Monday, 30 May 2011

Natural History

Most of my sculpture is based on wildlife and the natural world in one way or another, for me it is such a huge and endlessly inspiring subject area.   After the winds recently blew down a branch from my old Sycamore tree, I was clearing it away to the wood shed and noticed that it was encrusted with lichens, creating little woodlands of their own.

I was fascinated to find out what these were and how they lived, so I took a section home to draw (very sculptural) and identify.

They reminded me of images I had seen on Natural History: The Origin of Style site.  Actually these turned out to be images of things growing under the sea, but some of the colours and shapes are similar. 

Linen Wall Hanging - Natural History

I'm captivated by the drawings, descriptions and equipment of the early researchers of Natural History and visiting this site is like an invitation into the laboratory or studio of one of the old explorers.  I feel as if I might be one of them, returned from voyages busy assembling the findings for publication.  All the items on this online emporium of luxury linens, decadent homewares and stylish accessories are designed from these early historical images. 

Humming Bird Notecards - Natural History

Sarah, who opened Natural History in 2010 explains that the name came about from  frequent visits to the Museum of Natural History in Dublin and memories of the museum and the stuffed animals there.  Her influences and ideas are all brought to life in her blog, where she is having a special re-launch with a week of giveaways!  See if you can resist her heavenly things.
As you can see I've got totally distracted and still don't know what the lichens are - any ideas?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Goings On!

So much activity around the sheds at the moment, and not just me chipping away.  The pigeon family have now hatched two young, I climbed up yesterday to take a quick peek into the owl box, and there were two wobbly pinkish beautifully ugly baby birds.  The blue-tit young are very noisy, constantly cheeping for food.  The parents go back and forth to the Sycamore tree, beaks full of insects - so I thought I would take a closer look to see what they were eating.  Lots of greenfly are available.

While there I noticed that the leaves have become covered with red and green pimples - I've seen these before and never known what they are.  Apparently they are leaf-galls - caused by miniscule mites which feed on sycamore leaves.  Each red gall marks a spot where a mite has fed.  The females over-winter in crevices in the bark, emerging in spring to feed on the new leaves.  Where they feed, galls develop, each mite being responsible for many galls.

In contrast to the conspicuous red marks on the upper surface of the leaf, the corresponding locations on the underside of the leaf are just tiny holes, fringed with hairs; the mites use these holes to gain access to the galls, and lay their eggs in them in May. The developing larvae feed on the tissues that line the galls. Luckily this is not harmful to the tree.  The undersides of the leaves are also littered with white carcases, shed presumably by the greenfly as they grow out of their skins.

I began to notice every tiny thing, or things.  Caterpillars were woven in a sticky web around my apple leaves and were eating away - codling moth caterpillars I think.  (I wonder whether this name comes from codling - an apple of tapering shape, or coddle - treat, treat oneself as invalid, wrap up, keep warm!)  

Then I noticed this shield bug, (chust or stink bug), I could see its sucking mouth parts and was lucky whilst examining it as I hadn't realised they have stink glands and release large quantities of foul smelling liquid if disturbed.  Anyway I moved it on.

Growth like mad in the greenhouse - I had no idea cucumber leaves were so bristly, it surprises me every time I touch them.

And I feel rather sad about this chap - a pipistrelle bat.  I found it on the top of the door to my workshop, well, hanging down.  I think I must have trapped it inadvertently when I opened, and then shut the doors.  I've only just noticed it, and saw its little brown furry body.  I will make sure to take care and look out for bats in future.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Chelsea Trends

I'm loving the coverage of Chelsea Flower Show, both by the BBC and through so many blogs - such excitement and inspiring ideas for gardeners, and passionate debates on all things flower and garden orientated.   Variety, say the RHS, is the watchword at Chelsea, but there are themes each year and Julie Hollobone of The Garden lists trends to watch.

Water features, Wildflowers, Garden offices, Shaped Trees and Sculpture.

Sculpture in the garden has always been on-trend with me - and to place it with a backdrop of wildflowers and trees, in full view from the garden office and overlooking the pond - seems perfect!

I loved the Skyshades garden for this reason, and for its care and concern for wildlife and the environment.  The Artisan gardens took my fancy too, particularly The Art of Yorkshire where, centre stage, is a Barbara Hepworth Sculpture and planting to celebrate Yorkshire's art and landscape.

For exquisite planting I have to mention the Laurent-Perrier garden, with subtle soft pinks to echo the stone colour of the Peter Randall-Page sculpture - in fact this gets my favourite vote.

A close second would be the Irish Sky Garden, not necessarily for the pink aircraft, but the garden part was sublime.

