Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Curiosity killed the ..... sheep!

It is a bit of a countdown now and preparations escalate for the North Yorkshire Open Studios event.  My workshop will be open on June 9th and 10th, and the following weekend 16th and 17th June, 2012 - so not long to go.

Last week artists in the immediate area who are opening their studios, had a little gathering to prepare press releases, exchange literature and we swapped notes about our levels of readyness - it is great to hear about everyone's new work and how they're adapting their workplaces to make them safe and welcoming.  Most visitors, in my experience, like to see things just as they normally are in the workshop - but I know I will do some tidying and clearing of stone chips and dust!  It would be lovely to hear from you about what you would expect if you were visiting an Open Studio - have you visited ones before - what did you like about them?

We all met in Lockton at Sue Slack's studio, a village not far from me in Lastingham.  Sue has a lovely workplace, an old barn with stupendous views, old stone walls, beams and character - and her paintings joyously record the surrounding landscape.  She looked after us well with nibbles and my favourite peppermint tea and there we sat, planning and preparing when we were interrupted by new visitors - insistent on coming to join us!  They all came and had a good peer through the window, pushing and nosing as if demanding to be let in.

North Yorkshire is such a large county it is difficult to fit all the artists in over the two weekends - so to help plan a route and make the most of the Moors and Coast area, here are some artists nearby - I've mentioned Sue in Lockton, then there's Elisabeth Bailey, Andrea Bailey, Janet Hayton, Lynne Glazzard, Janette Boskett, Caroline Riley, Catriona Stewart, Clare Belbin - see all artists here.

If you would like a brochure for the event please let me know and I will send one out to you.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Royal Hall, Harrogate

As part of the North Yorkshire Open Studios  I am showing a piece at a 'taster' exhibition for the event at the Royal Hall in Harrogate.  This promises to be a real showcase - around 130 artists will be represented, who will all be opening their studios on 9th, 10th and 16th, 17th June, 2012.

Though I've driven past many times, I've never been into the building until now.  Harrogate’s Royal Hall, is a stunning Edwardian Theatre built as a venue for events, arts and entertainment.  Broad stone steps the width of the building's frontage take you up from the road to a series of elegant Entrance and Exit doors.  My heart sinks when arriving at venues with stone pieces to deliver when I am greeted by steps!  However handsome!

Harrogate's rise as a spa town of international repute, over a 200 year period led to the building of the Royal Hall in 1903 as a place of day and night time entertainment, a role it effortlessly replicates 100 years on.
Originally called the Kursaal, the Royal Hall’s name was changed during World War 1 to reflect a more patriotic position.
Kursaal is a German word which literally means “Cure Hall”, but in practice is used primarily for grand receptions and special occasions. Kursaals were a popular form of building in European spa destinations of the late 19th century, but never really caught on in Britain.
The building was designed by Robert Beale and Frank Matcham and was loosely based on Ostende Kursall in Belgium.
Matcham was responsible for many landmark theatre buildings and is recognised as one of the most prolific theatre architects of his time, building over 1250 theatres in the late 19th century including the London Coliseum and the Hackney Empire.

It isn't really a place I would normally expect to see an art exhibition, it has a very definite theatre feel, but the work will be hung in what is called the Ambulatory (a place for walking) which forms a semi circle of light, airy space with beautiful architectural features and stained glass.

It is a very grand building, and after its recent (2006 - 2008) restoration, is glittering and magnificent.

Of course I want to encourage everyone to come to the exhibiton of our work, which gives a hint of what can be expected at all our Open Studios in June - but the Royal Hall is quite a place to see in itself.  Double reason to come! 

The North Yorkshire Open Studios exhibition at the Royal Hall, Harrogate starts with a preview on Wednesday, May 30th 6 pm - 9 pm and continues from 31st May to 17th June, 2012.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Baby Blackbirds - progress report

Just thought I would let you know how they are all getting on.  It has become part of my routine as I arrive at my workshed in the morning, fill geese buckets and pond, check bird feeders, shout greetings to the swallows and wagtails, inspect seedlings and vegetable patch, and see how the baby blackbirds are doing!  Every few moments the parents are flying past with food for the youngsters. 

