Studio Diary: The Marking Time Sculpture at Bronllys Hospital, Powys.part 1.

A new woodland stroll is coming together beautifully at Bronllys Hospital, near Brecon.

A new woodland stroll is coming together beautifully at Bronllys Hospital, near Brecon. This fantastic oak tree is opposite the walk’s starting point.

The path is laid.

The winding path is laid with beautiful curves, reminiscent of  celtic-knot-work.

And this triangle is the spot where the Marking Time Sculpture will go. There will be comfortable benches set in place so visitors, patients and staff have a tranquil place to sit and get a break from the often over-whelming activity in the Hospital.

And this triangle is the spot where the Marking Time Sculpture will go. There will be comfortable benches set in place so visitors, patients and staff have a tranquil place to sit and get a break from the often over-whelming activity in the Hospital.

Site Meeting. There is a really good-hearted group of people involved in this. They have spent a lot of time planning this Project with care and thoughtfulness. It is lovely to join such a strong Team. The Theme is how the military and the community support each other.

A really good Site Meeting covered all the restrictions and health and safety issues. These matters begin the process of defining  the boundaries of a new sculpture.

There is a really good-hearted group of people involved in this. They have spent a lot of time planning this Project with care and thoughtfulness. It is lovely to join such a strong Team.

The Theme is how the military and the community support each other. There are various Military Bases in this area including the world famous Gurkhas in Brecon. Many local families have military connections.

This is a subtle Theme and there is no obvious answer to it. We need to create a sculpture that will have genuine value for the people who will see it.  A piece that will draw the viewers in and give them some peace and hope. We need to pin-point what communities and the military have in common that is relevant to the hospital site.

Kids can be brilliant at putting their finger on the mark. Mount Street Junior School in Brecon has a lot of Military kids.  I spent a wonderful day on a huge join-in sculpture with 70 year 3 and 4 Pupils and the lovely, guiding staff.

Mount Street Junior School, Years 3 and 4 making a model of a town that cares for and supports it's Military members.

Mount Street Junior School, Years 3 and 4 making a model of a town that cares for and supports it’s Military members.

In the morning we made a town like Brecon and spread it over a network of tables across the double classroom.

I went around helping, talking through ideas and taking notes. These children were very forth-coming, imaginative and empathetic. They expressed their ideas clearly and thoughtfully. It was a joy to work with them and they were very helpful in clarifying the theme for the sculpture.

There was a Military Base on the edge of town:

A Military Base with tanks, helicopters and personnel.

A Military Base with tanks, helicopters and personnel.

Just down the road from there was a caravan park where Service men could relax with their families in a calm natural beauty-spot.

The Caravan Park

The Caravan Park. There are cabins, caravans, a duck pond, a fountain and lots of other fun and relaxing things to do.

Beautiful old trees are always calming and this is a perfect spot for reading and day-dreaming.

Beautiful old trees are always calming and this is a perfect spot for reading and day-dreaming.

The Caravan Park and the road leading to the Military Base.

The Caravan Park and the road leading to the Military Base.

All along the town’s streets were homes with busy family life going on. The children felt that it was the small moments that gave the greatest comfort to servicemen on leave from the war: meals together, watching telly together, chatting and playing video games.

 

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The support and care for the military people came from people in the community of all sizes and ages. The Military protect our way of life and our land and we keep our society in good shape in return.  A circle of care and protection.

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Having dinner together

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Talking through how best to tell the story of these homes.

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On the other side of town ran the river. The bridge crosses it. ‘The bridge leads the soldiers back into the community’. A fisherman floats by in his boat. There is a water-park in town too.

A solider enjoys an afternoon fishing on the river.

A solider enjoys an afternoon fishing on the river.

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He’s caught a huge fish.

The natural world came up many times. The children said it brings happiness into our lives and keeps us balanced. ‘Learning to forget’ was mentioned many times. Letting go of the past. The community helped the soldiers to forget past ordeals. These children are 8-9 years old. Wonderful.

In the afternoon we talked about how to show the idea of protecting and keeping everyone  safe.

A tree house is a safe place to live protected by the forest. And a dragon!

A tree house is a safe place to live protected by the forest. And a dragon!

A dragon guards the town and the military can harness his power.

A dragon and a whale guard the town and the military can harness their power.

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Natural forms expressing tranquility.

The natural world gives us shelter, calm and peacefulness.

The natural world gives us shelter, calm and peacefulness. It is soothing and balancing.

The children also did drawings with captions of their ideas.

Marking Time’ is a military term for the marching on the spot done between parade manoeuvres. It is a perfect phrase to express those difficult periods in life when you can’t go forward or back but have wait in a state of readiness, especially when you are caught up in a Hospital situation. You can feel very powerless.

It can be very difficult for many military personnel to relax their guard during the gaps between deployments, when they can spend precious time with their families. Particularly if they have had a harrowing experience. The Pupils at Mount Street Junior School clarified the idea that  this is one of the points where community and military intersect and share support, empathy and strength.

I will spend some more time with the photos and drawings. Circles, spirals and forms in a variety of sizes raising up or giving shelter are the first images to come together. I will add this to my other consultation material and start preliminary scale models. Then I will take all this to an A-S Level and some year 9  pupils in Llandrindod Wells, Powys, for a Scale Model Making Workshop to share some skills in exchange for the pupils feed-back.

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Mount Street Junior School pupils sharing ideas and inspiration.

Mount Street Junior School pupils sharing ideas and inspiration.

How to Coil-build with clay from small to monumental.

There are lots of variations on the Coil-Building method. This one avoids all the pit-falls that cause your pots to go out of shape or break in the kiln.

I started out as a Coil-builder 34 years ago and I still turn to it regularly. All my monumental brick sculptures are coil-built. It’s all about understanding the clay and how joins are actually formed. The skills you gain from coil-building are extremely transferable making it a great place to start for beginners. There is a lovely rhythm to the work.

Here is the Coil-building Workshop that I run at Osprey Studios. Many thanks to my lovely students for being in these pictures.

How to do excellent Coil-Building.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

Choose a clay with a medium to high percentage of multi-grade grog ( grit in different sizes from dust to medium sized bits). Scarva ES 50 Crank is ideal. Clays of this type will give you the best results.

