Climate Change Gardening

Found Gallery, the sensational contemporary art gallery in Brecon, Wales complimented the gorgeous exhibition, Found In The Garden with a series of talks. I was invited to have a conversation with the incomparably wonderful author and forager Adele Nozedar about Osprey Studios Sculpture Garden (which had just been selected to be part of the National Garden Scheme for 2020), climate change and where this is taking my sculpture.
Punch Maughan and her kind, thoughtful Team made the beautifully lit, spacious gallery welcoming and comfortable with tea and delicious cakes. A lovely, really interesting mix of people came along and the discussion was fascinating, thought provoking and very helpful.
Osprey Studios is at the foot of Cribarth, The Sleeping Giant Mountain, in the extraordinary Fforest Fawr UNESCO Global Geopark.
Gardening to fit in with the wild-life in your region really makes a difference. In a wide open, often harsh environment like the Brecon Beacons offering wildlife shelter, homes and food counts, especially when seasonal changes are messing with their usual routines. Artist/Gardeners Karin Mear and Nigel Evans at The Happy Gardeners know the area intimately and along with others in the group described the long, dramatic evolution of this land that reminds us that the Natural World changes constantly. But usually it does that very slowly.
Cribarth creates a boundary that holds wild, harsh weather largely on this side of it’s ridge. Just over this horizon, less than quarter of a kilometre away, is Osprey Studios, protected in a much warmer, milder micro-climate with the southern face acting as a sun trap all year round.
Walking out due north from Cribarth across extraordinary geology laid down by a warm sea and then exposed again by glaciers.
Breconbeacons.org : “The carboniferous limestone of South Wales was formed in shallow tropical seas in the Paleozoic era, over 300 million years ago. Much of it is of organic origin, being the shells and skeletons of sea creatures, large and small. Amongst the most spectacular fossils to be seen in the National Park are Lithostrotion corals. Their intricate internal detail is often beautifully preserved.”
Half a kilometre due south is where the wonderful Nant Llech, a very import river in my work, meets the Tawe that runs down to the coast 20 miles away at Swansea. Further up stream is Henrhyd Falls.
Petrified Stigmaria – Lepidodendron (Scale Trees) Root structure. This tree went extinct about 250 million years ago, many of them decomposing into coal and oil.
Walking the Llech’s bed when the water was very low a few summers ago I started finding and collecting petrified wood and other fossils. This fabulous one is in a big boulder. It feels incredibly lucky to see fossils that, as the river rages, will be washed down stream and might never be seen again.

A young Mare’s Tail next to it’s petrified relative that I found near-by.


Indefenceofplants.com: “As atmospheric CO2 levels plummeted and continents continued to shift, the climate was growing more and more seasonal. This was bad news for the scale trees. All evidence suggests that they were not capable of keeping up with the changes that they themselves had a big part in bringing about. By the end of the Carboniferous, Earth had dipped into an ice age. Earth’s new climate regime appeared to be too much for the scale trees to handle and they were driven to extinction. The world they left behind was primed and ready for new players. The Permian would see a whole new set of plants take over the land and would set the stage for even more terrestrial life to explode onto the scene.
It is amazing to think that we owe much of our industrialised society to scale trees whose leaves captured CO2 and turned it into usable carbon so many millions of years ago. It seems oddly fitting that, thanks to us, scale trees are once again changing Earth’s climate. As we continue to pump Carboniferous CO2 into our atmosphere, one must stop to ask themselves which dominant organisms are most at risk from all of this recent climate change? “
There are lots of Ash trees along this gorge and most have reticently died from Ash Die-back. There are log jams all along the river and landslips revealing fossils and petrified wood from the mass extinction event millions of years ago. The shiny black fossils are very nearly coal. The geology changes just enough only a mile away that coal did form.
The wet meadow behind Osprey Studios sculpture garden on our side of Cribarth, The Sleeping Giant Mountain . The hedgehog hotel is here too and hedgehogs enter the garden under the gate.

So the earth has changed drastically many times. You feel close to that here in the Brecon Beacons. It has all lead to the beautiful natural world that we know now and that we thought we could control and keep as ours…
This new, massive Climate Change and mass extinction is happening with devastating speed and we understand it: there is no way to sugar-coat it, it is our doing. We can predict what course it is likely to take and plan…
Humans are not innately destructive. Like many cooperative species that live in communities we are very busy. VERY busy…And that busyness can be turned towards cleaning up a lot of this mess.
Will our entirely justified grief, guilt and anger eclipse the beauty, joy and wonder that is still here feeding and sustaining us? Will despair fracture our communities and render everyone helpless and vulnerable? Except for those few profiteers who don’t or can’t care?
Believing we are a toxic force ruining everything we touch is a great excuse to do nothing. But we owe our fellows in the natural world better than that.
Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.
Watching and re-watching geologist and fabulous educator Dr Iain Stewart‘s programs has helped me get my head around it and that lead to the ongoing Throwdown at the Hoedown Series which has just reached one of those turning points and I have been unsure what comes next. The discussion lead to this:
Eleanor Greenwood (who takes some of the most incredible photographs of this area which she knows extremely well): “My final thing that I wanted to say is that we are coming full circle back to the realisation that we are all nature. Our thinking that we are separate has hurt us in more ways than we realise. Your work is a big clear pointer back to that unity. There is sacredness and magic everywhere and you manifest it. I really enjoyed this eve and thank you for making me see climate change in a different light.”
Flabbergasted/very grateful me: “You are exactly right! And I think you have pinpointed the missing piece that I couldn’t see; the spheres, for want of a better term, are reaching out to us, taking forms we can relate to, but what are they saying? That!! Perhaps it’s just that…return to us while you still can….”
Gardens so often bring us together for the conversations that make all the difference.
Guardian of the Biosphere. The interior of this sculpture has spaces for wild-life to live.
Developing my garden over 11 years from a plain lawn with some old, hard features like the cement paths, patio and the deteriorating wooden stable has also changed my thinking enormously. I first put in the lupines and flowers you can see below and it was beautiful! No-one was more delighted and impressed than the slugs from the meadow at the end of the garden. After one terrible battle with them I saw this was not the fight I was willing to take on.
Joining forces with the rest of nature we can share the challenges of Climate Change. You can grow food to share with the other people in your community of wildlife and human neighbours, right down to those in the soil. The garden here is now full of fruit trees, bushes, a variety of strawberries, local wild flowers (slug-proof, bee/bug friendly, beautiful) and cultivated plants that can co-exist happily. Most of the grass has gone and now there is flowering low ground-cover, like cranberries.
There are lots of bird-feeders. And compost bins. You start feel like part of the solution and bit less like part of the problem. Individually we can’t stop the change. But we can make amends as best as we can and ride the wave with grace.
All of nature has always had those who’s role is taking risks; trying out new habitats or times to flower, grow, mate or migrate. It seems very fair that we should make safe spaces for them and help with food and shelter if we can. Forestry Studies have found trees have been migrating in new directions for 50 years. One of my blueberries put out a few flowers this autumn, testing the chances…
This beautiful Acer was a special present to my self for being unexpectedly brave during one of those events that sharpen one’s appreciation of life. Our gardens can become a record of what matters most to us. This tree then taught me about choosing the right spot and not being afraid or reluctant to move unhappy plants. Or to give unusual plants a chance to make their home here.
Here’s a fabulous bit of drama and a tribute to the tropical past of this land. (And to mine: my eldest was born in Malaysia.) And a hint of the future? Changes in the Gulf Stream and other currents are happening now and it’s not clear what the implications are for the western UK. Right now it’s amazing that such a plant will grow here. (I transplanted the Torbay Palm across the garden from a hanging basket thinking it was a grass! It’s 6 metres high now and growing fast!) The interaction with the wild flowers is beautiful : this palm provides support and shelter all year round to a very long-stemmed wild flower that all sorts of insects adore on the edge of the pond. Gardening gets you looking to the future. Slow growing, long lived plants expect to face challenges and can be extraordinarily adaptable which is very inspiring.
Across the meadow at the end of the garden you can see the stand of huge Ash trees on the lower slope of Cribarth that have succumbed to Ash Die-Back. They have started to fall causing a landslip on the edge of a mountain stream and creating a beautiful new waterfall. After heavy rains the water has chosen a new route leading right to where a drainage ditch passes our gate and giving our patch a new shallow pond which fills with tadpoles and sustains other creatures. A few miles east another group of Ash are being watched because they seem to be immune to Die-back.
The movement of water is absolutely key.
This shady corner is full of wild life. All the sculpture plinths are hollow and provide homes for all sorts of people. The ground is always damp and often very wet. Just behind the sculpture is an apple, a pear and some blueberries bushes planted close together like I’ve seen in the woods by the river. They didn’t look too happy at first but a few years on they are taking off and I’m assuming that is because they have befriended each other underground. I had read that if you need a continuous supply over the season rather than big crops then close, varied planting is a good idea. Raspberries love this spot so I weed them out occasionally. A variety of cranberry plants have definitely taken and are quietly spreading among strawberries and various wild ground cover which I clear back sometimes to favour the cranberries but I get the impression they like the company. Everything seems happier with lots of other plants around them. Even my house plants do way better in mixed pots.
Anything cleared out of or from the edge of the pond is left on the side for a few days or tucked into the near-by bed so creepy crawlies can get back to the water.

