Saturday, 30 April 2011

Stone Crucible Planter

As I make little stone pots, troughs and planters, I am always on the lookout for new planting ideas to show them off in interesting and different ways.  In the May issue of Gardens Illustrated magazine they have a feature 'Perfect Pots' - long lasting plant combinations that will keep your containers looking fantastic from spring to summer.

When I next make a large planter I am going to try their grasses planting with little deep purple black viola.  I was also intrigued by the crucible, the oval taper of the pot and the sempervivum planting looked lovely.  Here's my version.

Stone Crucible pots - © Jennifer Tetlow

Plants do seem to like stone pots and thrive in them, so these houseleeks will soon be established, romping over the edges and throwing out little babies.

I'm hoping they'll last longer than just to summer though - as with time and the seasons,  the pots begin to show signs of beautiful weathering, with lichen mottling and soft colour variations.  I love the way stone mellows and ages.

Stone Crucible pots - © Jennifer Tetlow

Friday, 29 April 2011

Set in Stone

So to speak - now the vows have been made.  I wish them all happiness together.

I loved the trees in Westminster Abbey - seasonal British trees Field Maple and Hornbeam, underplanted with lily of the valley.  I also like the idea that they will be taken back to Highgrove gardens and planted.

Image Sky News

Craftsmen at Highgrove made containers for the trees, which they painted to match the colour of the stone in the Abbey.  I would have made real stone planters for them if they'd just said!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Quarry Visit

I love going to the quarry - such expectancy, excitement, energy. I feel at home there, in heaven there

The visit is to select a piece of stone for a commission I have for carving a Barn Owl - the stone is perfect - it is Tadcaster Limestone and is buttery yellow with charcoal coloured speckling, with a light veining. It is quite daunting when I arrive - there are so many blocks of stone to choose from and I’m tempted to buy large quantities, and lumps much bigger than I need.

I exercise restraint and find some lovely pieces for stock, but continue to search for my Owl piece. I’m handling pieces, turning them and arranging them as if they were the completed sculpture - where does (will) the colour appear, is the speckling spattered in the right way (like owl feathers). In handling, the pieces talk to me and some feel kind, and they are lifted onto my trailer. Finally, I select a lump - it is larger than I need, but the colour and markings are beautiful.

The enormous hole of the quarry is awe-inspiring, I stand against and hug the vast wall of stone and press my back to it, I'm standing on a block as huge, it is damp and smells good and I ask its favour and explain my desires. It gives me strength.

The journey home is a dream - I keep glancing at the stone following me in the trailer, and talk to it and carve it in my mind - working out exactly where the tail and wings will be, and the beak. I enjoy unloading, a clean pallet awaits and the blocks are neatly stacked - my owl piece is hauled onto my workbench.

I handle it, admire it, draw on it and chisel it.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy Easter

Wishing all a Happy Easter.

Things that have already made mine super happy!

Beautiful apple blossom.  I planted this tree last year, and it looked a very sorry twig after the winter, but is now divine with fresh growth and flower.

My first seeds to germinate in the greenhouse - courgette.

Goslings - their first day out in the big wide world, with good mother goose guidance.

Each year I have Pied Wagtails nesting at my work sheds, and I love the bobbing chirrupy company.  This is the male, on guard and tending to his female now on the nest.  He does a fluttery undulating flight from the roof to the fence each morning when I arrive and chatters constantly in rich warbly trills. Big happy making little bird.

And I have to give some credit to the blissful weather - so sunny today - with periods of deep rumbling thunder and oppressive heat rising to a crashing storm at supper time.  Huge rain splashing in a heavy downpour, and heavier still, with spectacular lightening and thunder and big rain drops turned to hail bouncing and dancing then swept away by the deluge of water.   A smell of earth refreshed.

Friday, 22 April 2011

What a good Friday

I was greeted this morning with the sweetest peeping.

There are three, one egg remains and I'm not sure if this will hatch, perhaps it was not fertile, or maybe there will be another fluffy yellow by this evening!

They are all wobbly legs and eager - a joy to watch.  I'm going to do some sketching this afternoon, and see if I can capture some of that day one delight.  (Goose sculpture incubating?).

Here's proud Dad.

Gander - pencil sketch - © Jennifer Tetlow

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sycamores and Swallows

I have two Sycamore trees at my workshop site - one is a youngish tree, with a bent trunk, and the other is a huge old tree, mostly dead, the bare branches being a favourite perch for the Swallows.  This week they have both been throwing out the most beautiful buds and unfolding crumpled fresh leaves, along with pendulous, branched clusters of flowers.  I've watched them growing.

