This weekend we will be at Raquety Farm in Hay On Wye giving FREE classes in claywork. There will be loads to do, see and learn. Hay will be bustling with the Hay Festival.
The Photography Shoot was even better than I had expected; stunning weather, lovely people exchanging ideas, a great lunch and Stephen Foote working with grace and charm, taking time with each person to be sure he got what they hoped for.
The Studio had been scrubbed down and tidied so Steve’s kit didn’t get dusty and the Commission wrapped in plastic to rest and let the water in the clay settle. It was great to have a few days break then un-wrap the piece in a clean room and review the progress with fresh eyes.
The build method is the same as for the Monumental Sculptures but scaled down. The walls are thinner , the coils smaller , but the same sort of supports are used. The final sections will be much bigger so where the cuts will be needs to be pre-planned and internal structure put in to support the sections through the fire.
Because the form shrinks as it dries, internal supports are clay and shrink with the form and external ones need to allow shrinkage or only be used for short periods. Quality memory foam is ideal because it lets the clay shrink yet will hold up surprising amounts of weight.The finger marks also support the walls and are left on the inside and only smoothed away on the outside after the section has gone firm.
The clay is Scarva’s Earthstone Crank Material, ES50, and it is awesome. Their previous Crank had fantastic build quality but it was a minging colour wet and fired unless you put something made in Black Chunky in the kiln with it – then it took on a lovely gold shade. This new Crank is even better to use and will fire to very nice pale gold ideal for the setting.
The lower section will stay wrapped most of the time to slow the drying and allow the water time to drop. I believe this makes the walls stronger but that might be nonsence. Each Clay-person develops their own relationship with their clay and techniques that are a breeze for one might be chaos for another. I started as Coil-builder 34 years ago and over time I’ve added a lot of side-shoots to my method.
It is 3/4 built, 225kgs of clay, 95cm high. I have definatly done the easy bits – from here on up it will be very slow; smaller coils added in small doses. In-between I’ll work on the surface images and the edges. This initial stage is building the basic form. A lot of clay will be added to bring out the curves and images. That will be left to harden and then the whole piece will be re-fined with subtractive methods. 3 steps forward , 2 steps back, slow and steady.
The exquisite landscapes of this area have influenced my work deeply. It might look like I spend a great deal of time wandering aimlessly about but no, I am Working! Sometimes I take clay out in the Van and work in one of countless stunning spots where the only sound is wind or a river and the wildlife.
Since I moved to Wales 15 years ago, through the Pit-Marker Memorials, I’ve come to know a lot about the social history of Wales. The Geology under-lies everything about this small country. I moved here from the famous Rhondda Valley where the ghosts of the Industrial Revolution still loom large. But out here , only 20 miles away from our old house in Blaencwm, the more ancient past seems closer and Nature seems to have over-whelmed the industrial land-marks. There is still a working mine up the road ( they have made a spectacular mind-boggling hole ! ). There are many Lime Kilns still standing, tram-lines made into paths ideal for talking while walking together with friends, awesome quarries that have revealed entrances to the huge net-work of Caves underlying every thing in the Brecon Beacons. Water and wind, running under-ground.
This western half of The Brecon Beacons National Park has been designated a Geo-Park and there is a really good Website full of information and ways to enjoy the area. http://www.fforestfawrgeopark.org.uk/
The Scale Model for a lovely commission for a beautiful Care Home in Carmarthenshire got a very warm and positive response and after months of workshops, planning and very careful thought the build has started.
As usual I’ve over -designed for the budget… but that’s my prerogative- I always stick to my quoted fee and how many hours I put in is up to me.I get a buzz out of challenge and this piece has steep leans , a very complex form and very strong themes that must be stuck to.
The children’s ideas were so sophisticated, profound and complex. For example; After spending a series of workshops with the Home’s Residents making tiles for the Plinth, they built the idea that life is a journey full of change and phases so they wanted to see a pathway that traveled around the sculpture. They wanted a warm , welcoming form that harnessed the rain ( that falls very regularly here in Wales!) to create pools and flowing rivers that represented the Love that is all around us and flows through our lives. Wonderful!
Many of the Residents have Dementia and all are very disabled. But they joined in, charmed by these adorable kids, and it was their warmth and sincerity the children picked up on. They talked about many of the harsh realities of their long lives; war, poverty, mining, loss.And the joys; the beautiful landscape of the country they love, pets, family, work.
When your Commissioners pour so much of themselves into the consultation phase you owe them something stunning. That includes Arts Care Gofal Celf who are running this 2 year, multi -Artist project with Gwalia and they are both a joy to work for.
So this piece is full of metaphors and symbols. And, I hope, the grace and integrity of the many people who brought it together.
Near the Studio is the beautiful valley I go to regularly (the River Series came from there) and it is the perfect place to support this Sculpture. And it certainly rained enough this winter.
The Sculpture will be 1metre 40cm high plus the Plinth and 1m 80cm wide.
Measuring carefully from the Model the piece is coil-built using a variety of coil methods . The details are roughed in as the lower sections will necessarily get hard to support the weight of the following layers. Timing is everything. I do use fans and supports but if you mess too much with the drying phases you may well get cracks. If you work too fast it will collapse and I hate it when that happens.
There are internal support-walls and buttresses. The piece will be cut in large sections for the firing and these are pre-planned very carefully. The structure has be strong while wet , when dry,when being dismantled and moved to the kiln , through the fire, when being installed and then when it stands for decades, centuries even, in a public place. The site in this instance is a very lovely , sheltered Court-yard Garden with handsome landscaping. There wont be a problem with people climbing on it etc so I could allow some delicacy but non-the-less it is a sturdy design although I am aiming for a light, flowing feeling.
Henry Moore said that a sculpture was not complete until it was in the place it’s owner chose for it. It is wonderful to see my pieces transformed by new settings; it is the best part of delivering work to Exhibitions.
Wyndcliffe Court is a truly lovely place. You follow a narrow winding road past old-fashioned meadows and woodland to reach the beautiful house.
Wyndcliffe Court Gardens are Grade II listed and designed in the Arts and Crafts style. Situated along the Wye Valley between Chepstow and Tintern, they are beautiful formal gardens with views to the south and east. Open every weekend, they are showcasing contemporary sculptures by local and well-known British artists. Open from 2nd May – 28th September 2014 three sculpture shows will run consecutively, each collection featuring hundreds of sculptures to suit all tastes in a wide variety of mediums, sizes and styles situated throughout the garden and offering the opportunity to view and purchase beautiful sculpture with an outstanding backdrop.
The couple running this new venture are both Artists themselves. They are wonderfully down to earth and very knowledgable about Contemporary Art. They charge a modest Commission and are very supportive to their Artists so prices there are extremely competitive. There is a wide range of styles and materials on show across the enchanting Gardens. There is a delightful Shop and the most perfect Terrace Tea-shop. Their Website is very helpful.
Standing Form, 110cm H, £650