My MA course at Bath Spa is all-consuming. I’ve been engrossed in research and explorative studies, leaving little time to add new posts here. To see what I’ve been up to, here is a blog/journal, which logs my progress and an image of a drawing I’m working on at the moment:
The arrival of Louise Bourgeois’ exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, coincided with the first weeks on my MA course. I had been looking forward to visiting her show, being a huge fan. A few days before, I had been looking at my collection of ‘finds’ (all sorts of natural phenomena) for inspiration. A dried up fish swim bladder and a sponge-like form found on the beach grabbed me as starting points. I want to investigate similar forms in nature, sometimes micro in scale – their form and function. I’m also interested in drawing more – whatever shape that takes – 3-d and 2-d.
Bourgeois’ work struck a chord. Of course I love her Maman Spider, crouched eerily, over-powering the first barn. I was hoping for more sculpture, but strangely it was her etched drawings of plant forms, bodily parts and egg clusters that fascinated me most. Largescale and awkwardly drawn, they have real emotion, enhanced by repetition.
Her forms resonated with my ‘finds’. I have since looked up my sponge-like object on the internet. It seems to be whelk egg sacs! Serendipity, though not so surprising that I was drawn to Bourgeois’ seductive egg sacs. So I have been drawing the sacs with a view to creating 3-d pieces (drawings?) with wire, paper pulp, fibres and other mixed media based on them. Relic of little lives, now entered into the greater cycle.
I’ve started a part-time MA Fine Art course at Bath Spa University. It’s never too late! I’ve wanted to do one for many years, but the time never seemed right. Now it’s as right as it will ever be.. so I took the plunge and applied belatedly in early September, amazed that I was accepted onto this year’s intake! It’s been a bit of a jolt to the system, but am getting the hang of research methodology and all the mouthfuls that go with it.
This was going on around the time of preparing and running our Somerset Open Studios event. I shared my venue with Nick Weaver, whose wood pieces harmonised well with my work, especially in the “magical Alice-in-Wonderland like garden/sculpture park” (as one visitor put it). Other visitor comments: “Brilliant – most lovely and surprising and innovative visit of the day“; “Wonderful, positive views of life in all respects”; “Remarkable, inspiring exciting”; “Magic!! An oasis of inspiration! Thanks”; “Absolutely stunning“. Our Open Studios event went well – plenty of new enthusiastic, friendly visitors who loved our exhibition, a very wide demographic and several sales. I ran some workshops with a local school, home ed children and adult group, including A’ Level Art students. It was busy but rewarding!
It’s been a wonderful summer. I often feel a little sad at the end of this season, but what makes it more bearable for me is that autumn is beautiful and in UK we tend to have ‘indian summer’ weather in September. Tied in with that is Somerset Open Studios running 17 Sept – 2 Oct (see invite). It’s something to look forward to and work towards. I will be showing my work alongside Nick Weaver (elegant, organic wood furniture and sculptures) in my rejuvenated garden and studio. Our work compliments each other – we both use reclaimed and found materials that harmonise within natural surroundings. If you missed seeing our focal pieces earlier this year in the Mekong garden at Chelsea Flower Show, which received gold and best artisan awards, we will have these on show during Open Studios. I’m also looking forward to visiting a few other Open Studio venues when possible.
My work is currently on exhibition in ‘step in stone’ at Salisbury Arts Centre until 24 Sept. Curated by Amanda Wallwork and me, the exhibition tells the story of last year’s art-in-quarries project. Selected artworks by all 14 artists include re-created dioramas by Tessa Farmer and a GPS soundscape around the grounds by Ralph Hoyte. You can download this on your smartphone via this link.
I will be taking down my work from the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront this weekend, so if you’re around that area before Saturday evening, take in a beach stroll, fish and chips and a look at the artworks before they disappear!
In October, I’m taking part in the Quartz Festival’s ‘Outside In’ exhibition (Queens College,Taunton), 5-15 Oct, with over 40 other South West artists and makers working in different media. The theme is the natural world.
I have decided to donate my Giant Spider sculpture to Carymoor Environmental Centre, (Castle Cary) where I know it will have a great permanent home. Originally created for Glastonbury Festival’s Greenfields ’10, it has travelled to various shows around UK since. Look out for it if you visit.
