Climate Change Gardening

Found Gallery, the sensational new contemporary art gallery in Brecon, Wales has been complimenting 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 has 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 shelter, homes and food counts, especially when seasonal changes are messing with wild-life’s 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.
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, much 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’s awesome to know that as the river rages even the big boulders are 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 wet meadow behind Osprey Studios sculpture garden. The hedgehog hotel is here too.

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 9 years from a plain lawn with some old hard features like the cement paths and patio and the deteriorating wooden stable has also changed my thinking enormously. I first put in lupines and flowers 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 neighbors, 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. 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. It 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. And 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.
Evergreens are gorgeous all year and great for the front garden. 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. And the arriving refugees.
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 (ie drop dead?) 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.
It was just a nice front lawn with a small brick patio 9 years ago. It got way too hot and very dry out here in the summer and so did the rooms on this side of the house. The paint was fried and falling off the render. A number of my neighbors 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 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.
The parking area is really useful but I don’t miss not being able to see it. I’m building up a brush-pile in this corner for anyone who likes living in it and there is a small water feature here. I’m introducing a range of ground cover plants. Next year I hope to experiment with vegetables in movable pots on wheels on the driveway where I can separate them from the slug’s territory.

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.

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, wether 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.

ROUGH Stuff: A Celebration of WILD Surface (April 25 – May 25, 2019) at Cavin Morris Gallery, New York.

Click here to view the gorgeous Rough Stuff Catalogue: https://issuu.com/cavinmorris/docs/rough_stuff_catalog_1

Joining Cavin Morris Gallery has widened my horizons enormously. The timing was perfect. For many years, while I was finding my place with clay, I had rarely looked at other art. My focus was studying aspects of the natural world and experimenting with the language of form. When Randall Morris contacted me I had just started really getting into seeing new art on social media, was settled into a spacious new studio, had lurched through one of those health dramas that gets you right in touch with the essentials, and was getting drawn into the powerful, mysterious beauty of The Brecon Beacons National Park, our new home.

The incredible exhibitions they put on at Cavin Morris, beautifully presented, are fascinating, engrossing, challenging and awakening. Randall Morris and Shari Cavin are geniuses at finding artists who are totally involved and living in their making. They are experts in their field and very interesting. Read anything they have written, it will be enriching.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, closeup
Shari Cavin of Cavin-Morris Gallery: “So the question becomes: How can we use self-taught artists’ biographical information? For, after all, familiarity with it can enrich our appreciation of their art. Self-taught artists create in spite of life’s obstacles. Their art-making may be seen as an act of courage in the face of life’s harshness. There is an undeniable moral influence that self-taught artists exert on trained contemporary artists. Their message: Stay true to yourselves.” 

Randall Morris: “This field may be seen as part of the broader contemporary-art scene but it doesn’t play by its rules. Critics and new scholars constantly try to chop the body to fit the bed, but this art has its own intentions and its own rules.”

“Outsider Art: Then, Now Tomorrow” by Edward M. Gómez in Raw Vision Magazine 93

They got me reassessing why people make their art and what really matters about people looking at and living with art. There are lots of answers to that and you need to find yours. There is a spectrum and it is not hierarchical. It’s important that there is variety so that we have non-verbal communication for every aspect of our lives.

This link will take you to a fab page of past exhibitions at Cavin Morris where you can see the variety of astonishing art they show: https://wsimag.com/art/46537-the-fire-within

Through the Gallery I now have a network of creative friends that inspire, support and challenge me and share the courage to really go for it. My sculpture has gained immeasurably. It has been set free and has far more to offer the people who find it.

Cavin Morris never interfere with what you are making. They watch and study, listening to the rhythms. They see connections between art works so that their Exhibitions are conversations. Like a concert of fabulous music they enfold you and you become part of it all.

As with all their excellent blogs the following has a great selection of beautiful, evocative images and the text is really interesting. I was over the moon to see this write-up and be part of this particular show: it says everything I hope I am doing.

http://www.cavinmorris.com/blog/2019/5/11/rough-stuff-a-celebration-of-wild-surface?fbclid=IwAR2zfcUnfIdcM31sumW_3EgSyQIwRNDhsC_rVvTAFnsyL2S-Hf0VnCJ_r4o

ROUGH Stuff: A Celebration of WILD Surface (April 25 – May 25, 2019

Ashwini Bhat
Rebecca Buck
Melanie Ferguson
Peggy Germain
Mitch Iburg
Yukiya Izumita
Mami Kato
Lucien Koonce
Eva Kwong
Sandy Lockwood
Kirk Mangus
Lesley McInally
Freeda Miranda
Andy Nasisse
Rafa Perez
Sara Purvey
Chris Rond
Tim Rowan
Monique Rutherford
Jeff Shapiro
Avital Sheffer
Eugene Von Bruenchenhein
Mike Weber
Jane Wheeler

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ROUGH STUFF: A CELEBRATION OF WILD SURFACE

April 25 – May 25, 2019

The title, “ROUGH STUFF” is a deliberately ambiguous play on words.  The viewer might immediately expect an exhibition of wood-fired ceramics with great accumulations of ash, imbuing the surfaces with chthonic primordial landscapes.   And yes, viewers will find some of that rich technique in this exhibition, but in fact, we had something else in mind.