Start with the biggest pinch-pot you can comfortably make. (Unless your piece is really too big.

1.Start with the biggest pinch-pot you can comfortably make. (Unless your piece is really too big; leave out as much of the centre of the base as possible.)

Make it round.

2.Make it round.

 

The most important thing is an even thickness of up to 2cm at any point.

3.The most important thing is an even thickness of up to 2cm at any point.

Gently ease it into the shape of the first section of your pot.

4.Gently ease it into the shape of the first section of your pot.

Set it aside to stiffen up.

5.Set it aside to stiffen up.

 

 

Have several on the go at the same time so you are not tempted to rush each one.

6.Have several on the go at the same time so you are not tempted to rush each one.

Prepare the top edge to make a join.

7.Prepare the top edge to make a join. NEVER use a pointy tool. Use a serrated tool so that the score marks are not too deep. Fill these ‘ditches’ with water and give it time to soak in. Dab on a little more. Then put on slip; slip is perfect for holding a lot of water in place.

Very important bit.

Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Imagine a magnified image of tangled hair.

Score marks do not give the surface ‘tooth’; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces score marks and slip hold the water in place to give it time to sink in.

Slip is not ‘glue’. It is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay.

Never use a needle tool. Your score marks will be too narrow and deep. They will get covered over, resulting in a ring of tiny but malevolent air-bubbles that will expand in the firing and a crack will zing along the joins. I have fired pots for poor, misinformed makers that have come apart at every coil! You could see the deep score marks and powdery slip.

Start making your coil from a generous block of clay. Squeeze it gently and repeatedly into a thick sausage shape.

8.Start making your coil from a generous block of clay. Squeeze it gently and repeatedly into a thick sausage shape.

Using 2 hands gently squeeze your coil until it is 2 or 3 cm thick. Do NOT roll your coil.

9.Using 2 hands gently, and rotating, squeeze your coil until it is 2 or 3 cm thick. Do NOT roll your coil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every join is an opportunity for a crack, every coil a point where you might loose control of your shape. So it makes sense to use coils that are large enough to handle well and will give you 4cms of height.

Rolling your coil on the table can cause 2 problems;

  1. The grog that would have helped create an excellent join is packed towards the centre of the coil and the finer particles of clay are packed together to form a ‘skin’ of tight platelet shaped particles that are reluctant to reach out and bond with the platelets of the pot.
  2. enthusiastic rolling often causes a tunnel to form at each end of the coil that would be a substantial, damaging air-bubble. This is why you often see coil-builders break off both tips of their coils with out even looking at them; they know that hazard is probably there.
Rub the softened score-marks and excess slip off the pot until the edge is sticky not slippery. Your platelets are raised and receptive.

10.Rub the softened score-marks and excess slip off the pot until the edge is sticky not slippery. Your platelets are raised and receptive.

Attach 1 end of your coil. Hold the other end high. Gradually lower the coil, expelling air and any surplus slip.

11.Attach 1 end of your coil. Hold the other end high. Gradually lower the coil, expelling air and any surplus slip.

Guide the coil downwards and forwards with a pinch. This action creates a friction between the 2 surfaces that causes the platelets to hook onto each other from the pot to the coil.

12.Guide the coil downwards and forwards with a pinch. This action creates a friction between the 2 surfaces that causes the platelets to hook onto each other from the pot to the coil.

Do not be tempted to push clay down the pot with this step. Go to the end of your coil and stop. Do NOT go up another layer!

pinch upwards gently only at the seam off the join. (your finger and thumb will touch pot and coil each time) I call this lining-up.

13.pinch upwards gently only at the seam off the join. (your finger and thumb will touch pot and coil each time) I call this lining-up. Do inside first; this may push the wall out. next do outside; this will correct a bulge.

The over-hang of the coil can trap air if hastily pressed down. Rushed building is why coil-pots have a very unfair reputation for being hideous.

Go around and move clay down with your thumb; 1st the inside, then the outside as above.

14.Go around and move clay down with your thumb; 1st the inside, then the outside as above.

With thumbs inside and fingers on outside ( for best control) gently pinch the clay in the desired direction for your shape. Use many light pinches not a few strong ones for best results. The most important thing is the thickness. Not the height.

15.With thumbs inside and fingers on outside ( for best control) gently pinch the clay in the desired direction for your shape. Use many light pinches not a few strong ones for best results. The most important thing is the thickness. Not the height.

Support with 1 hand on outside. Gently move clay in many directions to get that coil right where you want it. Inside first, of course.

16.Support with 1 hand on outside. Gently move clay in many directions to get that coil right where you want it. Inside first, of course.

Now the outside.

17.Now the outside.

Support hand on outside, use serrated kidney to improve inner surface. Go in many directions, gently combing the clay into place. Then do the outside.

18.Support hand on outside, use serrated kidney to improve inner surface. Go in many directions, gently combing the clay into place. Then do the outside.

Repeat this action with a firm rubber kidney creating a strong, smooth surface.

19.Repeat this action with a firm rubber kidney creating a strong, smooth surface.

Sit back and look at the outline of your form. Use a paddle (flat stick) to tap in bumps or bulges. Rotate around the whole form in stages so that the stress of this action is spread evenly through the clay. Paddling compacts the clay particles making your form very strong. But over-doing it on one area can lead to cracks because it alters the drying rate.

20.Sit back and look at the outline of your form. Use a paddle (flat stick) to tap in bumps or bulges. Rotate around the whole form in stages so that the stress of this action is spread evenly through the clay. Paddling compacts the clay particles making your form very strong. But over-doing it on one area can lead to cracks because it alters the drying rate.

Paddling can clarify your shape: it's really satisfying.

21.Paddling can clarify your shape: it’s really satisfying.

Use curved tools to paddle the inside.

22.Use curved tools to paddle the inside.

Soften any indented areas that you don't like and add clay to fill them. Add textures in the same way. Paddle them gently.

23.Soften any indented areas that you don’t like and add clay to fill them. Add textures in the same way. Paddle them gently.

Scrape /smooth with those kidneys again.

24.Scrape /smooth with those kidneys again.

