Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Balancing Stones

Sculpture which has fascinated and intrigued me for some time is the work of Adrian Gray.  His seemingly impossible stone sculpture can be found on the beach at Lyme Regis where he balances large stones on top of each other.

It looks like trickery, the eye sees the stone balancing but somehow something inside says it shouldn't work.  He describes it as being all about friction and gravity, spending a lot of time looking for the right stones to work together and create his compositions of wonder.  Patience is required in finding the centre of gravity and enough of an edge (the smaller the more impressive) for friction to hold it.

Adrian then photographs the sculpture before time, the tide, wind, or weather cause the stones to topple and revert to anonymous obscurity with their fellow boulders on the sand.

I think if I didn't work with stone myself, I would find it difficult to believe he had created his pieces without trickery, checking for pins, or glue to explain the mesmerising and magical stone pieces.  But I do know a little of this 'magic' as sometimes I have moved blocks of stone, which at first seemed impossible, and then through some 'balancing'  and using the weight of the stone to help me, I have managed to shift them into place.  In fact I have (showing off!) spun huge stones on their axis with seeming ease, and it has simply been balance and gravity working perfectly together - and the same too with carrying heavy lumps, if first I achieve the stone in balance it is easier to lift and walk with.  (Though please don't ask, this is not a part of my art that I demonstrate!).

Thursday, 23 February 2012

An Exhibition of work Inspired by Nature

The official publicity card for 'The Birds and the Bees' exhibiton came today, so I'll have a bit of office work to do this evening, popping them in envelopes and sending them out.  I'd like to invite you to come and see the work - it is at the Craft Centre & Design Gallery, City Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds - where you will see all the very different creative ways everyone has interpreted the exhibition theme.

It is quite a diverse collection of artists for this exhibition, who, just like me, are inspired by nature to create their wonderful art and craft.  In this case all connected with birds and bees - I'm really looking forward to see all the work gathered together and meet some of the other makers. 

It ties in rather nicely with Sarah Raven's recent series Bees, Butterflies and Blooms, which I have enjoyed so much and I feel very tuned in to the subject at the moment.

PS:  The Bee Eater is coming along nicely!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Spring Planting

I've been making planters today, some large round ones for a customer and some extras for taking to exhibitions and shows.  They're chunky, rough hewn looking and I adore this texture of stone - particularly when thrown into stark contrast by planting.  New shoots of spring growth delicately falling over the stone rim and tumbling down the edge of the planter is perfection for me.

Really it is one of the great things about pots and planters that you can ring the changes with different plant combinations and add colour or mood to an area and create real focal points, even with a small pot and a single plant.

I've been putting Anemone with ferns for a natural woodland feel - I have a fern which has deep coppery foliage and this echoes the purple hues of the stems and buds of the windflower.  The Anemone  is called a windflower because it seems to grow as spontaneously as if sown by the wind. The foliage is glossy and brilliant and they are great plants for containers, cut flowers or borders. 

Do you have any favourite planting for containers, plants that you have put together and which work well - I would love to hear about them, and try them out in my newly made stone troughs.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Newby Hall Spring Plant Fair

If you're thinking about gardening, plants and lovely things for the garden The Newby Hall & Gardens  annual Spring Plant Fair is a real gardener's treat early in the year.   It is a small Plant Fair, in a big and beautiful setting - with lovely relaxed character and really knowledgable growers. 

I've been invited to show my latest sculpture and garden ornaments, so please visit my little stand, (prettily!) laid out on the lawns in front of the impressive Newby Hall, one of England’s renowned Adam houses and an exceptional example of 18th century  architecture and interior decoration. 

William Weddell, an ancestor the Comptons who own the house, was a prominent member of the Dilettanti society and had made the “Grand Tour” in 1765-6. Amongst the treasures he brought back from Europe were magnificent classical sculptures and a superb set of Gobelins Tapestries. In order to house all these treasures, Weddell commissioned the Architect Robert Adam to create the splendid domed Sculpture Gallery and Tapestry Room.