We started the garden when we moved here in October 2010 with beds marked out with old carpet from the house left over winter and the pond put in the following spring, as recommended. I was so proud watching my sons dig it and it gave me some insight into the ground: 60cms of lovely dark soil down and then clay and big stones. We put in a good, flexible liner and two oxygenator plants and mini water lily. In no time at all it was full of life. Lots of newts, frogs, toads, dragon flies, water-snails (how?!), all sorts. Between them, the hedgehogs, birds and the huge predatory slugs the plant eating slug numbers have begun to balance to the point where the invaluable work they do for the soil offsets limiting what I can plant. Just like they promise on Gardener’s World.
Rae Gervis is an expert gardener growing extraordinary vegetables at Ty Mawr near Brecon. Every week you can order seasonal vegetables from them. Rae had no trouble persuading me not to dig my soil. But I hadn’t expected the results to be so good.
Rae explained: “Soil is the foundation of all life so needs to be nurtured. Soil vitality & biodiversity needs to be protected. Worms and other micro & macro-biota distribute air, water & nutrients far more efficiently & effectively than man can through digging. Mulch with any organic material, preferably well rotted. Soil is then insulated & protected from the elements. Slugs are a good food source for many animals including hedgehogs & they do break down organic matter making it available as nutrients in the soil.”
Building and fencing materials tends to involve horrendously un-green production methods. So we use recycled stuff and make things last where ever we can. The old fence enclosing what was a little pony-yard leading out to the meadow is rotting so I’ve woven a cotoneaster around it to replace it with a living fence which is now much higher and covered in berries. I had found the plant in a container in the hot front garden looking small and wretched when we moved in and I had no idea what to do with it. I plonked it in a stony hole and apologised. It has grown so fast!! Weaving it into flowing shapes is extremely fun.
This area is a cabin and patio now. Before it was a stable, before that a fabulous green house. I would love to pave it but it would be daft, wasteful and the layers of history would be lost. The old cement ground is worn and the mosses soften the look of it so I encourage them instead. Same with the rather rigid cement paths and patio by the house.
This area was plain grass and extremely dry. It used to get very hot out here and so did the house. This planting quickly changed that. The fallen leaves and shade have improved the exhausted soil without me having to do a thing.
Evergreens are gorgeous all year and great for the front garden. They support the flowering climbers. And now it’s important to have flowering and/or fruiting plants and ever-green shelter for the creatures that may end up out and confused in mild winter spells.
There are berries at the lower levels, strawberries, raspberries, black currants and gooseberries. Now that it’s moister I might move some of the cranberry’s runners here.
I let all this grow in to see what it would do and I don’t mind admitting I wasn’t expecting it to be so lush! Recently we put in supports and some structure to the look of it.
When it was un-planted the house paint was getting fried and falling off the render. A number of my neighbours were having to replace their blistered render at the time so we decided we had better strip off the old paint and re-do it. In the back was a big Virginia creeper and the old paint under it was in much better condition!
Now the house is cool and comfortable all year round. The soil stays moist and I leave the falling leaves which quickly disappear into the ground thanks to the healthy wild-life. There are toads and lots of birds. Some are even nesting, glad that the street deters predators. I also find the sense of shelter very comforting.
This very heavy, old gate came from the wonderful Theodore Sons And Daughter Reclamation Yard in Bridgend. Stripping and re-painting it took forever but it feels so great when you swing it open.
This is the front patio which I never used before because it was broiling hot. The french doors lead into the Studio where I had to protect sculptures in progress from the heat. Now the vines form a roof and the light falling through it is exquisite. The purple-leafed grape vine stated clearly that it was ornamental and would not fruit but it does! There is jasmine, wisteria, roses, and an ever-green clematis amongst others so it changes and has beautiful scent.
Sweeping regularly keeps the weeds out from between the bricks and gives me a good excuse to go out there and revel in it. There is no joy to be had from herbicides and pesticides.
Gardening with a sense of purpose.
We are coming full circle back to the realisation that we are all nature. Our thinking that we are separate has hurt us in more ways than we realise.
We are being called to turn back to our natural world while we still can.
When all’s said and done it’s about Community.
Sharing with all our fellows, all the neighbours, great and small, whether we like them much or not, because we need each other. A garden reaches out from your home as much as it sets a boundary or shelters it. It creates links and bonds.
Gardening is a gentle, patient, subtle weapon in a battle we are better off for fighting. Our gardens become a record of, and a contribution to, what matters most to us.

Osprey Studios Sculpture Garden is proud to be open by appointment with The National Garden Scheme to raise money for the Nursing charities that were their for us when we needed them.

How To Make A Head; Clay Armatures and building Hollow.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.
Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

The Head

The key reason making heads is so hard is that the perception (the way we take in our knowledge) that we have built up over our lifetime of what shape the head is, is based around communication and assessing each other. Making a head requires going against what ‘feels’ right and using information we are unlikely to have bothered with before. Portraiture has a system to organise the huge quantity of subtle details. Learning this system will broaden your knowledge, and your access to more knowledge, enormously. That’s why the study of Portraiture and Figurative Sculpture is traditionally the bed-rock of Art.

It is not rocket science and you can do it. The challenge is fascinating and very rewarding.

The Technique

Because clay shrinks as it dries and is floppy when very wet a Clay Armature that will support and  shrink with the form through the drying and the firing is invaluable.

Most techniques for building  hollow have a strong ‘voice’ of their own and will influence the final look of the piece. They can demand that you harden lower sections and are then unable to change them when you later realise they are wrong. This is a real disadvantage irregardless of your skill level. It is better to work solid over a clay armature especially if you are not using a scale-model and hollow out just before finishing touches. It’s not difficult. That technique is detailed here: Working solid and hollowing out.

Or you can use this technique of building outwards from a Clay Armature to make your sculpture hollow.

Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014
Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014
3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.
3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.
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in progress, Aug 2014.
in progress, Aug 2014.

Here I chose to leave gaps that show the Armature but of course you don’t have to. The step by step manner of this method and the fact that you work all over the head  in layers from the start  makes it ideally suited to help you organise the huge amount of information in your mind while learning to make Portraits and other Sculpture.

The Workshop

Two people with a creative back-ground but who had never done a head before came to Osprey Studios for a 2 day Workshop designed to give them the practical skills needed to make heads on their own and get 2/3 of the way through a head. Day 1 was The Skull built onto the central support (that I had prepared and allowed to harden 3 days earlier). Day 2 was The Head up to the point before finishing touches. The students both took their heads home to finish. We used the excellent Scarva Crank (ES50) clay.

the leather-hard clay armature for the head
the leather-hard clay armature for the head. It will bear the weight  and be a scaffold for your additions. Some of it will get cut away as the bust becomes leather hard and can support itself.
measuring from your own head with callipers and placing the information on the armature in a way that also reinforces it..
Measure from your own head with callipers and add the information onto the armature. Some of these small, pinched slabs will also reinforce the armature. Start with where the neck emerges from the shoulders, then the chin, then the top of the head to ensure  you will hit a height that will fit in your kiln. Leave some room for error; later you can trim away from the base or add clay there to adjust the height.
I had made the Skull we used as a model previously using the same method.
I had made the Skull we used as a model previously using the same method. We also used photos from the internet and measured on our own and each other’s head. Having a model is expensive and sometimes distracting at this early stage of conquering the basics. This Workshop is designed to show you a method you can repeat at home.
Block out the skull using thin slabs attached to the armature.
Block out the skull using thin slabs attached to the armature. Work your way around the form in ‘layers’; don’t focus on one part for to long. Each part informs the whole and they need to evolve together. Mark the place of the eye-sockets, nose, mouth, chin without getting distracted by their shape. Then these bars of clay will hold up the next layer, etc.
It's surprisingly hard work. Take regular breaks to allow the info to sink in.
It’s surprisingly hard work. Take regular breaks to allow the info to sink in.
Spend plenty of time over the back of the head to ensure the size is correct.
Spend plenty of time over the back of the head to ensure the size is correct.
There will be points when it looks dreadful!
There will be times when it looks dreadful!
And points when it looks guaranteed to be a masterpiece.
And points when it looks guaranteed to be a masterpiece. Both of these phases pass!
Measure everything repeatedly and keep moving forward methodically
Measure everything repeatedly and keep moving forward methodically
Take the Skull up to the stage before finishing touches and allow to go leather-hard.
Take the Skull up to the stage before finishing touches and allow to go leather-hard. We chose to tilt the skulls a bit at this stage so that the Heads would be more expressive.

