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.

Age of Crinoids

step in stone continues to absorb me – not only in my role as curator and manager of the project, but also as a featured artist – taking most of my time and thoughts.

Delving further into the quarries theme for the project, I’ve discovered that the earlier part of the Carboniferous period (Mississipian) has been coined the Age of Crinoids.  Over 350 million years ago the Mendips were submerged under a warm, swampy sea, the Mendip Hills hadn’t yet formed into a range of mountains – now substantially eroded back –  and animal life comprised mainly of primitive reptiles, giant insects like dragonflies the size of seagulls, and a myriad of sea creatures such as echinoderms and corals.  Crinoids (sea lilies) were abundant in thousands of varieties, showing huge morphological diversity.  These fascinating ancient creatures look like exotic plant forms and many varieties still exist today.  They cling to the bottom of the sea bed by long spiny stems, others are unstalked, have tentacle legs or long arms which enable them to drag themeselves along.

Crinoid fossil

Fossils found in limestone rocks exposed in the quarries (often in now vertical old sea beds) brings into question our origin, distant past and future.  Captivated, I have been imagining these other worlds.  Following on from my post on convergent evolution, my work will focus on these and other similar forms as visual metaphors of complex primal systems in nature, universal forms which echo others, examples of fractal geometry and the interconnectedness of all things.

Each time I visit the quarries, often on dog walks, I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of what they represent – the geology; how far back time goes; what extraordinary life forms exist now and in the past; how incredible and persistent nature is; how we are all linked; how insignificant we are as individuals, yet how we impact on our surroundings…

Quarry at Stoke St. Michael

Representing step in stone, I launched an under 20 year olds’ Sculpture Design Competition at Somerset Earth Science Centre a fortnight ago, and alongside other step in stone artists and Juliet Lawn from SESC, gave a slideshow/talk, with work on display to give young visitors inspiration for their designs.  This competition is now online for entries at: Black Swan Arts.  Last week Nick Weaver and I set up a stand for step in stone at Frome Town Councils’s AGM.  Having been funded by them we were asked to present our project to attendees.  It was a full house – the energy in Frome seems infectious!  This Wednesday (8th April) I’ll be taking part as a speaker in a public discussion at Wells Museum about Public Art (7.30pm if you’re interested in coming!)

I ran a wire workshop at the end of March via ArtsLink, which resulted in some great outcomes by participants.  I have more workshops coming up and will also be running some during step in stone at SESC and Black Swan Arts (details of these will be posted soon).

Wire workshop IMG_9931 IMG_9932 IMG_9934 IMG_9935 IMG_9939 IMG_9940 IMG_9941

Although there’s still a lot to do, I’m looking forward to my forthcoming exhibitions this summer.  Maureen Michaelson is representing me at GROW London and Hidden Garden Art Show this June and my biggest project to date step in stone starts in July.

Sunny June

I’ve had a lovely month, which started with setting up and manning my exhibition at Contains Art, Watchet – almost a fortnight of hot sunny days by the harbour, chatting to visitors and resident artists (and quite a bit of driving to and fro), followed by making a large Nest for children’s litterbugs in Bristol via Litterarti, running adult and children’s workshops and going on art trips with my All Hallows students.  A highlight for me was seeing Tessa Farmer’s fairy/insect works at the Holburne Museum, Bath – such amazing attention to detail!  I also sold 2 sculptures in my London show via Maureen Michaelson.

Sculpture on gallery roof at Contains Art - with views to the marinaSculpture on gallery roof at Contains ArtSculptures on show at Contains Art Sculptures on show at Contains Art Sculptures on show at Contains ArtIMG_8898Sculptures on show at Contains Art   Indoor Gallery exhibition at Contains Art   Sea Life workshop at Contains Art

For the last few days I’ve been concentrating on installing my Lichen piece around a tree for Glastonbury Abbey’s Orchard Sculpture Trail starting in a few days.  A scary storm of lightening and thunder stalled the process – copper, steel and trees don’t bode too well when thunder and lightening is cracking down at an ever increasing rate, but thanks to friend Nick Weaver’s help it is almost done and the sun’s now returned (just as Glastonbury Festival ends.. as is the norm!)

