Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Demonstration Piece

I had wondered what to carve for my demonstration piece at Art in Action, but actually in the end the choice was simple - another Hare.  I had just finished the Leveret, and was in Hare mode, so it seemed like a natural progression.

I pinned a piece of paper to one of the wooden poles holding up our marquee, and sketched a few hare poses, and with help from visitors chose this one to carve.

I worked in a block of pale coloured limestone from Southern Stone, and because of the colour, this had to be Winter Hare.

It is a soft stone, so perfect for visitors to 'try their hand' and I have to thank two young ladies in particular for helping me rough out this piece, Maisy and Fiona, who at different times came and carved beautifully for me with impressive care and attention for 'first-timers'.  Thankyou both.

This is as far as I got, as it was so busy I spent much of my time talking and showing people how to carve and cut letters on their own pieces of stone.

I would like to finish it, once I've caught up back at the workshop, so will let you see the progress in due course.

I'll post separately about the Art in Action event - it was a very special experience and I'm still swooning over all the beautiful things I saw, listened to and encountered!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Art in Action, Waterperry House, Oxford

Today I'm setting off for Art in Action at Waterperry House in Oxford and I'm thoroughly excited - in effect I'm setting up my workshop there for the next few days, and will be carving a fresh block of stone and showing everyone how I go about creating and carving a sculpture.  Also really excited about all the other artists and talented people I will meet, and for the wonderful atmosphere that is created by a gathering of this sort - in fact its unique of its kind I think.  Let me know what you think - after watching this, or if you have been before, or if you're going this year.

I will be demonstrating stone carving throughout the event, which runs until Sunday, and I've prepared some boards to illustrate my processes, from initial drawings through to the carving, roughing out, refining and finishing and some details about tools.

More excitement is that I'm going to stop off on the way and collect Soapstone and Alabaster, maybe even some marble from Nigel Owen Stone.  This is a stone yard in Yelvertoft in Northants, and one of my very favourite places to go.  They supply Polyphant (soapstone) from a Cornish quarry they own, which is the stone I used when carving Otter, and Polar Bear.  I know I am going to overspend, but it is such beautiful stone, it is impossible to resist - is my van big enough?

What a perfect trip!  Come and see everything that's going on at Art in Action if you can, I'll even let you do a bit of carving! 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Whilst at the show, I had the chance to look round, early in the morning before everyone started arriving.

Of course I sought the other exhibitors with stone things, but also visited the Made in Yorkshire marquee and said hello to local potter Elizabeth Bailey, and met the lovely painter Cath Inglis, and a young man making things in stone - John Harris of Yorkshsire Stone who had a beautiful display, with some of the items made in my favourite sculpting stone.   Nearby was the Country Living marquee -  full of wonders - and the very special Julia Burns, who I had the pleasure of exhibiting with a few years ago, who is now exceedingly busy with her Red Hen Originals which are lovely.

I also came across Limited Editions - Collier Dobson, who were showing a number of sculptors they represent.  What immediately caught my eye were the bronzes of Adam Binder, and in particular a Badger.  I've seen his work in books, websites, and magazines, but it really moved me to see the real thing.  I find his work utterly brilliant, I wanted to scoop this Badger up and take it home!  He is profoundly talented.

Foraging Badger by Adam Binder

Foraging Badger by Adam Binder

Badgers of course are in the news currently as Caroline Spelman announces government plans allowing badgers to be shot in a bid to limit the spread of TB in cattle.  I'm not sure what the solution is to this longstanding problem, but I feel afraid by these policies and was interested to read the Mammal Society's response.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Back at the Workshop

How lovely it is - I'm so happy to be back in my workshop, with all familiar tools and stone around me.

The show was so busy, barely a moment to draw breath, a big thankyou to all visitors and all my co-exhibitors. On the last day I spent time listening and watching the demonstration by Richard Keeton - I am in awe.  His work is beautiful and he works beautifully.  The demonstration was to show the techniques involved in dry point etching and I have never seen a copper plate so carefully and lovingly inked, wiped and printed.  He's very inspiring!