You can print these skull images to work from and there are 2 work-sheets for you at the end of this post.

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Block out the whole head over the foundation of the Skull.
‘Block out’ the whole head over the foundation of the Skull; Work all around the head in rough, refining the whole form in layers rather than concentrating on one spot then moving to the next. It is crucial that you are willing to remove any part that is wrong, no matter how much time you feel you have spent on it. A beautifully worked eye slightly in the wrong place will ruin the whole. Every minute you spend on this work is building your skill so there is no time wasted.
You will reap the benefits of all the careful measuring you did on the skull.
You will reap the benefits of all the careful measuring you did on the skull. Note that “The Eye” is the area all the way to the edge of that eye-socket not just the bit defined by the eye-lashes. ”The Mouth” starts up inside the nose and goes out toward the cheeks and the chin; it is not just the lips. Subtleties all across that area of muscle and skin over the teeth of the skull will express the mood of this person. Think a range of conflicting emotions and feel the small changes in your own mouth-area. Don’t look in a mirror, just feel them. Do it again in front of a mirror.  “Act” the expression you want your Portrait to have while you are working and you will find it easier to capture it in clay.
Continue measuring repeatedly using callipers and check your modelling by hold a horizontal or vertical stick to it and looking carefully at the shape of the negative space.
Continue measuring repeatedly using callipers and check your modelling by hold a horizontal or vertical stick to it and looking carefully at the shape of the negative space.
Walk away from your work and look in detail at something out the window ; this will 'clear your eye'. Turn and look at the head; what is the first thing you notice? It might be an error you couldn't see when you were up close and immersed in the work. Or it might be that it looks way better than you expected.
Walk away from your work and look in detail at something out of the window; this will ‘clear your eye’. Turn and look at the head; what is the first thing you notice? It might be an error you couldn’t see when you were up close and immersed in the work. Or it might be that it looks way better than you expected.
There are many tricks and techniques for making all the features and U Tube is a treasure trove. Try out different styles to find the one that you like.
There are many tricks and techniques for making all the features and U Tube is a treasure trove. Try out different styles to find the one that you like.
Use a similar modelling style for that hair to avoid that 'Wig' look.
Use the modelling style you used on the rest of the sculpture for the hair to avoid that ‘Wig’ look. As you get nearer to being done the quality of your mark-making as you add clay becomes important. Look at lots of Portraits with Google-Images, choose the look you like best and try out using different tools until you find your own style.
If you think you may have added a thickness over 3cms cut and hollow at the stage before finishing touches.
If you think you may have added a thickness over 3cms cut and hollow at the stage before finishing touches. If not you can fire the head with the armature in situ. Dry very slowly, preferably in a tent of news-paper that will keep off drafts and slow down the evaporation. While it is wrapped up the water from the added clay will migrate into the clay-armature and soften it; you might need to put a temporary support under the chin to stop the head tipping forward until the clay has stiffened up evenly.
Double-check all your measurements and then move into Finishing Touches.
Double-check all your measurements and then move into Finishing Touches. During this stage you are reinforcing this new perception and understanding of the head that is not just about communication but is relevant to portraiture. This will allow you to see more too.
This final stage, especially over the eyes, will take a third of your total work time. A head usually takes 30 hours.
This final stage, especially  the eyes, will take a third of your total work time. A head usually takes 30 hours.
Exactly like learning a musical instrument or a sport, practice will develop the fine-motor skills specific to this difficult task. It is ALL about Practise, good technique, and the right tools and clay. If you add enjoying doing it you will make beautiful Busts full of expression. 'Talent' is a mirage.
Exactly like learning a musical instrument or a sport, practice will develop the fine-motor skills and perception specific to this difficult task. It is ALL about Practise, good technique, and the right tools and clay. If you add ‘enjoying doing it’ you will make beautiful Busts full of expression. ‘Talent’ is a mirage. I revisit figurative work regularly so that my skills don’t slip away.
The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .
The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling . Your ‘Creative Intuition’ is largely a collection of Skills that have become so ingrained you can take them for granted. They will be inter-woven across your mind, so the deep-set memories of the experience of dancing  at a party, the exhilaration you feel out on the mountain, emotions that have shown on your face, will be part of your Skill. While you are making things music can help you access specific memories; I use particular Albums to re-set the mood each time I return to a sculpture.

A set of good portrait tools will make all the difference. Tiranti’s are famously lovely. Just holding one makes you want to work, they are beautiful. The M Series Hardwood Tools are designed for Portraiture and will fit perfectly to the important, tricky parts of the face. Scarva have a good range of quality tools and the set of fine modelling tools look like they will be nice and the price is very low. I am very pleased with my  metal modelling tools from Amazon.

Choose a clay with plenty of mixed, medium to fine grog (gritty bits). Scarva ES 50 is out-standing.

Mary Cousins finished her head back in her own Studio. She has named her Butterfly.
Mary Cousins finished her head back in her own Studio. She has named her Butterfly.
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Madam Butterfly by Mary Cousins.
Madam Butterfly by Mary Cousins. Mary makes absolutely lovely, fluid, sensuous porcelain pottery.

Once you have got the hang of this excellent method you can use it to open out the space of a form.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.
Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

These Armatures or ‘frameworks’ were planned to be very much part of the fractured image. But the ‘corrugation’ and circular holes you can see are strengthening the Armature and would be very suitable to an armature that would ultimately be hidden. Playing around with these Armatures lead the Sculptures in un-anticipated directions.

The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.
The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.

Here are some work-sheets you can print off and use.

Scull Work-sheet, Rebecca Buck.
Skull Work-sheet, Rebecca Buck.
Portrait/clay armature Work-sheet. Rebecca Buck.
Portrait/clay armature Work-sheet. Rebecca Buck.
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A good one from google images: 

In February 2016 we ran this Workshop again but on Day 2 we played more freely. We still covered the essentials. I’ll add Workshop photos over time because you will find looking at how other people have handled it helpful and the variety inspiring.

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The group’s skulls after Day 1.
Sheila Mone
Sheila Mone
Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Pi, my Studio Manager.
Pi, my Studio Manager.
Phil Hughes and Martine Wills.
Phil Hughes  making his bust into a  poignant Warrior . And Martine Wills.
Sheila Mone
Sheila Mone
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Martine Wills
Martine Wills
Sheila Mone
Sheila Mone , leaving a lot of bust section open using expressive curves.
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward took her piece into the surreal with fantastic effect.

September 2016, I ran a Masterclass with the wonderful North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio. Taz Pollard and Nicola Crocker run an excellent Studio making their own work and giving very popular classes in pottery and hand-building. They have created a lovely, business- like space with an open, welcoming atmosphere that leads everyone into making their best work. They will be running Masterclasses, workshops and classes regularly, in all aspects of ceramics and it was a pleasure to work with them. We packed a massive amount of work into one day and group worked their butts off. Taz and Nicola kept everyone afloat with delicious, home-made food, drinks and humour.

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Art teacher Sheila Mone and her lovely, forward looking department head Matt Peake, invited me to Monmouth School to work with their A Level students. The school has a set of very handsome studios and the quality student work reveals that this Art Department understands the important contribution and highly transferable skill set that art brings to a pupil.

We had 12 hours over 2 days and the work would be completed over the rest of the following weeks. The frameworks were beautifully made a few days in advance and left to stiffen. Day 1 was the skull with full measuring and day 2 was open with the only condition being that the eyes/mouth/nose placements were maintained. Some had photos to work from and I was pleased at the care and thought these students had put into their interpretation, bringing in themes and messages. Most of them had done very little clay work before! So it was a leap into the deep-end and they achieved a fantastic amount through intensive hard work. Wonderful! I went home on cloud nine!