We live in cynical times.  In cynical times the first concept to be sacrificed to the beasts of dogma is most often ‘beauty’ or ‘grace’. To us, beauty makes rough and exquisite demands that the onlookers slow down and, however briefly, give themselves up to its call.  Beauty becomes a warrior in a performance reaching back to archaic times.

We want the clay to live in this exhibition.  It is common to link sculpted clay to landscape, but landscape is changing all the time right in front of us, especially now.  Landscape is umbilically linked to Place, and the art that Cavin-Morris Gallery shows, from Art Brut to ceramics (sculptural as well as tea and sake), to ethnographic, has always been closely tied to the myriad ideas Place awakens in the artists’ mind.  That vision of place runs the gamut from untouched and euphoric to dystopian.

That is really mean by ROUGH STUFF: a celebration of wild surface.  It is an exploration of the idea that never has earth, air, fire and water been more interactive with our daily lives than now.  

Like the tensed horse head in Picasso’s Guernica, our earth in all its beauty and ugliness is screaming to be heard.  Through the translations of visionary artists, we can always hear its real voice. 

Sculptors who use clay work with the raw essence of the planet that most of us take for granted.  We wanted special work for this exhibition, and we found them, created by the remarkable artists we have shown for years, and welcoming some amazing sculptors we felt would augment the vision.

We deliberately chose to emphasize the non-utilitarian aspects of their creations, with very few exceptions. The artists  experiment with local clays, they display edgy aesthetics, obsessively working surfaces both in naked clay and glazed, without losing their basic respect for the clay body.

For additional information please contact info@cavinmorris.com or call us at 212-226-3768.

