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.

step in stone

step in stone is a project I’m organising, which will form a collaborative holistic, multi-stranded Art Trail around 2-4 disused/working quarries in the East Mendips to illuminate these hidden landscapes and explore Somerset’s heritage and beauty.  Steeped in history and controversy, many repossessed by wildlife, the quarries will provide a fresh, dramatic environment in which to show distinctive art.  So far, confirmed quarries are Westdown, Halecombe and Fairy Cave, with another possible.

Drawn from a range of disciplines, 15 invited/selected local and international artists:  ArtmusicCath Bloomfield, Bronwyn Bradshaw, Duncan CameronDuncan ElliottTessa Farmer, Stuart Frost, Suzie GutteridgeRalph Hoyte, Sally KidallCaroline Sharp, Amanda WallworkChristina White and I will create challenging, contemporary artworks for a curated trail in response to the subject.  The project offers important new opportunities and development of practice for the artists, introducing a curatorial role for me and focusing on public engagement.  In collaboration with Somerset Earth Science Centre, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Somerset Art Works and Black Swan Arts Centre there will be dedicatedworkshops, exhibitions, tours and talks to involve a wide audience.

Planned to run from July – October ’15, with the finale tying in with Somerset Art Works Festival and a related exhibition at Black Swan Arts Centre, Frome (3-18 October) the event will also hold an accompanying exhibition at Somerset Earth Science Centre, to include Christina’s impressive quarry photographs.  Workshops during one week in July ’15 at Somerset Earth Science Centre will link with SAW’s InspirED offers with schools, as well as the wider community.

The aim is to involve school children, families, walkers, art and culture enthusiasts, nature lovers, research students and tourists wishing to explore the countryside, seeking a different experience.  A catalogue and film would document the event, creating a lasting legacy.

The next big step is to apply for funding.  The success of the project is reliant on this, together with local support.  So, I’m avidly applying for financial backing and seeking sponsorship, (which would result in the organisation’s logo being attached to all publicity/marketing material, together with mutual benefits).  A crowdfunding bid will soon go live on IdeasTap.  Watch this space and do please let me know if you feel you can support this project in any way.

 Anyway, it’s keeping me busy!   Here is a link if you’d like to know more.
Photographs below by Christina White
Westdown Photograph by Christina WhiteWestdown Quarry - photograph by Christina White

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!

Reflections on 2013

This year has been one of contrasts for me, including plenty of achievements, interesting new directions and records set.  With over 20 exhibitions, it’s been a busy one.  I plan to focus on fewer but bigger shows next year.

One of my more challenging projects was the SAW/NGS Abundance commission work, which engrossed me for months.  For my ‘Garden of Eden’ I created 3 new works including my largest to date – ‘Lichen’. Although the site-specific installations were only on exhibition to the public at Esotera for a fortnight, I moved some of the work on to my next show at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Bath for further airing.  A blog and catalogue about our Abundance work has been published to ensure some legacy for the project.

My involvement with Somerset Art Works has developed into a new role as Rep for East Mendip, which is leading to interesting new work relationships and projects with other artists.   Somerset has a lively creative community with some amazing talent and innovation going on.

A few other commissions, numerous workshops and teaching have also kept me hard at work.  I made a piece for an indoor architect-designed space, which was novel for me.  I was surprised at how comfortable my work sits in a more urban, glass-panelled interior setting.

Amongst other sales I sold my longstanding steel ‘Man’ piece this year.  He has been with me to many events, homes and shows over the years and nearly sold several times.   He now resides in a lovely NGS garden with a diversity of wildlife to keep him company.   Coincidentally, the real thing came along in my life around the same time.

Over the Christmas period I have a piece in one of Frome’s Loop de Loop spaces, by the Black Swan Art Centre, which you may like to visit.  They have an unusual history…

I’m looking forward to seeing family in Kenya for Christmas, where it will be deliciously hot!  Sketchbooks will be fully utilised.

