Monday, 29 August 2011

Birds at the Workshop

While getting ready for my exhibition I was watched by one of the pigeon fledglings, who instead of flying free in the big-wide-world, came straight into my workshop, and despite gentle persuasion, remained perched amid the dust and noise.

Eventually yesterday, after the torrential rain the day before, he hopped out through the door and was away.  I felt rather proud.

The swallows are more of a concern - I have a small nest of four newly hatched swallows, another second brood, and I just wonder if it is a little late - already swallows are collecting here on the wires and gathering in the evening in swirling shows of acrobatic finesse.  I think of the great journey they will shortly make, and if the little ones will be old and strong enough.  At least there are many insects, so they should grow fast and the swallow parents probably know perfectly well what they are doing, so I shouldn't worry, but I do.

A seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) strutting its stuff. Photograph: Martin Ruegner/Getty

I hear it has been a good year for ladybirds, presumably because it has been a good year for aphids,  my ladybird numbers here verify this!  I cannot remember ever seeing so many.  I must learn how to identify and check to see if it is the invasive harlequin ladybird.  They are of course on the menu for swallows.  At the Guardian Gardening Blog they have an identification and survey link and you can report unusual ladybird sightings.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A Sense of Place

Yesterday was spent setting up my exhibition at the Inspired By .. Gallery in Danby, at the Moors National Park Centre.  What a beautiful day too - to get to Danby from my workshop there is a drive over the moors, on a wiggly, undulating road and the views are magnificent.  Over the last week the heather has really come out, a great rolling purple blanket - lit brilliantly to violet by shards of sunlight as the sun streams through the cloud.  I nearly drove straight off the road a couple of times, taking in the views.

The exhibition is with three other artists, Gail Hurst, Sue Morton, painters and Jayne Hibell a glass artist.  We called it a Sense of Place as we all live in the National Park and the area inspires and motivates our work - a little celebration of the North Yorkshire Moors and Coast.

The day involved hanging and re-hanging, moving plinths and moving again, and shuffling and messing (for hours), and tweaking, until we were set for opening today.

During the set up we had some lovely vistors, who helped with the 'arranging' - one lady who was keen to organise us, turned out to be a gallery owner herself and offered invaluable advice.  

We're having a 'Meet the Artists' and Preview on Saturday between 1 pm and 4 pm, with refreshments and I'm hoping everyone loves the layout!

Exhibition - 25th August - 6th September, 2011 10 am - 5 pm daily at the Inspired By.. Gallery, North York Moors National Park Centre, Danby, Whitby YO21 2NB.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Rosedale Show

On Saturday the Rosedale Show opened on the most glorious weather, and the sun shone all day.  Rosedale is the next village down the valley to me and the annual show is run by the Rosedale & District Agricultural, Horticultural and Industrial Society.  It is one of the most beautiful settings for a show I have ever seen.  Right in the heart of the valley, a little cup with purple heather and grazed green sides, hills and moorland rising up all around.

For the last couple of years I have had a stand there, demonstrating stone carving and have been inundated with visitors wanting to have a go.  I was next to a farrier, also demonstrating, with a very patient horse, with the smells and sounds of the blacksmith at his trade.  This mixed with the food vans and the vintage tractors burbling away and the sheep, goats and cattle pens and you have the familiar and friendly local show.  Oh, and mustn't forget the band - this was their tent (early in the morning when I was setting up and before they had arrived with their playing).

There is a very active History Society in Rosedale and they too had a stand at the show, with fascinating information about Rosedale Abbey and the Dale.  No-one is absolutely sure of the derivation of the name Rosedale, but the Viking origins point to Rossi, being a personal name, or the word for horse.  The other possible root is the word “rhos”, meaning moor.  No rose connections have ever been found! 

Rosedale has a history combining early Christian heritage, centuries of farming,  and dramatic change.  The discovery of unique high-grade magnetic iron ore in the 1850s turned this sleepy backwater into a powerhouse of Victorian industry.  For 70 years the valley echoed to the sound of  rumbling waggons, steam trains, and the noise, smoke and dust of mining activity.  By the 1920s, the Great Depression and the lower cost of imported ore finished the mining in Rosedale.  The miners and their families left, and rows of miners’ cottages stood abandoned.  Gradually, peace and the forces of nature reclaimed the dale which is once again a place of outstanding beauty.  Agriculture once more became the main industry and now tourism is very important in the local economy.