I hope you’ll be able to make it to one or more of these events – have a great start to autumn!
We are gearing up to our ‘step in stone’ exhibition at Salisbury Art Centre, which I am curating with Amanda Wallwork. The exhibition runs Thursday 18 August – Saturday 24 September.
“This exhibition tells the story of a unique event held last summer in the South West. Fourteen artists, all with connections to South West England (including two from Wiltshire) but from as far afield as Norway and Australia, created a collaborative and multidisciplinary series of site-specific artworks that fused art and the natural landscape in response to the nature of quarries and their place in the environmental, cultural and industrial heritage of the region.
The pieces were installed in six venues (three disused and working quarries and three related indoor exhibitions), and staged in three “steps”, the quarries’ natural history, ecology and geology inspired works in surprising forms. Aiming to link culture and the environment, the extraordinary artscapes gave over 8000 visitors a free opportunity to encounter contemporary artworks while exploring the spectacular, wild landscapes of abandoned and working quarries in rural East Mendip.
‘step in stone’ really engaged audiences, encouraging them to consider the environment around them, our place in it, how it evolves, the benefit we get from it, our impacts upon it and how nature responds and reasserts itself. It engaged a whole spectrum of the public, including school children, families and the elderly, many who had never visited these interesting spaces.”
Exhibiting artists include Artmusic, Catherine Bloomfield, Bronwen Bradshaw, Duncan Cameron, Fiona Campbell, Duncan Elliot, Tessa Farmer, Stuart Frost, Suzie Gutteridge, Ralph Hoyte, Sally Kidall, Caroline Sharp, Amanda Wallwork and Christina White
We’d love you to join us for the launch event on Friday 19 August from 6 – 8pm
I will be showing my large ‘Cirri’ pieces and sketchbooks:
Other artists’ work will include the following:
Each project brings with it new challenges. Sometimes several projects run alongside each other and the art of juggling can be a challenge in itself. Some of my roles overlap or interlink. This can be a good way to function, ‘killing 2 birds with 1 stone’ (though I hate killing), easing the problem of having too many things on the go, but isn’t so straightforward if you don’t want to compromise the work, and it can create a bottleneck time-wise, amongst other complications. I’ve enjoyed working alongside other artists/makers of all ages. I like collaboration – at its best, combined effort multiplies output and result, it’s more fun and creatively, one can learn so much from working with others.
The past month has been full-on. With a bit of time to reflect now, here’s a look at what went on in my little creative world (in the bigger world – all I can say in a nutshell is PLEASE CAN WE UNITE AND STOP KILLING).
Teaching, Workshops, Talks, Demonstrations
On 12 June I spent a day at the Hidden Garden Art Show (Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead), part of Chelsea Fringe Festival where my sculptures were on show with other selected artists, demonstrating my work process, running a drop-in workshop and giving a talk about my work to visitors. Although it poured with rain all morning, the sun brought a magical shimmer and quite a crowd in the afternoon, including Tim Richardson – founder of Chelsea Fringe.
I teach 2 evenings a week at All Hallows Prep School and as I’ve been involved in the Secret Swans Art Trail (one of Black Swan Arts’ 30th anniversary events and part of Frome Festival), I devised a project to involve the children in the Trail. We created a flock of flying swans in wire, which were installed on the exterior wall of Black Swan’s historic Round Tower. Inspired by my recent trip to Sophie Ryder’s exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral, we used her ‘scribbly’ technique to add more black areas. It was an effective solution given time constraints. The final lessons getting the work completed was a mission as some children were absent due to end-of-term activities. Thankfully others stood in (special mention: Ellie West and Nick Somerville!). The swans looked like faint drawings, quite lovely and ethereal, though visitors had to look hard to see them.
Preparations for Priddy Festival included some ‘birdy notes’ as we called them. A team of Mendip Creatives made them from wire and paper, for marquee decor. A large willow hog was also made, led by Angela Morley.
I worked with a couple of schools recently (Bishops Wordsworth & North Town) making wire figures and mini creatures. Bishops Wordsworth was a 2 day slog over to Salisbury in a hire car (my truck was broken) giving 4 x powerpoints/making sessions to 128 children in fairly swift succession. The short sessions of 2 hours per group had limitations, but it’s amazing what children can do when focused!