  Ashwini Bhat  Garden of Earthy Delights  , 2019 Fired clay with feldspar and natural ash 4.5 x 5.5 x 5 inches 11.4 x 14 x 12.7 cm ABh 1
  Chris Rond  Fusion 2  , 2018 Ceramic 3 x 6 x 5 inches 7.6 x 15.2 x 12.7 cm CRo 5
  Ashwini Bhat  Garden of Earthy Delights  , 2019 Fired clay with granite and mud dauber nest and natural ash 6.5 x 6 x 4 inches 16.5 x 15.2 x 10.2 cm ABh 2
  Eva Kwong  AMALI  , 2019 Stoneware, colored slips, underglazes, glazes 21.5 x 11 x 11 inches 54.6 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm EKw 1
  Ashwini Bhat  Beginning is the End  , 2019 Fired clay, with glass and garnet media and underglaze 8 x 3 x 7.5 inches 20.3 x 7.6 x 19.1 cm ABh 3
  Eva Kwong  ARIRI  , 2019 Stoneware, colored slips, underglazes, glazes 21 x 14 x 15 inches 53.3 x 35.6 x 38.1 cm EKw 2
  Ashwini Bhat  Beginning is the End  , 2019 Fired and painted clay, with glass and garnet media and glaze 7 x 7.5 x 4.5 inches 17.8 x 19.1 x 11.4 cm ABh 4
  Eugene Von Bruenchenhein  Untitled (crown)  , 1950-1980 Painted Clay 4.5 x 8 x 7 inches 11.4 x 20.3 x 17.8 cm EV 45
  Ashwini Bhat  Origin of Species  , 2019 Fired and painted clay with natural ash 22 x 12 x 7 inches 55.9 x 30.5 x 17.8 cm ABh 5
  Eugene Von Bruenchenhein  Untitled  , 1960-1980 Hand dug clay and paint 10 x 5 x 5 inches 25.4 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm EV 46
  Ashwini Bhat  Alive Series  , 2019 Fired and painted clay with glaze 6.5 x 9 x 6 inches 16.5 x 22.9 x 15.2 cm ABh 6
  Eugene Von Bruenchenhein  Untitled  , 1960-1980 Hand dug clay and paint 7 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches 17.8 x 11.4 x 11.4 cm EV 47
  Andy Nasisse  Dark Matter  , 2017 Ceramic, multi-fired with overglaze 19.75 x 21.5 x 3 inches 50.2 x 54.6 x 7.6 cm ANa 2
  Freeda Miranda  Organic 2  , 2018 Ceramic 4 x 5 x 5 inches 10.2 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm FMi 2
  Andy Nasisse  Tantra Terra  , 2017 Ceramic, multi-fired with overglaze 24 x 16 x 3 inches 61 x 40.6 x 7.6 cm ANa 4
  Freeda Miranda  Organic 1  , 2017 Ceramic 3.5 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches 8.9 x 14 x 14 cm FMi 3
  Andy Nasisse  Red Head  , 2017 Ceramic, multi-fired with overglaze 22 x 22 x 3.5 inches 55.9 x 55.9 x 8.9 cm ANa 5
  Jeff Shapiro  Shield Series  , 2012 Woodfired Ceramic 20 x 13.5 x 8 inches 50.8 x 34.3 x 20.3 cm JSh 42
  Andy Nasisse  Ear Wig  , 2016 Ceramic, multi-fired with overglaze 17 x 16 x 3 inches 43.2 x 40.6 x 7.6 cm ANa 10
  Jane Wheeler  Black Ice Flagon  , 2013 Stoneware clay with chun glaze, slab built 14.75 x 9.45 x 6.5 inches 37.5 x 24 x 16.5 cm JWh 3
  Avital Sheffer  Inannah V  , 2009 Handbuilt earthenware 26.77 x 12.99 x 7.09 inches 68 x 33 x 18 cm ASh 2
  Kirk Mangus  3 Flying Houses Ziggurat  , 1982 Stoneware, white tapies glaze (inspired by Antoni Tapies) 12.5 x 7 x 7 inches 31.8 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm KMg 1
  Chris Rond  Fusion 1  , 2018 Ceramic 5 x 3.5 x 3 inches 12.7 x 8.9 x 7.6 cm CRo 2
  Kirk Mangus  2 Skulls  , 1993 Local stoneware, paddled with artist's own carved wooden paddles, wood-fired 7 x 7 x 7 inches 17.8 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm KMg 3
  Kirk Mangus  2 Warriors  , 1993 Local stoneware, paddled with artist's own carved wooden paddles, wood-fired 8.75 x 8 x 7.5 inches 22.2 x 20.3 x 19.1 cm KMg 4
  Kirk Mangus  Aurum  , 1984 Stoneware, colored slips, salt glazed 17 x 7.5 x 7.5 inches 43.2 x 19.1 x 19.1 cm KMg 5
  Kirk Mangus  Swirling  , 1984 Stoneware, colored slips, salt glazed 15.5 x 7 x 7 inches 39.4 x 17.8 x 17.8 cm KMg 6
  Kirk Mangus  Looking  , 1982 Stoneware, gooey glaze 15 x 10.5 x 10.5 inches 38.1 x 26.7 x 26.7 cm KMg 7
  Lucien M. Koonce  Tri-Footed Hanaire  , 2017 Hand formed stoneware clay and natural ash glaze; wood fired (anagama side stoke area) for five days to c/12 8.25 x 4 x 4.5 inches 21 x 10.2 x 11.4 cm LKo 8
  Lucien M. Koonce  Hanaire  , 2018 Hand-formed stoneware clay (with native North Carolina clay) and natural ash glaze; wood fired (anagama side stoke area) for five days to c/12 9 x 4 x 4 inches 22.9 x 10.2 x 10.2 cm LKo 9
  Lesley McInally  Goodnight Noises Everywhere  , 2015 Porcelain and stoneware coil vessel 17 x 18 x 8 inches 43.2 x 45.7 x 20.3 cm LMc 1
  Melanie Ferguson  Circles In The Sand  , 2014 Handbuilt stoneware, sgraffito, flashing slips, oxide stains, celedon liner. Soda fired, heavy reduction 11 x 12.5 x 10 inches 27.9 x 31.8 x 25.4 cm MFe 25
  Melanie Ferguson  Resurrecting Fragments  , 2013 Hand built stoneware, flashing slip, kohiki slip, oxide stains, sgraffito, gas fired in soda 13 x 10.5 x 9 inches 33 x 26.7 x 22.9 cm MFe 45
  Mitch Iburg  Fond du Lac Formation 1  , 2018 Sandstone fragments, glacial clay, dolomite, limonite 9 x 19 x 12 inches 22.9 x 48.3 x 30.5 cm Mib 30
  Mike Weber  Tsubo  , 2018 Wood-fired stoneware 17 x 15 x 15 inches 43.2 x 38.1 x 38.1 cm MWe 31
  Mami Kato  Tsuchi zaiku  , 2018 Ceramic 8 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches 20.3 x 11.4 x 11.4 cm MmK 12
  Peggy Germain  Grande jarre  , 2018 Ceramic 11 x 11 x 8 inches 27.9 x 27.9 x 20.3 cm PGe 1
  Mami Kato  Tsuchi zaiku  , 2018 Ceramic 7 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches 17.8 x 11.4 x 11.4 cm MmK 13
  Peggy Germain  Petit jarre  , 2018 Ceramic 3.5 x 4.5 x 8.5 inches 8.9 x 11.4 x 21.6 cm PGe 2
  Mami Kato  Tsuchi zaiku  , 2018 Ceramic 9.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches 24.1 x 11.4 x 11.4 cm MmK 15
  Rebecca Buck  Wyvern VIII  , 2015 Ceramic 15.35 x 27.95 x 13.39 inches 39 x 71 x 34 cm RBk 4
  Monique Rutherford  Untitled  , 2017 Wood fired ceramic 12 x 3.5 x 4.5 inches 30.5 x 8.9 x 11.4 cm MRu 11
  Rafa Perez  Untitled  , 2012 Porcelain and stoneware, fired at 1150 degrees 19.69 x 13.39 x 10.24 inches 50 x 34 x 26 cm RPe 25
  Monique Rutherford  Untitled  , 2017 Wood fired ceramic with carbon trap shino 9.25 x 7 x 6 inches 23.5 x 17.8 x 15.2 cm MRu 12
  Sandy Lockwood  Subduction Series  , 2016-2019 Stoneware and inclusions 7 x 7 x 6.5 inches 17.8 x 17.8 x 16.5 cm SaL 24
  Monique Rutherford  Untitled  , 2017 Wood fired ceramic 10 x 5 x 3.5 inches 25.4 x 12.7 x 8.9 cm MRu 14
  Sandy Lockwood  Gleaning Series  , 2016-2019 Stoneware and inclusions 12 x 12 x 3 inches 30.5 x 30.5 x 7.6 cm SaL 25
  Mike Weber  Trinity  , 2018 Wood-fired porcelain 17 x 11 x 2.5 inches 43.2 x 27.9 x 6.4 cm MWe 30
  Sandy Lockwood  Fish Box Series  , 2016-2019 Stoneware and inclusions 8.5 x 6.25 x 6 inches 21.6 x 15.9 x 15.2 cm SaL 27
  Sarah Purvey  Rhythm - Landscape Series  , 2012 Ceramic 23.62 x 16.93 x 11.42 inches 60 x 43 x 29 cm SPu 4
  Tim Rowan  Untitled  , 2019 Stoneware 8.5 x 17 x 8 inches 21.6 x 43.2 x 20.3 cm TR 165
  Tim Rowan  Untitled  , 2019 Stoneware 10 x 21 x 9 inches 25.4 x 53.3 x 22.9 cm TR 166