The Plant Fair is on  Sunday 13th May and will bring together some of the top garden professionals in the north of England and in 2012 for the first time, Harrogate Flower Show Director, Martin Fish will be the guest speaker, supported by Newby’s Head Gardener, Mark Jackson and will conclude with a Gardeners’ Question Time-style session.

Specialist independent nurseries will be selling plants as diverse as Bonsai trees and rare tomatoes, with a good sprinkling of the more familiar garden favourites.  A handpicked selection of quality gardening accessories will also be available.

Young gardeners will have a chance to get their little fingers dirty, with a ‘plant your own’ table, a sunflower growing competition and the day will be rounded off with tea and scones and music from a local jazz band.

Newby Hall is famous for its 25 acres of award winning gardens. Dominated by one of the longest double herbaceous borders in Europe, they consist of numerous formal compartmented gardens full of many rare and beautiful plants.  The gardens are designed to be at their best throughout the year making this truly a “garden for all seasons” and visitors to the plant fairs can  explore the gardens at their leisure.
Gates open at 10am and close at 4pm.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunny Sunday Sculpture

I've brought my carving bench and sculpture outside this morning and it is so good to be working outdoors, feeling the warmth of the sun on my back, it's energy soaking in - I'm happy at my work!

Wishing you a happy sunny Sunday too.    x

Friday, 17 February 2012

Sculptural Energy is the Mountain

Last night I listened to a talk by Andrew Nairne, Director of Kettle's Yard entitled Gaudier-Brzeska: from drawing to sculpture

 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
Sketch of 'Bird Swallowing a Fish', 1914
I found myself scribbling notes as I listened, of things beautifully said or that I agreed with expressed in a new way.

In the end my small scrap of paper was full both sides and in all the gaps with my scribble and I resorted to listening again to the talk.  Kettle's Yard - Live has an archive of all the Thursday Lunchtime talks it gives which are available free through Spreaker.

The talk coincides with the current exhibition, running until 1st April - Henri Gaudier-Brzeska: Vorticist!

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s career as a sculptor was regrettably short. Born in France in 1891, he was killed in action in 1915, aged just 23. Yet in the three and a half years preceding his departure for the trenches he managed to create a remarkable and innovative body of work.

Gaudier moved to London from Paris in early 1911. There he worked alongside prominent figures such as the poet Ezra Pound, the sculptor Jacob Epstein, the painter Wyndham Lewis and the philosopher T.E. Hulme. With them, in 1914, he created Vorticism, Britain’s first avant-garde movement. Through a selection of sculptures and related drawings drawn from the permanent collection at Kettle's Yard, the display explores Gaudier’s Vorticist work, arguably his most significant contribution to the development of modern sculpture.

Andrew spoke vividly about the Gaudia story, of Vorticm and Blast, Ezra Pound, T. E. Hulme, Jim Ede and Savage Messiah and the relevance of all these connections - but right at the start of the talk he asked us to consider this sculpture, Bird Swallowing a Fish, as though we had no prior history or knowledge of Gaudia or his work, and this was simply a new, contemporary work which we were asked to look at.

This connects rather nicely with the Art and Society thinking of Clive Bell (Bloomsbury Group) at the time, 'let everyone be an amateur .. '  we can all respond to art and have a view.  

Work that has a sense of energy (an inner, compressed energy) and life, an intensity and purity, yet a balance, stillness and beyondness, will stand the test of time and have an enduring relevance.

It was good to be reminded of words in the Vorticist Manifesto:

Sculptural Energy is the Mountain
Sculptural Feeling is the Appreciation of Masses in relation
Sculptural Ability is the defining of these masses by Planes

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Ceramic Sculpture

Ceramic Art London is due to open its doors next week - February 24th - 26th.  It is the leading fair for contemporary ceramics, held at the Royal College of Art, London.