Certainly the visitor numbers to the show were record-breaking!  And from those I spoke to, they had a most enjoyable day - as did I.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Marble and Alabaster Sculpture

During my recent travels, I managed to fit in a visit to Nigel Owen Stone and topped up my stock of Polyphant (Soapstone) and also bravely acquired a few lumps of marble, and alabaster.

I say bravely, as I haven't worked marble or alabaster before, so it is a bit of a leap of faith - into the unknown.  Something completely new.

The methods and ways or working these materials are different from the cutting and carving of sandstone, and I am looking forward to getting to grips with the material, seeing how it behaves and experimenting with polished finishes.  I feel really excited about my little blocks - the marble is Portugese Rose Marble and you can see the pinky colouring and veining. 

Carving in marble of course brings to mind the many famous pieces we know, for example  the Pieta by Michelangelo and the Rape of Persephone by Bernini.  These sculptures almost defy belief and leave no doubt as to what can be achieved in this material.

But I've also been looking at some contemporary sculptors who have chosen to use marble, and am excited by their work.  Mel Fraser carves very beautiful pieces, as this one, called Serendipity, in Carrara marble.

And Wings of Desire.

Also inspiring is Louise Plant and her sculpture, this piece Caesura is very expressive.

Golly, it could all be quite daunting - but I have my own ideas for these little blocks I've brought back to the workshop and I'm itching to get sculpting them.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Sculpture by the Lakes

I've always been a huge admirer of Simon Gudgeon's work and remember being so excited when Isis was unveiled in Hyde Park in 2009.

I don't think I have words better than the description on the Simon Gudgeon Homepage.

'One of Britain’s leading contemporary sculptors, Simon Gudgeon has a signature smooth style that marvellously concentrates spirit and nature. His minimalist, semi-abstract forms depict both movement and emotion of a moment captured with a visual harmony that is unmistakably his own.'

I find his work beautifully sensitive, sculpture which draws my gaze for long periods.

How pleased I was to learn about the new Sculpture by the Lakes.  Set in twenty six acres of stunning Dorset countryside and bordered by the tranquil River Frome, Sculpture by the Lakes provides the perfect venue to view and appreciate outdoor sculpture in beautiful surroundings.

It is that combination of art and landscape that inspires Sculpture by the Lakes. Whether it is work on a monumental scale that relates to its environment or smaller works that personlise more intimate areas, each sculpture has been placed to visually enhance its surroundings.  This has been achieved to stunning effect by Simon Gudgeon's bronze sculpture, fluid forms with patination giving life in nature's hue.

The aim is to show the importance of outdoor sculpture in the environment and inspire people with the possibilities of what they can achieve in their own gardens.

All in tandem with my recent thoughts about garden sculpture.  I have promised myself a treat to visit when my exhibition A Sense of Place is finished in September.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Waterperry Gardens

Happily weary from my day demonstrating and talking to visitors, one of my evenings at Art in Action was spent in the garden at Waterperry House, exploring and then sitting quietly watching the sun go down.

I'd purchased a loaf made with spelt flour and rye, containing raisins and caraway seeds earlier in the day, and broke off rough chunks to have with my apple and pear for supper whilst sitting in the formal garden and absorbing the glories.  This garden has a sculpture at the centre, 'Lamp of Wisdom' by Nathan David, and is made up of traditional box knot, clipped topiary and medicinal herbs.  I can't say what beautiful relaxed  moments they were - I ate all the delicious bread amidst visual splendour and breathed in the warm fragrant air.

On route to this point I took in the wonders of the waterlily canal, herbaceous border, island beds, roses, alpines and hostas in the shade - all the while coming across sculpture from Chapungu Sculpture Park, Zimbabwe stone sculpture.  I felt very well catered for!

I thought of this garden as a backdrop for my sculpture and imagined where certain pieces I have made would go.   Sometimes, probably most times, when I'm making a sculpture, in my 'mind's eye' I see the finished piece in a garden.

The garden, sculpture, garden sculpture - I meandered, drawing in the beauty, with big dreams.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Springy Glass

I'm still enjoying the effects and memories from my wonderful time at Art in Action.  One of the demonstrations which amazed me was in the glass marquee.  There was a stage, raised up down one side, on which was a glass kiln and also a large drum furnace.  Very spectacular.