One of the loveliest parts of Chelsea Flower Show is coming away with all the wonderful ideas and inspirations, new ways of planting, plant combinations, clever design and then coming home and putting the ones you like best, snippets of others, and your own interpretations to work.

Its a great week of feeling drenched in horticulture and all things garden, with eyes gone so wide, wide open by the show and splendour - it all just comes down to making me appreciate and love my own garden even more.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wrong Number

I got a little mention in the June edition of Yorkshire Life Magazine - through customers whose house was featured, (it was also covered by another magazine earlier in the year),  as I made the stone fireplace in their sitting room.  It was a lovely article - but days after it came out I confess to feeling a bit peeved that there had not been any feed-back from it.  Usually at least a trickle of interest follows a publication of this sort, but not a whisper.  On re-reading the article this morning I realise they have printed the wrong number!  How frustrating!

Anyway - over the years I have carved quite a few fireplaces, and although it seems strange talking about them now, coming to summer, it is often when I work on them, ready to install for the colder months.

These were huge lintels, and I remember marking out the templates on the workshop floor in chalk, with the help of 'teach yourself geometry' book and lengths of string!

Others have been simpler, but still the focal point in a room, where everyone gathers to warm, and view all the special things collected on the mantle piece.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Art in Action

Art in Action held at Waterperry House in Oxfordshire is an event I have heard so much about over the years, been encouraged to attend and always meant to visit - but never have.  This week I received an invitation to demonstrate stone carving in one of the marquees, and feel thrilled to be going at last. 

I had a peek at the Art in Action website, to see who else will be there and am excited by the selection of sculptors, painters, printmakers - in fact all the artists - and really look forward to meeting everyone and seeing their work.

A comment from a visitor reads 'A brilliant mix of visual delights and creative stimulation'.  Sounds perfect to me, and the gardens at Waterperry House look really beautiful too.

Here's what the organisers say - Every July, 400 artists, craftsmen and women, performers, musicians, teachers and lecturers come together in the grounds of Waterperry House, Oxfordshire to demonstrate their skills and love of art. Visitors can observe the creation of sculpture, painting, drawing, metalwork, jewellery, textiles, ceramics, woodwork, illustration, calligraphy and glass. In addition, there is Nature in Art, a group of artists who use nature as their inspiration and an International Art marquee, showcasing a wide variety of unusual and eclectic art forms from around the world.

Also popular are the Art Materials & Publications marquee, a source for expert advice as well as a fine selection of art materials and the Craft Market where more than 100 designer-makers offer their high quality goods for sale.

Many of the UK’s leading art and craft organisations come to Art in Action. Visit the Crafts Council/Crafts Magazine marquee to find out why craft matters. Elsewhere you can try your hand at an extensive range of art activities in the hugely popular practical classes section, with classes run by top art colleges and guilds like The Prince’s School of Traditional Art, West Dean College, The Art Academy and the Glass Engravers Guild.

Once again NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) will be hosting a series of lectures on various aspects of fine art in the ballroom of Waterperry House. New this year is the presence of the winners of the Wesley-Barrell Craft Awards competition.

However, Art in Action is more than the sum of its parts.

Staffed by over 600 volunteers on each of its four days, the service they offer creates a very special atmosphere and visitors often comment on this aspect of the event. If you’ve never been, a treat awaits and we look forward to welcoming you.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Nest Mystery

I am not sure who is responsible, or why, but the other day I found the fragments of a bird's nest scattered below the site where it was neatly placed.   The little coils of hay, feathers, string and wool dragged out and left shredded on the ground and blowing away in the wind.  Then yesterday I discovered the same thing at an Ash tree in the lane.  It has long low branches sporting scars and carbuncles from growth broken away by passing tractors and farm machinery, and these hollows have been occupied over successive years by nesting Blue-tits. 

I noticed first a disturbance at the base of the trunk, wads of moss and sheep's wool.  When I looked closer I found two felty little bowls, encased by moss.  What exquisite roundels.  I think they are Finch nests - perhaps Goldfinch.  I looked for where they might have come from, and searched for broken eggs, or little hatchlings, but found none.

So I am puzzled, was it the high winds recently, or birds spring cleaning (the nests looked newish to me), or a predator?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Good Stone for Beginner Carvers

A huge waggon arrived yesterday evening - it was his last consignment - so my small pallet of stone was alone and tiny in the cavernous interior.  A lovely smiley and helpful driver had the stone off-loaded in quick time, and he drove away bemused by my enthusiasm for the delivery.