Saturday 05.11.19Posted by caroline casey http://www.Cavin Morris.com


Thank you Ashwini Bhat, here with Randall Morris and Shari Cavin at the Rough Stuff Private View, for the following lovely photos!

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.

What do artists do all day?

At Bracelet Bay, Wales, UK.

At Bracelet Bay, Wales, UK.

Here is a collection of my thoughts and descriptions about making sculpture written in reply to student’s questions.

A Level project at Monmouth School: natural forms in art, particularly in portraiture both 3D and 2D.

It would be of great help for you to answer a few questions for this investigation. Any further insight into your personal influence of natural forms would also be greatly appreciated. My specific questions are:

You say that your abstract forms start with a theme or a known form and I know that you draw all the time, but I wondered whether you start with sketches specific to the planned piece or go straight into working with the clay?

Drawing from life has been an important part of my training but I never do it now. I still use the figure and heads to practise my skills (use it or loose it) but always in 3D and clay. These days I draw imaginatively for fun and to capture impressions and these sometimes are shapes which I might re-explore in clay.

Generally I go straight to clay with a theme as a starting-point.

With my best work I am filling in the space with clay- the form is there already.

Or, most often, I play intuitively and then work through the challenges that emerge. Rarely do I have a specific intension other that a guiding idea but I admit that frequently I’ll realise I am making something else! The front of your mind can go chattering on while the bigger part of your brain does the real work. Music is wonderful for keeping the two focussed. If I start dancing or singing I know I’m working well.

The system is to arm yourself with as much real-life information about natural forms as you can cram into your head. This becomes the structure of your ‘intuition’. Add reading, ideas, opinions, dancing, experiences and especially music. Really good, practiced craftsmanship then allows you to access this unique perception of life and put it into your medium so that you can share it.

The great benefit is I can turn to clay to work out everything. It’s my language, my thought process and what I have to offer the world.

I keep my studio and, as best as I can, my life-style, organised and tidy so that I am fit and ready to respond to events. For example the storms of this winter and the news about progressive arctic warming has gone straight to clay without me over-thinking it.

The most difficult part is maintaining belief in this process and keeping a clear head amidst constant distractions and doubts. Sculptors like Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore both used this approach. Many artists do. I turn to them to renew my courage.

In your blog you say that organic, natural forms are a strong influence on your abstract work and you talk about the influence of Barbara Hepworth in particular. Has she also influenced your more figurative work and which other artists have influenced your figurative work in particular?

Both Hepworth and Moore did many forms that were figures that they could see in the landscape in the way of animism and that gave me the confidence to show the figures I see. Most of my sculptures are of somebody, frequently birds of prey.

