Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Hens and Chicks

Hens and Chicks are the names often given to Sempervivums - I love these evergreen perennials with their mats of fleshy-leaved rosettes.  The "hen" is the main plant, and the "chicks" are the offspring, which start as tiny buds on the main plant and soon sprout their own roots, taking up residence close to the mother plant.  The name Sempervivum comes from the Latin - Semper (always) and Vivus (living).

My little plants have looked rather sad lately - I think they were expecting better weather by now - so I thought I would bring them indoors and re-pot them.

I've made lots of little - really mini - pots for them all.  These are hewn from my usual sandstone and are a perfect size to get the little 'chicks' going when they leave their mother.

Some I thought I would put a design on - in this case a hen - obviously!  Recently I was involved with a project where the lettering was designed to be leaded (as was often found on gravestones and taken to exalted heights by the Victorians).  This process is seldom seen now, it is highly labour-intensive - but I think looks stunning.  The letters end up being filled with lead, level with the surface of the stone, and polished - very elegant and striking.

I wanted to get this look, but with a carved image on the front of my little planters, and have been trying to achieve this with my sandstone mini-pots.  One of the difficulties was that once the image was carved, the lead needs tamping down into the crisp cut shape, and this hammering (even with the softest rubber or leather hammer) causes the delicate sandstone edges round the image to break up and crumble slightly - thereby distorting the carefully carved image.  Very frustrating!

So, I have tried to get the effect by using resin instead - making up a mixture of polyester resin and metal powder to resemble lead.  I pour this into the carved shape, and overfill slightly so that I can sand back to the stone level once the mixture has hardened.  I am quite pleased with the results and certainly it looks metalic and catches the light beautifully, showing something of the soft shine and glow of hammered and polished lead.

I feel as if it is a bit of a cheat though - perhaps I'll try again with the lead using a simpler shape.


  1. these are really cute. and what an interesting technique.

  2. Thanks Ellen - I wonder if glass could not be melted into an incised design?


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