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Sheila Mone talking through ideas with this student while the others listen in and collect information. These guys have great study skills.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Tony blocking out the skull in preparation for a portrait of Donald Trump.
With both of these heads the pupils used photos, aimed for a likeness. Setting boundaries like this will really help you to progress. The head in the back then went on to be beautifully stylised. The excellent head in front is based on Mohammed Ali. You can feel the strength and dignity of the man.
Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios
Robert moving forward from blocking out the skull to setting the key high points on the bones on the right plain.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Wilfred tidying the frame in preparation for developing the face. Because time was tight we left out the back of the head. This makes developing the head more difficult and I don’t recommend it. But handled stylishly it can look great.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. An excellent level of concentration.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. After giving general instruction I go one-to-one as much as possible. I aim to guide each student towards their own ‘voice’ in building, theme, and modelling style.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Wilfred has a good selection of views of his model . A selection of images from different angles is invaluable.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Really difficult to pull off but a great  challenge is 1/2 skull 1/2 face. This brave student had a steady, methodical approach that is ideal in portraiture.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. This wonderful student had already done a very good head after looking through this post so this time he chose to work double the size.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Harry had already done a very good head after looking through this post. And he has used clay on large pieces. So this time he chose to work double the size. Take your measurements and use a ruler to double them. Do not attempt to do it by eye. Larger than life heads carry an immediate power. It’s a great scale if you have a message to convey.
Harry’s piece just fits in the kiln!
Harry’s next head. Fantastic work on the very difficult area of the shoulders/base. 
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The dark, haunting eyes in the photo were done by this very skilled student, Robert, by cutting through and harnessing the dark interior of the head. Really effective and evocative.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Rhianna had a powerful image of an elderly homeless man and wanted to portray his story. She left the eyes empty but cut smaller holes through the back of the head behind the eye-level telling an inner, nearly hidden narrative.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The art department assistant, Kate Owens, beautiful use of clay.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The art department assistant, Kate Owens, beautiful use of clay.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Kate Owens.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Kate Owens.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Harry’s theme here is a simple “contrast hard geometric form with organic form.” The size, the forward unyielding gaze, the beautiful, enchanting modelling style, the flow of the geometric inner form and the places where it mimics the natural structure of a head evoke a mysterious presence.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Sheila Mone helped her students and worked on her own fascinating bust.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Excellent modelling skills and empathetic sensitivity are giving this moving image sculptural form.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. This a stylish, contemporary design for the base. It is very difficult to handle the truncated aspects of the bust. There are various ‘classic’ motifs that work really well but it’s very refreshing to see a new approach. This piece was then taken further to become this beautifully
The piece above was then taken further to become this beautifully defined character.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. A few of the guys had to leave early including the student doing a superb job of Mohamed Ali using a beautiful, sophisticated modelling technique. The head of Donald Trump is being handled with great skill and thoughtfulness by another student. In each case they are aiming to capture the inner life of the man not just his shell. Of course this is very difficult but the challenge is engrossing and very satisfying and having a particular direction will get you through the many intimidating intersections on the road to a portrait. Art department Head Matt Peake worked alongside his students on the wonderful, humorous self portrait you can see front, right of this photo. The wide variety of approaches were a credit to the Art Department and the wider school.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

How To Make A Head; Clay Armatures and building Hollow.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.
Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

The Head

The key reason making heads is so hard is that the perception (the way we take in our knowledge) that we have built up over our lifetime of what shape the head is, is based around communication and assessing each other. Making a head requires going against what ‘feels’ right and using information we are unlikely to have bothered with before. Portraiture has a system to organise the huge quantity of subtle details. Learning this system will broaden your knowledge, and your access to more knowledge, enormously. That’s why the study of Portraiture and Figurative Sculpture is traditionally the bed-rock of Art.

It is not rocket science and you can do it. The challenge is fascinating and very rewarding.

The Technique

Because clay shrinks as it dries and is floppy when very wet a Clay Armature that will support and  shrink with the form through the drying and the firing is invaluable.

Most techniques for building  hollow have a strong ‘voice’ of their own and will influence the final look of the piece. They can demand that you harden lower sections and are then unable to change them when you later realise they are wrong. This is a real disadvantage irregardless of your skill level. It is better to work solid over a clay armature especially if you are not using a scale-model and hollow out just before finishing touches. It’s not difficult. That technique is detailed here: Working solid and hollowing out.

Or you can use this technique of building outwards from a Clay Armature to make your sculpture hollow.

Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014
Clay armature for a bust, aug 2014
3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.
3rd Bust armature in progress, Aug 2014.
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in progress, Aug 2014.
in progress, Aug 2014.

Here I chose to leave gaps that show the Armature but of course you don’t have to. The step by step manner of this method and the fact that you work all over the head  in layers from the start  makes it ideally suited to help you organise the huge amount of information in your mind while learning to make Portraits and other Sculpture.

The Workshop

Two people with a creative back-ground but who had never done a head before came to Osprey Studios for a 2 day Workshop designed to give them the practical skills needed to make heads on their own and get 2/3 of the way through a head. Day 1 was The Skull built onto the central support (that I had prepared and allowed to harden 3 days earlier). Day 2 was The Head up to the point before finishing touches. The students both took their heads home to finish. We used the excellent Scarva Crank (ES50) clay.

the leather-hard clay armature for the head
the leather-hard clay armature for the head. It will bear the weight  and be a scaffold for your additions. Some of it will get cut away as the bust becomes leather hard and can support itself.
measuring from your own head with callipers and placing the information on the armature in a way that also reinforces it..
Measure from your own head with callipers and add the information onto the armature. Some of these small, pinched slabs will also reinforce the armature. Start with where the neck emerges from the shoulders, then the chin, then the top of the head to ensure  you will hit a height that will fit in your kiln. Leave some room for error; later you can trim away from the base or add clay there to adjust the height.
I had made the Skull we used as a model previously using the same method.
I had made the Skull we used as a model previously using the same method. We also used photos from the internet and measured on our own and each other’s head. Having a model is expensive and sometimes distracting at this early stage of conquering the basics. This Workshop is designed to show you a method you can repeat at home.
Block out the skull using thin slabs attached to the armature.
Block out the skull using thin slabs attached to the armature. Work your way around the form in ‘layers’; don’t focus on one part for to long. Each part informs the whole and they need to evolve together. Mark the place of the eye-sockets, nose, mouth, chin without getting distracted by their shape. Then these bars of clay will hold up the next layer, etc.
It's surprisingly hard work. Take regular breaks to allow the info to sink in.
It’s surprisingly hard work. Take regular breaks to allow the info to sink in.
Spend plenty of time over the back of the head to ensure the size is correct.
Spend plenty of time over the back of the head to ensure the size is correct.
There will be points when it looks dreadful!
There will be times when it looks dreadful!
And points when it looks guaranteed to be a masterpiece.
And points when it looks guaranteed to be a masterpiece. Both of these phases pass!
Measure everything repeatedly and keep moving forward methodically
Measure everything repeatedly and keep moving forward methodically
Take the Skull up to the stage before finishing touches and allow to go leather-hard.
Take the Skull up to the stage before finishing touches and allow to go leather-hard. We chose to tilt the skulls a bit at this stage so that the Heads would be more expressive.

You can print these skull images to work from and there are 2 work-sheets for you at the end of this post.

