Sense of achievement

Around this time I normally write a winter newsletter, but it feels like I’ve only just finished the autumn one!  Time has really flown by.  It’s been a very intense and challenging few months for me, full of achievements and not quite burnt out yet!  ‘step in stone’ – an ambitious art in quarries project I organised – took over my life for many months and is now over.  It was incredible seeing it through to fruition, and so fulfilling working with quality artists whose work I admire.

Overall, ‘step in stone’ was a tremendous success, very well received by an extremely varied and broadly based audience.  Combining the role of project manager and curator with that of being a participating artist was demanding.  Considering time constraints and my other roles, I feel I achieved a great deal, though disappointed that I could not fully explore more possibilities with my commissioned artwork for the project. ‘Cirri’ was intended to be more numerous, (based on Fossilised remains of ancient sea life forms).  I relished the opportunity to explore new concepts and media in my piece ‘Eviscerated Earth’ installed at Fairy Cave Quarry – recycled wax, cloth, scrim, paper and wire combined with found, rusty scrap steel collected from quarries.  It linked to the story of Fairy Cave: destruction of caves and beautiful (speleothem) formations within.  I would have liked to create more work for our Black Swan Exhibition – a beautiful show – but management of the project took over and time ran out.

step in stone catalogue pageEviscerated Earth recycled wax, cloth, scrim, paper and wire combined with found, rusty scrap steel

Now that the excitement is over, and I’ve reached the end of the arduous (but revealing) evaluation process for it, I’m starting to look forward to new ventures and getting inspired.

I visited Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Royal Academy, London recently.  It’s not often art brings tears to my eyes, but his work is so powerful, I was deeply moved.  The cell depictions of his sordid incarceration by Chinese authorities made me feel voyeuristic, angry and amazed at the brilliance of them.

A fortnight ago I sold my Nestling Cocoon to Mark Owen of Take That for an anniversary present to his wife Emma.  I drove from Somerset to North London to collect the piece from Maureen Michaelson (Gallerist), then to Sussex where I delivered it, then back to Somerset, in time to teach my evening art classes… all in a day!

I’m currently working on a life-size steel Bishop commissioned for the gardens at Bishops Palace, Wells, and will then start on a new commission for garden designer Sarah Eberle’s Artisan Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2016, to create a 4 metre square woven canopy.

Bishop design

Other opportunities in the pipeline include showing with Maureen Michaelson again next year for Chelsea Fringe.  In the immediate future, I have been selected to show at the The Grant Bradley Gallery, (1 St Peters Ct, Bedminster Parade, Bristol BS3 4AQ) as part of a mixed show entitled ‘Bristol Green Capital in the Frame’. Celebrating and reflecting on the year that Bristol was voted The European Green Capital, it embodies a green theme: recycling, the importance of green spaces and wildlife.  The exhibition runs from 5 Dec ’15 – 2 Jan ’16.  You’re welcome to come along to the Private View: Fri 4 Dec 6-9pm!

In case you’ve tried viewing my website gallery pages – apologies!  There is a plug-in issue due to server updates, so some images are failing to open.  Hopefully it will be sorted soon!

 

Tentacle making

After months of collecting and creating, I’m now in the final stages of my step in stone work for Step 2 at Westdown/Asham Quarry – with just a few more tentacles to make.  Time is short and tentacles are long but I think I’ll get there!  Ideally, I would have liked to have made more work but time has constrained.

Seeds were my starting point.  Just as they have blown in to fertilise these ancient deserted rocky environments I envisaged large tumbleweed-like structures rolling around, like old man’s beard seed heads growing there. Thoughts have evolved around life’s energy force, neurons, repeat forms in nature, nature’s persistence,  sea creatures (see previous post on Crinoids)…

Rusting machinery and discarded mattress springs left in the quarries, old horseshoes (thanks to Luke Ellis) and other scrap found locally and donated – fossils of the modern era, remnants of past, have provided most of my material to make the work.

Scrap donated by Chris Lee Crinoid fossil Old Man's Beard in foreground at Westdown Quarry Tumbleweed/neuron design Scrap Scrap for fossilMaking tentacles'Cirri' in the making Pile of tentacles Cirri structure'Cirri' half made. Photo by Duncan SimeyGathering tentacles in studio Colour sorting Making the Crinoid structureSkeletal structure Skeletal structure

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.

Recycled Art

I have some work in the annual Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, on show on Teignmouth seafront until the beginning of September.  These pieces were originally created for the Voyages programme at Contains Art earlier this year.

Sculptures at Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail 'Found, Now Missing' - Sculpture at Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail 'Found, Now Missing' (detail) - Sculpture at Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail

I also recently took part in Litterarti’s week long series of workshops at the Trinity Centre, Bristol.  Over 25 artists who use recycled materials were involved in working with the community and/or exhibiting at the final exhibition for ‘Waste of Space’.  I created a scrap steel tree with Pete Margerum.  We then ran a workshop at the Trinity Centre for the public to create branches, leaves and flowers made from recycled wire, bottle tops and beads etc.

