Friday, 20 January 2012

Bird Box and Big Watch

Over the last week or so my birds have been frantic at the feeders, I'm filling up each day and keeping my eye on the birdbaths, defrosting and topping up.

I've also put up a bird nest box.  This one is open at the front, a favourite with species incuding Robins, Wrens, Blackbird, Spotted Flycather and Song Thrush.  Birds generally breed from February through to August, but by putting up my box a bit earlier increases the chance of it being used.

I love that this one is just a Birch log hollowed out, and looks very natural - I got it from from C J Wildlife.  They also have a section about how to build your own box.

I've put it on the old Sycamore tree, about nine feet up.  The best height for nest boxes is widely accepted as being between five and eighteen feet respectively. (I was tempted to place it a bit lower, so I could see the brood easily if it is taken up!).  I have also placed the box on the North East side of the trunk, avoiding prevailing winds and strong sunlight.  Open boxes require more cover and protection, so it is near a small branch, where, when the tree is in leaf, the box will be partly obscured and feel safe.  It also aids young birds taking their first flights, as they have something to launch out to and plenty of cover.

I'm really hoping that this Robin will take up the box.  His favourite spot is the knobbly handle on the wheel of my forklift, where he sits and watches my hammer wielding antics (he went camera shy!).

In part, this is all in preparation for the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, for the weekend 28th and 29th January.  You can download from the site a counting sheet to record what you see.  Hope you'll join in.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chill Factor

Ooh it has been cold, beautiful, but cold.  These still days of dry, deep frost, blue skies and sunshine are some of my very favourite, but it does make work slow going. 

When I arrived at the sheds yesterday it was some time before I could make a start as the chisels I left the night before, were stuck to the stone (should have put them away properly!).  Actually frozen stone is strange to work with, as it doesn't behave in its usual way, and it is best to leave well alone until thawed. 

Stone outside was sparkling with frosty diamonds and coated with icy fur - sticks to your hands if you pick it up - so it stays looking beautiful until the sun has had time to melt and make manageable.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Birds and the Bees

I'm working on some sketches at the moment for Bird sculptures for an exhibition I have been invited to exhibit at The Birds and the Bees at the Craft Centre and Design Gallery, City Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds. 

I thought if I could, I would include a Bee Eater, and my idea is to carve this in Serpentine or Soapstone.  They are such colourful, sleek birds that a stone with a bit of variation and shine would suit the piece well.

A Bee Eater will be quite a challenge to carve, with its thin, streamlined body and very sharp elongated bill.  There may have to be a few compromises.

Exhibition Dates:  Saturday 24th March - Saturday 30th June

The Craft Centre and Design Gallery
City Art Gallery
The Headrow

0113 247 8241

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Pebble Cushions

I'm so taken with these -  just had to show you some more.

Pebble cushions by Ronel Jordaan.

Soft Stones

It's those pebble shapes again - these are heavenly, muted natural colours - stone colours - and I just want to go over and touch them,  and wrap my arms around them.  Don't you find the shapes and colours soothing and calming?

These ones are large enough to sit on - and you don't need to worry about them being uncomfortable either, they're actually made of wool - 100% natural wool, felted and fashioned into pebble seats and rock cushions by Ronel Jordaan.

The wool is hand dyed and hand felted into these free forming oversized pebbles.

Ronél Jordaan is inspired by nature. Her designs eloquently and playfully infuse contemporary interiors with the beauty, simplicity and serenity of the outdoors. Using natural fibres, mostly Merino wool, Ronél lets her imagination run wild in the creation of rock cushions, pebble ‘riverbed’ carpets, intricately accented ‘falling leaves’ wall hangings, floral-patterned throws and more.

The rocks come in a range of sizes from small 16" x 12" x 8" to large boulder at 6' x 3' x 2', actually large enough to recline on.

 Don't they look real?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Stone Away

Today a lorry came to the worksheds to collect the Compass Stone and deliver it to site.  It was huge.  All got loaded with relative ease, and then the driver set off.  Within a few moments the back wheels were spinning with mud flying everywhere.