Here's dad with a huge worm.  He next breaks this up into small pieces to carry to the nest.  I'm finding sections of worm  along his flight path, dropped by mistake on route.  I'm amazed they manage to sing and alarm call with beaks so full of food, it doesn't seem to impede their vocals at all.

And mum working just as hard.

The young are very demanding.  Eyes now open and feathers are growing apace - they're looking more like Blackbirds every day.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Gardening for Wildlife

A Rural Muse - garden designed by Adam Frost

I do get the fever a little - Chelsea Flower Show, don't you?   I find it hugely inspiring for my gardening and I go back to my little patch with renewed vigour, and big ideas.   Last night's coverage highlighted the need and importance of creating gardens for wildlife, insects and pollinators, which was of particular interest to me.  I was amazed to learn that you can buy wildflower turf, strips of wildflower meadow, rolled up like lawn turf, to lay, all ready to go.  I have had disappointing results so far with my sowing of wildflower seeds (perhaps it has been the cold), despite verbal encouragement and nurturing.

Butterfly and Moth wildflower seed mix by Habitat Aid

There are so many seed mixes available - to colour suit or to fit your soil conditions, even regional ones.  The Butterfly and Moth mix from Habitat Aid is one I would like to try.  Most important I think, is that I'm planting native species.  I loved idea behind  the 'A Rural Muse' garden designed by Adam Frost - which he explained whilst getting drenched by rain, but in the most beautiful bluebell wood - sea of blue, dappled light and the fresh delicate green of new tree leaves.  It was lovely to see his passion and excitement.

A Rural Muse - garden designed by Adam Frost

Couldn't help noticing the stone in his garden too and how well he brought it into use  - great rustic blocks, for stepping stones and seating, or for clean, clear, calm areas.  Those rust coloured rugged stone blocks give solidity, texture and invite contact.

A Rural Muse - garden designed by Adam Frost

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Stone gives Structure

I am really pleased to see so much stone in the show gardens at Chelsea Flower Show.  I love to see how each designer has used stone, they are all in such different ways.  In the Best in Show garden by Cleve West, the Brewin Dolphin Garden we are faced with a grand entrance and two magnificent stone gateposts, built in a dry-stone-wall fashion, hung with impressive wrought gates.

I love the inviting pathway of smooth stone flags, with clever contrasting edges of cobbles and a water rill, and contrasting too with the rugged chunkyness of the gateposts.  Such a clever idea to have the water running through the base of the gateposts in a little stone chanel (I've made lots of these for water features, or spouts to and from ponds).   

The path forms a sort of pleasure runway with lush planting either side - once through the gate a feast of  stone cobbles awaits and as if to pay the ultimate homage to stone, a great wall faces, in the style of the entrance gateposts, onto which a huge slab of stone is hung - split in two with a central hole, rough hewn - my goodness stone is the star here.  Beautiful!  I'm not sure I could have directed it better myself!  I'm drawn in toward the hole and want to look through, and touch the stone.  Then more smooth stone pathways with contrasting rugged stone and sublime planting.  I've fallen deeply for this garden.

There are other gardens using stone too, as features and as hard landscaping - perhaps the most stoney, and with the most familiar landscape to me, is the Bronte's Yorkshire Garden. 

The garden is based on a location the sisters used to visit to discuss their ideas and writing, which has become a popular tourist destination, as it is located on the path to the spot widely believed to be a setting for Wuthering Heights, Top Withens. The garden features a stream, a clapper bridge and elements of the landscape that are characteristic of the wild and windswept Pennine Moors.  Very naturally and convincingly re-created.  Congratulations to Aire Valley Landscapes, who were sponsored by Welcome to Yorkshire.

The M&G garden features stone too, the vast Purbeck Stone walls giving a perfect backdrop.

Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, the garden has a strong asymmetric quality. A series of formal paths and terraces combines with a water channel to create a succession of garden rooms. These are delineated by three monolithic stone walls.
The garden features natural, rustic materials including copper, oak and Purbeck stone, shown in their raw beauty. The focal point is the energy wave sculpture, crafted from copper rings, that weaves through the garden.

There are so many other gardens with lots of stone - will have to look at those another day.  Stone has had a good show I think!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Blackbird Hatchlings

Both my Blackbirds have been busy collecting food, flying in and out of the shed with beaks full - it has been going on for a few days now.  As soon as I saw them both flying about, I knew that their eggs must have hatched.  I have been dying to climb up and have a look in the nest to see them, but resisted so far in case of disturbing the happy family.