When I was young Brancusi and Giacometti blew my mind. Now I look at a lot of out-sider and art brut on Facebook (a fantastic resource for sculpture where you can study techniques in the artist’s Albums and ask questions). I greatly admire the fabulous craftsmanship and uncompromising imagination of Alex Oliver

( https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008249700514 ), Christophe Charbonnel

(https://www.facebook.com/Christophe-Charbonnel-117379408457506/  ) and the perfection and power of Patrick Villas’s modelling (https://www.facebook.com/patrick.villas.14

Seeing their work has opened the door to my using such naturalistic forms expressively. (before they were always disciplined exercises). My sons get me watching a lot of Marvel and super-hero fantasy films and the art-work is absolutely fabulous. They’ve pushed me to be more playful with my figurative work and that’s done all my sculpture a lot of good.

As well as rock forms, some of your pieces remind me of shells worn away by the sea and I wondered whether you are influenced by other natural forms, such as shells, leaves or coral?

I watch a lot of natural history and science programs and spend a fair amount of my free time outside. Trees are crucial to me. And I do collect shells and rocks. My thorough training means I can see things clearly and remember forms very vividly.

Drawing and making studies in clay of skeletons, the figure and heads teaches you the vocabulary of forms and especially of how nature transitions from one form to another in everything. For example that difficult area between the eye, the cheek and the nose: so subtle. You will see that in shells and all living things as well. Fascinatingly it also shows up in stone that has been shaped by the various processes of water. You need that knowledge to make abstract forms.

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Bracelet Bay, photograph by Stephen Foote.

This post about my currant series might be useful. https://ospreystudios.org/2018/02/03/throwdown-at-the-hoedown/

 

Guest-speaker Talk for Carmarthen School of Art.

I‘m a dual national, British/American and since my early teens I’ve been working intuitively using techniques, disciplines and materials from Figurative Sculpture and hand-built pottery to make mostly Abstract forms that describe ideas and experiences. I recently learned my work is Bio-morphic which sounds way better than some of the other things it’s been called.

I am going to give you an over-view of my work with  the whys and where-fores of doing it my way and  some ‘what’s the point thrown in’.

 I am 400 years old and I’ve been doing this for a Millenia, so my theories are tried and tested to breaking point. I work in clay but the majority of what I’m going to say applies to all art-forms.

Like all self-employed, vocational, sole-traders with a micro-buissness,(Yep! that’s us! ) our job is a roller-coaster over-loaded with risk, running on  low cash-flows.

There is a harmful myth that Artists are “different”. That isolates us. It makes it easier to not pay us. It makes prospective clients nervous about how to approach us. And it can distract us from important parts of our Practice.

Loads of  people, from Brick-layers to Social-Workers, pour their hearts into their work.

And they all wake up at 3am, wide-eyed with The Doubts: is their work good enough, shouldn’t they be doing more, in a different way, etc, etc!

I still get The Doubts about every 2 months. You look at your work and think “ this is RIDICULOUS!!! What am I DOING? I’ve really lost it this time.”

And some-times it’s true! You have, in fact, gone down a very bad road, for months, and it’s time to retrace your steps that bit older and wiser. Three steps forward, two steps back. Call in colleagues and get some sugar-less feed-back to help to see your way forward. And be ready to return the favour.

At Rhian Goodhand's Glass Studio.

At Rhian Goodhand‘s Glass Studio.

Or Type 2 Doubts where you walk in the Studio and think “What? Make sculpture? Me?!I can’t do THAT!?” The blank mind, empty hands…has your Muse and your Talent run off together and left you useless for ever?

Nah, you just need a break. Get outside, read, feel, experience, re-charge. Then get back to making lots of work: some of it will be really good.

Stephen Foote Photography.

Stephen Foote Photography. Steve and I have an on going collaborative project, The Landscape Series. We challenge each other and exchange really valuable, no-frills feed-back about the work. It has definatly upped my game.

Isolation and The Doubts wreak havoc with a lot of artist’s careers. There is all kinds of help and support for micro-businesses out there. Assume that it WILL apply to you. Keep books on your accounts. Talk shop with other Sole Traders.

And it is important to have some structure for, and understanding of, your creative process that will give you the confidence to hold your ground and routes to solve the problems.

Working Intuitively:

Where DO our ideas come from? Why do some pieces seem to build themselves using your hands?? Why don’t we think that is creepy?

Intuition is made up of your memories and perceptions that together are your Knowledge.

Many of your memories come from actual experiences, physical and emotional, many from films, books, art, daydreams and your imagination.

Add in the strong pull of the cocktail of hormones that are involved in our every move, societal  influences and Collective Consciousness (now accepted science and it must play a role along with  Inherited Memory).

Every bit of your life  stops off to be  shaped by your perception on the way into your memory bank.

The quality of your Perception is set by your learning and experience and it will develop and change. So your memories will change too. Your brain reviews memories every 2 years or so and chucks out the irrelevant, rarely used stuff and re-files handy, popular stuff according to up-dated perceptions.

