorrow is a wonderful new website, which I'm excited to be part of - Made by Hands of Britain.  The site has been cleverly created by Gillian Montegrande who says -
'There's something wonderful about a beautifully crafted, quality handmade product. So wonderful in fact, that this website is dedicated to the heritage and traditions of British craftsmanship. Made by Hands of Britain will create a unique community, one that champions producers and provides a marketplace for those wanting to browse, buy and enjoy the very best in handmade. We're putting the finishing touches to our website right now.'

Just as a special treat, here is a tiny preview of my part of the site

I have really enjoyed making my mini-site within Made by Hands of Britain, and the layout is so clean and stylish that it makes me look very smart.

Please do visit once it is up and running, (and see me in a new light), and all the other wonderful makers too. 

Do let me know what you think.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Lettercutting in Stone

Lettercutting is an intricate and delicate process - I ran a lettercutting course last week and a real concentration and care emanated from every tap of the mallet and cut of the chisel.  Certainly you get to feel the very character, texture and every grain of the stone being worked.

This is the beautiful Lingmoor stone I'm currently working.  It is an exciting stone, with its swirls of colour and sparkle - and just a bit tricky on occasion with softer patches and hard quartzy beads.

When lettering I first prepare the stone, by polishing to a good flat surface and then mark out the letters to be cut. 

Through this process I get to know quite a lot about the piece, and this helps when incising the letters.

Then steadily the carving begins.  I use a dummy mallet and tungsten-tipped chisels and have a small kit of varying widths - which I treasure.  Then I'm lost for hours and hours in the intricacies of the letter T or N, right in the heart of the stone in pursuit of craftsmanship.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Light Fantastic

Over the last week or so, the brilliant sunshine, turning to deep grey skies and torrential downpours, then back to bright skies, has been fantastic.  Everything bathed on glorious light, moody, shiny with wonderful colour casts.  Stone looks magnificent in this light and I've been trying to get good photographs of my sculpture captured in this atmosphere. 

This was sunrise, a view from my workshop, I hardly dare take my eyes away as it quickly evapourated in front of me - a vanishing pearl making way for the colour of the day.

The photography didn't go so well and although everything appeared beautiful, I was unable to capture it.

At lunchtime I walked up onto the moor, to photograph the heather before it turned.  I'm working Lingmoor stone at the moment, and it has purple coloured bands, with buff, brown and grey marking (purple staining from the heather) - rich and royal and alive in the sunshine.

Just through the gate onto the moor, I say hello to the Lastingham stone - which I carved as a marker for the village - here it is photographed by John Potter from York - who is a professional photographer and who is a wonder at landscapes.  He is helping me be a bit more useful with my camera.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Workshop in Hinderwell

Monday was an unusual day for me - I travelled across the moors to the Old School Room in Hinderwell where I attended a workshop being held by Gail Hurst.  Gail is an accomplished artist and we exhibit together at the Inspired By Gallery at the National Parks Centre in Danby.  But on this day I was stepping into the unknown (for me) - a world of paint and pastels.  Gail gave a short demonstration to the group, working freely and swiftly, dextrously weaving delicate watercolour marks of exquisite colour, and huge wide confident sweeps of paint texture accross the paper in turn.  Her work is joyful and lively and very soon we were all encouraged to take our own painterly steps.

I confess to making a very tentative start and had to keep turning my paper over.  Gail administered guidance and I began to learn how to use a swordliner (paintbrush) and guide the paint, though not quite as magically as my tutor!

I had to concentrate very hard, and what was made to look easy in the demonstration proved awkward and difficult to replicate.  I was encouraged to mix paint and pastel, work with my fingers, blend and smooth tones of colour and experiment with the brushes and sticks of pastel.  I was exhausted by the close of day and had two very small, unfinished drawings to show for it.  Thanks Gail - I need a lot of practice!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Wasp Sculpture

Over the last week or so, when arriving at the workshop in the morning, I have found lots of wasps nests, or bits of, littering the floor, fallen from the roof where they have dangled since spring.

I haven't had the heart to throw them away, as they're so beautifully made, and the results of such hard labour by the wasps, who first gnawed at my workshop doors, masticated and then spat out the wood into these wafery nurseries.  I had wondered where they all went, but I've found this wonderful resource, Bugs and Weeds - which explained all - and also assisted with identifiction of a Sexton Beetle which I had never seen before.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Sculpture In The News

Good - and bad!    Chanel Four's new season will see Alastair Sooke present 'The Story of British Sculpture' and they are also showing a new programme with three different artists sculpting a bust of the actor David Thewlis.  I'm really pleased - sculpture seldom gets a look in - Autumn viewing to look forward to.

But also news that sculpture has been stolen, and that sculpture theft is on the rise.   An 8' statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel has gone missing, believed to have been taken for the scrap metal value.

Moorhen Pond

I've kept an eye out at the pond, for our chick (which I haven't seen again) - but an adult bird has been sitting on the 'makeshift' nest -  refurbished, which now looks robust and protecting.  I was amazed and delighted the birds were attempting another family.

They were very timid and avoided being photographed on, or near the nest.  This morning I found the little bowl of twigs empty and no sign of Moorhens.   I feared another crisis.  Very skittish ducks paddled past, concerned about my presence.  I thought it best if I made my visit short.  Then I heard the smallest peep and caught sight of a little black pom-pom floating on the water.  Then another, and another.