Thanks for your interest and BEST WISHES FOR A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Blurred Edges – Exhibition at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Bath

My next exhibition, starting today, is entitled ‘Blurred Edges’.  A series of work by Kitty Hillier and myself at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Walcot Gate, off Walcot Street, Bath BA1 5UG – runs from 14th – 27th October, open 10.30 – 4.30 daily.  The chapel is set back from the top end of Walcot Street in Bath’s artisan quarter – a busy, creative hub in the Roman city centre:
“Blurred Edges exploits undefined boundaries between line and form, distinct contrasts and interesting crossovers between our work.  Our different use of media (my organic 3d forms in metal and found materials, Kitty’s abstract 2d paint and wood pieces) adds to the dynamic interaction.  Tactile and open-ended, threads weave through the work, making connections, suggesting conflicts, revealing hidden layers, textures and emerging forms.  Echoed shapes allude from one to the other, shared interests become apparent and both artists enjoy the playful concept of taking a line for a walk.”

SAW

Still hard at work on my SAW Abundance commission, in between completing a couple of other private commissions.  I was recently asked to take on the role of Somerset Art Works rep for Mendip area, which I have accepted.  This will start in October, and I’m looking forward to getting more involved with a great organisation and team.

Abundance Commission

I am very happy to have been selected for the Abundance project, and excited to have a creative challenge to work towards in the coming months.

Part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2013 (21st September to 6th October), ‘Abundance’ is a programme of exhibitions, events and a series of site-specific contemporary art commissions, set in a wealth of cultivated garden landscapes in Somerset. The programme is organised by Somerset Art Works, in partnership with National Garden Scheme (NGS), supported by Friends of SAW and funded by Arts Council England Lottery Funding. It aims to connect the wider public with the creativity between the cultivation of gardens and art making in Somerset.

8 of us have been selected to create new work, using different materials and approaches in response to the theme of ‘Abundance’ in a wider context. We are encouraged to use locally sourced materials in response to the landscape, culture and knowledge from each of our allocated gardens.

March:

It was great to meet and catch up with fellow artists and SAW organisers last week at the Spring Soiree and Abundance launch.  I have been thinking about how to develop my initial ideas for the installation at my allocated garden at Esotera.  Having taken a few photos when I first visited the garden in February, I’ve since made some rough sketches which are gradually evolving.  I’d like to create an element of surprise, use found and recycled materials related to the garden and make something large and challenging.  Below are a few images of ideas:

A scraptor at heart, I am on the lookout for scrap items such as small wheels, springs, copper bits, clear lightbulbs (old style), glass baubles, nuts, bolts, washers, screws, nails, horseshoes, chicken wire, copper wire and pipes, twine, netting, old steel tools, balls.. for the project.  Please contact me if you are local and have any of the above available that I can collect: (01749) 880394

April:

An article in Country Living (May ’13) features Esotera – the garden I’ve been allotted, with a mention at the end about SAW’s Abundance project and my forthcoming work at Esotera.  Seeing it here in full bloom, with all the shape and colour at its peak, I am even more excited about the prospect of creating something special for the Abundance project.

My ideas have moved on to something a little more ambitious.  The work will be time-consuming but fun to make!  My thoughts have lingered on Genesis’ Garden of Eden – the most abundant garden where plants, creatures and humans grow and roam freely in complete harmony.  It is the first Utopian concept, explored by many including Plato, Thomas More etc… Utopian ideals encompass world peace, enlightenment, labour, arts and science, fulfillment, harmony between man and nature,  all needs supplied by the abundance of nature.
Esotera means ‘of the earth’.. esoteric means ‘mystical, unusual, rare.’  The garden symbolises a love for the land and relationship with the earth, the owners at Esotera work hard together to create from nothing an idyllic garden (Eden), make a huge contribution to society (Utopian), build things from found materials – including houses of various sorts, the garden is very harmonious with nature, rich in wildlife, creatures everywhere.   Nature has repossessed, like a return to Eden.  ’Eden’ is almost tangible at Esotera…
Next week I’m revisiting the garden to get more of a feel for it, discuss my ideas with Shirley and Andrew, see the garden blooming and arrange practicalities.