Now even up the top edge by subtracting or adding clay. Let it stiffen. Go over it again with a surform blade.( these take off nice controllable layers.)

25.Now even up the top edge by subtracting or adding clay. Let it stiffen. Go over it again with a surform blade.( these take off nice controllable layers.)

Spend a lot of time on the edge. use firm tools to compact the clay and get every millimetre of that edge exactly how you want it: attention to this detail will transform your pot.

26.Spend a lot of time on the edge. use firm tools to compact the clay and get every millimetre of that edge exactly how you want it: attention to this detail will transform your pot. Also tidy up the bottom edge where your form meets the table.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

27.My coil-building tools. The spray is water.

Coils are perfect for all sorts of applications.

 This bio-morphic head is being built on a clay armature with the techniques described in How to Make a Head. I use coils attached in exactly the same way as I would on a pot to get excellent joins. The coil is then pinched in the direction I want it to go.

28.This bio-morphic head is being built on a clay armature with the techniques described in How to Make a Head. I use coils attached in exactly the same way as I would on a pot to get excellent joins. The coil is then pinched in the direction I want it to go.

Using Supports.

When you are making complicated shapes use temporary supports made of clay that will shrink with the form. Build in support walls and buttresses. Use rigid supports with care: plan to accommodate the shrinkage.

Here I am putting down the first layers of 2 big sculptures. I am using Coleford brick clay in a very soft state. My 'coils' are half bag blocks but they are applied and treated in the same way as any good coil. The walls are thicker at the base to support the considerable weight of the next layers. The internal support-walls are thinner. On very big sculptures these support walls will be discarded when the sculpture is cut into sections. On medium sized sculptures, that will be cut into parts not panels, the internal support walls will be left in to maintain the shapes during firing.

29.Here I am putting down the first layers of 2 big sculptures.
I am using Coleford brick clay in a very soft state. My ‘coils’ are half bag blocks but they are applied and treated in the same way as any good coil.
The walls are thicker at the base to support the considerable weight of the next layers.
The internal support-walls are thinner.
On very big sculptures these support walls will be discarded when the sculpture is cut into sections.
On medium sized sculptures, that will be cut into parts not panels, the internal support walls will be left in to maintain the shapes of the sections during firing.

30.Note the finger marks left by the process: these are just like the marks of a serrated-kidney on a smaller pot. Like corrugation, they add strength to the wet clay wall and will be left on until the clay is firm enough to hold it’s shape.

 

The same layer of the fired panel-sections of the same sculpture during installation.

The same layer of the fired panel-sections of Bruce during installation.

Bruce in progress. There is a clay support wall under his head and the stack of blokes.

31.Bruce in progress, 3m wide x 2 m high. There is a clay support wall under his head and the stack of blocks was added later and removed as soon as the head was firm enough to cut apart.

Here’s some good examples of rigid supports in action:

Mynydd Mawr Courtyard Sculpture, Tumble, Carmarthen, Wales, 2m H x 190cm W.

32.  Mynydd Mawr Courtyard Sculpture, Tumble, Carmarthen, Wales, 2m H x 190cm W. The big blocks are firm memory foam which will accommodate the shrinkage. I often use it inside a piece to support ceilings. It gets removed when the piece is cut up.

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios.

33.Because this rigid support leans outwards it will not constrict the shrinkage. It was adjusted repeatedly during the build.

Mynydd Mawr, Tumble, nearly complete. Larger sculptures are always built from a scale model. The internal support walls are worked out in advance and the cutting of sections planned so that those walls will support the section's shape during firing.

34.Mynydd Mawr, Tumble, nearly complete. Larger sculptures are always built from a scale model. The internal support walls are worked out in advance and the cutting of sections planned so that those walls will support the section’s shape during firing.

front view. That broom was a good buy.

front view. That broom was a good buy.

Balarat Pit Marker,in progress, 6m L x 2m H.

35.Balarat Pit Marker,in progress, 6m L x 2m H. ( Ocean Colliery Pit Marker in background.) Memory foam on top of clay support walls inside the sculpture supports that long roof and accommodates the shrinkage.

The Sirhowy Wyvern in progress, 3m L x 2 m H. A tunnel runs under the horse with carved images on it's walls so we needed access to it. A thin support wall blocks the tunnel half way. It supports the structure but allows us to crawl in do the art-work ( a lot was done by some fab children) The support was discarded when we cut the sections. We didn't get to see the tunnel right through until it was installed on site.

36.The Sirhowy Wyvern in progress, 3m L x 2 m H. A tunnel runs under the horse with carved images on it’s walls so we needed access to it. A thin support wall blocks the tunnel half way. It supports the structure but allows us to crawl in do the art-work ( a lot was done by some fab children) The support was discarded when we cut the sections. We didn’t get to see the tunnel right through until it was installed on site.

Bucket and stool supporting the tunnel roof while we built it. The board to the left of the picture is there to protect some intricate carving about the Sirhowy Iron Works during the build.

37.Bucket and stool supporting the tunnel roof while we built it. The board to the left of the picture is there to protect some intricate carving about the Sirhowy Iron Works during the build.

Adding clay on to the surface.

38.All the big coiled sculptures have artwork added onto the surface once it is firm. Exactly like the smaller pot, the area is softened using scored ‘ditches’ and slip to hold the water in place, allowing it to soak in to the firm clay and raise up those platelet shaped clay particles ready to join with soft clay.

Once a good join is achieved the added clay is modelled and carved in stages as the clay firms up. The drying ( and shrinking) is kept slow using plastic covers to allow that vulnerable join to set as the water moves from the soft added clay into the firm wall.

Remember that water will always want to be level and will travel down the form over time as well as evaporating from the surface. This passage of water past those platelets completes the join. If there is too much water it will collect and run down  the join, destroying the bond.

With that in mind add as much clay as your artwork needs. If it becomes more that 2 cm thick hollow it from the inside even if this means cutting the section out of the form, hollowing it and reassembling it. The important thing is to find a way to get the look you want. For advice on this process click here: Working solid and hollowing sections out.

Drying coil-built forms.

39.Use plastic to shield firm parts from drying while you work on new parts. e.g. a strip of plastic sheet to keep the top edge soft while you put art-work on a lower area before it gets to hard. And visa-versa.