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Block out the whole head over the foundation of the Skull.
‘Block out’ the whole head over the foundation of the Skull; Work all around the head in rough, refining the whole form in layers rather than concentrating on one spot then moving to the next. It is crucial that you are willing to remove any part that is wrong, no matter how much time you feel you have spent on it. A beautifully worked eye slightly in the wrong place will ruin the whole. Every minute you spend on this work is building your skill so there is no time wasted.
You will reap the benefits of all the careful measuring you did on the skull.
You will reap the benefits of all the careful measuring you did on the skull. Note that “The Eye” is the area all the way to the edge of that eye-socket not just the bit defined by the eye-lashes. ”The Mouth” starts up inside the nose and goes out toward the cheeks and the chin; it is not just the lips. Subtleties all across that area of muscle and skin over the teeth of the skull will express the mood of this person. Think a range of conflicting emotions and feel the small changes in your own mouth-area. Don’t look in a mirror, just feel them. Do it again in front of a mirror.  “Act” the expression you want your Portrait to have while you are working and you will find it easier to capture it in clay.
Continue measuring repeatedly using callipers and check your modelling by hold a horizontal or vertical stick to it and looking carefully at the shape of the negative space.
Continue measuring repeatedly using callipers and check your modelling by hold a horizontal or vertical stick to it and looking carefully at the shape of the negative space.
Walk away from your work and look in detail at something out the window ; this will 'clear your eye'. Turn and look at the head; what is the first thing you notice? It might be an error you couldn't see when you were up close and immersed in the work. Or it might be that it looks way better than you expected.
Walk away from your work and look in detail at something out of the window; this will ‘clear your eye’. Turn and look at the head; what is the first thing you notice? It might be an error you couldn’t see when you were up close and immersed in the work. Or it might be that it looks way better than you expected.
There are many tricks and techniques for making all the features and U Tube is a treasure trove. Try out different styles to find the one that you like.
There are many tricks and techniques for making all the features and U Tube is a treasure trove. Try out different styles to find the one that you like.
Use a similar modelling style for that hair to avoid that 'Wig' look.
Use the modelling style you used on the rest of the sculpture for the hair to avoid that ‘Wig’ look. As you get nearer to being done the quality of your mark-making as you add clay becomes important. Look at lots of Portraits with Google-Images, choose the look you like best and try out using different tools until you find your own style.
If you think you may have added a thickness over 3cms cut and hollow at the stage before finishing touches.
If you think you may have added a thickness over 3cms cut and hollow at the stage before finishing touches. If not you can fire the head with the armature in situ. Dry very slowly, preferably in a tent of news-paper that will keep off drafts and slow down the evaporation. While it is wrapped up the water from the added clay will migrate into the clay-armature and soften it; you might need to put a temporary support under the chin to stop the head tipping forward until the clay has stiffened up evenly.
Double-check all your measurements and then move into Finishing Touches.
Double-check all your measurements and then move into Finishing Touches. During this stage you are reinforcing this new perception and understanding of the head that is not just about communication but is relevant to portraiture. This will allow you to see more too.
This final stage, especially over the eyes, will take a third of your total work time. A head usually takes 30 hours.
This final stage, especially  the eyes, will take a third of your total work time. A head usually takes 30 hours.
Exactly like learning a musical instrument or a sport, practice will develop the fine-motor skills specific to this difficult task. It is ALL about Practise, good technique, and the right tools and clay. If you add enjoying doing it you will make beautiful Busts full of expression. 'Talent' is a mirage.
Exactly like learning a musical instrument or a sport, practice will develop the fine-motor skills and perception specific to this difficult task. It is ALL about Practise, good technique, and the right tools and clay. If you add ‘enjoying doing it’ you will make beautiful Busts full of expression. ‘Talent’ is a mirage. I revisit figurative work regularly so that my skills don’t slip away.
The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .
The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling . Your ‘Creative Intuition’ is largely a collection of Skills that have become so ingrained you can take them for granted. They will be inter-woven across your mind, so the deep-set memories of the experience of dancing  at a party, the exhilaration you feel out on the mountain, emotions that have shown on your face, will be part of your Skill. While you are making things music can help you access specific memories; I use particular Albums to re-set the mood each time I return to a sculpture.

A set of good portrait tools will make all the difference. Tiranti’s are famously lovely. Just holding one makes you want to work, they are beautiful. The M Series Hardwood Tools are designed for Portraiture and will fit perfectly to the important, tricky parts of the face. Scarva have a good range of quality tools and the set of fine modelling tools look like they will be nice and the price is very low. I am very pleased with my  metal modelling tools from Amazon.

Choose a clay with plenty of mixed, medium to fine grog (gritty bits). Scarva ES 50 is out-standing.

Mary Cousins finished her head back in her own Studio. She has named her Butterfly.
Mary Cousins finished her head back in her own Studio. She has named her Butterfly.
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Butterfly by Mary Cousins
Madam Butterfly by Mary Cousins.
Madam Butterfly by Mary Cousins. Mary makes absolutely lovely, fluid, sensuous porcelain pottery.

Once you have got the hang of this excellent method you can use it to open out the space of a form.

Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.
Frame-works for The Wyvern IV and, in the back ground, The Leviathan.

These Armatures or ‘frameworks’ were planned to be very much part of the fractured image. But the ‘corrugation’ and circular holes you can see are strengthening the Armature and would be very suitable to an armature that would ultimately be hidden. Playing around with these Armatures lead the Sculptures in un-anticipated directions.

The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.
The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.

Here are some work-sheets you can print off and use.

Scull Work-sheet, Rebecca Buck.
Skull Work-sheet, Rebecca Buck.
Portrait/clay armature Work-sheet. Rebecca Buck.
Portrait/clay armature Work-sheet. Rebecca Buck.
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A good one from google images: 

In February 2016 we ran this Workshop again but on Day 2 we played more freely. We still covered the essentials. I’ll add Workshop photos over time because you will find looking at how other people have handled it helpful and the variety inspiring.

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The group’s skulls after Day 1.
Sheila Mone
Sheila Mone
Phil Hughes
Phil Hughes
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Pi, my Studio Manager.
Pi, my Studio Manager.
Phil Hughes and Martine Wills.
Phil Hughes  making his bust into a  poignant Warrior . And Martine Wills.
Sheila Mone
Sheila Mone
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Martine Wills
Martine Wills
Sheila Mone
Sheila Mone , leaving a lot of bust section open using expressive curves.
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward
Kay Milward took her piece into the surreal with fantastic effect.

September 2016, I ran a Masterclass with the wonderful North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio. Taz Pollard and Nicola Crocker run an excellent Studio making their own work and giving very popular classes in pottery and hand-building. They have created a lovely, business- like space with an open, welcoming atmosphere that leads everyone into making their best work. They will be running Masterclasses, workshops and classes regularly, in all aspects of ceramics and it was a pleasure to work with them. We packed a massive amount of work into one day and group worked their butts off. Taz and Nicola kept everyone afloat with delicious, home-made food, drinks and humour.

Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
Masterclass with Rebecca Buck, North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio
North Devon Ceramics Academy & Studio

Art teacher Sheila Mone and her lovely, forward looking department head Matt Peake, invited me to Monmouth School to work with their A Level students. The school has a set of very handsome studios and the quality student work reveals that this Art Department understands the important contribution and highly transferable skill set that art brings to a pupil.

We had 12 hours over 2 days and the work would be completed over the rest of the following weeks. The frameworks were beautifully made a few days in advance and left to stiffen. Day 1 was the skull with full measuring and day 2 was open with the only condition being that the eyes/mouth/nose placements were maintained. Some had photos to work from and I was pleased at the care and thought these students had put into their interpretation, bringing in themes and messages. Most of them had done very little clay work before! So it was a leap into the deep-end and they achieved a fantastic amount through intensive hard work. Wonderful! I went home on cloud nine!

Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Sheila Mone talking through ideas with this student while the others listen in and collect information. These guys have great study skills.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Tony blocking out the skull in preparation for a portrait of Donald Trump.
With both of these heads the pupils used photos, aimed for a likeness. Setting boundaries like this will really help you to progress. The head in the back then went on to be beautifully stylised. The excellent head in front is based on Mohammed Ali. You can feel the strength and dignity of the man.
Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios
Robert moving forward from blocking out the skull to setting the key high points on the bones on the right plain.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Wilfred tidying the frame in preparation for developing the face. Because time was tight we left out the back of the head. This makes developing the head more difficult and I don’t recommend it. But handled stylishly it can look great.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. An excellent level of concentration.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. After giving general instruction I go one-to-one as much as possible. I aim to guide each student towards their own ‘voice’ in building, theme, and modelling style.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Wilfred has a good selection of views of his model . A selection of images from different angles is invaluable.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Really difficult to pull off but a great  challenge is 1/2 skull 1/2 face. This brave student had a steady, methodical approach that is ideal in portraiture.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. This wonderful student had already done a very good head after looking through this post so this time he chose to work double the size.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Harry had already done a very good head after looking through this post. And he has used clay on large pieces. So this time he chose to work double the size. Take your measurements and use a ruler to double them. Do not attempt to do it by eye. Larger than life heads carry an immediate power. It’s a great scale if you have a message to convey.
Harry’s piece just fits in the kiln!
Harry’s next head. Fantastic work on the very difficult area of the shoulders/base. 
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The dark, haunting eyes in the photo were done by this very skilled student, Robert, by cutting through and harnessing the dark interior of the head. Really effective and evocative.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Rhianna had a powerful image of an elderly homeless man and wanted to portray his story. She left the eyes empty but cut smaller holes through the back of the head behind the eye-level telling an inner, nearly hidden narrative.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The art department assistant, Kate Owens, beautiful use of clay.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. The art department assistant, Kate Owens, beautiful use of clay.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Kate Owens.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Kate Owens.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Harry’s theme here is a simple “contrast hard geometric form with organic form.” The size, the forward unyielding gaze, the beautiful, enchanting modelling style, the flow of the geometric inner form and the places where it mimics the natural structure of a head evoke a mysterious presence.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Sheila Mone helped her students and worked on her own fascinating bust.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. Excellent modelling skills and empathetic sensitivity are giving this moving image sculptural form.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. This a stylish, contemporary design for the base. It is very difficult to handle the truncated aspects of the bust. There are various ‘classic’ motifs that work really well but it’s very refreshing to see a new approach. This piece was then taken further to become this beautifully
The piece above was then taken further to become this beautifully defined character.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck. A few of the guys had to leave early including the student doing a superb job of Mohamed Ali using a beautiful, sophisticated modelling technique. The head of Donald Trump is being handled with great skill and thoughtfulness by another student. In each case they are aiming to capture the inner life of the man not just his shell. Of course this is very difficult but the challenge is engrossing and very satisfying and having a particular direction will get you through the many intimidating intersections on the road to a portrait. Art department Head Matt Peake worked alongside his students on the wonderful, humorous self portrait you can see front, right of this photo. The wide variety of approaches were a credit to the Art Department and the wider school.
Monmouth School A level students 2 day Workshop with Rebecca Buck.