But these blocks are important, they're for my new recruits, first time stone carvers, joining my courses on Friday and Saturday this week at the Dutch House, and also for a workshop I am tutoring in Ludlow on the 3rd June.  It is a beautiful clean limestone, from Southern Stone who supply many sculptors, stone carvers and workshops throughout the country, who enjoy the stone's reliable quality.

I usually take a selection of stone to the courses, and this limestone is a favourite as it is relatively soft, so beginner stone carvers can make good progress and quickly gain confidence with the tools, soon seeing their sculpture take shape.

So, all ready to go, just need to do a quick sharpen of the chisels for everyone, and we're set.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Meet the Neighbours

In an earlier post I showed  you the view from my workshop from the front,  and now I've taken some pictures from the other side.  To the North there are fields which earlier in the year were ploughed and now grow wheat.  To the West are fields too, but pasture, partly grazed and also used for sileage. 

Yesterday, lots of commotion and noise, running at full pelt, came my new neighbours for fresh grass.

Soon settling and apart from the odd bleat, all quiet.  Actually not quiet at all, sheep are very noisy eaters, making all sorts of sighs and grunts as they go.

This then, is my Westerly view, and just so you have the full panorama, to the South I have a steep hill, topped with trees, which are thrown into spectacular silhouette each evening as the sun goes down.

I love this hillside, it is what I see as I arrive at my sheds and I feel its protective power, it sort of wraps around me  while I'm working away in my buildings.

Often during the day I get a comforting glimpse of it, or make a point of looking up, and am reminded I'm a small thing at its base.  Of course it is - stripped of its vegetation - a rock face, stone all through, very solid earth risen up - and that's pretty powerful stuff.

Friday, 13 May 2011

The Hepworth Wakefield

The grand opening of The Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire’s major new art gallery is on Saturday 21st May and Sunday 22nd May.

The stunning building is designed by the award-winning David Chipperfield Architects and boasts nearly two thousand square metres of light-filled gallery spaces, The Hepworth Wakefield is the largest purpose-built exhibition space outside London. 
The gallery will bring together work from Wakefield’s art collection, exhibitions by contemporary artists, and rarely seen works by Barbara Hepworth, one of the 20th Century’s most important artists, who was born and grew up in Wakefield.
There are six galleries with different displays, one introduces Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture, celebrating the extraordinary breadth and quality of her work, another looks at her work in relation to her European contemporaries and the influence of direct carving on modern British sculpture.  There is a display which explores Hepworth’s studio environment, her working practice in plaster, her collaborative relationships with bronze foundries and the monumental commissions she received in the last fifteen years of her life.

One of the galleries is devoted to The Hepworth Family Gift, which is a remarkable collection of Hepworth’s surviving working models for her bronze sculptures, the majority of which were made in plaster.  They consist of 44 full size models (surviving prototypes in plaster and aluminium, made in preparation for the works in bronze Hepworth executed from the mid-1950s to the end of her career). It also includes drawings and a large group of lithographs and screen prints by Barbara Hepworth.

The gift is one of the key reasons for building a new gallery for Wakefield, connecting Hepworth’s name with the city in which she was born and grew up.  Although Barbara Hepworth’s formative years were spent in Wakefield, her later years in Cornwall have resulted in the artist’s association with the town of St Ives.  Here she joined an active artistic community and this period is shown in another gallery.

Of course the Hepworth Wakefield has lots more going on, but it is an exceptional and exciting celebration of a great icon of British sculpture.  When I first started out as a sculptor I immersed myself in the work of Barbara Hepworth and was utterly inspired by her, and images of her working in her seventies, and feel a connection of sorts, through working in the same method of direct carving and by also being Yorkshire born.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Invitation to my Open Studio

Just a month to go, the first weekend of 'Open' is 10th, 11th, 12th June and the pace for preparations has gone into 'ludicrous drive'!  In all the 'run-up' and talking about it, I have forgotten my manners, and not yet actually invited you all.

So here we are, your   I N V I T A T I O N

I have great pleasure in inviting you to my Open Studio - 10th, 11th, 12th June and 18th, 19th June - in Lastingham, North Yorkshire - open daily 10.30 am to 5.30 pm.

A special welcome awaits my fellow bloggers, after all this chat, I would love to meet you and show you round my workshop and introduce you to a few lumps of stone!

If you would like to receive a brochure, just let me know and I will forward one to you, or visit North Yorkshire Open Studios.

This year 126 artists and makers are taking part in North Yorkshire Open Studios to help them to showcase and sell their work, augmented by an interesting and diverse array of exhibitions, master classes, workshops, talks, demonstrations and other activities. 