Slow the drying as much as possible to allow all those joins to set using plastic sheets.

Cover the piece in a shield of newspaper ( 5 sheets thick) or a cardboard box or fabric sheets (not wet) to create a  damp micro-climate that will slowly release the water from the clay and protect from drafts that would cause un-even drying (and maybe, consequently, cracking)

 

Related info on this site.

For a full description of how the really big sculptures are done click here: Building Brick Sculptures on a monumental scale.

The whole story of the fab Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Care and Nursing Home Courtyard Sculpture designed with local primary school children and staff and residents of the Home, run by Arts Care Gofal Celf in Carmarthen, Wales: Studio Diary, The Tumble Commission, parts 1-8. 

Using clay armatures and coils: How to Make a Head: Clay Armatures and Building Hollow.

Questions?

put your questions in the Comments below and I will do my best to answer them.

If you follow this site you will get an e-mail each time I put up a new post. I hope these ‘How to..’ posts are useful. Pass them on freely. Share pictures of what you make  on my Facebook. I would love to see it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studio Diary, Reflecting on Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

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You can imagine how massively pleased I feel when people say my work must be influenced by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. They have been the corner-stone of my development as they have for so many artists of all disciplines.

Last July I finally made my first visit  to the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle. I was invited by a lovely Collector who is from Yorkshire and is a big Hepworth/Moore fan. She has a range of my formative pieces; she is interested in those transitionary points in Artist’s work.

After the visit I poured out the first impressions in the Studio for a few months and now I’m re-studying the work of these giants and reviewing their influence on what I make and the process; The Doubts are always hovering on the edge. They regularly get to me and leave me questioning the validity of my work process; can you really share experience and ideas through abstract form?

Barbara Hepworth was confident that Sculpture was  an  essential natural work for humans, that it must be because we have done it since our very earliest days. Studying her work and biography taught me that you can join forces with your material to translate the voice of your environment into  forms  that will communicate to others.

Hepworth, Moore and most of their extraordinary contemporaries were quite sure that if you trained your craftsmanship thoroughly, and knew and respected your material, you would be able to work directly through your well informed intuition to create valuable, meaningful artwork that ‘felt right’ to you and spoke to others. The incomparable Conceptual Artist Grayson Perry talked about these values in his Reith Lectures this year and stated that perhaps the time we are in now is in need of evocative, powerful art that talks to the soul rather than the intellect.

I decided to write this post over these reflective months to clarify what I’m doing in my own practice. I will add to it over time to help maintain my focus.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

It really looks like this lad is checking his phone.

Both Hepworth and Moore studied the figure extensively in the traditional way.

Both Hepworth and Moore studied the figure extensively in the traditional way.

I was one of those kids who was always making things out of toilet paper and sellotape and by my teens, in the 1970s, I was taking my subject seriously. I read everything I could find about my favourites, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore and I tried to copy their  education. I lived in Oxford (UK) at the time so I could spend hours drawing in the Cast Gallery ( an amazing collection of casts from Greek and Roman statuary; extraordinary, muscly figures that kept still!)  in the basement of the Ashmolean Museum. In  Pitt Rivers Museum there was Skeletons and freaky taxidermy ( animals in crazy poses, that kept still.) At Oxpens Tech we did formal life-drawing of nudes and during my BFA hons at the Art Department of Boston University, USA, I was was hugely fortunate to be taught figure and portrait skills by Lloyd Lilly. He was a wonderful and exacting tutor and I owe him a great deal.

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At The Hepworth in Wakefield.

In my early 20’s I lived in Cornwall, UK, for a year or so and visited  Hepworth’s Studios in St. Ives and kissed the ground she walked upon. My work started to properly Abstract around then under the wonderful, great-humoured, very practical guidance of the lovely sculptor Ron Wood.

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So this trip to Yorkshire was a pilgrimage for me. And it was absolutely wonderful. Pippa was a fabulous host and such a great person to be with because she is fascinated with sculpture and comes to it from a different angle than I do, making talking it through with her intricate and revealing. Plus she is a laugh and we had a great deal of fun; she showed me the real Wakefield right down to the Rhubarb Liquor.

The Hepworth at Wakefield.

The Hepworth at Wakefield.

The Hepworth in Wakefield is just awesome. A striking modern building with wonderful light. It’s right in town near the shops and one of the things that made me so jubilant was seeing families who had clearly dropped in for another visit as a treat for their excited kids who were loving it. The Museum staff had groups of children sitting on the floor laughing and chatting and making things in front of these stunning sculptures. No hushed tones, everyone there (and it was busy) was relaxed and enchanted.

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Barbara Hepworth, Figure for Landscape, 1960.

The major Hepworth Retrospective ‘Sculpture for a Modern World’ is at the Tate in London this year, so  everything was re-arranged and Pippa spotted pieces she had never seen before.

This room is fantastic.

This room is fantastic.

The scene was the same at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It was an ordinary weekend and the huge carparks were packed. Families and friends were walking amongst the fantastic sculptures with the relaxed ease of familiarity, having picnics, playing, soaking-in the presence and passion of the artwork.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

 Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

Rebecca Buck, Osprey Studios

Lynn Chadwick.

In the Underground Gallery they had set a completely stunning exhibition ” Henry Moore, Back To A Land”. Such a great title, I was hooked as soon as I saw it as we entered the Park.  The Show  was beautifully lit and spacious. There were pieces I had never seen before.  And lots of preparatory work like small scale models, drawings, found objects like intriguing stones. His tools were  laid out respectfully. I would dearly love to have had this Show as my home. It was wonderful. There is a nice short film that introduces the Show the very well; Henry Moore at YSP.

I had planned to do my BFA,Hons thesis on Henry Moore. I had an appointment to meet with him in 1985. I transported my feint ghost of a self, rigid with respect, awe and generalised terror, to his home and Studio. But sadly he was too unwell that day to see me. One of his very kind, thoughtful and generous assistants took me around the studios and told me all about it. I wrote my thesis about him in the end and I cringe to admit that I can’t remember his name. They were enlarging this sculpture, or one very like it , in polystyrene, scaling up from a small model Henry Moore had made many years previously. The Lovely Assistant told me that Henry often felt very anxious when this happened, that he wasn’t sure it was right to enlarge a piece made to be small. We all get the doubts…!