The Woodland Trust describe them as 'A tree of contradictory perceptions; once loved as a shade tree it now bears the scorn of some countryside organisations that see it as a 'weed' which needs to be removed'.

I know it for its great canopy, as wide as high, giving respite from the sun to sheep and cows at pasture with its huge spiked leaves, and what a climbing tree!  I tried to carve a piece of sycamore once, it was hard as oak.  However, the wood was commonly used for making toys or kitchen items as it is easily dyed and lacks a sticky resin which some other woods have.

Now at my workshop the younger is where I hang my bird feeders, and the ancient belongs to the Swallows, who I think a caught a glimpse of yesterday.  Birds swooping and circling high above, I couldn't make out if they were all Martins, or a group with Swallows joining in.  They normally make a very brief appearance like this, and a few days later come back to their perch.

Swallow - pencil sketch - © Jennifer Tetlow - Swallow Greetings Card

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Stone Birdbath

The most asked for feature when I am making a Stone Birdbath specially for someone, is a larger top.   I've pushed this to the limit with my standard birdbath design, and eventually it began to look a bit 'top-heavy'.  I've always felt that Birdbaths need to be raised up, to reduce a predation risk to the birds while drinking or bathing, but here I have broken that rule and think it works quite well.  The thing I really like are the reflections you see in the water, and the wonderful view you get of the birds and their antics.

Sandstone Birdbath - 31" x 31" x 10" - © Jennifer Tetlow

The top is just a little over 30", so there's plenty room for sploshing, and I've kept the look very simple - but couldn't resist adding a bird or two!

The plain design means that the stone does the talking - the dressed edge gives a contrast with the smooth horizontal surfaces and the dish part has the grooves left by the tool used for chiselling out the bowl.

Here I've just dressed the side of the stone with the pitching tool - and with no surprise this is called a pitched edge - and I've made a bit of a start on the bowl, which is the time consuming bit.

I work carefully round the edge as I like a really clean finish, so the circle of the bowl really punches out of the flat surface in striking contrast.  You will see the claw tool marks, which I'm trying to get even and all converging in the centre.

Then final fettling and hosing down ready for the birds.

I've made this stone birdbath in a circular shape too and am working on an octagonal one.

Is there a feature or design you would like to see in a Birdbath?  Do let me know, and I will try to incorporate it into the next one I make.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

I'm Celebrating!

A note came through - 'you're getting an award' - and there, moments later it was, bestowed upon me by the multi-talented Belinda at Wild Acre - go and see her glorious images - she's a genius with a camera!  Of course I would be saying how good she was, as she gave me an award, but it is special because it came from her in particular at the friendliest and most glamourous Wild Acre I know.

To mark the occasion, I thought I would go with flowers too.

Flower Plaque - Yorkstone - © Jennifer Tetlow

Yorkshire Rose - Yorkstone - © Jennifer Tetlow

After the congratulatory applause has died down, I make a speech, and it is to say thankyou Belinda, and a really big thankyou too, to all those who pressed the 'follow' button, it is lovely to have you here, I love your company and comments - this bunch of flowers is for you!  Cheers all!

Figure with Flowers - Yorkstone - © Jennifer Tetlow

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Frederick Gibberd's Sculpture Garden

I was introduced to the Gibberd garden on the latest Gardeners' World, when Carol Klein gave a tour of the garden's notable sculpture collection.

This is a drawing by Sir Frederick Gibberd of his plan for the columns he placed in his garden, which came from Coutts Bank in the Strand and impact as a sculptural feature.

I do love garden design drawings, and architectural drawings - the colours here are so soft and pleasing and you understand instantly what he is trying to achieve.

Sir Frederick Gibberd was an architect, designer and urban planner, so you would expect something accomplished in his garden plan.  However, there is real insight and a sensitive touch - his love of plants appears as deep as his love of architecture - cleverly combining all disciplines to be landscape architect.

The abstract nature of his garden is clearly influenced by the arts and crafts style, and the sculpture avidly collected by his wife.  I'm interested in how the sculpture is positioned in the garden, how the garden is made to fit round the sculpture, or designed specifically for it, how he in effect sculpted the garden.  Artistry in space, form, colour and texture - and clever thinking about how seasonal changes would affect the look.

Gibberd's ingenious placing of sculpture and objects in the garden, sometimes gently and other times for magnificent impact means the visitor is enticed and lured to sights and wowed with splendour.  He even changed his house, ripping out walls and replacing with windows to bring the outside in.