Making the Tree with Pete Margerum Litterarti workshops Litterarti workshops Tree (foreground) at 'Waste of Space' Exhibition, Trinity Centre

 

Glastonbury Abbey – Orchard Sculpture Trail

Glastonbury Abbey are running their first ever ‘Orchard Sculpture Trail’ this summer, in which I am showing 2 pieces – originally created for last year’s SAW/NGS Abundance commission.  Lichen and Giant Nest were both created from mixed media (recycled and found materials) as part of a larger set of work entitled Garden of Eden.  The work took nearly 4 days to install around a tree in the orchard, and are on exhibition from now until 28th September.  Other featured sculptors include Penny Hardy, Tom Clark, Serena de la Hey and Anthony Rogers.

Lichen - installed at Glastonbury Abbey's Orchard Sculpture Trail

I will be talking about my Abundance work at the Create, Make, Cultivate Symposium this Saturday (12th July) during the Abundance Pecha Kucha (between 3.30 – 4.15pm).  For bookings please contact: 01458 253800 or info@somersetartworks.org.uk.

Summer Exhibitions

My blog writing has suffered in the past few months as demands on my life expand.  It can be said of many of us, life seems to be getting busier.  Trying to take time out to simply enjoy can be a challenge!  The past month has certainly been a massive effort for me to manage, but I seem to have done it fairly unscathed.  Planning and running workshops at different schools, drawing and making large sculptures for new exhibitions, transporting and setting them up, endless admin and meetings for new roles and plans (to be divulged soon) and of course personal life, son, garden, home blah blah…!  So, here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in terms of exhibitions and projects I’m involved in this summer.

I’ve been working towards several summer shows at seaside venues and in some lovely gardens in London, the South West and Guernsey.

Starting next week is my solo exhibition entitled ‘Found, Now Missing’ at Contains Art, Somerset, as part of their ‘Voyages’ programme.  My largest piece (image above) will be sited on the roof of a shipping container/gallery overlooking Watchet marina and Bristol Channel.  It will be seen from the West Somerset steam railway line above, too.  See the Private View invite below for further details – please come along if you can.

On 7th June, I’ll be running a drawing workshop tied in with the exhibition.  Do drop in!

From July to September I will be showing work in Glastonbury Abbey’s grounds for their Abbey Orchard Sculpture Trail and participating in the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail ‘14.  (See current and forthcoming exhibitions for dates.)

My work is currently featured in The Hidden Garden Art Show as part of Chelsea Fringe and the National Garden Scheme until 8th June and at Art Parks International Sculpture Festival, St Martin, Guernsey GY4 6SG until October.  I also have 3 pieces on show until July for Sidcot Arts Centre’s Outdoor Artist Programme.

Various workshops in schools include recently making crane sculptures with All Hallows students linked with the Great Crane Project – soon to be filmed by Whitespace Productions in the making.  We made a 2 metre high Tree at Watchfield Primary and this month I’ll be constructing a large nest for children’s litterbugs to live in as part of a Litterarti project, which will feature in Bristol’s forthcoming Big Green Week.

On 12th July, I will be discussing my SAW/NGS Abundance work at the ‘Make, Create, Cultivate Symposium’ – a weekend celebration of some recent innovative creative projects in Somerset.

Then I’m off to Florence for a short break, which I’m sure to enjoy!

I hope you can visit some of these events and wishing you a happy, hot summer ahead!

 

May madness and shipping

I love May – it’s my favourite month in UK.  But this May I have a hectic schedule of side-by-side and back-to-back exhibitions, workshops and projects on the go and already finding myself working hard on the bank holiday weekend.  C’est la vie…

On Wednesday I packed up and delivered a piece for shipment abroad (just Guernsey but still across the sea).  It was a trial getting the piece appropriately packed for safe transport as it is a fairly fragile, unusual shape.  The work will be on show at Artparks International Sculpture Exhibition.  Next Saturday I will be installing several pieces in a Hampstead garden owned by curator and gallerist Maureen Michaelson for London’s Chelsea Fringe and National Garden Scheme (see below).  Exciting to be showing back in London.

Tomorrow I’m taking down work from an exhibition at Sidcot Arts Centre, though leaving my outdoor sculptures on show until July.   And the panic is on to complete a large set of work for the Voyages programme at Contains Art.  My exhibition there is entitled ‘Found, Now Missing’.  It references the disappearance of seashells and sealife from coral reefs.  My main piece will be sited on the roof of one of the shipping containers, so I am making it in sections for lifting.  Created from scrap steel etc, it’s very heavy!

With a couple of other projects I’m organising and a few workshops in schools also lined up this month, I have a feeling it’s going to be a roller coaster month!

 

Local to International

I’ve been selected to show work at this year’s International Sculpture Festival in Guernsey.  Whittled down from thousands of applicants from across the globe, there will be approximately 120 pieces on display throughout the summer (May 25th to the end of October), making it apparently the largest festival of sculpture held this year in Britain and a mecca for collectors, garden lovers, visitors and art enthusiasts.