Here's one of his paintings, a watercolour, Old Bantams,  I think my favourite in the show.   I can only apologise to him that I have reproduced it so badly here.  If ever you get the chance to see his work, do - it is exciting and powerful and very beautiful.

I've learned a lot from this exhition, about exhibiting, showing work and about being a professional artist - again thanks to you all for welcoming me and being so open and giving of time and expertise.

Anyway - back at the workshop.  Just a few days has seen such changes.  Pigeon young have flown and I have two more eggs!  My goslings are now quite grown and only have the tiniest fluff remaining on their pristine new feathers.

Vegetables galore - so exciting, I'm picking strawberries, gooseberries, cucumber, courgette and broad beans!  Herbs are exploding out of their bed and netting surround - the geese are fond of plucking destructively at my lemony herbs and parsley, so it is fenced off.

It all needs a bit of tidying and weeding and getting under control!  The cucumber tasted amazing - I had a whole one for breakfast!  Runner Beans have run to the top of their canes - do I pinch them out now?  Or train them  to come down?

Yes, must have a weeding session, huge nettles with huge stings, docks and others I don't know the name of, that don't pull up easily.  Weeding in the rain, tending my vegetables.  Bliss. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Long Days!

I knew they were, but I'm feeling the effects!  The show opens at 7.30 am and closes at 7.30 pm and I've been driving in each day, quite an exhilerating change of routine, but I'm creaking a bit!

Today is the last day and it will be lovely to catch up with everything in my normal routine - the geese are complaining about their quick breakfasts and late suppers!  And I'm missing everyone's blogs too!

This is Leveret - a new piece I have at the show - carved in a very course, gritty sandstone.

There are so many young hares on the lanes at the moment, dashing and darting for their routes back into the fields, some of which are now cut for hay.  They zig-zag unpredictably, so wild and alive, startled and pristine.

This one seems a little shy though.

I've managed to visit one or two stands at the show - will tell you all about them when I'm back home and recovered!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Great Yorkshire Show

Just in time I've got a special planter made for the show!  I felt it had to be in keeping - a Yorkshire Rose to celebrate Yorkshireness, at the Great Yorkshire Show - the planter is in the best stone I could find, Yorkshire Sandstone and made in Yorkshire.

I'm exhibiting in the Art Pavillion, where there will be some of my sculpture too, located just about in the middle of the showground, with other artists all selected as Yorkshire's Best!  All working in and inspired by Yorkshire.  I thought I would introduce you to them, some of whom will be demonstrating how they create their art during the show.

Painter Les Packham, creative glass artist Caryl Hallet, self-taught painter Heather Simone, painter Ian Layton, ceramicist Jill Ford, sculptor Joel Walker, painter Rayford James Holroyd, painter Robert Brindley, and metal sculptor Steve Blaylock.  Also joining us are painters Richard Keeton, Mike Hendy, David Allen and Bruce Mulcahy.

Do hope I get a bit of time to look round the show!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Lime Blossom

In the hedgerow locally there is a large Lime tree, with a vast spread which at the moment is full of blossom.  During the warm weather particularly, the sweet smell is intoxicating and it hits the nostrils way before you reach the tree.  Heavenly.

 Also as you approach, there is a humming sound, a deep buzzing, and when close you realise that the whole tree is swarming with bees.  It is like this every day.   Not only are the bees making use of the nectar from the flowers, but are also feeding on the honey dew dropped onto the leaves by the aphids feeding on the tree sap.  This is what drips from the leaves and deposits the sticky mess often found under lime trees. 

The word Lime derives from an old English word Lynde or Lind which is why the tree is also known as the Linden tree.  And there are some really old Lime trees, the longest living recorded is 700 years, which is a lot of bees and a lot of honey.

There are stories of dead honey and bumble bees under Lime trees, with bees behaving in a 'drunken' way, unable to fly.  This has been found to be due to some of the sugars found in lime flowers being responsible for affecting the carbohydrate metabolism in bees so that their blood sugar levels fall which weakens their ability to move and fly.  This is particularly noticeable in very hot weather as the heat increases the sugar concentration.