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Both Hepworth and Moore used evocative, shifting textures that further describe the forms by capturing shadows and reflecting concentrated spots of light. In both of these exceptional venues you can get right up close and inspect the craftsmanship. At YSP, even outside, they do ask that you don’t touch the work  but the sheep use them as windbreaks and scratching posts so most people feel there their gentle caress wont do any harm and it feels very good to send Henry Moore a whispered message of gratitude and recognition from the heart and through the hand.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth. Detail of Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Archaean) 1959.

These details of Rock Form and Figure (Archaean) show the deeply textured surface built up in plaster with the intension of ultimately being bronze. Both Moore and Hepworth had carving as their true-love but both built up forms with plaster, and occasionally clay, for models, to be cast in bronze. Here’s the whole of Rock Form showing the texture across the form;

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Rock Form (Porthcurno), 1964. She wrote of the group of pieces that include this one;’these are all sea forms and rock forms, related to Porthcurno on the Land’s End coast with its queer caves pierced by the sea. They were experiences of people- the movement of people in and out is always a part of them’. I lived in St Agnes on the north Cornwall coast around 1980ish. Fabulous area over-flowing with strange myths, legends and other-worldly beings. People often go there to loose themselves for a while. Hepworth moved her young family there just before WW2 broke out. Her Studio and the work in it left in London was destroyed by bombings. She stayed in Cornwall for the rest of her life, playing her part in the prosperity of the area along with Bernard Leach’s Pottery that continues to this day with the Tate Gallery having a wing there.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

I particularly love Rock Form. The holes face into the form bringing light in to meet within the shelters of the sculpture. Both Moore and Hepworth use the edges of holes so ingeniously to hold or pour light around the forms. Interior space is a massive issue with sculpture made in ceramic because the pieces usually have to be hollow if they are over a certain size wether that space has meaning to the theme or not. Bronzes are hollow too but, no matter what it is made into, ceramics always carries it’s ancient history of pots that is so intricately entwined in our evolution that we describe our bodies as vessels; no one can resist looking into the openings of big pots , can they. I am particularly re-studying the use of holes and the directing of a flow around forms in both sculptors work.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

They both also used grouped forms a lot and one sculpture made of several parts is classic Moore. It’s really hard to do. Currently my work is gradually disassembling; bases reduced as far as possible, interior space integrated with the exterior (to a point…LOT more work needed there…) surfaces deeply textured. But so far any attempts to divide the form reek of pastiche. You can’t fake this stuff, it has to be sincere and real. Henry Moore had a strong relationship with the monumental formations of stone on the moors of his formative environment and tunnelling coal mines of his community. For the last 17 years  I have lived in a landscape and culture shaped by mining; 12 in the Rhondda Valley and making Pit Markers and Memorials across the Valleys and the last 5 years  in the Upper Tawe Valley, with the front of Osprey Studios  facing a working pit and and the back  facing the ancient, worn, mountains of the Brecon Beacons. The Landscape Series ( with the awesome Photographer, Stephen Foote) is all about describing our place within  the Natural World in this location and experiential frame-work; I am guided by the foot-steps of  giants. Pleasingly I live at the foot of Cribarth, the Sleeping Giant mountain, which rounds that train of thought off nicely.

Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

Anthony  Caro was also on show at YSP, with lots of fab models and a few sculptures that got to me because they played with contained space and were beautifully made.

Anthony Caro

Anthony Caro

The carvings of Hepworth and Moore are beyond beautiful. The ethos of Truth To Materials, held by their group of artist colleagues for some years, shines out especially in the wood pieces. I took this idea very much to heart as an intense teenager. Clay comes in a multitude of disguises, no  single one speaking for all clay. Each blend of wild clays has it’s own characteristics to be celebrated. I still honour my material and work for it. It is a powerful material fully aware of the ties that bind us to it. It has shaped us and our societies countless times over the Millenia.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, carving in wood and some of her plaster-work tools.

Barbara Hepworth used lines of string or steel to follow the forces running through the forms. Henry Moore often cut lines into the surface. Both are such bold and fantastically effective things to do in certain circumstances. Working from these examples I’ve been using repeated patterns of texture or curves  to achieve the same thing with various degrees of success.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Here’s some other images of beautiful sculptures from Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, some taken by me and many collected from the internet. My thanks to the photographers and I am sorry I do not have your names.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Figure (Archaean), 1959. The name derives from the ancient Greek word for beginning or origin. The Archaean period saw the emergence of life on earth. Hepworth was very drawn to standing stones and felt a connection as a sculptor to the people who had been compelled to put them up. She often talked about how a person out in a landscape was a sculpture and part of the landscape. She saw her sculptures as living people. Not in a crazy way but in that her work was not done until the form was imbued with life. Over time her relationship with that piece would evolve and change, just as it does with other living beings.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have this part of The Hepworth, Wakefield as your living room?

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth, Single Form (Chun Quoit), 1961. Chun Quoit is a Neolithic chamber tomb in the beautiful landscape between St Ives and Land’s End (Cornwall, UK), an area that had a profound effect on Hepworth. It was created with her friend Dag Hammarskjold in mind. When he died not long afterwards she made the stunning, 3metre high version for the new United Nations Secretariat Building in New York City. I can’t deny that I get a kick out of this wonderful sculpture being made and installed there in the year of my birth in NYC!

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Barbara Hepworth.

Here is a charming video with some lovely footage of Hepworth working made by the Kroller-Muller Museum: Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture for a Modern World.

Henry Moore.

Henry Moore.

 

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

Henry Moore at work.

Henry Moore at work.

Barbara Hepworth at work

Barbara Hepworth at work

Henry Moore

Henry Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coil-Building Master-Class.

Rebecca BuckThere are lots of variations on the Coil-Building method. I started out as a Coil-builder 34 years ago and I still turn to it regularly. All my monumental brick sculptures are coil-built. It’s all about understanding the clay and how joins are actually formed.