But today I took a peek.  The nest is full up with bodies and beaks and it is difficult to see how many there are.  Four I think.  The nest is close to the roof and so it is nearly impossible to get high enough to count, much less photograph - but here they are.    The young seem to be being fed earthworms and insects, both parents take food constantly, the male usually quickly filling up the open beaks, but the female stays a bit longer as if to check all is well.  They will have to grow quickly, Blackbirds normally fledge between 14 and 20 days.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Animal Signs

I adore these animal head sculptures.  There are twelve of them in the scheme that relates each year to an animal and its attributes - the Chinese Zodiac.   Last year the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads sculpture by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei began its international tour in London, being displayed in the courtyard of Somerset House.

The sculpture comprises twelve monumental bronze animal heads, re-creations of the traditional Chinese zodiac sculptures which once adorned the fountain-clock of Yuanming Yuan, an 18th century imperial retreat just outside Beijing.  This original was designed in the 18th century by two European Jesuits at the behest of the Manchu Emperor Quanlong, the fountain clock featured the animals each spouting water at two hour intervals.  In 1860 the Yuanming Yuan was ransacked by French and British troops, and the heads were pillaged.  Today, seven heads - the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, horse, monkey and boar - have been located but the whereabouts of the other five are unknown.  

In reinterpreting these objects on an oversized scale, Ai Weiwei focuses attention on the question of looting and repatriation, while extending his ongoing exploration of the 'fake' and the copy in relation to the original.  The twelve heads are cast bronze and positioned on bronze bases.   Each head weighs around 800 lbs and measures approximately four feet high by three feet wide (the head and base together are approximately ten feet high).

The twelve zodiac animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.  

Friday, 18 May 2012

Stoney Seed Pod

This looks to me like stone, an ancient carving of some sort, but it is in fact a Southern Blue Gum (eucalyptus globulus) seed pod - ever so beautifully captured by Anna Laurent.  Anna is a writer, producer, and photographer, with a focus on botany-related educational media.  

I find particularly inspiring her seed pod galleries, the images beg to be made into sculptures, I'm so excited about the possibilities here and love her knowledge of plants and descriptions of how the seeds form and what they require for germination and the processes of plant biology.  

Botany Blueprint is series of plant profiles that look at the form and function of seed pods. Each article begins with a specimen she has collected and photographed.  Individually, each photograph is a fine art portrait of a unique botanic specimen; as a series, it is a scientific inquiry into the diversity of botanic design. 

These images are luxuriantly exotic and so beautiful - I'm itching to make something inspired by them in stone.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Carrara Marble Figures

Having been at Newby Hall on Sunday, (at the Spring Plant Fair) it is impossible not mention the great carving that stood proud over us throughout the day.  

It forms a sort of roundabout where a number of estate roads meet close to the house, an impressive carrara marble statue on a tall plinth. 

The carving is of a mounted figure, holding reins in left hand and staff in the right.  The horse stands over a cowering figure with left hand raised to protect himself.  The statue was made in Italy and originally represented John Sobieski, King of Poland, trampling a Turk.  

It commemorated his victory in Vienna.  The statue was bought in 1675 by Sir Robert Vyner (the goldsmith responsible for Charles II's Coronation regalia) who brought it to the Stocks Market, London at the Restoration.  Sir Robert had the head refashioned to represent Charles II and the lower figure represented Oliver Cromwell.  In 1739 the site was taken for the construction of the Mansion House and the statue was removed to an inn yard, then to the Vyner estate in Lincolnshire.  Lady Mary Robinson of Newby married Henry Vyner and inherited Newby Hall in 1859.  The statue was brought to Newby Park in 1883.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Newby Hall, Plants and Lucky Birds

Spent a lovely day yesterday at the Spring Plant Fair at Newby Hall.  I set off around 6 am to have enough time to set up before the visitors arrived.  

From an exhibitor point of view, this is one of the best organised and happy events I go to - on arrival there is a warm welcome and I'm shown to my site and given details for the day.  The very next thing I am issued with lunch vouchers, so that I can partake of the delicious fare in the catering marquee and receiving offers of help from the Newby Hall staff and show organisers.  In no time they had heavy items lifted from the trailer and into position and all that remained was for me to put together the finishing touches to make everything look its best. I was left with plenty time to look round before opening.   Thank you all!  (They did the same helping at packing up time too!).

