Studio Diary, The Tumble Commission, part 2.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA      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.


Studio Diary, The Tumble Commission, part 1.

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  It has been developed from content gathered from other Artists on the Team working in a range of creative styles and  with some extraordinary Primary School pupils.

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.

I always make scale model people too so I have  the eye-lines right. They help to illustrate the scale.                                                                                                                                 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 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.

Studio Diary April 15

Up Is Down- in progress

Up Is Down- in progress




























Not sure about the results yet; they will change hugely when they are fired apart from anything else, but the method is working. These pieces are built solid from layered different clays that all have the same shrinkage and firing temperature so they shouldn’t crack at the joins… IF the joins are good…The main form is done in one go,thick. Then, once it is firm enough a lot of extraction is done. This shows up the colours.

Up Is Down- in progress

Up Is Down- in progress
















These are not meant to be portraits of rocks.  The pieces are meant to have implicit forces running through the form causing the curves and the form creating a flow to the forces – exactly what happens as the tide ebbs and flows through the stones at Bracelet Bay. The Sculptures are about us. (see earlier posts about Up is Down)

Up Is Down- in progress

Up Is Down- in progress











At last these are properly 360 sculptures! I turn them over and in every direction as I carve,focussing on getting that flow to run past and into the surfaces,up and down.

Tidying and polishing takes forever because of keeping the white clays clear. An old, rough e-cloth is very helpful just on the white areas, used dry.

Up Is Down- in progress

Up Is Down- in progress






Studio Diary 25 March 2014

Up Is Down is a fascinating theme that is leading down all kinds of roads. Only time will tell how many of them are very bad….a percentage of my work is regularly too awful to fire – that’s the price of experimenting and taking risks.

I’m working for a very creative Company in the USA involving fire. And I have started a collaboration with  Photographer Stephen Foote (see Links for his Web-site) Both of these projects are benefitting from the early work of Up Is Down and now they are leading it with the movement and pull of forces and the changes that leaves on a form.


Music is still key. A central space for Fire  and the intension to have no

or little base is a starting

template for the clay-armatures.










Steve and I visited Bracelet Bay in the Mumbles, Swansea,one of the first of many spectacular  beaches around the Gower Peninsula. It was a strange, foggy day, very atmospheric, with the Fog-horn sounding in the mist. The feeling of the draw and strength of tidal waters pulling through the forms of stone is accentuated by faces covered in barnacles and pebbles left behind.

 Steves pictures will be the reference point for the next batch of Up Is Down pieces.


The resulting Sculptures will then potentially inform his next set of Pictures. And so on until it runs out of steam.




Studio Diary; work in Progress,Feb 2013.

in progress , 4/2/13

all of these pieces are made with Scarva Black chunky clay – they will turn black in the Fire at 1250c.It is THE most fantastic , versatile clay.The smaller ones are a similar clay with a finer grade which is remarkably flexible. in progress , 4/2/13

This was built solid and hollowed out - it is the best technique for getting an unexpected , complex form because you can work so freely.

This was built solid and hollowed out – it is the best technique for getting an unexpected , complex form because you can work so freely.


same form , other view


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I often work with one spot light so I can see the horizon of the form clearly.

I’m mostly using the music of  Avishai Cohen on this part of the Edge Series but of course Steve Vai plays a part along with some amazing Gaming music my son collects for me.It’s all instrumental.

Photos can give you a new perspective on your work.Getting ongoing  feed-back online is marvellous – for years I worked almost in secret! Now I have the benefit of advice , opinions and inspiration from all over the world ,particularly on Facebook which many Sculptors and Ceramisists use to exchange ideas. Like many others I have posted Step-by-Step photo Albums explaining my building  methods on my Osprey Studios page .



Three muses.

Three muses.

Initial version .4/2/13

Built hollow with slabs cut straight from the block. This is the initial version .I added a new section , caught the shape then cut it open and hollowed away the previous unwanted wall. Black Chunky is extremely course and  will allow you do such things , no problem.4/2/13

Re-arranged ,Spring cleaned , far more spacious!

Re-arranged ,Spring cleaned , far more spacious!My classes are taught right in here so students can follow my work’s ups and downs.

Feb 10th. note the board w/ wedges supporting the side.This will soon be removed.

Feb 10th.The Edge Series ; note the board w/ wedges supporting the side.This will soon be removed.Once it’s firm enough it will be hollowed out and finished.


Feb 24th;  .OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Completed and drying,the newest addition to The Edge Series .It was made to Steve Vai’s latest Album ‘The Sound of Light’.It’s definatly my favourite so farOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  It will fire black.

March 11

The 4 smaller pieces are complete. They have taken a tremendous amount of time and a steady hand making me glad yet again that my Studio is part of the house and warm!!



March 30th;New pieces for The Edge.

The new set up in the Studio where each sculpture can stay in the same spot from start to finish is working really well. They are heavy and fragile until they are fired.I now have 2 good kiln loads dry,time to call in my Assistants to start moving them!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese larger , rougher  Sculptures from The Edge are showing the strong influence of living in the Brecon Beacons winter landscape and Cribarth Mountain behind the Studio.

4th Nov.2013

While the connection is clear, especially in this brand new piece, I have moved to a new series. I haven’t settled on a name but the philosophy is about how we don’t actually possess   clear boarders; the cloud of particles and especially  bacteria that make up us dissipates and interacts with our surroundings and fellows , interchanging constantly. When you leave the Forrest some of it comes with you , some of you is left behind.We are constructed from atoms that have been used to form countless other things since the big bang. After death those atoms will move on to build other parts of the World. As my son put it beautifully when he was 5 ; ”So we become part of the mountain? Good.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Meanwhile this hydraulic motor-bike lift is  a life -changer.


by Chet Raymo

Behind the apparent decay and new growth the atoms endure, those mysterious and eternal particles that contain within themselves tendencies to combine and recombine in endlessly creative ways.

The church, the village, the rank tropical growth, the creatures that creep and fly and crawl are composed of recycled star dust, atoms forged billions of years ago in hot, massive stars, here woven by the hands of energy and entropy into a fabric of gorgeous complexity.

I went there for the same reason the naturalist/scientist Rachel Carson went to the edge of the sea. She wrote: “Underlying the beauty of the spectacle there is meaning and significance. It is the elusiveness of that meaning that haunts us, that sends us again and again into the natural world where the key to the riddle is hidden.”


Extracts from J.P. Hodin, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1961, Two Conversations with Barbara Hepworth: ‘Art and Life’ and ‘The Ethos of Sculpture’, pp. 23–24

Art and Life (in conversation with J.P. Hodin, 18 August 1959)

“Art at the moment is thrilling. The work of the artist today springs from innate impulses towards life, towards growth – impulses whose rhythms and structures have to do with the power and insistence of life. […] In the past, when sculpture was based on the human figure, we knew this structure well. But today we are concerned with structures in an infinitely wider sense, in a universal sense. Our thoughts can either lead us to life and continuity or […] the way to annihilation. That is why it is so important that we find our complete sense of continuity backwards and forwards in this new world of forms and values. I see the present development in art as something opposed to any materialistic, anti-human or mechanistic direction of mind.”

I would really appreciate any feed-back you might have on these ideas including a Title.