Setting up at Glastonbury Abbey

Plans are well underway for a new project I’m organising for 2015 – an Art Quarry Trail in the Mendips.  I have the support and partnership of Somerset Art Works, Black Swan Arts and Somerset Earth Science Centre.  More will be posted of this as it develops – just hope we get the funding…

 

 

Buzzy

It’s a funny word – busy!  It often means that things are going well but a bit hectic.  Sometimes it’s an excuse not to do what you don’t feel like doing.  Trying to balance all aspects of life, recently writing a post for my blog was relatively low on my list of priorities.  Too many other projects on the go, all vying for attention, and school summer holidays to boot!  Anyway, like the constant buzz of creatures in my garden at the moment, it’s been a buzzy time.

Below is a snapshot of some of my recent projects and workshops over the past few weeks:

Installed sculpture as private commission for an architect designed interior space:

Various workshops with young people:

Ongoing exhibitions ending this weekend:

Been working on a film via Ignite Somerset – link to be posted very soon.  Ignite Somerset also have a radio show broadcast via 10radio.  I featured in last week’s hourly programme with my son, which was fun.

Time is drawing near for Somerset Art Weeks Festival (21st Sept – 6th Oct) and I’ve been focusing on my Abundance commission work as part of this event (venue 55).  Installation will start soon, and I still have plenty to do before then.  I’m also showing at Thornreed Studio alongside Simon Ledson, Jane Peck and Jan Ollis (venue 94).  Please come along to both venues!

Artist on a Plinth

Earlier this month I took part in the Widcombe Art Trail at the Paragon School venue in Bath.  In addition to showing my work I ran a taster wire workshop for children there to coincide.  Amongst other pieces, my giant Spider sat on the lawn, attracted plenty of attention and was featured in the Bath Chronicle.  I managed to squeeze in making a short film about my work with Somerset Film the same weekend – the results will be posted asap.

Last week I spent a few hectic days running back to back workshops at a couple of schools and this week my Artist on a Plinth exhibition starts at Black Swan Arts, (Frome BA11 1BB) running until 4th July – a small taster of my work and preview of more to come at the Frome Artists Open Studios at ‘The Limes’, 45 Keyford, Frome BA11 1LB, 6th – 14th July.

Now it’s half-term I’m in semi-work mode, which is just as well as my back needs a break!

Journeys

Although the pressure started earlier for me this year, I’m beginning to feel it tightening its grip.  Determined not to let the season of summer madness get the better of me, I have declined a few possible festival workshops (usually done for love not money!) in order to keep focused on important commissions/exhibitions coming up later in the year.  However, there still seems to be a gathering list of exhibitions, and I’ve spent much of the past week either delivering/installing or collecting work!  The long journeys and physical exertion of lifting/carting work can be time-consuming, expensive and exhausting.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t say no and often, the good exhibitions are miles away.  The trick is to make the most of every journey.

Last Monday, with a bit of clever planning, I incorporated 3 appointments in one day, so that the travel to Devon was fully utilised.  With truck fully loaded, I went first to Greenway (Agatha Christie’s place – so beautiful) to discuss a possible solo exhibition there next year, which is exciting.  Agatha described it as “the loveliest place in the world”, and I can see her point.  Overlooking the river Dart and a boathouse, her georgian home is surrounded by lush planting, lichen and mossy woodland.  I was entranced!

I then went on to Cornwood to install work for the Delamore Arts exhibition (runs throughout May) – a great venue, particularly for sculpture.  And finally, a trip to a small Gallery in Exmouth (LookArt).  My dog and I enjoyed several walks that day exploring each area, so it was quite an adventure.

Whilst in Bath last week collecting flyers for the Widcombe Trail (18/19th May) and delivering work, amongst other errands I visited Bath Abbey to see the Odyssey exhibition (about journeys), including work by Tessa Farmer and Damian Hirst.  I first saw Tessa’s work at the Saatchi Gallery, but this was even better.  Her ‘Voyager’ piece contains miniscule winged skeletons spearing beetles on the back of a real swan with strange growths… incredible!

Yesterday I drove north to Showborough House, Twyning, Glos to install there.  It took up most of the day, but another great venue for sculpture I can’t resist.

