Launch of ‘step in stone’

Time for reflection has been very thin over the past few months.  It has been the busiest ever period of my working life (possibly not to be repeated)!Installing work at GROW London for Maureen Michaelson’s Gallery stand in June proved successful, with some great feedback and an offer of a Chelsea Flower Show commission next year.  Happily, I sold a couple of Nest and Cocoon pieces at The Hidden Garden Art Show (also with Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead – part of Chelsea Fringe).

A full load for GROW London GROW London

I ran a couple of 2-day workshops at Kings Hall School and Farmors School, resulting in a great dragon and large insects with Yr 7 students.  A fortnight ago I set up my Giant Nest in Black Swan Arts Centre, Frome.  This will remain on show there for a couple of months.
Dragon in the making at Kings hall School, Taunton
However, most of my time continues to be absorbed by my project step in stone‘.  Co-ordinating, curating and making are quite a challenging combination, but so far things are going well and last week was the big opening of ‘Step 1’, after months preparing and publicising with stands, presentations, interviews, leaflets and other forms of PR.  Installing artwork, arranging signage, running a school workshop, leading a guided walk, making a sculpture in a day, holding a press launch and organising the official opening at Somerset Earth Science Centre has been a whirlwind of activity! Thanks to the massive support of Nick Weaver and other members of the team, I’ve survived.4 of us spent 2 days setting up artwork inside and around the grounds of SESC.  My artwork for the project includes both new work inspired by features of the quarries (for Steps 2 & 3) and pre-existing work (for Step 1) that reflect how the quarries resonate with my interest in life forms.  The installation of my floating pieces involved adventures in a boat.   2 helpers were enlisted from Moons Hill quarry to assist with this.  Slightly perturbed by the strangeness of it all to start with, they were soon singing rowing songs – delighted by the novelty once they’d relaxed into their new roles and we floated the first ‘Diatom’ in the water.   My other installations meant climbing up tall ladders, and wrapping ‘Lichen’ round a tree with helper Nigel.  Duncan Elliott dragged his heavy stone pieces up the road on a trolley, and built huge scaffolding frames to hoist up his ‘Age of Stone’ – a back-aching job, but worth the effort – it is magnificent!  I met Tessa Farmer from the train laden with her intriguing boxes of insects, miniature evil fairies, worm casts and bell jar – the intricate work taking her hours to install – and Christina White set up her beautiful multi-exposure photographs in the Centre against limestone walls.

Some of this process was documented by Duncan Simey (see ‘wild-landscapes’ photos below) and filmmaker Jack Offord, for our final documentary film.

Installing DiatomsOne of my Diatoms, floating at SESC Installing Lichen with Nigel Help from Moons Hill Quarry worker Lichen being installed Duncan Elliott's 'Sleeping Beauty' - detail 3 men in a boat One of my Diatoms Lichen - detail Tessa Farmer installing her work Christina White installing her work Me up a tree Tessa Farmer's 'Out of the Earth'
‘step in stone’ opened on Wednesday 8th July, and we’ve already had a wide range of visitors of all ages engaging with our work, including 2 school groups through Somerset Art Works’ inspirED programme and some guided walkers through our collaboration with Somerset Wildlife Trust.  My half day workshop was with Yr 7 pupil premium students from Selwood School.  In small groups they created wire pieces based on silver birch seeds.  Suzie Gutteridge’s workshop the next day resulted in felted balls using locally sourced wool.  Both sets of work will be exhibited as part of the Trail at Halecombe Quarry from Step 2 (15th Aug) onwards.
Guided Walk in collaboration with Somerset Wildlife Trust Participant doing rubbings Guided Walk
Our first week culminated on Saturday with us making Charlotte McKeown’s sculpture with her in just one day.  This was her award for winning the ‘Under 20’s Sculpture Design Competition’.  A bit like scrapheap challenge, our small, dedicated team worked hard to create the Kinetic Structure in a day.  Despite having prepared materials and got some parts together in advance, it was still a little daunting.  Our team included Charlotte, Lucja Korczak, who won the under 13 year-old design competition prize, Duncan Cameron (step in stone artist and Strode College tutor to Charlotte), Nick Weaver (step in stone Partner) and me.  Perhaps the best thing about the day was how everyone worked together so well to make it happen and with such aplomb!    A slight rush to finish before the arrival of press and guests for our official opening at 5pm, the sculpture was installed near the Centre entrance.  Sarah Jackson from Mendip Hills AONB kindly did the honours to ‘open’ the event, and we all celebrated the start of an exciting few months ahead!
Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Creating a sculpture in a day Official Opening Trying out the Kinetic Structure Press Launch and Official Opening
Do please come and visit Somerset Earth Science Centre (SESC)  – open to public Weds 9am-4pm & special events.  Artists exhibiting at SESC for Step 1 are: Duncan Elliott, Tessa Farmer, Christina White, Charlotte McKeown (young sculpture design competition winner) and me.  Step 2 follows on 15th August.