So your Knowledge and your ability to gain knowledge is limited by prejudice, ignorance and inexperience.

Artists have an important role in Society. One of Barbara Hepworth’s many strengths was the conviction that societies, as far back as we know, have always needed and supported artists so that they could gain the skills required to unravel and describe the ideas, beliefs, moralities and experiences of the group so that everyone was on the same page.

So it’s very important to educate yourself and develop your perception constantly throughout your career to avoid being narrow minded or irrelevant.

Like Actors we need to rehearse the physical characteristics of emotions and experiences so that we can capture and express them.

A vivid intuition needs skilled craftsmanship that can capture and communicate ideas. Scintillating, profound knowledge will be wasted if you are all thumbs.

Just like musicians and sportsmen, artists need to train the specific muscles needed. And become expert in handling the medium that suits us best.

So we need to practice reliable, effective exercises throughout our career to keep our minds and bodies fit for creativity.

 

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Henry Moore at work.

Henry Moore at work.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

                                               

As a teen I loved the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore ( I still do) and I researched and did my best to re-create their education for myself. This was very much at odds with the currant art-practice 35 years ago and I got a lot of hassle for it at college. I get the impression that would not be the case here at Carmarthen School of Art. I was angrily accused of being ‘very early 20th century’ when I refused to explain my coil-built abstracts in terms of inner psychological angst and insisted on life drawing.

(My pieces were about inner psychological angst, mind, but I didn’t need tuition for that – I was already really good at it).

For 15 years, as well as making my art work, I went to any life-drawing, portrait or figure sculpture classes going. And I drew the classical sculptures, skeletons and taxidermy in museums as well.

Eventually  I switched to setting myself exercises using photos and skeleton diagrams. I still do this regularity to sustain the skills and measure my ability.

What you gain from this training is this:

  • a broadening of your ability to see and perceive what is in front of you.
  • a collection of memorised forms, details and structures that enrich your visual vocabulary.
  • an understanding and appreciation of the structure of forms.
  • fine motor-skills in your body specific to your art-work.
  • disciplined systems for organising the huge, over-whelming amount of information in front of you so that you can work with it.
  • clear mile-stones to aim for and use to assess your fitness: Figure study has definable rights and wrongs.

    The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .

    The measuring frees you up to be expressive with your modelling .

Add practicing and experimenting with your materials. And challenging your ideas by no- holds- barred discussion about everything with all kinds of people, not just artists. And understanding emotions by sharing your own with trusted friends and caring about others of all species.

Clay

I got into coil-building when I was 20, after my Foundation year (fantastic course in Banbury, Oxfordshire) when I was teaching pottery at a Summer Camp in the USA.

Life was very chaotic and stressful at that time and the rhythm and intense, absorbing relationship with clay that you get through coil-building and the slow, steady progression revealing the form drew me in like a sanctuary.

Big round pots, glazed hideously, developed into a-symmetric vessels with sheer clay surfaces, then to forms involving spirals, then sculptures incorporating birds, especially the Ospreys I watched on the New England lakes.

2 years on: I went to Exeter College of Art And Design here in the UK for a BFA in ceramic sculpture. The interior space of the forms ceased to be relevant and gradually the vessel openings were gone. My 2nd year was spent at Boston University’s excellent and intense Program in Artisanry, where the mostly post-grad potters could discuss foot-rings for hours with out being boring.

For 18 years, until I was 30, I did stints of waitressing double hours for a few months and then studio work for as long as my money lasted. I always worked from home, including when that was my Van. I fired at community centres, taught pottery and sculpture to Adult Ed, special needs and Summer Camp.

When I was about 28 I had gotten to coil-building naturalistic figures and of course I was struggling because that’s a fool’s errand right there.

I had made one that wasn’t too awful and this guy says to me, “yeah, that’s pretty nice, I guess you built it solid and hollowed it out, right?”

What?!

So I switched techniques for the figures and realised that wedding your-self to a technique isn’t loyalty, it’s absurd!

Always get outsiders to look at your work in progress. Ask them “ what’s the first thing you see?” and remove the plastic. Those fresh, first impressions can be so helpful. If there is a figurative element ask “is this about a character? Who are they, what are they doing?”

If they say “it’s a rooster running away” and you were aiming for “The Leviathan, Guardian of the Aquasphere, shape-shifted to the form of a rampant horse raging through the oceans” consider the differences between the two and you have the bit that needs work: the head was too narrow and the ears needed to be stronger.

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

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

Do it yourself: Take a break every 1 1/2 hours and go clear your eyes for 15 minutes. Load the washing machine, check messages. When you go back to the piece what’s the first thing you notice? It might be a problem. It might be a lovely bit.

Working Solid and Hollowing Out

So I spent the next 10 years working solid and hollowing out, loosing the advantage of the rhythm and voice of coiling but gaining the advantage of working on the whole form from the outset and being able to change your mind right up to the last minute.