At this fun and very informative Workshop I will teach you  my method and explain why I do it this way, including my scintillating views (rant) on slipping and scoring. We’ll start a planter and  cover different clays and scales, the use of supports, adding carving and scale models. Everyone, from complete beginners to professionals, sculptors, modellers, teachers and potters will get a lot out of this day.

Bring something to share for a relaxed lunch where we can chat and exchange ideas. I’ll have tea, coffee, juice and cake ready for you.

If you want to take your planter home to finish it, it will cost £1.50p/kg or I can just recycle everything after we have photos. I’ll take pictures during the day and do a step-by-step post about the Workshop.

For directions and more info about the Studio click here.

To see an over-view of my work click here.

To see what else might be useful for you on this site cluck here.

To see how to coil-build on a monumental scale click here.

International Ceramics Festival 2015.

 

Demonstrations. Ceramists from all over the world do several 45 minute demos/interviews to the hall and then you can visit them at their work space to see more closely what they are doing.

Demonstrations. Ceramists from all over the world do several 45 minute demos/interviews to the hall and then you can visit them at their work space to see more closely what they are doing.

A key factor of South Wales Potters is  generosity. For 50 years SWP has been a platform for sharing skills, equipment and opportunities not only amongst members but with anyone we can. Every 2 years  SWP, North Wales Potters and Aberystwyth University throw Europe’s biggest clay-party the International Ceramics Festival. I’ve been before, working, but this time lovely SWP members Phil Hughes and Kay Milward gave me a ticket and a room and I was free to wander from one fascinating, challenging, eye-opening, reassuring, encouraging lecture, demo, and conversation to the next. And then SWP Cocktails with Mary Cousins and dancing!

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Lisa Hammond, UK.

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Naidee Changmoh, Thailand.

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John Higgins, UK.

There was kiln building and firing.

Helen Walsh from York Art Gallery gave a really interesting talk about the new building and plans for their Centre of Ceramic Art, a fabulous new extension to the Museum opening this August. It’s especially great to see that happening in these pessimistic days. It is going to be wonderful, with imaginative exhibitions, a selling Gallery, a working studio, archives, an educational program and  academic research.

One of the high-lights for me was the Emerging Makers presentation. A very diverse and inspiring group of young people were hoping to go on a Residency at the awesome Archie Bray Foundation in the USA.  I was so pleased when Lanty Ball was chosen. His committed, thoughtful and sensitive approach to craftsmanship and expression was a joy to see. His pots are very beautiful.

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Lanty Ball

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Lanty Ball.

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Lanty Ball.

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Lanty Ball.

The atmosphere at the closing ceremony was very warm, a thousand clay-people loving the work they are dedicated to and respecting and celebrating their peers.

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Mary Cousins and Frank Hamer from South Wales Potters.

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The closing ceremony.

Enflamed at Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York.

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Being invited to join this beautiful, sensuous, soul-reaching collection made my day. Some of my favourite Ceramists like  Melanie Ferguson and Monique Rutherford show with Cavin-Morris Gallery. Their introduction to their site made my week;

“Cavin-Morris Gallery has been exhibiting world artists for 30 years. We specialise in the work of self-taught artists whose work is made independently of the art world canon yet participates equally on the wall or pedestal. We represent the new generation of self-taught artists whose work remains authentic and visionary while representative of contemporary times. We also feature important works from preceding generations of self-taught artists including Jon Serl, Bill Traylor and Emery Blagdon.

We show an eclectic selection of tribal art from all the major regions of the world focusing on the unusual and the formally surprising.

Another focus is on textiles of the world, including South East Asian costumes an textiles including tribal China, and Japanese Boros: futon covers made over a period of a hundred years from cotton patches and threads.

Our newest department is a developing interest in Contemporary ceramics both functional and non-functional. We are especially interested in the way ceramists push the envelope of traditional form sand cultures. We show Western ceramists as well as Japanese, Chinese and Korean work.

The common thread that connects all this art is its uniqueness, its integrity and authenticity, and its reflection of cultural home-ground. The Contemporary artists we represent extend the continuum established by the self-taught and Tribal artists into a new and exciting multi-tiered arena.”

This article explains it perfectly; ‘A Chelsea Double Feature; Paper Meets Clay On “Homeground’s” Turf’ by Edward M Gomez.

1977362_10207300528654376_2230692460964721983_n View the stunning Catalogue here.

 

Melanie Ferguson extra ordinary pots encompass the universe and lead you beyond your borders.

Melanie Ferguson extraordinary pots encompass the universe and lead you beyond your borders.

 

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Mitch Iburg‘s stunning pots leave me breathless with wonder.

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Mitch Iburg. All the mountains of the world are honoured here.

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Sarah Purvey ‘s pot in the for-ground of  the beautiful display at Cavin-Morris Gallery.

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Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

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Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

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Wyvern V, black ceramic, 26.7 x 50.8 x 25.4 cm. Rebecca Buck.

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Wyvern VIII, ceramic, 39 x 71 x 34 cm. Rebecca Buck.

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Up Is Down VI, ceramic, 20 x 49 x 31 cm.

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Leviathan VI, ceramic, 12.5 x 21 x 8 cm.

This is a selection of images taken by Cavin-Morris Gallery. Go to the Gallery site  to see more beautifully presented photographs of these Artist’s  pieces and the other astonishing work by the Artists represented by this exceptional Gallery. The links from each name here on this post will take you to more information about each Ceramist. I will add more images as I get them.

Sculpture by Rebecca Buck at Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

Sculpture by Rebecca Buck at Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York City, USA.

 

The Albany Gallery and South Wales Potters.

The Albany Gallery is one of the UK’s most established and respected galleries. Collectors keep an eye on them because they have a great track-record for showing new treasures.

South Wales Potters is one of the largest groups of professional and hobby potters, ceramicists and collectors in the UK. Members are based all over  southern Wales, England and some abroad. They are involved in putting together Europe’s premier ceramics event, the International Ceramics Festival held every 2 years at Aberystwyth University.

The Albany’s Summer Show is always fresh and wonderful. They have an excellent variety of 2D Art set off beautifully by ceramics they have selected from South Wales Potters. The staff at the Albany Gallery are lovely- very knowledgeable about the work they show, friendly and very approachable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rebecca Buck, Half A Century VII, 42 x 27 x 23 cm.