I suppose my sheds are not best positioned, it is a bit of an incline to get out of the gate and back onto the road, and the track has become grassed over somewhat.

Luckily I have lots of stone chips to help with grip, and after spreading a few barrowloads the waggon progressed a few feet.  Back to the start, more skidding, back down the slope, more chips, and eventually after a good few run-ups, he was out of the gate.  I did worry for a moment that he would not get away - no chance of towing him out!

Thank goodness for a beautiful sunny day, I hate this sort of job in the pouring rain, wind and sleet, which is so often the case.

Its quiet again here now, and I will take advantage to put a layer of hardcore down to reinforce the track and yard and tidy up a bit.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Bright Wolf Moon

Yesterday I was up really early, a just finished sculpture was being collected, and I wanted to be ready and organised.  Though it was hours before sunrise, it was almost light, the moon shone so bright.  As I got to the sheds the geese greeted me, their whiteness almost luminous in the bluey beam, soft and glowing they appeared as magic geese.

Image and all moon names at Vivaboo

It was a full moon, the first of the year and known as the Wolf Moon.   Full Moon names date back to Native Americans who used the full moon to help keep track of the seasons.  In January amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon.  Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule, Ice Moon or even the Full Snow Moon.

The moon has long been a source of fascinations and facts... of magic, mystery, and research. It is most interesting when lore and science collide, and even agree.


It is well-storied that the full moon was the catalyst that turned men into werewolves, and current hospital records and police blotters show that on full moon nights, the number of violent occurrences indeed does rise. From "luna" (moon), comes the word "lunacy".

The moon eventually let go to a spectacular crimson sunrise and beautiful morning and we packed my sculpture into the van for the journey to its new home.

Monday, 9 January 2012


I am drawn to topiary gardens, usually the green shapes, mounds and patterns an excitement and build up to a central focal point or encased sculpture, or magnificent stone carving.  I would like to include it in my garden in some way, I love gardens that are all green, where texture, shape of leaf and different shades of green make the beauty, and I think I will need to create some hedge boundaries, walls or screens.


Topiary is the horticultural practice of training live perennial plants, by clipping the foliage and twigs of trees, shrubs and subshrubs to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes, perhaps geometric or fanciful.  As an art form it is a type of living sculpture.  The word derives frm the Latin word for an ornamental landscape gardener, topiarius, a creator of topia, or 'places'.

I rather like the idea of free clipping and shaping, although it seems that you can buy all manner of wire frame shapes, as guides, which offer lots of ideas and food for thought, such as at Topiary Garden.  If I do use a guide, likely I'll make my own wire shape round which to grow some ivy, which produces good results in only a few months.

Commonly used for Topiary are Yew and Box, but for a faster effect Bay, Hornbeam, Beech and Hawthorne are suitable.  Whatever plant is used the rules for making topiary are the same, grow to the height you want, keep feeding and clipping - then the artistry begins.

I have an old pair of hand sheep shears which will be perfect to make a start.

Of course hugely inspiring are the Overhanging Gardens of Marqueysaac in France.

And at Washington Old Hall, Tyne & Wear.

And the ever exuberant Levens Hall in Cumbria.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Things I'd Like in my Garden

Actually I don't really have a garden - apart from my vegetable area - so it is one of my 'to do's' for this year, creating a garden at my workshop.  It will have to be goose friendly and sculpture inclusive - really it will be a very small sculpture garden.  It needs to just blend into the surrounding open countryside too.  I'm enjoying searching for ideas and making plans. 

A carved stone seated female figure - early 20th century, circle of Mary spencer Watson. 

I got a bit distracted recently when I saw that Will Fisher is having a sale at Christie's in preparation for relocation to new premises for his company Jamb.  Items from his collection going under the hammer include sculpture and garden ornaments.  I've selected a few items I would bid for, to bring back for my new garden.