You can separate the artsy work from the technical stuff: they use different parts of your head and don’t always mix well.

You block out the basic sizes,

Rough out the form

Refine all over in at least 5 cycles of adding/ subtracting.

Let it go leather hard on the surface,

Cut/Hollow/rebuild.

Do finishing touches in 3 rounds: Remove, Add, Burnish (especially the edges)

It’s a great method for any shape up to 75cm x 50cm – above that the weight becomes a pain and you are better off working hollow with a clay armature. You still might hollow parts out.

Or you can Coil-build from a scale model using an internal support structure made of clay….

Large scale sculpture in clay.

Around about when I turned 42 I got the opportunity to do something I had always wanted to try: working really big.

I made a 6m long x 2m high sculpture with 9 life-sized figures and a 2m x 1.5m piece with wildlife, both incorporating seating for a community regeneration group.

Both were ‘blocked-out’ in large brick-clay coils  using a scale model, then continued by adding and subtracting clay. They were then cut into sections which were hollowed out. The internal supporting structure (built w/ smaller coils) was discarded. The sections were fired and reassembled by a builder with cement, concrete, steel reinforcing and a lot of swearing.

A year or so later I was running a community Sculpture Studio aimed at ‘The Hard To Reach’ by a fab Regeneration group The Creation Development Trust in Blaengarw. (near Bridgend, UK). My group were awesome. They were mostly dealing with awful mental health problems so they couldn’t get jobs and had time, energy and intense life experiences to burn.

After they had all made some lovely things for friends and family it became clear they were going to drift off.  So we decided to make a big brick-clay sculpture together for the new park planned by the ferocious Community Council for a big area of waste ground.

Calon Lan would tell the epic story of Blaengarw from it’s notorious ancient history of un-tamable Silurians, through to the industrial revolution, mining, bitter strikes, a culture in ruins and a slow, often tortuous, re-building.

Parc Calon Lan, Blaengarw, South Wales.

Parc Calon Lan, Blaengarw, South Wales.

There was something important to do for every kind of Volunteer from researching through the local archives to the hard labour of building the structure 5m long x 2 m high in a basement barely big enough, designing letter stamps and carving narrative reliefs.

I’ve done about 14 of these intensely collaborative projects now in various sizes. Because the sculptures are big you can fit in loads of different ideas and styles. The Sculptor’s job is to find ways  to included as many people as possible and make damn sure the piece looks awesome (because your Volunteers trust you and deserve no less in return for the huge amount of time they donate), while being safe and vandal-proof because it’s in a public place.

I use the frame-work of ‘Co-production’ for all my projects. The very interesting theory is that humans are naturally co-operative and strive to be a useful, valued part of the group. So a good group leader asks for something in return for what they have to offer. Studies have shown that if you don’t use this method your project will probably be ineffective in enabling real change to take place. (All my funders have been involved in Community Regeneration on some level).

People will go all out if they feel valued as a contributor. If you are the Benevolent Professional bestowing your gifts upon the weak and needy you are requiring them to stay weak and needy. They will begin to drift off when they can’t stomach being patronised any longer. They wont have gained anything so your project has failed, leaving you frustrated and stressed and your reputation damaged.

So I offered to trade my skills on the tricky bits (eyes, hands etc), teach skills and ensure the final sculpture was fabulous in exchange for the local knowledge and experience, stories and symbols and the work each person took on for the task.

Building Calon Lan in a small basement.

Building Calon Lan in a small basement. (How to..)

Sharon was invaluable. She worked on every stage.

Sharon was invaluable. She worked on every stage.

Jim, ex-miner, ensured that the images were accurate.

Jim, ex-miner, ensured that the images were accurate.

A lot of Public Art is made like this though not always so hands-on. It’s expensive because Volunteers need a lot of time but you get massive value for money because  all the skill-sharing and co-production feeds back into the community.

These projects really highlight how much Visual Artists have to offer.

Many Artists specialise in non-verbal communication. A lot of people learn that way and regularly struggle to ‘find the words’ particularly after a trauma.  We can guide people towards the form of wordless communication that best allows them to express themselves ‘beyond words’.

While hands and eyes are busy on artwork people find talking openly feels much less dangerous. They start to take themselves less seriously as mistakes are made on the art and every one laughs uncritically. Problems fall into perspective and become interesting challenges.

We laughed and cried a river while making the big brick clay Pit Marker Memorials because of the stories we were telling in clay. We worked from the heart, unashamedly: we wanted to share the tears. Now people with generations of miners in their families go to the Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, set by a pond on the mountain where the pit head was, to remember and mourn. And visitors and new comers can go there and better understand the village and the  history that shaped it.

Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, Blaengarw, South Wales.

Ocean Colliery Pit Marker, Blaengarw, South Wales.