I think one of the stone sculptures in the garden sums it up - Tingle in the Backbone by Richard Strachey.  Chunks of Alabaster stacked on a base of Portland stone.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Jewel Mix

I received these seeds in the post, they've come courtesy of the wonderful and very helpful VP at Veg Plotting.  I feel rather reluctant to plant them as they are so beautiful, like little sculptures, except that they turn out to be even more stunning when you do.

These semi-double bloom nasturtium seeds were offered by VP who very kindly forwarded a packet to me for my new vegetable garden.  Thankyou indeed!

I read on the packet that for very best results they should grow on poor soil!  I will have to find a special place for them as all my beds are now well manured.  I'm also advised to plant straight outdoors, so they won't even get to christen my now completed greenhouse. 

I keep being distracted and going out  to admire it, going in and closing the door, planning where everything will go.  Can't wait to get things growing in there.  Beginning to feel more like a gardener than a sculptor!

Friday, 8 April 2011


Normally I'm really excited on my quarry visit days, when I'm getting new stone.  But this collection got me squeeling and jumping about like a child thing.  My new Greenhouse!

They said they would deliver it, but I kept chasing and asking if it had arrived, and then hot-footed to collect the boxes as I couldn't wait any longer.

Of course, putting it all together slowed me down a bit.

The base was great, I just made it really simple - stone flags - really pleased, though if I'm honest the bubble on the spirit level was pushing the left line (I kept shaking and re-positioning it as if this would make it suddenly behave and be in perfect centre). 

So then to assembly - it was a bit like Meccano - very enjoyable.  I was always acutely jealous of my brother when he received sets for Birthday or Christmas and overjoyed if he asked me to make something with him.

All went well, I joined the sections and tightened the nuts and had my four walls and roof, then to the door.  The door frame was fine - but putting on the rubber seals was just silly.  I tugged and pushed, squeezed and pulled and cursed!  At one point I decided I didn't need seals and hung the door anyway, but determined, went back to my rubber wrestling.  I tried oiling, warming, powdering and in the end rather ugly brute force won the day.  Do let me know if I missed a trick here, and you've found an easier way than blisters and shredded finger ends!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Great Yorkshire Show

Yesterday morning I set off early for a meeting in Harrogate at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society premises at the Showground.  This is an impressive building - it is a green development completed in 2009, of timber frame with a sedum roof.  It harvests rainwater, has sheep wool insulation, ground source heat pumps, solar panels, and has won many sustainability awards.

Yorkshire Agricultural Society building from P+HS

Part of the building is occupied by Fodder.  Fodder - Great Yorkshire Food Naturally, is the Yorkshire Agricultural Society's flagship farm shop and cafe, supporting local farmers and producers.  I am proud to say I carved the two large stones for their entrance.

Fodder entrance - Yorkstone - 2010 © Jennifer Tetlow

We then all went up to the Art Pavillion.  I find it really useful to see where I will be showing work before the event, to get a feel for the place and plan in my mind where work might look best - although there is always a bit of juggling on set-up day when it is a group exhibition.  The Art Show at The Great Yorkshire Show, sponsored by Raworths solicitors of Harrogate,  runs from Tuesday the 12th, until Thursday the 14th July, 2011.  I was asked to join this exhibition by the organiser and watercolour painter Les Packham, who has selected an exciting mix of painters, sculptors, ceramicists and stained glass for The Art Show. 

I'm honing my entry for the Catalogue, and trying to decide which image to use. 

The Great Yorkshire Show - Harrogate -  12th, 13th, 14th July, 2011

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mothers, Earwigs and Stone

I'm wishing these mothers Happy Day!

My dear little goose, Yan - sitting tight on her beautiful downy nest keeping her eggs warm.  The name Yan comes from the old Celtic way of counting sheep, Yan (one), Tan (two), Tethera (three), Methera (four), Pimp (five) etc. She was the first, and only, gosling of my goose and gander last year.

Talking of sheep, this hard-working mother and her triplets.

And this female, who defends her nest vigorously.  The mother earwig lays eggs in a tunnel, or hole in spring and actively busies herself with them, cleaning them often and regularly re-piling them.  She may move them to different parts of the tunnel and eggs are often moved in contact with stone, if the nest is near to a stone surface.

These and other fascinating earwig facts courtesy Louise Kulzer

After the eggs hatch the nymphs remain in the nest for some time being fed by the mother.  She brings meals back to the nest and regurgitates food for her young.  Multiple broods are typical for this amazing mother. 
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