In contrast, I’ve also been invited to show my work in the Hidden Garden Art Show as part of Chelsea Fringe in London.  Some of my smaller hanging woven wire sculptures will be displayed in a beautiful Hampstead garden from 24th May – 8th June.  The show will also feature in the National Garden Scheme on 8thJune.  Curator of the show Maureen Michaelson says:  “Our lushly planted hidden garden houses the smallest outdoor sculpture gallery in the UK.  We specialise in artworks for urban gardens and can commission works from a wide range of artists for all types of outdoor spaces: from balconies and courtyards to large spaces.”  The exhibition is open Sats, Suns & Bank Holiday Monday, 2-6pm.

More locally, I’ve been selected to create a set of new site-specific work for an exhibition at Contains Art, Watchet in June/July.  The three large shipping containers, situated by the harbour have been transformed by artists into gallery and workshop spaces, providing much interest in Somerset.

Entitled ‘Found, Now Missing’, my work for the commissioned ‘Voyages’ project is inspired by my collection of flotsam and jetsam from many trips to coastlines in UK and abroad.  Having made numerous voyages to Kenyan beaches and reefs over the past 5 decades, for example, I’ve become aware of the detrimental effects of collections such as exotic shells and tourism generally to coral reefs and beaches.  Over the years, I’ve witnessed a dramatic decline in its coral life, shells and resident sea creatures.  On top of pollution, our human desire to collect, own, trade, discover, colonise and capture continues to impact on the disappearing life and beauty in coral reefs.

I have started making a set of large sculptures to be sited in the courtyard and on the gallery roof at Contains Art of skeletal, exotic sea life forms based on shells, urchins, coral and starfish using scrap metal and found materials sourced locally, including the boatyard and beaches.  These exotic pieces will celebrate the wonder of sealife, hopeful of a better future for our environment.  My largest sculpture mounted on the roof will be visible from the steam railway line and viewing platform on the cliff.

The installation aims to convey my concern for environmental degradation.  What once seemed beneficial voyages of discovery by naturalists such as Ernst Haeckel (whose drawings I love) have, ironically, led to the current situation in which mass tourism degrades the environments, habitats and ecosystems, which inspire us to travel.

Related drawings will be on show in the gallery and I will be running a workshop on Saturday 7th June for members of the public to create shell drawings on postcards with environmental messages.  Visitors will be invited to send these out far and wide.

The exhibition runs from 4th – 15th June, open Wednesdays – Sundays, 10am – 4pm at East Quay, Watchet Somerset TA23 0AQ.  The outdoor sculptures will remain on display until mid July.

 

Of Form and Texture

A new exhibition starts this Saturday entitled ‘Of Form and Texture’ at Sidcot Arts Centre, in which some of my work will be on show as part of a selected group.  Diane Burnell, Sara Parsons, Debbie Lamb and Laura Howarth are also taking part.  My Lichen piece took nearly 2 days to install (thanks to the help of friend Nigel Evans), but is now up and ready for the Launch event on Saturday.  This piece, made from recycled materials, was originally created with more components as part of the Abundance commission last year – an Art/Garden Trail organised by Somerset Art Works and the National Garden Scheme.

3 of my sculptures have been on show outside the entrance of Sidcot Arts Centre since February, the first set of work for their new Outdoor Sculpture Programme.  Below are details of the exhibition – do try to come along!

Press 2014

Oakfield Academy – Bulrushes Workshop, Frome Standard  Feb ’14

Sidcot Arts Centre, Tendril installation Feb ’14

Outdoor Sculpture Programme, Sidcot School Feb ’14

Embracing Life Through Art, Landscape Juice Feb ’14

New Art Projects in Somerset, Shepton Journal Feb ’14

Tall Tendril on Show at Arts Centre, Wells Journal Feb ’14

Setting a Sea Life Theme, Western Daily Press Feb ’14

Artist Creates Installation at School, Western Mercury Feb ’14

Abundance catalogue (my page)

Memory Tree for Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice – Farnborough Rotary Club April ’14

Hidden Garden Show, ‘Fabric’ Magazine May ’14

Fosse and Mendip

Sculptsite – ‘Found, Now, Missing’ exhibition at Contains Art – June ’14

Somerset Gazette – Contains Art – June ’14

Somerset Gazette articleGazette listings

Bristol Post – Litterarti project – Nest sculpture for children’s Litterbugs – June ’14

Bristol Post – Waste of Space Tree-making workshops and exhibition at Trinity Centre

Golden Pulse blog – Litterarti work at Trinity Centre, Bristol

Glastonbury Abbey Sculpture in the Orchard – YouTube film posted by visitor Tom Eveson

Sculpture in the Orchard at Glastonbury Abbey – Somerset Life Aug ’14

Sculpture in the Orchard, Glastonbury Abbey - Somerset Life

Sculpture in the Orchard at Glastonbury Abbey – Shepton Mallet Journal

Glastonbury Abbey's 'Sculpture in the Orchard'

LandfillArt Website

Second Time Around – Hubcap as Art, LandfillArt Exhibition, MSV, USA

Through Our Hands online magazine p.41-46 (issue 2)

The Great Crane Project, All Hallows

Ideas Tap – step in stone crowdfunding, Oct-Dec ’14

Guardian – step in stone, Nov ’14

step in stone -Somerset Guardian 20:11:14