They were very active, foraging and clambering into the reeds.  Then mum appeared and took them off out of sight.  What a delightful encounter and what a miracle is nature.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Garden Birds

I'm sharing these little planters with you just to celebrate my 'dipping a toe in the water' of the vast ocean named Twitter.  I'm asked increasingly often if I 'tweet', so thought I had better see what it was all about - and it is quite a learning curve, and so very far removed from the comfortable dust of my workshop.  I am launched, and when I learn how, will give you a little button to click so we can meet there too!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Guides Centenary Camp - Harewood House

This last week has been spent running workshops at Harewood House for the Guides Centenary celebrations.  The international event was a huge camp, with a vast array of activities and opportunities for the many thousands attending.  They had their own theatre, disco and daily newspaper on site.

In my sessions they learned how to use the tools and to carve a small sculpture.  The results were incredible and the tents filled up with carved names, animals, flowers, fish and many other decorative pieces - some went on to chisel their work very small, so they could take them home on the aeroplane. 

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Local Hero - Countrywise

What a surprise! I have been nominated as this week's Local Hero on the ITV programme Countrywise. They showed a short film of me working and being interviewed and featured some of my sculpture.

If you missed it - here's a chance to catch it on ITV Player

I have been overwhelmed by the response and everyone's lovely comments about my stone sculpture.

At the time of filming I was working on 'Beast' and putting some detail on the claws - here he is finished

About Countrywise
Paul Heiney and the team travel to all corners of rural Britain to bring you the very best of our countryside and coast. Countrywise meets the people who make Britain special and unearths the hidden surprises and delights in our back yard.

Paul is joined by historian Bettany Hughes, horticulturalist Rachel de Thame and wild food expert Mike Robinson, each using their specialist knowledge to explore a new dimension of the places they visit. The new series of Countrywise meets wild wolves..... read more

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Wild Boar

The preview of my exhibition at the Hield Gallery, Bishop Monkton was held on Friday evening - it was balmy warm and the gallery and courtyard looked magical.  A big thankyou to everyone involved with the preparations - it made me very proud to be there.

This was a joint exhibition with David Winfield, whose paintings are inspired by the North Yorkshire landscape - perfect environments for my Wild Boar, two carvings in Yorkstone, which were part of the show.

Wild Boar are the subject of such wonderful mythological tales, achieved cult status for the Celts and there was even a Roman tribe in Northern Britain called Orci - 'people of the boar'.  There was an Irish hermit who kept a pet white boar, they are represented on coins, helmets and adornments and became the symbol of hospitality and feasting and represented skills in hunting and war.  Of course this is not surprising as they were running wild in Britain at the time, and it seems they are becoming part of our countryside again as there are re-introduction programmes running.

For me they hold a great fascination, they seem very ancient and very wild and I am working on realising a life-size Wild Boar sculpture - just at the sketching stage at the moment.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Stone Sculpture Demonstration

As part of the National Parks Week I will be demonstrating carving and sculpture methods at the launch day at the Moors Centre, Danby.  This is an opportunity to celebrate how the stunningly beautiful North York Moors is fundamental to and rich inspiration for my work.

This is a week packed full of events - on Sunday 25th July as part of the 'Inspiring Landscapes Inspiring People' I will be demonstrating my sculpture practice, and everyone has a chance to participate.   Also demonstrating will be painters, photographers, a silversmith and textile artist.

Meet the Artist - on Wednesday 28th July - I will be talking about my work and inspirations at the 'Inspired By .... Gallery', Danby.

For more details about the events The Moors National Park Centre, Danby.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


This is a wonderful exhibition - National Exhibition of Wildlife Art - and I was very pleased to have a piece selected for the show.

In the small beck which runs through my workshop yard, I have families of voles and the banks are pitted with their burrows.  I had seen one scurrying, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a water shrew.  I was captivated and watched it scrabble around under water with its nose rootling the sediment.  They move so fast it is difficult to keep up.  I did sketches at the time and decided to carve a shrew in a lovely piece of Cornish Soapstone - Polyphant which I had in the workshop.

This stone is a soft metamorphic rock and is easily worked with hand tools and carves well.  It has beautiful colouring which is brought to life when polished

So my Soapstone Shrew was accepted for the exhibition, and currently sits alongside lions, leapards, lapwings and a myriad of other wildlife - that is in paintings, prints and sculpture.  

Another sculptor at the exhibition who also works in a Cornish stone is Lawrence Murley who carves exquisite lizards and frogs in Serpentine.  The exhibition is well worth a trip for these alone - Gordale Nursery and Garden Centre, Burton, Wirral.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

It is about Sculpture!

Recent visitors to my blog might be thinking it is a 'wildlife watch' and nothing to do with sculpture.  However, for me wildlife is such a strong influence and inspiration for my work, that it is intimately connected with each day.  The carryings-on, just within the environs of my workshop, are largely my subject matter and I have to concentrate and be quite intense in my watching and looking - in the hope that I might convey something in my sculpture of a 'likeness' and 'liveliness', and that it resonate in some way with the joy and excitement I feel in my encounters with nature.
Stoats have featured highly over the last few months and these two are carved in Yorkstone - a fine-grained sandstone (my favourite stone to work) which is finished smooth.  So, after getting the detail with the chisel, there is lots of rubbing down with sandpaper - the stone is harder than my finger ends!

They are currently being shown at the summer exhibition 'Hand and Hammer' at the Saltbox Gallery in Helmsley.
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