This is good, important work that sustains the humanity of our society.

Creative work is at it’s best when it communicates emotion with a sincerity that genuinely connects with the viewer.

Sculpture and pottery have the advantage over many other art-forms of being overtly physical so they can reach people more directly.

A lot of what we make is decorative. Stylish. Attractive. Or Narrative. Intriguing. It is understood and appreciated by the brain. Sometimes everything clicks and a piece is able to reach into people and connect with the heart and perhaps the soul.

That’s the best.

But there is a huge need for all kinds of art-work and processes. Our job is to find our niche in there and get as skilled as we can at providing our part of the  structure of civilisation no less!

I’ve taught clay work to all sorts of people with all kinds of abilities. Many have been inexperienced in creative work. Some people ‘take to it’ very quickly. They transfer skills developed in other activities easily, they are very dexterous.

It gets called ‘Talent’ but that has become a misleading term that stands in the way of a lot of creativity. People are lead to think Talent will come to you if you want it enough or that you are born with it as a blessing. And that others are denied it…

Talent describes prodigies and savants. The rest of us have born and acquired ‘aptitudes’ for particular types of work. As a social species humans come in various types for the good of the group.

Psychologists studying creative aptitude have put forward the idea of ‘Flow’. Flow is when you get lost and engrossed in an activity, time flies etc.

We all recognise this, yes? Nope.

They found that 7 out of 10 people experience Flow. 3 do not. Their aptitude is better for different work. Of the 7 that do there is a spectrum with those people lost in Flow or who need to spend a lot of time there at one end and those who can easily dip in and out at the other.

Go to the right point on the spectrum down at the ‘out there’ end, add circumstance and opportunity, training and practice and you will have an artist. All kinds of jobs require high levels of Flow and creativity. We are not crazy or weird, don’t let anyone call you that. Our passion does not set us apart either. People in every type of work pour their hearts into what they do.

I like this idea and it fits in well with my experiences with students and Volunteers. People often describe doing artwork as ‘therapeutic’. So why aren’t we all exquisitely calm?!

I don’t think artwork has medicinal properties but rather ‘nutritional ones: I’m pretty sure many people fall into mental health difficulties because their circumstance denies them access to creativity, non-verbal self expression and Flow.

Part of our ‘calling’ is to build bridges for these people through our own art-work and in guiding them to theirs. And that can be life or death stuff.

A lot of nonsense is bandied around about mental health illnesses fuelling creative genius. It is a cruel Myth. Some geniuses have done what they can to make the best of the awful, destructive diseases they are stuck with. Many people living with all sorts of disabilities are denied jobs so they choose to spend time productively on art-work.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Home. This lovely man couldn't speak any more but he drew beautifully and loved clay.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Home. This lovely man couldn’t speak any more but he drew beautifully and loved clay.(How to..)

                                                     ————————————

So Sculpture is my first language, the one I use to understand the world and sort out my thinking. And I also use it to communicate with other people.

It can be very difficult to tell if people are picking up on your message. They may have a strong, visceral reaction to your work but, not being able to find the words, say nothing.

A website and Facebook are great for making your work accessible, your ideas clearer and your self approachable. And I have found to my own surprise that I really enjoy running mine. I think my work has made big steps forward since I got into this stuff three years ago. Writing posts has clarified my ideas and getting really nice photos of the sculpture has helped me to look at it very objectively while rewarding me for putting in those hours spent on the edges and surfaces. People’s kind words, likes and shares are very encouraging.

And best of all I am part of a world-wide network of Makers of all kinds sharing photos, techniques, ideas, understanding and encouragement. I have learned a tremendous amount. Online stuff  now fills part of that  productive work pattern : 1.5 hours in the studio then break for 15 minutes. I used to do long, punishing hours deep into the night….that’s not ‘Work’. That’s looking a bit like ‘Obsession’ right there.  Now I work 6 days a week, 7-5ish, with proper breaks. Some of that time is paper-work and internet stuff. Some is outdoors walking, thinking, taking it in. Talking with peers, reading, listening. 

Music plays a crucial role in my sculpture. I use particular playlists for each Series. That inspires and guides the forms and brings me back to the right point after a break. My sons are into the vivid, wildly creative Games and animations that have become the voice of their generation and their influence has lead me to my best work yet.

On a good day I know look like an Olympic athlete, or at worst, Miss Marple on steroids, but the inconvenient truth is that I’m a dilapidated wreck. So everything in the studio is on wheels and, happily, I have the best assistant on the planet who can pack more sculpture into a kiln than physics can justify. I don’t intend to retire. I’ve already thought through how I could keep making stuff after the loss of any body-part. But will sculpture continue to work for me? Many artists see switching to a different job and life-style a failure or heresy. But our hard-won skills are entirely transferable, especially in a global, multicultural era that relies so much visual communication.

Osprey Studios. SA9 1YT.

Osprey Studios. SA9 1YT.