North Yorkshire Open Studios 2011 - 10th, 11th, 12th & 18th, 19th June open daily 10.30 am - 5.30 pm - further details, what to see, hope you can make it!

Monday, 9 May 2011

New Stars and Squatters!

Great new bursts of life, wildflowers so beautiful - new heroes of the hedgerow.  Each morning is a different display, a unique performance.

These Germander Speedwell are such vivid blue, tightly closed first thing, popping with brilliance once kissed by the sunshine and bending their little heads to follow it.

This bee was frantic for nectar on the Bush Vetch, and surprisingly accurate in landing and acquiring, despite the strong wind.

I am not sure what this one is, I am guessing at Crosswort - can anyone help?

Jack-by-the-hedge (or Garlic Mustard) - I've never used this in the kitchen - must try it. Does anyone know of recipes including it? 

And Greater Stitchwort - exquisite.

What lovely names they all have too.  So in just a few feet I have members of the figwort, pea, bedstraw, cabbage and pink family.

Now it also looks like a pigeon family too.  Just a few days away from the workshop and they've moved in! 

When I built my shed, I made a hole in the apex of the roof and put in a Barn Owl box in the hope they would nest.  No luck with the owls, though I did find a dead vole in there once, and wasps used it last year.   Now a small nest and two eggs.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Workshop time?

This has been a week where too few hours have been spent in the workshop actually making and creating.  All of a sudden all the other jobs needed to keep Jennifer Tetlow Stone Sculpture going, required my time and energy.  I knew they were building up, and I kept adding to the list, fully aware this time for action was overdue.

Sometimes you just go with the things you would prefer to be doing - for me certainly that is being in the workshop - saying to myself  'I'll just get this finished and then tackle my list'.  Just finishing always, always, takes much longer than anticipated.

Of course when I get on with it, the non-workshop jobs are also quite enjoyable.  Well some!

So, I've been busy with chasing print for invites for exhibitions and my Open Studio, proofing catalogues, collecting stone, mailing, making plinths and display boards, delivering, writing press releases, invoicing, preparing presentations for commissioners, researching for and practicing talks, servicing the forklift, filing and so on and on.

Tomorrow is back to carving, less encumbered - lovely!  Good job, as I'm beginning to experience withdrawal symtoms!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Stone Carving Course

At the weekend I was surrounded by a lovely group attending one of my stone carving courses.  I do enjoy having lots of chipping, chiselling and sculpting around me.  Lots of other people's hammers and chisels tapping away, creating.  It makes for a very special atmosphere.

I try and get everyone to select their piece of stone, put it on their 'banker' (the name for a stone-carver's workbench), and start work on it as soon as possible on day one.  So often, if someone hasn't carved before, there can be a nervousness and hesitation initially, a concern about doing damage or taking off too much stone,  and the best thing is just to get underway, make a mark, and get the feel of chisel cutting through the stone.

Very quickly everyone is engrossed, and making sculptural decisions and feeling much more confident.

It is so exciting to see all the work developing, the ideas and intentions for the stone.  Everyone has their own way of approaching a sculpture, some working freely allowing a piece to evolve, others are meticulous to every detail and sharply accurate, some abstract and some figurative, it's so intriguing to see the progress.

We start by drawing the design on the stone, then begin to rough out, taking away all the surplus stone.   So the group firstly drew the front view of their image, and all the stone outside that line was removed.  They then progressed to the side view, and did the same, ditto with the top view.  This was the roughing out complete, leaving a rather square, blockish sculpture. 

Then to the really fun part, the detailing, fine-tuning, adjusting, perfecting and finishing -  and truly seeing the results of all the labour.

I'm amazed  how hard everyone works, we have a few aching muscles and some wear and tear, but a lot of smiling proud faces and some beautiful stone carving.

Monday, 2 May 2011

May through the .....

..... Arched window.

I passed this beautiful stone structure on May Day evening, and had to stop the vehicle, get out, and embrace it. 

The spring May countryside stretched wide and lush from the frame of golden stone.  I could have lingered far longer.

In a sort of May Day bringing forth and celebration, I walked through the arch, feeling it a gesture of significance, a reverent curtsey, and entered the bloom of the month.

These magnificent stone columns are just outside Helmsley.  A gateway to Duncombe Park, in the form of a triumphal arch in sandstone ashlar.  An inscription across the top reads  'To the memory of Lord Viscount Nelson and the unparalleled gallant achievements of the British Navy'.  To the rear wording about lamented hero, and the price paid.  All of which seemed a little incongruous in my May Day moment.
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