May:

Today was a perfect day to revisit Esotera.  My first visit with Zoe was on a grim winter’s day.  But today blazing sunshine had brought out new flowers from bulbs, ferns were unravelling, ducks, chickens, fish and a very sociable cat ‘Gengis’ were all glorifying our brilliant 1st of May.

As I wandered around, I could understand why Esotera gets so many visitors who stay for hours.  The owners and garden envelop you into their world – a place at peace with itself, whilst buzzing with the magic of life and I found it hard to leave!  Undecided about the exact location of my installation, with several possibilities, I took plenty of photos and absorbed the ambience.   It helped to confirm my ideas for the project, and 3 hours later I left, armed with a load of reclaimed materials for my work there, generously donated by the owners Shirley and Andrew.

I’ve been gathering scrap materials from pockets of Somerset to use in my work at Esotera.  Dragging rusty barrels from woodland walks, corrugated steel fences no longer required for guinea fowl and rummaging through skips and scrapyards to add to my collection of materials, in line with the ethos at Esotera of utilising found and recycled items.

June:

The aim is to create a mass of giant growing forms, inspired by lichen, linked to the Eden concept and utilising found objects.  It involves hours of weaving, wrapping and forming, using soft and hard materials together, which is relatively new for me and occasionally  I wonder if I’ll ever get it finished.  Anyway, it’s becoming a daily activity and no matter what else the day holds, I try to spend a few hours on the Abundance work.  I’m hooked on what I’m making, and what I would really like is to have no other interruptions but life isn’t that simple..

Earlier this week we went to Esotera again to measure the installation area and confirm a few details with Zoe.  A landscape designer friend, Jason, came along to help work out where the grass might be allowed to grow a little, in order to create more of an enclosure for the work.  Owners Andrew and Shirley have been very accommodating with this.

July:

Not there yet, but here are a few photos of my progress over the past few weeks.  I think the correct term is ‘hoarder’… my garden’s been taken over and going a bit wild, but the good news is I have enough scrap steel now!  I would still love to acquire some more copper – especially in sheet form.   Will soon be embarking on using my new plasma cutter, which should make the job much easier.  There’s still lots to do.  The real art will be to bring it all together successfully…

August:

I have struggled to keep up with my own self-inflicted deadlines for the making stages, especially during this school summer holiday, although there is progress.   With September nearly upon us, I’ll need to accelerate in order to get it all completed on time.

My large ‘fallen nest’ is coming along ok and I hope to complete it in the next week.  Other parts to the lichen-inspired installation have now been shaped and patinated using reclaimed copper and lead.  I have a couple more items to make, and will then set it all out again in my garden as a mock up.  It’s been great fun exploring techniques and finding new ways of working with materials.

September:

A very busy month has finally reaped the fruits of my labour – see Garden of Eden post.   For fuller information about the project, please visit SAW Abundance blog

My work has relied on the kindness of numerous local donors, who have given me recycled materials and/or their time.   A huge thank you to the following:  Sam Garland, John Shepherd Feeders, Ridgeway Garage, Station Road Garage, Pete Reakes, Fon Cosens, Somerset Earth Science Centre, Andrew and Shirley Harvey, Vicky Grinter, Georgia Grinter, Caroline James, Jason Nosworthy, Nigel Evans, Peter Osborne, Denise Campbell, Nick Weaver, Adrian Candy.

 See also press page

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…

Work currently on show

Just over a week left to visit exhibitions at Sidcot Arts Centre BS25 1PD & Ginger Fig Gallery TA1 4ER before they end on 9th Feb.  If the snow held you back, now’s a good time to catch them:

Meanwhile, I have started on new work to install at Lanhydrock National Trust Estate (1st March), completed some designs for projects and received a couple of exciting commissions to deliver this year.  One is related to Somerset Art Works and the other Private.  More news on these to follow…

 

 

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”  🙂