Legends and folk-lore are plentiful - when Zeus and Hermes came to earth to check that mortals were behaving, they came in disguise and knocked on many doors, being refused shelter until finally they came to a couple who welcomed them.  As a reward for their generosity Zeus granted them their wish to remain together forever after death, and turned them into an Oak tree and a Lime tree so they could be side by side.  It is common to find that Oak and Lime grow close to each other.

The Celts belived that the Lime was sacred, and it was common that judicial cases were heard with the court sitting under a lime tree as it was said to inspire fairness and justice.  Lime trees were planted by royal decree along many roads to ensure that the harvest of its flowers was plentiful, as it was used a lot for its medicinal properties. 

What a tree!  I'm off to get my perfume fix!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Block has Landed

A couple of weeks ago I told you about my visit to Eskdale Quarry to select a block of stone - today it arrived and has been set down outside my work shed.  The block weighs about three and a half tonnes and came on a waggon which only just fit through the gate. 

I have never seen a vehicle like it, the bed, which was a large metal sheet with headboard, came off the back, lifted and pushed by a large hiab arrangement on the front of the lorry, then once flat on the ground the crane lifted one end and the stone slid off.  It ended up a little lop-sided, but I can live with that,  (I had visions of it rolling off at speed, through the fence and bouncing down the valley!) and certainly there is nothing I can do to level it now!  I was so absorbed by the spectacle I didn't get a picture to show you all.  It was an impressive sight.

This stone is for a compass design, which will be carved into the top.  I'll keep you updated on progress.

You will see on the block the lovely iron-ore colouring, which unfortunately has got a bit scraped by heavy handling at the quarry, and also the drill holes where the plugs and feathers went to prise the stone block from the quarry face.  Alternatively, these drill holes are filled with dynamite which blasts the block free!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

House Name Plaque

I've recently carved a house name in a block of stone, with incised lettering, and to make it really stand out the letters have been coloured black.  It has been built into an existing wall, and now sits very naturally in the surroundings.  It was a lovely sign to carve, as all the while I was thinking of the actual old orchard, from which the house got its name.

This is an orchard, perhaps eighty years old, with mostly apple, but some pear and plum trees too.  Some of the trees were badly damaged after the heavy snow fall last winter, with too much weight for the ancient branches.

This path leads round the orchard.  The trees are gnarled and crooked, covered in lichens and exquisitely beautiful.

The orchard has a range of apple varieties, these are Bramleys.

About half way round there is an old Yorkshire variety called Cockpit, first recorded in 1831. This is a variety which became popular in Yorkshire in the 19th Century.  It is a medium sized, flat-round, green fruit, which has soft, juicy flesh.  A sharp tasting apple cooking to a sweet, pleasantly flavoured puree.

It seems that it has been re-introduced as Cockpit Improved.

This is a heavenly orchard and I really look forward to the Autumn and harvesting, as I've been promised a crate or two from the crop.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Hand Made in Britain

A recent email from Gillian Montegrande, the founder of Made by Hands of Britain, reminded me that the organisers of a biennale of live craft events, Handmade in Britain, are in the process of accepting applications from designer-makers who wish to be considered for entry into a new book they are aiming to publish – the Handmade in Britain Design Book.

The launch of the book will coincide with London Design Festival in September 2011. The book launch will take place in one of the trendiest venues in London, the Brickhouse with a private view evening of the selected designer-makers work on 26th September 2011 to coincide with London design festival. 

It seems that they have extended their deadline for entries to the 4th July.

Have any of you applied for this? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have your work featured in such a book!  And it has got me thinking - am I a designer?  Am I a craftsman?  Am I a sculptor?  Artist?   I suppose I have never really categorised myself in that way, and feel I'm probably all those things to a greater or lesser extent.

I look forward to seeing the book and finding out what the authors think.

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