I continue to be very involved in the Black Swan Arts centre as a trustee, especially this year, with its 30th anniversary. We have held several special exhibitions/events to mark the occasion, which have so far been a ‘resounding success’ (Christina Oswin), with great feedback, overwhelming support from the public, serious funds raised, heightened the BSA profile and engaged the community.
1000 Postcards attracted over 1000 postcard-sized artworks (including 2 of mine) for a massively popular exhibition with over £10,000 of sales so far and visitors galore. Unsold postcards can still be bought online. Preparations for the Secret Swans Art Trail, which followed straight after, grew more intensive. 30 artists in 30 venues around Frome. I made a piece, ‘Resurrection’, (using reclaimed steel, copper wire, tar, rope and scrim) and sited it by the river. It only recieved slight damage, easily rectified and many positive comments, so am grateful to most Frome residents for their respect! In addition I worked on the All Hallows piece, helped Nick Weaver with the organisation and was largely involved in the PR for these events. They are great examples of a huge team effort by Black Swan volunteers.
I’ve been involved in various Somerset Art Works meetings, a couple for an exciting new project that might come off next year with Anna Best, and for Somerset Open Studios ’16 (17 Sept – 2 Oct). As Rep for East Mendip, I’m keen to make sure we do Somerset proud. I’m part of a cluster group in my area called The Mendip Triangle; we have a specially designed map (by Michel Linthorst) to help direct SAW visitors to our lovely rural Studios in September. Looking forward to seeing this year’s SAW guides being delivered next week!
New Work, Exhibitions
I made a new Nest and Mini Dung Beetle & Ball for the Maureen Michaelson Show, in addition to existing work. ‘Resurrection’ will be sited at the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront from 23 July – 4 Sept, and I am now curating our forthcoming step in stone exhibition touring to Salisbury Art Centre (18 Aug – 24 Sept), with Amanda Wallwork’s help. 2 of my main outdoor pieces will be on show. If you missed any step in stone artscapes last year, try to visit!
The garden and studio get quite a battering after big projects, so it’s time to tidy up! My good intention of simplifying life, with less to clutter the brain is still in the development stage – I hope it will happen one day. In the meantime, the juggling continues!
I am currently working on a new piece for Black Swan’s Secret Swans Art Trail.
Frome Standard, March ’16 – Local Artists’ work focal pieces/Chelsea Flower Show story
Frome Times, March ’16 – Chelsea Flower Show commission
Fine Times Recorder, March ’16 – Bishop unveiling at Bishops Palace
Wells Journal, March ’16 – New sculpture unveiled at Bishops Palace
The Visitor Magazine, May ’16 – Somerset artists net Chelsea Flower Show commission
BBC Get Creative Day, April ’16 – workshops at Black Swan Arts
Bruton Town website – Chelsea Flower Show commission
The Fine Times Recorder – Chelsea Flower Show commission
Bishop commission – Country Gardener
Mendip Times, May ’16 – Bishop and Chelsea
Gardens Illustrated, May ’16 – Chelsea
Sunday Telegraph, 29 May ’16 – Chelsea canopy
Viking Cruises brochure for Chelsea Garden, May ’16
Somerset Live – Chelsea artists return
Frustrated Gardener blog – Chelsea Mekong Garden
Garden Design Journal – Chelsea
Country Life, Collectors’ Issue, 1 June ’16
Chelsea Fringe website – Hidden Garden Art Show
Frome Standard, 9 June ’16
Ham and High – Hidden Garden Art Show
The Visitor Magazine, June ’16 – Gold and Best Artisan Garden Awards at Chelsea Flower Show for Somerset Artists
Bruton Town website, June ’16 – Secret Swans Art Trail
SculptSite.com, June ’16 – Secret Swans Art Trail Adds Mystery to Frome Festival
Frome Festival, July ’16 – Secret Swans Success Story
Somerset Cool Blog, July ’16 – 30 Years of Art – Black Swan Arts, Frome
Frome Standard, July ’16 – Secret Swans
Frome Times, August ’16 – Black Swan – Beacon for the Arts
Salisbury Journal, Aug ’16 – step in stone tours to Salisbury Art Centre
Just back from a stint at Chelsea Flower Show celebrating the success of the Viking Cruises Mekong Garden‘s gold and best artisan garden awards, Nick Weaver and I were overawed by the massive interest in our focal pieces for the garden, which appeared to have the wow factor.
