Material experiments, exhibitions and open studios

Hello to Winter and the festive season!

I am now in my second (and final) year of my MA Fine Art course at Bath Spa Uni.  It has been a great opportunity to reflect on previous work, find new ways of working and research.  I am still expanding and refining ideas, while continuing the thread of using reclaimed materials. This aspect relates partly to the issue of waste and energy – utilising and recycling.  It belongs to a wider subject of our relationship with matter, nature, and ourselves.  In the series ‘Wonders of Life’ Brian Cox explains that energy is eternal, transforming from one thing to another. There is a connection between everything that has ever lived, and an impact, as in the Chaos theory, or Butterfly Effect.  I see Vitalism as energy in all things, although in Science it is the vital force peculiar to only living organisms.

A mass of frass (insect excretions) appeared around tiny entry points in a piece of found wood (above) in which I had inserted glass tendrils as growths. The frass resemble decaying matter on a holdfast I studied. I find them intriguing, referencing life’s recycling, organic matter as bodily forms. These phenomena have been starting points to further investigations. They led to microscopic studies of frass. Microscopic hidden structures vital to our being reflecting the magnitude of life. These images could easily be rock formations – even meteors.

I have since experimented with annealing and beating copper over molds I carved in wood, based on frass forms. My copper project – exploring the materiality of copper and what happens to it under different conditions – included an experiment with copper electrolysis. The alchemic process is fascinating, I have learnt a little more chemistry and made copper hydroxide as a pigment. Two scrap pieces of copper were connected to a low voltage battery charger, with opposite charges. The electricity splits the ions in salty water. A complex chemical process ensues, involving copper hydroxide, chlorine and hydrogen bubbles. The effects of disintegration and patination are wonderful. The harnessing of elemental energy could become an artwork.

I recently visited the exhibition ‘Italian Influences, British Responses’ at Estorick, London. It was interesting to see current artworks alongside the anti-consumerist 60’s group Arte Povera, who broke with tradition believing art should be inclusive.  In their resolution to fuse life and art, nature and culture, they used everyday materials, often incongruous juxtapositions of mundane manufactured with organic. Their work was about energy and the elements. The exhibition included a piece by Mona Hatoum.  She uses everyday objects arranged to signify displacement and confinement.  In her work domesticity becomes ‘menacing’ (Van Assche).  In a Youtube film she explains her intuitive response to materials. She incorporates body parts eg nails, skin, hair, creating modest hair balls, or hair grids. Through these bodily excretions she transforms materials and meaning.

I also saw Damian Ortega at White Cube Gallery and watched him online. He playfully takes apart and re-assembles components, dealing with fragmentation of objects, time, materiality.  It is a philosophical discourse involving material and message.   I like his encyclopaedic geodes made from old maps, which he layers as shells, suggesting geological time, and his visual essays, which question truth, mass media’s effect on our perceptions and judgements. ‘Learning Scheme’ indexes small thumbnail clay pieces according to their similarities. Some forms are similar in different groups/lines. Like convergent evolution, they seem to morph, some are organic, others more mechanical.  Since then I have been working in clay a little.

Last week we opened our MA studios to the public.  I created an installation for it inspired by the organic forms I have been studying, using found and reclaimed materials, some transformed by me. It was a great gathering and the deadline helped me focus on one thing for a while.

On a more commercial note, to make ends meet, I have just updated my Etsy page: Do have a look – there are some possible gifts for Christmas!

Have a lovely one!


Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions

Artist Outdoor Programme, Sidcot Arts Centre, Sidcot Community Arts Centre, Winscombe, North Somerset, BS25 1PD (off A38) 1st Feb – 31st July

Of Form And Texture, Sidcot Arts Centre, Sidcot Community Arts Centre, Winscombe, North Somerset, BS25 1PD (off A38) 22nd March – 26th April, 11-6 every Thursday & Friday and 10-4 on Saturdays (excluding Easter weekend)

Voyages, Contains Art, Easy Quay, Watchet, Somerset TA23 OAQ  4th – 15th June, 10-5 Wed – Sun (related workshop Sat 7th June, 2-4pm)

Hidden Garden Art Show in Association with Chelsea Fringe, 24th May – 8th June (part of NGS – 8th June)

Art Parks International Sculpture Festival, St. Martin, Guernsey GY4 6SG  25th May – end October

Sculpture in the Orchard, Glastonbury Abbey, Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 9EL  5th July – 28th September

Devon Recycled Sculpture T.R.A.I.L, Teignmouth seafront and surrounds  20th July – 31st August

Big Green Week ’14 & Litterarti Waste of Space Recycled Art Exhibition, Trinity Centre, Bristol 14th – 22nd June & 5th – 9th August

Second Time Around – The Hubcap As Art  Landfillart Exhibition, Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester, Virginia, USA  7th Sept ’14 – 1st March ’15

Somerset Art Works Open Studios Laundry Cottage, 13 Cooks Lane, West Cranmore, nr Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 4RH 20th Sept – 5th Oct, 11-6 daily

Summer events

The Abundance commission work has taken over recently as a daily activity.   I’m hooked and no matter what the day holds, I try to spend a few hours on making my lichen-inspired sculptural pieces towards a steadily growing mass of forms for my installation at Esotera during Somerset Art Weeks Festival. (See Abundance blog for further details).