Rebecca Buck, Half A Century VII, 42 x 27 x 23 cm.

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Bird by Jane Blair, Pots by Pam Brooker.

Rebecca Buck, Up Is Down VI, 31cm L x 25cm H x 17cm D.

Rebecca Buck, Up Is Down VI, 31cm L x 25cm H x 17cm D.

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Jane Blair.

The Private View was very  full and bustling but there are still some gorgeous pieces to buy.

The Private View was very
full and bustling but there are still some gorgeous pieces to buy.

Albany have set the ceramics to compliment the paintings and it looks marvellous. The Gallery is an intimate and home-like space making it very easy to imagine the Art-work in your own home.

Albany Gallery have set the ceramics to compliment the paintings and it looks marvellous. The Gallery is an intimate and home-like space making it very easy to imagine the Art-work in the rooms of your own home.

Thanks to Daniel Buck for the Photographs.

 

 

How to; Recycling Clay Made Easy and Manageable.

Recycling clay can be such a nightmare. No-one likes doing it. Popular methods include gradually building a huge stack of bags of hard clay against the shed until they are covered in slime, bugs and budleas and then moving house. Or the dreaded dust-bin filled to the brim with clay scraps and left for years, then you end up being the sucker who gets clay caked on top of their head as they lean in to scoop out the  endless goo, until they reach the  bottom that has weirdly gone rock hard dreaming all the while of the fantasy pug-mill that never needs cleaning out as opposed to real ones that always do.

Serious Potters using the Wheel need to treat their clays in certain ways. Everyone else, like Hand-builders, Sculptors, schools and community studios can use this less harrowing method.

– 1/2 fill clay-bags with scrap clay, no matter how wet/dry (pref small pieces), close firmly w/ twisty, cover w/ water( so bags fill up ) in Bin outside. Leave ’till lumps have broken down. A clay plenty of grog (gritty bits) may only take a few days. In Japan they let their clay soak for a generation but here a week should do it.
– Have separate bin for white/ red clays.(I don’t, TBH)430068_255359921215212_934182331_n

– Lift bags out and stack  facing open end down to drain. Frost is your ally here. Avoid raw ground so worms are less likely to crawl in the bags, die(tragic) and stink (also upsetting)…..I once found a Newt alive in a wet bag that had not been closed, true story.
Drag drained (firmer-feeling) bag off pile to ground and step back/close eyes while spiders run away. Pick/hose off Slugs etc425991_255360004548537_1084689641_n

– Stack bags in warm ( only so it’s not cold on your poor hands), unavoidable spot and turn small quantities at a time onto plaster blocks* (or wood up on bricks), turn regularly through the day(s), return to bag and close tightly w/ a twisty. If it gets too hard return to step 1.

I sometimes use it v. soft or deliberately harden bags to act as ‘armature’ supports.This is a great time to blend odd bags of different clays to make your own ‘Crank’428362_255360091215195_561760018_n

 

! Whole bag gone rock-hard; remove from bag, dry completely, drop on hard floor to break into bits, recycle.

! Whole bag too hard to use; remove from bag, knock holes all over w/ screw-driver and hammer (oddly satisfying), return to bag, recycle.

* make your own plaster blocks; line a cardboard box w/ new garbage bag + pour in Plaster of Paris. Leave top set. Trim off edges w/ a sur-form  blade (looks like a small cheese-grater). If chips of plaster get in your clay they will turn to lime in the firing and cause ‘lime-spots’; they absorb atmospheric water, expand and spit off a chip of ceramic, invariably from the most noticeable place like the end of a nose, sometimes months after a firing, usually after you have delivered a piece to a Gallery you are desperately trying to impress.

 

How to use clay in a Care-home setting.

 

There is plenty of documentation about how arts and crafts can play a huge role in health and well being in Care Homes. But fitting activities into a busy, often stressful day can be daunting. Hiring in professional Artists experienced in working in health-care settings to assess the options and train staff can be great fun and very rewarding. But it might be beyond your budget.

Carers have the most important skills needed; they know their Residents well and want them to enjoy their day. In-coming teachers might not be able to spot the subtle signs that a Resident is having a rewarding experience or that they are getting bored or distressed. Residents often wont open up to new people. The only thing that matters is that the activity, even if it is just loosening stiff hands by playing with tools or being intrigued by the squishy feel of the clay, is that it adds stimulus, and hopefully fun, to the day.

I’m thinking mainly of people with Dementia here but Clay Modelling will be very popular with all sorts of Elderly Residents. Be prepared for lots of very rude models and lots of laughs!!

These basic principles can be used for all arts and crafts- and the results will always be just as good.

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Carers often undervalue their skills and can be shy about providing craft-skills. They just need encouragement, sensible, efficient Craft-packs and storage and a well managed schedule.

Clay Modelling in Care Homes; Low cost, straight-forward, self-hardening, recyclable.

Clay Modelling kit- One time purchases, max £60

You will need;

-1 x 12.5kg bag of Scarva Earthstone ES70  Architectural Body Clay a professional quality white clay from Scarva, my favourite supplier of outstanding sculpture clays. Including delivery you will spend about £25-£30.

-A bucket (the clay bag always leaks!)

-a choice of tools; Wooden Modelling Tools and Ribbon Tools will be the most popular.Scarva have a good range  but I buy them from Top Pot Supplies ( best quality yet lowest prices!) Amazon has affordable letter stamps (Small or larger) that will be very useful. 

-Re-usable plastic table-cloth cover if you are worried about scratches on your tables as this clay has small grit in it.

-a few micro-cloths. They are the quickest, easiest cloths for cleaning tables and hands.

-Boards are optional. B&Q will custom-cut a sheet of MDF for you. A board wide enough to fit across a wheel chair is great for some people.

Approx cost, incl. sheet MDF; £60. You don’t need all these items to start off.

The quality clay is the important item. Clays are made with recipes and therefor there is an infinite number of types of clay, each with particular properties. ES70 is absolutely lovely to use; it feels very nice, it’s not sticky, it doesn’t stain, it’s easy to clean up ( on carpet let it dry + brush out), it’s not irritating to sensitive skin and you can eat it! Most importantly it is very easy to use so people get good, rewarding results quickly. Beginners deserve a great material that will reward their bravery for trying something new and give them fab results that will spur them on.