Quern Stone Mortar

Pair of Sandstone Urns

Sandstone Gargoyle Head

Sandstone Lion's Head

 An Assortment of Architectural Mouldings

And I could not resist a few engravings - these can perhaps influence the styling of the garden along with the Mouldings - but they would have to find a home inside.

I'm wondering which is the best way round - do I make the garden and then add the finishing touches of ornaments and decoration or do I lay out all my objects and create the garden around them, for them.

Mustn't forget the objective - to tidy up the surrounds of the workshop and yard making a garden area to show my sculpture and stonework. 

There was just one more item - the geese would love this (so would I - alfresco bathing!).

Large Marble Bath

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Wind Worn Stone

It's blowing out there!  Sort of exciting and frightening at the same time - nearly being taken off my feet and in fear of the little tin roofs being torn off the sheds - but oh such a huge and intense reminder of the power of nature.

Working in it has been quite difficult, not just because of the cold, but stone dust is thrown up into the air, and into my face - so its regularly down-tools to stop a dripping nose and streaming eyes.

I've thought as the gales rage around me that at least my stone is not affected, it sits there, unwavering and solid.  And then I think of the stones out on the moors, where the wind blows hardest and meanest, and the stones are wind worn, into the softest, most sensitive shapes.  It makes my chisel marks seem invasive and sharp, unnatural - how I wish I had the power and subtlety of the wind at my fingertips to shape my stones.

Wind alters the surface character of stone, eroding and revealing the rock's make-up, it brings abrasives which etch, scour and polish it into the most natural forms there can be.

The Hare Rock near Tregastel.  Natural erosion of this part of Brittany, has resulted in bold, rounded, strange forms and shapes in the pink granite.

Wind worn stones in the desert.

These wind worn stones are called Inselbergs.

Just look at these beautifully formed wind caves!

And these amazing pillars are from Bryce Canyon - they're called Hoodoo - the spines are gradually worn away by wind and rain - the weakest rock wearing away soonest. 

The colours come from the rich iron and lime sediments deposited by ancient rivers and streams over eons.  The natives explained the numerous and colourful Hoodoos as 'legend people' who were turned to stone by the mythical Coyote.

So I'm thinking positively about the gales and gusts as they batter and blow, knowing they are also part of the long shaping process their caresses have on stone.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Greek Architecture and Sculpture

One of my first projects this year is to run a stone carving and sculpture course for a group of Lower 6th school pupils.  They are studying Greek architecture and stone sculpture and want to have some 'hands on' experience to better understand how the Greeks worked and created their sculpture.

For me this is a very exciting prospect - as a sculptor in stone, I have been delighted, inspired by and often referred to Greek art, and for me there is no greater expression of it than in its sculpture.  

I know I am going to learn a lot myself during this course. To begin, I'm now re-reading a favourite on my bookshelf, Greek Sculpture by John Boardman, to refresh - and it is of course taking me to lots of other sources for further information.  An article recently scribed by Stephen Fry caught my eye too - A Modest Proposal which reminds us of their extraordinary achievements.

I will be keen to point out to the students that the tooling used by them on the course, will be very similar to the chisels - point, drove, flat chisel and the rasps, used by the Greeks.  Not only did the Greeks make manifold progress in terms of form (patterns and proportions were of prime importance),  they also made strides in progress with tooling.  Their woodworking techniques had given rise to the use of many tools, adapted for use with stone, but they also invented the claw chisel, usually five-toothed and about 1.5 cm wide, and this, in its same form, is still used (my favourite chisel) today.

So I'm busy with the Greeks, with lots of preparation to do, which I am thoroughly enjoying!  I'm going to try and organise a Greek meal for them to have at lunch time too, and wonder if I can learn a little Greek speak before February, at least a few sculpture phrases I think.  They are going to have to work hard these students, but the results will be brilliant - their tutor is coming too, to help me keep them at it - I'm very much looking forward to the results.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

I've just walked out on the brand new year with my little bag full of dreams and ideas - and it feels good!

Warmest wishes for a happy and creative year to all for 2012.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...