Now I have a week or two to get stuck into making (hopefully in the sunshine), before the next set of installing.  For a full list of forthcoming exhibitions please see here.

Chance to win one of my drawings as a signed print!

I am offering one of my drawings free as a signed giclee print (on high quality A3 or A4 card) to my Facebook Art Page fans!  If you ‘like’ my page you are in for a chance to win once I reach 200 likes.  Please visit my Facebook page, see details and click ‘like’ at the top:  Fiona Campbell Art Facebook Page.

I have opened an Etsy shop too.  Some of my prints are for sale, together with a few sculptures.  I will be adding more items to the shop over time.  Please browse, be tempted and consider a purchase: Etsy Shop

Spring

February has flown by for me, thankfully, with an intense period of making new sculpture, installations, exhibitions, commissions, teaching and workshops.  I’m very glad Spring is in the air at last!

Our Gallery4Art exhibition ‘Art at Blackmore’ ends tomorrow (Sunday) at 5pm, whilst ‘All Wired Up’ at Walford Mill started yesterday and continues until April, featuring my work.

I installed two pieces at Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Cornwall yesterday, as part of ‘Art in the Garden’ – running until October.

Two days of wire workshops this week via Spaeda at Preston Primary School resulted in some great insect sculptures by Yr 6 pupils.  I was also really pleased that some of my students at All Hallows Prep School gained scholarships to their next schools and won awards at Black Swan Arts’ Young Open, Frome. On Monday I went on an art trip with some of these pupils to see the Rain Room and Light Show in London – two fantastic shows!

I’m very excited to have been selected for the Somerset Art Works/NGS ‘Abundance’ commission, which will entail a garden trail of sculptures by seven artists installed in various beautiful gardens in Somerset during Somerset Art Weeks later this year.  Ideas are brewing…

Next week I will be installing some work at The Magdalen Project as part of the Scraptors‘ Scraptorzoic Era. This will be the last trail for me as part of the Scraptors group, although I will of course continue individually as a scraptor – working with recycled materials, as ever.

And now it’s nearly Spring, people traditionally turn their attention to gardening and perhaps a sculpture or two…

Africa, Wildlife and Art

I’m very proud to have roots in Africa.  David Attenborough’s recent BBC TV series has brought the continent to the fore and each film brings tears to my eyes – mingled emotions of sadness, nostalgia, amazement, joy, laughter, despair, pride, love…  Several people have commented to me on the memorable Dung Beetle and Ball episode, as I have an affinity with Dung Beetles.  I make sculptures of them, use one as my gravitas and even won David Shepherd’s 3-d Wildlife Artist of the Year Award (’09) with my Dung Beetle and Ball piece (see below).  Since my childhood, I’ve always been captivated by dung beetles.  Their attachment to dung, the backward ball-rolling, their striking appearance, strength and perseverance appeal to my interest in the extra-ordinary.  Worshipped by the Egyptians, they are also symbols of wealth and power.  My Dad used to (and still does!) enjoy picking up dried elephant dung on safaris (see also my brother’s Andrew Campbell safaris) or driving over it for fun, and I guess the dung thing has stuck.  Hopefully, more people now understand that the beetles roll balls with their back legs and why they love dung so much (nutrition, nest etc..).  In galleries I’ve had to reverse my beetles, after being placed the wrong way round!

This week I managed to catch the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at Bristol Museum before it ends (today).  Wildlife in all its guises – again raising all sorts of emotions with incredible images of nature – closeup, narrative, beauty and horror (mainly due to ‘sick people’ as my son succinctly put it).

My son and I then popped to the Arnolfini’s Worktable event as part of IBT13, passing IBT’s fake moon rising in College Green on our way to the harbourside.  Worktable is a drop-by interactive artwork by Kate McIntosh set in connected shipping containers with microphones to record the antics. We chose an item to use/smash up (rollerskate), which was great fun to do in a room on our own, then had to artfully re-assemble someone else’s trashed object (car) in a shared room with other creative participants, with very basic materials. Equally exciting was seeing the results of everyone else’s handiwork at the end.  Challenging work – good for lateral thinking with no pre-conceived ideas.  Project ends later today.