This is of course a Plant Fair, with just a few other exhibitors showing garden items.

There is a very relaxed atmosphere at the event, with plenty room to look round and enjoy.  Keen gardeners visit with wonderful tales of digging and designing, searching for plants in particular.  The nurseries really know their stuff, (expertise in spades!), and while there I learned a lot from the exhibitors either side, answering questions from visitors about the plants they were selling, how they grew, conditions they liked and how best to care for them.  Queues formed as visitors found their favourite plants to buy.

We were also entertained during the day by a four piece band, who wandered the show playing - what a great sight of people laden with plants, toe tapping and jigging to the trumpet and tuba!

My sculpture had plenty admirers, and my pots were popular too, mostly purchased to take plants just bought, but favourite were my Birdbaths, which sold out!

Bit tired today after all the excitement, but loading up for deliveries to gardens with lucky birds.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Stirred by Birds

I certainly am - actually I've pinched that title from an exhibition held a few years ago at Gallery Pangolin celebrating the bird through sculpture, prints and drawings.  But I feel wholly bird-full at the moment, the morning song, my swallows at the sheds, blackbird nesting, goslings, hatching blue-tits, my bobbing wagtails - delights all!

A bird just snuck into my latest lino cut print too - I'm still practicing and am pleased this one caused no cuts to fingers - progress of a kind!

Lady with Bird - lino print by Jennifer Tetlow

Lines are still a bit jerky - need to work on smoothness and curves.  There is a tendency to rush as I get excited about the image and how it will look printed and then the cutter goes where it wants instead of where I intended.

I'll keep going back to Alison Deegan and  Amanda Colville at Mangle Prints to see how it's done.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

White Pheasant

I've never seen one before - I noticed this large white bird at a distance in the field and wondered what it was.  Initially thinking duck, and then it moved, definitely not.  On closer inspection I realised it was a pheasant - very shy and kept running away - took some persistent stalking and traversing three more fields to get this image!  Looks as if it has been in a bit of a squabble although it seemed happily with another bird, perhaps a wife, which was normal pheasant colouring.  

Not sure if this is described as an albino bird, as it had dark eyes and the red face, or leucistic?

I will look out for patchy white youngsters later in the year - I'm afraid they will be rather easy 'shots'.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sculpture you can Touch

A comment I often get when people see my work is that they feel they want to touch it.  For me this is very gratifying - not that this is necessarily an aim when making a piece - but I certainy like that viewers are drawn in and another sense is calling to be sated, that of touch.  I have this as a strong impulse myself - invariably wanting to touch sculpture I like, or even paintings or drawings too - as if it will make me better connected with it, and maybe the maker, it strengthens my discovery.  The energy from touching sculpture is palpable - for me it is an overpowering need.

For the most part we are all taught not to touch art we see in galleries and at exhibitions and I do understand some of the arguments and reasons for this, so I was interested to see that Michael Dean's latest exhibiton Government at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds is directly about the experience of touch.  They have embraced this idea before in the wonderful Revelations for the Hands exhibition they ran a few years ago, all about the tactile quality of certain sculpture.

Michael shows sculptures that are either the perfect size to be carried or quote their surrounding architecture where they are then to be found lurking, propped against gallery walls.

Made from cast concrete, the surfaces are veined and ridged, offering invitations to be touched. Tactility is an essential sculptural quality for Dean - he wishes us to first 'touch with the eyes, and then allow ourselves to touch with the hand'.

The concrete gallery floor has been covered with a thick, wool, wall-to-wall carpet, becoming something to touch, with the new surface changing the visual and sonic experience of the spaces. Instead of standing, the Institute's Information Assistants sit on the floor. The door handles at the entrance to the galleries have been recast as four sculptures, these flat, grey, concrete bodies leave themselves no choice but to touched, their patina changing as the raw, unsealed surfaces pick up the traces of each person's hand.  Dean emphasises the notion that what the viewer (and for these tactile works ‘feeler’) brings to the work is as valid as the artist’s.

There is also an interesting view on it all by Phil Kirby at The Culture Vulture.
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