Meanwhile, a succession of exhibitions, teaching and personal stuff is using up my remaining energy reserves.  Did the Sustainability Show yesterday in Taunton.  It poured with rain, but otherwise a great event!

Here’s an exhibition update on summer events I’m taking part in:

Bristol’s Big Green Week started at the weekend.  I’m showing some work in the Salvage exhibition at the Architecture Centre, next to the Arnolfini, Narrow Quay (15th – 23rd June).

My Artist on a Plinth exhibition at Black Swan Arts is up and running (until 4th July).

Frome Festival kicks off soon, along with Frome Artists Open Studios.  I will be showing in a group exhibition at ‘The Limes’, 45 Keyford, Frome BA11 1LB (venue 23 – private view invite below)


This photo of my work will feature in the Evolver Prize 2013 Exhibition, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, Devon EX14 1LX (13th July – 31st August)


I’ll be taking part in the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail (20th July – 1st Sept) around Teignmouth seafront area

Art in the Garden, Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Bodmin PL39 5AD (1st March – 31st Oct)

And as we draw closer to midsummer in UK, bring on the sunshine..!

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!

SAW ’12

This year’s Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios event was an interesting one.  Naturally, the recession has hit peoples’ pockets a plenty, so visitor attendance and sales were clearly down on previous years, in my experience.  However, although a bit remote from the main hub of venues, I was pleased that my venue at no. 10 attracted some lovely, appreciative people and a whole range of positive feedback – all of which help make it worthwhile.  I do feel that we artists will need to work even harder to gain public recognition and earn a crust in times ahead… A blog by Nancy Farmer articulates many thoughts from this year’s SAW artists.  Somerset Art Works is a great organisation for artists in Somerset and let’s hope it continues to move from strength to strength despite the arts cuts.

Sometimes it’s hard to verbalise what my work is about – often working in an instinctive way – so it’s helpful receiving other people’s responses.  Here are some of my visitors’ comments from SAW ’12, to end the 2 weeks and 3 weekends on a positive note (and to entice you to come and view my work in forthcoming exhibitions):

“Beautifully close to nature…delicate and strong at the same time”  “..fascinating and clever”  “absolutely intriguing”  “inspirational”  “your sculptures work very well in the garden”  “we love your stuff – you have a wonderful eye for the incredible”  “wonderful texture and form”  “individual”  “unique”  “amazing work”  “inventive use of materials”  “jack of all trades – master of all!”  “so versatile”  “ethereal”  “I very much admire your work”  “so organic”  “I love your work – it’s so intricate, clever and witty”  🙂



Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios and Swans auction at Bishops Palace

It’s that time again – Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios (15th – 30th Sept) starts soon,  highlighted by hundreds of yellow SAW signs around Somerset to indicate artists’ venues and arts events open to the public.  I’m at Venue 10 (West Cranmore BA4 4RH).  I’ve formed a cluster group “The East Mendip Collection” with 5 other artists from my area (David Brayne RWS and Jane Brayne, Christine-Anne Richards, Thea Dupays and Sally Jacobs) to encourage visitors get round to each of us:  SAW Cluster flyer ’12

My SAW venue will include an exhibition of large sculptural work in my garden and smaller work/sketchbooks/drawings/prints etc in my studio.  I’m also offering lunchtime wire workshops each Sunday (16th/23rd/30th, 12-1pm) – booking advisable (01749 880394).  For updates and images please see my Facebook page.

Some of my sculptures are currently on show in the Bishops Palace Summer Exhibition, Wells (’til 30th Sept), which coincides with the SwansofWells Swansong auction preview weekend (15/16th Sept) – also in Bishops Palace gardens.  This features over 60 decorated Swan sculptures – including my swan ‘Candela’ (sponsored by All Hallows Prep School), which I decorated with help from pupils, using colourful recycled materials.

Candela has proved a hit with children – her encrusted beak and body adorned with exotic and everyday collected objects including gogos (miniature luminescent toys), beads, buttons and wire cranes – made by children in workshops at All Hallows.  Her name originates from the Latin word for ‘Candle’, which features in the All Hallows motto:  ’Sancto cuique sua candela’: ‘for every saint there is a candle (light).’  Every child is a potential saint and they too have their lights.  It also relates to my design of flame-like linear patterns overlaid with vivid, interwoven materials and luminous paint.  Hoping the auction at Bishops Palace on 29th September will fetch a handsome figure for Candela (funds go to local charities).  Ideally, it would be lovely if it returned to All Hallows, where it was created.  Alongside this, SwansofWells have a Swans photographic competition – one of the prizes will be a wire workshop with me.

In addition, a series of my hanging “Nests” will be on exhibition at the Quartz Arts Festival, Queens College, Taunton TA1 4QS (26th Sept – 6th Oct).  See Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions for further details.

Here’s hoping for a lovely Indian Summer this September…