The glass workers had long metal poles, at the end of one was a 'blob' of glass - this was plunged into the heat and swizzled and held until hot (melty) enough.  It was swiftly withdrawn and touched to the end of another long pole laid across a workbench and rolled and spun by another worker. The first glass pole person held the blob at just the right distance from the second pole, to keep the fluidity of the glass and the thickness of coil just right - too close and the coil would be too fat and snap on cooling.

This was repeated, the pole with glass plunged into the fire, brought out, touched to the second pole, glass adhered, pulled out and then coils magically appearing.  It was mesmerising.  The heat prevented me getting as close as I would have liked.

The little springs slid off the pole.  This was clear glass, which, prior to being heated, had been rolled in red glass powder, which gave it this pinky colouring. 

I just had to pick it up - and to my incredible surpise, the glass spring, sprung - it worked like a real spring, I squished and bounced it, and the beautiful little glass spiral remained intact and compressed and expanded in my fingers.  I came out of the marquee face burning and red with heat, and blinking in wonder.

I'm not sure which of the glass demonstraters I saw, so I'll just mention them all - the glass work was stunning.  Anthony Wassell, Heather Konschuh, Charlotte Sale, Liam Reeves, Jeremy Wintrebert, Tim Boswell, Graham Muir, Bruce Marks, Louis Thompson, and Phil Atrill

Friday, 12 August 2011

Talk and Demonstration about Sculpture

On Wednesday I gave a talk and demonstration about my work.  I have found giving talks and demonstrating stone carving such a good discipline and so enjoyable (after the nerves subside) that I try to make it a regular commitment.

On this occasion I was visiting the Whitby Art Society, who were a lovely and very welcoming group.  They have regular meetings at Sneaton Castle in Whitby, and it is here that I gave my talk.  Driving up towards the Castle and through the arched gateway made for a very grand entrance and it was lovely to be surrounded by so much magnificent stone.

Sneaton Castle Centre is situated in beautiful and extensive grounds adjacent to St Hilda's Priory which is the Mother house of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, an Anglican religious community.  The Centre is within walking distance of the heart of the historic and picturesque seaside town of Whitby, affording easy access to some of the most glorious countryside, notably the North Yorkshire Moors and coastline.

The castle itself dates back to the 19th Century and following major refurbishment, the buildings have been transformed into an ideal modern venue for Conferences, Training Events, Seminars, School, College and Youth Trips, Church Weekends, Holidays, Individual Breaks and Group Outings.
St Hilda's connection with Whitby is famous of course, with the Abbey on top of the cliff.

At the church beside the Abbey, St Mary's, there is a wonderful cross, Caedman Cross and in one of the panels is St Hilda herself, a beautiful carving - and what a face she has!  And I love the birds at the hem of her robes.  You can see something of her determined character, which must have been required in the setting up of her double monastery, for men and women, following a pattern of disciplined life - her Abbey became one of the greatest centres for religion and learning in the North East of England, and in the known world.

My talk covered things on a much smaller scale, such as where my ideas come from and realising them, what motivates creativity, paying attention to emotion and spirit, and transcribing it all into a reality in stone, and the practicalities of doing so.

I wonder if I dare carve a panel of me for eyes in the future - I have to say the idea is rather appealing and I'm thinking about what I might include!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Best of the Best

I arrived at Art in Action early evening and with map in hand wandered the marquees, just before everything was closing for the day.  There was a large gathering on the lawn in front of the house, lots of chatter, warm sunshine and an excited buzz.  It drew me to a huge tent, full of people admiring the works being shown.  This was a collection of the best work from the event, and visitors had the chance to vote on which they thought 'the best'.  Nearly impossible of course, but a print of a Crow and a Rook got my attention.  But there were other beauties.

Metamorphosis Series by Rachel O'Dell

No-one Likes to be in a Cage by Catherine Hyde
Ceramics by Linda Dangoo
Close-by was a sculpture area, which I promised to go back to.

 Sculpture by Brendan Hesmondhalgh and David Cooke

I did get the chance to look round - though would have liked much longer.  The weather for the event was wonderful, and I explored the very delightful Waterperry gardens in the evening warmth (will share some of its beauty next time).  Four days full of care, love, creativity, art, performance, poetry, music  - utterly inspiring!

I came home with a Rook and a Crow by Louise Scott.  I love her prints and saw how she makes them, with beautiful etched copper plates (works of art in themselves) demonstrating her process.  I will treasure these birds.
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