I love to browse the galleries and individual artists and see all the new and exciting work.  Some defies belief, in not looking like clay at all and others are gorgeous, earthy, functional pots.

Fenella Elms is amazing

Nuala O'Donovan's handbuilt porcelain ceramic sculpture astonishes

And an artist whose work appeals is Susan O'Byrne.  Her statement explains rather beautifully.

Our childhoods are filled with animal images, their many names, shapes, colours and patterns fuel our early imaginations. Throughout history animals have also been used in storytelling, legend and folklore to simplify the complexities of adult life. In the same manner, I use the animal form as a vehicle for the expression of human emotions. 

I aim to give my animals a certain awkward vulnerability. This is achieved through a very personal making process. I make a wire framework on to which layers of printed and patterned pieces of porcelain paper clay are applied to form a skin. The natural twists and kinks of the wire frame and the shrinkage of the clay around it during firing are allowed to dictate the posture of the finished animal. The element of chance in these processes is central to my work. 

It seems that I'm drawn to the effects achieved with porcelain, but the gritty, rustic glazes also make my heart beat a bit faster.

I was just thinking about what it would be if I found the two combined - a very fine, smooth, paper like clay all mixed up with a course stoneware material.  Then as if by magic I came across Stephanie Quayle  who works with heavily grogged sculptors clays allowing expressive lines and movements, as immediate as drawing, whilst porcelain is pushed to it’s absolute limits. Direct and energetic the earthy clay becomes alive with animal character.  What a Badger!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Goose Eggs

Geese usually lay early in the morning, every other day, starting traditionally on Valentine's Day.

My gang have never laid as early as this before, but today they've obliged - actually my first egg came at the weekend, and a further one today.  What clever girls.   A goose egg is about twice the size of a large hen egg, with a huge, very rich coloured yolk. They are excellent in cooking and I know make a particularly good Bread and Butter Pudding (one of my favourites).   The shells are rather tougher too and you have to be very positive to crack them cleanly on the edge of the bowl.  One goose egg scrambled serves two nicely.

The egg has long been associated with mysterious stories in folklore - in early times in Greece the eating of eggs was banned altogether as it was felt eggs were the ultimate food of fertility and virility given by the Gods to man.  In an area near the Chinese/Indian border, if a woman offered an egg to a man it was considered a proposal of marriage.

Keeping with the belief that eggs were fertility symbols, German farmers in ancient times smeared eggs on their ploughs to ensure fertile fields.  Coloured eggs are considered powerful, and are tossed into the laps of women who want to become pregnant.

The Koreans claim that their first King came from a mysterious red egg that was left by a flying horse.  And there is a Russian proverb:  Love and eggs are best when they are fresh.

Well, mine are, and I couldn't have received a better Valentine's gift.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Winter Hare

 Winter Hare - carved Limestone Hare by Jennifer Tetlow

Friday, 10 February 2012


I'm lucky enough this week to be walking and watching along the banks of the River Tweed, learning about all sorts of wildlife on or near the water that I don't normally see.  

Swan, skeins of Canada and Greylag Geese fly above and Goosander show off their swimming expertise and disappear and reappear with efficient ease.

Pencil sketch of an Oystercatcher by Jennifer Tetlow

The sounds of the river are so different too, the gurgle of such a mass of water passing by and the bird calls.  One of the most startling and lovely voices comes from the Oystercatcher, a shrill penetrating 'kleep' which lets you know they are about, and then you see them flying low over the water and landing on the river bank.  It seems over recent years Oystercatcher numbers have increased as they have expanded into new breeding habitats.  Once they were confined to shores and cliff-tops, but a habit of nesting inland, where they now breed on moorland, arable fields and on riverside shingle beds, has seen a significant spread.

They return here from the coast, usually in late January or early February and are said to put on what is called a 'piping performance' - groups of birds form circles and run up and down, pointing their bills at the ground and piping out their shrill call.  I'm not sure if it is known why they do this, but it alerts other groups of Oystercatchers to do the same.  I haven't seen it yet, but I'm keeping my eyes open.