A seemingly endless stream of visitors in their 1000s admired and appreciated the garden, designed by multi-gold award-winner Sarah Eberle. People expressed how much they would love to lounge on Nick’s boat and chill, with the water gently lapping around them and visitors were charmed by the ‘ethereal beauty’ and colours of my canopy, many intrigued by its makeup. Sarah Eberle described it in her BBC TV interview this week with Joe Swift as her best bit of the garden: “I love the canopy.. like a celestial beam.. wonderfully charming”!
I was commissioned by Sarah Eberle to create the canopy for her Artisan Mekong Garden, inspired by Cambodia’s floating gardens, traditional fishing nets and silk weaving in the Mekong River region, following Sarah’s journey on board sponsor Viking Cruises Magnificent Mekong. Nick made a lounger styled on a traditional fishing boat.
The 7 x 5m garden is entirely water with a small deck leading to the boat/lounger and cantilevered canopy suspended above. The beds follow the style of the region and contain an eclectic mixture of fruit, flowers and vegetables. Harvested hazel, other reclaimed woods and a plethora of woven wire, silk and found materials have all be used to harmonise with the planting.
I was approached by Sarah after seeing my installation piece “Lichen” at the Maureen Michaelson Gallery stand at GROW London last year. The 4 metre textured fishing net/canopy I made by hand incorporates incredibly fine woven copper wires, fruit netting bags, twine, silk, wool and other surprising found and reclaimed materials like fish skeletons! I also made 3 wire baskets used as props. It was a great pleasure and honour working with Sarah for Chelsea Flower Show and amazing to have achieved such highly acclaimed awards. The team involved many others, including Nigel Evans (paint effects on boat) and Angela Morley (supplied trombone squash), and we are grateful to all who have supported us, given materials and helped!
After over 4 months of hard work, I am a little exhausted but elated!
To see more photos of the Chelsea Flower Show work in progress visit my Art Facebook Page
Next show – The Hidden Garden Art Show, at Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead, London; 4 – 12 June. I will be showing a range of my work, alongside other selected artists (see poster below). On Sunday 12 June this Gallery is also hosting a day as part of Chelsea Fringe Festival, where I will be demonstrating my sculpting techniques from 11am – 5pm, with a talk at 3pm. Do come along!
My steel Bishop was unveiled on 7th April by Bishop Ruth of Taunton at Bishop’s Palace & Gardens. The sculpture represents the local myth about the medieval Bishop Jocelyn of Wells, Somerset who slew the Dragon of Worminster, saving the people of Dinder from further ravaging of their children and stock. He is looking up at the huge Dragon (to be made later), grasping his crozier and sword, in the stance of imminent attack.
I was originally asked by Head Gardener James Cross to create a topiary structure – hence the style – but as it evolved it was decided the Bishop would remain purely a sculpture. He is, in effect, like a 3d linear sketch. I drew a friend, Nick Weaver, posed in the Bishop of Taunton’s cope, to help me obtain the right stance and movement of drapes. A vicar at Wells Cathedral also kindly posed briefly for me in his robes in Dragon-slaying stance, which amused him! As the Bishop is a ‘man of cloth’, I tried to devise ways of not being too anatomically figurative, so that the inner structure only hints at his body, and that the drapes of his robes, cope, cross and mitre are the focus.
His ethereal appearance means visitors may need to look twice when they come across him!
Below are a few pics. To see how the work developed please visit my Art Facebook Page
I am now fully focused on finishing my canopy/net for Chelsea Flower Show’s ‘Viking Cruises’ artisan garden. It took me a month and a half just to weave the net (in 25 sections) by hand with fine copper wires; it’s been more fun collecting materials and building up the coloured layers. Fish skeletons and feathers are some of the interesting additions! A few pics below show how it’s going so far.