Peaks at Cupola Contemporary Art.

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This stunning Exhibition is part of a series run by Cupola looking at art and our relationship to the environment. I could not have been more pleased to see my sculpture thoughtfully and expertly set with gorgeous paintings from 3 outstanding artists.

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Cupola Contemporary Art’s award-winning Gallery is one of the UK’s most established. They are welcoming, friendly and hugely helpful. No heavy selling or rushing. They will give you knowledgable guidance and support to help you find the art-work that really speaks for you. It is clear they are genuine: they love their gallery and the creative process. There is a wide choice of materials, styles and prices including beautiful unique and affordable gifts like un-framed drawings or prints and jewellery. 44775361_2101981446508272_8965180284014166016_n

Cupola looks after their artists so they get our very best work. They encourage us to take risks, try new things but they never push for ‘sellable’. With their very loyal, customers are looking for sincere art, real communication.

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“Cupola Gallery brings together 4 artists who deal with landscapes.  The exhibition will feature 3 painters and 1 sculpture.  The 3 painter’s distinct styles embody a meteorological exploration of the landscape shifting moods and seasons fluidly from painting to painting.  The painter’s fluid approach is complemented by Rebecca Bucks almost geological sculptures, the predominantly black and white ceramics embodying the land itself.

Painting 2 (seven Stones for a Drunken Philosopher)

Paul Evans takes inspiration from the modernist canon of Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel.  Paul work explores aspects of our physical and emotional relationship with nature something that he consider to be ‘a complex response to a complex field of interactions’.

 

Alison Tyldesley’s work aims at capturing movement, intense light and atmosphere – particularly glowing horizons, wild skies, receding hills and textured foregrounds. Her paintings are not always depictions of a particular scene, although she cannot help her work referencing the peak district she immerses herself in.

Edge

 

John Bainbridge practice is strongly rooted in the Northern Pennines.  The rich colour and texture of the land is enhanced by the Pennines’ unique quality of light and the atmospherics of seasonal wind and weather.  The paintings try to reflect the close contact he has had with the land through fell running in all conditions, day and night!

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Water and Stone, Bracelet Bay, 2014, 24cmH x 56cm L x 33cm W, Marbled architectural ceramic. Photo by Stephen Foote.

 

Rebecca Buck’s sculptures deal with the landscape on a geological and spiritual level.  Fascinated by climate change Rebecca’s ceramics are a combination of roughhewn textures and polished smooth surfaces, as if the clay had been less formed by hand but from the erosion and weathering of the elements.” Karen Sherwood, Cupola Gallery Owner.

I have 14 sculptures in this inspiring, intense Show including new pieces hot out of the kiln that I havn’t photographed yet.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Arctic Harbinger, 33cm L x 13cm H x 12cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Guardians of the Valley, 30cm H x 67cm W x 26cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern IX, 14cm H x 38cm L x 15cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Guardians of the Valley, 30cm H x 67cm W x 26cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Over Half A Century II.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Land I, 24cm H x 65cm L x 19cm D.

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Detail,Up Is Down VI. Photo by Stephen Foote

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Up is Down VI, second view. Photo by Stephen Foote.

 

Marking Time Sculpture, Bronllys Hospital, one year on.

To get the best out of our modest budget we used some new techniques and on my 1 year maintenance visit to this the lovely site I was hugely pleased to see they have worked really well. Despite a very harsh winter the sculpture looks fresh and is weathering in a uniform, gentle way. The moss is slowly collecting in the deep textures as planned.

The lovely, thoughtful planting has re-grown beautifully, complimenting the form perfectly, softening the site and integrating it into the lovely woodland which is overflowing with flowers and birds.

The paths are still level, easy for patients to use and now look like they have been there forever.

While I was there working a lot of people strolled by. They said this had become their sanctuary, a moment of peace and escape from the pressures in the hospital, where they could revive. This is exactly what we wanted. A wonderful result.

Everyone is welcome to visit this stunning spot at Bronllys Hospital grounds in Powys, Wales.

You can read the whole story of this wonderful project, including how the sculpture was designed with local people and built at Osprey Studios, in the other Marking Time posts here on this site.

Throwdown at the Hoedown.

 

 

Christopher-Michel_flickr_Web

Fantastic image from Christopher-Michel_flickr_Web. Interesting article here: //goodnature.nathab.com/larsen-ice-shelf-breakoff-our-future-in-ice/

“If there was ever an example of humankind being unable to bear too much reality, it is the current debate on climate change.” John Gray

Antarctic Leviathan, 45cm L x 23cm H x 12cm D.

I have been following the fascinating progression of Climate Change for 35 years. At last it is a main-stream subject. It’s intriguing how a small number of people are still trying to avoid seeing it, the deniers but mostly the avoiders. It is terrifying, lethal. Our doing and responsibility. The prospect of shifting the habits and habitats of our gigantic population is exhausting.

So a narrative has slowly emerged from the progression of sculptures (rather than the other way around), beginning during The Landscape Series. I wont interfere with that. I will record what I see, let the clay take the lead, research areas I need more information on, add music and follow the road. This is how I have always worked. But this time there is far more clarity.

Antarctic Harbinger I, 20cm H x 33cm L x 19cm D.

Throwdown at the Hoedown

A trichotomy of the Earth, the Guardians of the Aquasphere, the Lithosphere and the Atmosphere arose and they, and their Sentinels and Harbingers took on characteristics that the many life-forms of the Biosphere could relate to so that all would understand what was happening; They were going to let loose their forces. This was not to threaten or  punish. They simply knew it was time.

Rebecca Buck osprey Studios

Arctic Guardian and Harbinger, 70cm H x 37cm W x 24cm D.

The three spheres cover all that is water, stone or air. At first that seemed simple. But the three over-lap all over the place. And combining with sunlight, they build the whole of the Biosphere that they nurture and threaten.

Arctic Harbinger, 33cm L x 13cm H x 12cm D.

Steven Foote’s stunning photographs from The Landscape Series seem to contain the whole mysterious narrative, characters and all, I refer to them daily and they will continue to be the bed-rock of the Series.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Bracelet Bay, Swansea, Wales UK. by Stephen Foote

The key there became the beautiful, evocative forms left by water as it passed over rock and the land, an echo of it’s own shapes. This, coupled with intense news from the Antarctic about accelerated melting and glacial movement has kept my focus particularly on the Aquasphere.

The Aquasphere

It is changes with water that cause the most upheaval to the Biosphere. Water holds centre stage in the atmosphere’s massive weather events. More often than not it is at the forefront of dramatic episodes in the lithosphere: mud-slides, sink-holes, erosion and sometimes the provocation of volcanos.

Water takes so many forms: flowing (fresh and salt), vapour, ice. Each has a range of characteristics. The primary character is the Leviathan but there are many others involved.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Guardian I, 33cm H x 83cm W x 36cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Guardian I, 33cm H x 83cm W x 36cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Harbinger II, 13cm H x 26cm W x 14cm D + base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Harbinger II, 13cm H x 26cm W x 14cm D + base.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Sentinel, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Coastal Harbinger II, 43cm L x 29cm H x 22cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Harbinger, 37cm L x 21cm H x 19cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Sentinel, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Coastal Harbinger, 35cm L x 23cm H x 16cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan VIII, 56cm H x 97cm L x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan V, 45cm H x 65cm L x 23cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan IV, 35cm H x 61cm L x 29cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Mountain River Sentinel, 69cm H x 39cm W x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Mountain River Guardian, 36cm H x 67cm L x 42cm D. Landscape Series. Cupola Contemporary Art Gallery, Sheffield, UK

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Mountain River Guardian I, 36 cm H x 67cm L x 42cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Leviathan IX, 35cm H x 60cm L x 25cm D.