While I sat sketching I saw an otter swim up river too, but no time to catch an image of him, too excited and dare not take my eyes off the ripples and silky body.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Indoor Gardens - Terrariums

As a child there was an object in our house which I remember with great affection.  It was a large green carboy which variously stood as a beautiful glass object, a lampshade (my mother made the shade) and most excitingly, a terrarium.

I remember helping planting it with spoons and forks attached to garden canes, so they would reach the bottom, and having to be so neat so as not to get soil and marks on the side of the glass.  When planted it was a magical and fascinating thing.  The plants were somehow precious and enlarged, clean and lush.  You could see what was going on underneath the soil, roots and movement.

I've recently come across Paula Hayes, who seems to have mastered the art of indoor gardening and I find her plant filled glass shapes very engaging.  Her planters and bird projects are inspiring too.

I'm asking round the family now to see what happened to the carboy, hopefully it is collecting dust and I can pinch it and plant it up once again.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sculpture and Dry Stone Walls

Wayside Carvings, West Lulworth by Peter Randall-Page

Since I first saw this carving by Peter Randall-Page, which is part of Sculpture and the Land the New Milestons project, I have thought about showing my work in a similar way.  I very much like the contrast of the natural riven wall stone and the smooth curves of the carving.  The shell-like forms are set into recessed alcoves in a boundary bank, to give them, in Peter's words, "their own intimate space in which to be seen."

Image by Stone Inspired

Now that I am working on creating something of a garden at my workshop - a garden in which to show some of my sculpture, I am very keen to include dry stone walling in the design.

Some of the walling I have been seeing I think is sculpture in its own right, but it also acts as a strong structural backdrop, it really draws my attention and I can find I have been gazing at it for ages.

Dry Stone Pond -  from a show garden for Hampton Court called 'Romantic Charm' designed by Claudia de Yong Designs.

As long as I can remember to include some flattish top surfaces, on which to place work, I would like to be a little bit adventurous.  Certainly it will help with creating some height and different levels - I'm excited about this project and at present am thinking on a much larger scale than I have space for and dreaming of earth moving equipment!

It's okay, I get sensible when standing at the sheds with plan in hand, and pace the frozen ground and measure the space needed to turn a vehicle in - don't want to be constantly backing into my new hard landscaping!

Amazing work from the 2011 Canadian Dry Stone Walling Festival

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Sea Stones

What exquisite tiny stone vessels - I find these so beautiful.  I've attempted carving pebbles myself and know how hard and unyielding they can be - yet here they look effortlessly worked and shaped - really barely altered in what seems such a natural transformation.

Mitsuru Koga is an artist who emulates nature. Working with rocks, he becomes the abrasive sea, or the passage of time with his neat shaping.  Sea Stone (2008) is a collection of tiny vases, carved and polished from collected pebbles. The artist found inspiration on a beach in Chigasaki, Japan, where he was born. "As the way the waves abrade stones, I scrape them with careful attention."

Friday, 3 February 2012

Happy Blue

I planted grape hyacinth (Muscari Armeniacum) bulbs in one of my stone plant pots and they are thriving despite the cold frost and wind.   They seem so fragile and yet upwards they push with their brightest blue.

Grass like foliage supports the flower spikes that grow 6-8" tall.  Muscari are a Dutch favourite because they are deer resistant, naturalize well, and easy to grow in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. 

These no-care bulbs are suitable for every garden or landscape.  Plant Muscari in large clusters or drifts for a spectacular spring show.  They come back year after year and will multiply if left undisturbed and are perfect for co-planting with tulips or daffodils.  They are sometimes known as Starch Hyacinths because it is said their fragrance smells of it.  However, they are exquisite picked for the house, for bunches or any floral decoration.

Beautiful arrangements at Botanical Brouhaha


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