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Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

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Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

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Leviathan II, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

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Leviathan II, detail, 2015, 53cm H x 79cm L x 36cm D, ceramic.

The Atmosphere

At first I was seeing atmosphere simply as sky. Weather, especially the fabulous, awe-inspiring kind like hurricanes. But the atmosphere is every where, filling every gap, breathing life into the world, even under the ocean.

For this reason the Osprey is it’s main form.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey II, 39cm H x 50cm W x 50cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey II, 39cm H x 50cm W x 50cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey II, 39cm H x 50cm W x 50cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Osprey IX, 13cm H x 18cm W x 11cm D +base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey I, 12cm H x 46cm W x 13cm D +base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey I, 12cm H x 46cm W x 13cm D +base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Osprey III, 17cm H x 57cm W x 32cm D.

The Lithosphere

The Lithosphere, the geologic, stony part of the world has The Wyvern, a shape-shifting dragon that has taken a number of forms so far.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Guardians of the Valley, 30cm H x 67cm W x 26cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Guardians of the Valley, 30cm H x 67cm W x 26cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern IX, 14cm H x 38cm L x 15cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Antarctic Harbinger and Sentinel, 28cm H x 17cm W x 13cm D + base.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern XI, 13cm H x 20cm L x 16cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern, 11cm H x 15cm L.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern, 11cm H x 15cm L.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern, 11cm H x 15cm L.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern X, 12cm H x 21cm L x 11cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern X, 12cm H x 21cm L x 11cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Wyvern X, 12cm H x 21cm L x 11cm D.

The Biosphere

I  started looking at forms and ways to describe the Biosphere’s part of this story. ‘The Land’ sculptures started in The Landscape Series but this was different: it was no longer just the form and far more the theme of vulnerability. Change in the Natural world is  wonderful, a miracle. Frequently spectacular. And terrifying, heartbreaking, sometimes to dreadful to countenance especially where the Biosphere is concerned. But there is also belonging, the perfect fit of life grown out of the combined trinity of spheres. Nurtured, protected, watched over.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

Biosphere Sentinel II, 23cm H x 48cm L x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Biosphere Sentinel II, 23cm H x 48cm L x 28cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Biosphere’s Guardian I, 22.5cm H x 22.5cm W.

 

As with all my posts I will add to them over time as things develop. Here’s some links  to interesting, key parts of the research so far for the Throw-down at the Hoe-down:

26 years ago I left New Hampshire with my first son in my arms, new CD’s of Bela Fleck in my suitcase and returned to the UK. This extraordinary music sustained and developed my work  for 15 years. Steve Vai and later a wider variety joined Bela. But this track, Bigfoot, is the key and the seed that has lead to this new Series:

Bela Fleck’s Throwdown at the Hoedown seems like the perfect title for this new Series and a fair way to honour all his music has given me, so I’m going to go with that for a while.

This fascinating article by Randall Morris about Masks describes the process that I am trying to work through here. I have learnt a great deal from Randall since joining Cavin Morris Gallery. His amazing collection and beautiful writing brings clarity to, and pin points the essence of, what is important in art. I am an animist by nature and it is my job to portray what I see but the distractions can be over-whelming.

Published on May 6, 2016  

Short essay by Randall Morris

Animism: informative article by Sarah Anne lawless. 

There is a ‘modern’ resistance/confusion to animist ideas. The waters are muddied by spiritualist ideas, religions and fantasies. It can be difficult to avoid distractions when you are working on this kind of sculpture. The process is intuitive and free-flowing. Expertise with well organised techniques allow for that by managing the clay’s weight and ceramic requirements leaving the maker and material to associate with minimal restraint. I’m not taking a political, moral or religious stand. I’m just doing my thing, same as always, doing my bit to get the sculpture made. That feels very important to me and I don’t need to know why.

But none the less I keep informed on new science about consciousness in matter and enjoy the kinship and familiarity of Outsider art/ Art Brut. Having boundaries helps to weed out those irrelevant distractions.

Within animism there are many practices used to engage and interact with the spirit world, to put it over-simply. I’m not attempting that. My role is just to be part of it. A record keeper, perhaps, a chronicler to help my fellow 21st century folk maintain a link with the natural world.

Panpsychism: The idea that everything from spoons to stones are conscious is gaining academic credibility

How the Earth Made Us, a fantastic BBC 2 series by Professor Iain Stewart. And some fab clips from another series, Earth: The Power of the Planet.

Awesome iceberg video. I now collect these!

Climate change info with a really interesting, informative video of leading scientist, James Hansen explaining the findings.

Naomi Klien‘s fascinating and very readable book, This Changes Everything and the exciting, optimistic organisation of the same name.

The Up is Down Series.

 

 

The Landscape Series.

This Series is a collaboration with Photographer and Documentary Cameraman Stephen Foote.   Click on any picture to see it full size.

Stephen Foote and I met up after 30 years in 2014. We were good friends as teenagers, both rather disengaged with school, both making art in our own time. 30 years on we both still use art work as a major part of our interaction with this nutty world. Sharing our images was a key way we got to know each other again and harnessing that process in a joint project was simply a way of capturing what was occurring naturally. We set a straightforward ” Artists Respond to Landscape ” brief and kept a very open mind while we walked, talked, Steve took pictures and I just took it all in. We met every few months and sent each other pictures of the ensuing work in-between times.

Steve is also a Cameraman and was involved in filming for Panorama during the early, very heated phase in Kiev and the Crimea. I was coming to the end of the Up Is Down Series . Our first visit was Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea. Then we went into Porth Yr Ogof caves and had a mind-blowing day for me; we spent hours in the dark, natural cave while Steve took a fab series of photographs. I stood in the river in the darkness, held the lights and listened to the flow of water, felt the under-ground breezes. From there the project clarified for us as the travels of the water from the sky above the Brecon Beacons to the river, especially the Tawe, on down to the wide bay at Swansea, and out into the Ocean where much of it will return to the clouds and begin the circle again. As it flows it leaves it’s mark on the stone, the ground, the life it passes.

These pictures are roughly in sequence for the progression of work over time, with Steve’s photos next to the related sculptures in some cases.

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Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Wyvern, 10cm H x 18cm L x 11cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Wyvern, 10cm H x 18cm L x 11cm D.

Wyvern X, 21cm L x 12cm H x 11cm D.

 

Water and Stone, Bracelet Bay, 2014, 24cmH x 56cm L x 33cm W, Marbled architectural ceramic.

Water and Stone, Bracelet Bay, 2014, 24cmH x 56cm L x 33cm W, Marbled architectural ceramic. Photo by Stephen Foote

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Stephen Foote; Dunes

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

in progress, July 2014

Wyvern I in progress, July 2014. 68cm H x 64cm W.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

 

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote.

It was this fabulous picture of Bracelet Bay that shifted me abruptly into figures, much to my own surprise. The character of the Wyvern developed while making the public sculpture the Balarat Pit Marker in The Edge Series: the coal, a buried treasure to be used wisely or there would be consequences, watched over by a shape-shifting Welsh dragon.

Busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Wyvern busts in progress, Aug 2014.

Here the Wyvern is a guardian of stone.

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Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery, New York.

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Wyvern V, 2015, 27cm H x 51cm L x 25cm D, black ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Porth Yr Ogof Cave, Brecon Beacons, by Steve Foote, 2014. We spent hours down here and as I assisted the photography, standing in the river and pitch black, I felt the underground wind and heard all the sounds of water travelling through the rocks. Extraordinary. A living, breathing world of unparalleled beauty.

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Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

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Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

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Bracelet Bay, Mumbles, Swansea by Steve Foote

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The Wyvern III, 2014

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Wyvern II, 2014, 69cm H x 54cm W, x 31cm D, ceramic. Photo Stephen Foote.

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The Wyvern IV, Sept 2014

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The Wyvern and The Leviathan. in progress, Sept 2014.

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Wyvern VIII, 2015, 39cm H x 71cm L x 34cm D, ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Wyvern VIII, 2015, 39cm H x 71cm L x 34cm D, ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Wyvern VIII, detail. Photo Stephen Foote.

Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios

Wyvern VIII, Cavin Morris Gallery New York. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Water moves from one sphere to the next in all it’s forms, changing everything it passes. On heavy, stormy days here in the Brecon Beacons it careens in sheets 10cm deep across the grassy hills, colliding in the streams and rivers to tear down towards Swansea Bay. It drops through the gaps and cracks it has left in the stone to the fabulous caves it has been cutting for Millenia. Standing out in the middle of all this you can see the mountain ponies, uncompromising, resolute and beautiful. They became the Guardian of the water, the Leviathan, in it’s mountain form.

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Leviathan V, 2015, 11.5cm H x 25cm L x 9.5cm W, ceramic. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Leviathan VI, 2015, 12.5cm H x 21cm L x 8cm W, ceramic. Cavin Morris Gallery New York.

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Leviathan V, 2015, 11.5cm H x 25cm L x 9.5cm W, ceramic. Photo Stephen Foote.

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The Wyvern and the Osprey, 2014.

The Osprey followed as the guardian of the sky.

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Stephen Foote Photography.

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Osprey II, 65cm W x 50cm H. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Osprey II, 65cm W x 50cm H. Photo Stephen Foote.

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Osprey I, 40 cm W x 25cm H.Photo Stephen Foote.

Steve’s landscape photos unify everything exquisitely, portraying a vivid place with such clarity you can feel it around you. My sculptural response inevitably, and with some regret, separated the features which got me thinking more carefully about their connections.

The  sphinx-like form and majesty of the Brecon Beacons also showed up first in the Balarat Pit Marker. A classic sculptural motif, the reclining  figure, with it’s many options for themes. Like the complex internal aspect of the Beacons complete with breath, life (water) running through veins in the rock, hidden secrets, moods, supporting of forests, wildlife, and us since the dawn of time. The subtlety of age: the Beacons are especially ancient and have been many things in their past. ‘The Land’ sculptures are about this part of what we saw.

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Rebecca Buck Osprey Studios.

The Land II, 21cm H x 52cm L x 27cm D. Cupola Contemporary Art, Sheffield, UK.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

The Land VIII, 21cm L x 12cm H x 11cm W.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Land III, 15cm H x 43cm L x 12cm D.  

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Land IV, 15cm H x 26cm L x 14cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Land I, 24cm H x 65cm L x 19cm D.

 

At this point the Series branches off into new territory lead by images and news about Climate Change rather than Steve’s photos and my local landscape. I have been following the fascinating progression of Climate Change for 35 years. At last it is a main-stream subject. It’s intriguing how people are still trying to avoid seeing it, the deniers but mostly the avoiders. My guilty secret is that I see it as thrilling: nature rejoicing in it’s power and spectacular magnificence, the wonder of transformation. Throwndown at Hoedown is an ongoing Series now.

This fascinating article by Randall Morris about Masks describes the process that I am trying to work through here. I have learnt a great deal from Randall since joining Cavin Morris Gallery. His amazing collection and beautiful writing brings clarity to, and pin points the essence of, what is important in art. I am an animist by nature and it is my job to portray what I see but the distractions can be over-whelming.

Short essay by Randall Morris

The Up is Down Series  proceeded The Landscape Series and was a transitionary point in how I put together forms, particularly in relation to their bases. The research involved clarified my thinking and ability to see.

Most of the sculptures in The Landscape Series are built with the technique explained in Heads and clay armatures.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys, part 9.

The Installation.

I was really lucky to be working with the wonderful, resourceful, ingenious Gareth Ellis from Green Valleys. He has the patients of a saint. The writer Mark Christmas gave a huge amount of time and hard labour in addition to his years-long dedication to this project and this poem which will be set at the entrance to the woodland walk:

                                                                                        Catching a Moment

                                                                                               Within these woods

                                                                                       there is a breath to be found

                                                                               to ease new life into sight and sound

                                                                           transforming our world and how we see

                                                                           each branch, each twig, each living tree

                                                                                   so when the hurt inside we feel

                                                                               creates distraction with no appeal

                                                                        take a walk on this path to find this rhyme

                                                                            you will no longer be ‘Marking Time.’

                                                                                                                   Mark Christmas, 2015.

                                                                                                                   Dedicated to those who understand.

Because vehicles could not pull up to the site, the budget was tight (having been well squeezed by this point as is my habit!) and we couldn’t be too sure who would be able to join us we used a slightly different installation method than in previous sculptures.

We fixed the triangle of heavy railway sleepers securely, dug down 20 cms and then packed in hollow breeze blocks.

The first sections were put in place using the paper template of the mosaic and corner tiles, steel rebars hammered down through the sections and well into the ground and then post-crete was poured into all available gaps and half way up inside the first 3 sculpture sections.

Gareth Ellis and Mark Christmas. Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Powys.

The second sections were braced in place using blocks/ wood/ prayers, rebars set, post-crete poured.

Mark Christmas working on the Marking Time Sculpture, Bronllys Hospital, Powys.

The mosaic was built in the studio in 3 sections to aid handling and set securely in place with concrete going right down into the breeze block hollows. The mosaic tiles and the triangle corner-tiles were beautifully made by pupils in Ross Bennett’s Art Department at Llandrindod High School.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Powys.

Me adding the finishing touches to the mosaic, Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Powys.

Mark Christmas brought in poet Emma nan Woerkom to take some lovely photos and create this beautiful poem that has been cut in brass for the site.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Powys.

All the visible cement (pointing etc) was done with a white cement/gold sand mix that matches the fired colour of the Scarva ES50 clay perfectly. On the floor we topped it with light brown flint chippings and extra, handmade blue mosaic tiles and glass to soften the edge of the mosaic.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Powys.

Finishing touches on the sculpture were done with Milliput and the golden cement.

Marking Time, Bronllys Hospital, Powys.

Mick Farell has been a key part of this project and he was wonderfully supportive during the installation. His enchanting poem, written especially for the sculpture completes the triangle.

                                                                                               We are the child of nevermind

                                                                                             Who, finding dreams lost, unfind

                                                                                      Who, wandering, walking paths unknown

                                                                                               to find a woodland overgrown

                                                                                           And seeing in that woodland Glen

                                                                                              The happy minds of nevermen

                                                                                           Who elfin laughter laughly speak

                                                                                             Of how we humans keenly seek

                                                                                               Some new haven overhewn

                                                                                               And child stars of the moon

                                                                                                                                           Mick Farrell, 2016.

The poem tiles were made by the same fabulous pupils at Mount Street Junior School that developed the theme with me last year ( see Part 1)They are fixed to the sleepers with tile adhesive and screws.

We have spent a great deal of time on this one and it has been worth it. The Team have been a joy to work with and the whole woodland site looks really beautiful. Gareth Ellis and Mick Farrell will put in the benches and place and secure some tree-trunk logs. This is going to be such a calming, peaceful place for people involved with the Hospital to rest and revive.

                              

 

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys, part 8.

The cut sections had a slow dry for a month and the last 6 weeks in a tent with the dehumidifier. Water is still collecting!! Soon I’m going to have to start the firing. But if the sections are still damp they will explode into a trillion smithereens….

 

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

 

The letter tiles look great.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 7.

 

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Marking time sculpture is built and cut into sections. Each part will be prepared for a long managed drying and a very slow firing.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

It has been wonderful work. Very challenging and engrossing. The scale is great: I spent a lot of time working with-in the embrace. The supports worked really well, didn’t get in the way  and there has been no cracking at all. Scarva ES 50 Crank is an outstanding clay.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

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Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The edges are sharp and there is good variety and rhythm in the texture. The sculpture changes as you walk around it, with that rhythm creating unity and a flow that draws you in.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Once it is installed I will use the earth pigments that have become a really valuable material in my work recently, to add a thin white wash over the whole piece. The soft yellow of the clay will glow through the white and in the dappled shade of the woodland we will get a dream-like radiance. Over time the moss will add the finishing touch, making the form part of the place.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

The Red Kite, which represents the community supporting military from all angles with love, strength and unity, is very overt. During the consultation people spoke about a dragon in the mist, etherial, a force of nature. The dragon is there in the form making the embrace that shelters, guards and protects the vivid, swirling blue mosaic which is life. The dragon’s face shifts, the eye changing with the light.

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I have put blue underglazes on the wonderful mosaic pieces made by the fab pupils of out-standing art teacher, Ross Bennet, at Llandrindod Wells High School. The colour will deepen in the fire. A range of rich blue, high-quality glass pebbles will be set with these ceramics in the middle of the embrace.

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The 3 corner-tiles have soft blues added. They will also deepen in colour and have the same satin-matt texture.

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The 3rd corner tile will be done with Mount Street Junior School in Brecon. It will have the story of an army joining forces with a dragon that is shown in part 2 and the tri-corner  celtic knot will feature again.