ES70 works very well as a self hardening clay and can be decorated with poster paints once it’s dry. Residents can keep favourite pieces in their rooms for a while. It can mean a great deal to visiting families to see nice things their loved one has made.

Plan to recycle all the clay, even if it’s painted or has dried completely. Explain that the clay is expensive so you need to keep it for next time so that they don’t think it’s because you assume they will make rubbish! People are usually perfectly happy to get a photo of their work and then let it go. Often it takes the pressure off to make a ‘product’ and they can relax and enjoy the making part more.

What To Make?

Anything and nothing! Just try out the material, let your-self and your Resident play around, feel the material, flatten it, poke it! Put a little water on it and feel the smooth change in the texture. Letter stamps are great- get your resident to pick out the letters of their own or a family-member’s name. Press in every day objects. Try all the tools; it never matters what the tools are used for. Make models to get a conversation going. Give an enthusiastic resident some space and quiet to try things at their own pace. You don’t need to ‘teach’ you just need to share the experience. It’s a lovely thing to do.

Let people know that this is professional quality clay and tools; Residents are often very prickly about being treated like children and people forget that Adults are allowed to play too and that creativity is important for everyone’s well-being. We call it ‘A Hobby’ so it sounds mature! If you make your own things along side them and laugh about your mistakes it sets the right tone.

Work with a group or just one person for as much time as feels right. Have Art and Craft as part of any day, not just as a special occasion.

Gwalia Mynnydd Mawr Residential and Nursing Home in Carmarthenshire are aiming to bring creativity and fun into every day for their Residents. The kids had great success with asking Residents what hobbies they used to love or what pets they had and then making a model of that in front of curious Residents. Lots of warm conversations were started that way.

Gwalia Mynydd Mawr Residential and Nursing Home in Carmarthenshire are aiming to bring creativity and fun into every day for their Residents. The kids had great success with asking Residents what hobbies they used to love or what pets they had and then making a model of that in front of the now curious person. Lots of warm conversations were started that way.

Re-using the Clay

-At the end of a session drop all the clay back in the bag. (lots of people will love smashing the work up!)

-Put bag in Bucket

-slowly pour  a cup or so of water over the clay in the bag to soften the clay.

-Close bag w/ twisty

-leave minimum over night.

-place bag on floor and step on it a few times to “knead” the clay, turning bag a few times.

-Voila! It is ready for use. You can re-cycle your clay endlessly.

! Bag goes rock-hard; Allow to dry completely, drop lump on floor to break up, put pieces in bag and recycle

! Bag goes quite hard; knock holes all over lump.(hammer + screw driver= surprisingly satisfying task!) Return to bag and recycle.

! Bag goes too squishy; Tip clay onto a board and allow to dry until useable. “Knead” a few times over the day (or two) so that it dries evenly.

Storage

-Always close bag tightly w/ twisty

-Ideally store in a handy frost free place but it doesn’t matter  if the clay freezes.

-Ideally have the bucket on wheels as 12.5kg is quite heavy (plant pot wheels – Home-Bargains, £1.99.)

-Have all the kit together for quick access by everyone.

Homes need to be adaptable like ‘normal’ homes and organise a way for Carers and Residents to feel welcome to relax and make some mess. You wont get much with clay. Have a broom and a dust pan and brush handy. Enjoy!

 

 

Primary School children visiting the Care home for lovely afternoon of creative fun with Residents and carers. There was lots of singing, laughter and sharing. The residents lit up and the children were relaxed, charming and really enjoyed supporting their elders.

Primary School children visiting the Care home for lovely afternoon of creative fun with Residents and carers. There was lots of singing, laughter and sharing. The residents lit up and the children were relaxed, charming and really enjoyed supporting their elders. Family days like this are great fun. Take photos of the pieces and then re-cycle the clay.

You can see more about the wonderful, 2 year long, Arts Care Gofal Celf Project shown in the pictures here; The Tumble Commission, parts 1-8 

General information about Workshops with Osprey Studios.

More information about collaborative and community projects.

Interesting article:

Clay therapy offers pathways into communication and reminiscence for people with dementia

29-Jan-16

Article By: Melissa McAlees, News Editor

There is plenty of research about how arts and crafts can play a huge role in individual health and well-being in care homes. Clay modelling is a therapeutic activity that has become increasingly popular in the care sector.

Clay is cathartic in nature as it allows an individual to express an array of emotions. For older people and those living with dementia, clay therapy provides creative stimulation, social interaction and develops fine motor skills with a variety of positive outcomes, including increased confidence, concentration and motivation.

Rebecca Buck, professional sculptor at Osprey Studios has offered clay therapy to older people and those living with dementia as part of Arts Care Gofal Celf’s Gwalia project in Wales. She believes it is fundamental for older people and those with dementia to experience varied activities such as clay therapy.

“It’s fun, soothing and engrossing. Being creative might have played a huge part in a person’s life, happiness and self-expression. Even for those who are living with dementia, they still need an outlet,” she said.

“Clay therapy can replace the verbal language that has been lost in some individuals. Several of our participants who were non-speaking and prone to angry outbursts showed wonderful skill and contentment with drawing, clay and painting. That gave their families a way to link with their loved one, which resulted in happier residents.

“Arts and crafts can create a bridge between residents and their loved ones and offers pathways into communication and reminiscence. Making family visits relaxed is therefore very important as the focus can tend to concentrate on the individual’s condition.”

The qualities of clay have a calming effect on those living with dementia

A previous study, published by the American Academy of Neurology, revealed that individuals who participate in arts and craft based activities can experience a reduced risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can often lead to dementia.

Research manager at Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Clare Walton, said: “Although this study looks at mild cognitive impairment rather than dementia, it does add to previous evidence that keeping your brain active during life with arts, crafts and social activities might reduce the risk of developing memory problems.”

According to Alzheimer’s Society, 80 per cent of people living in care homes have a form of dementia or severe memory problems. For some, clay therapy and arts and crafts activities can conjure up anxious feelings about their capability.

Similarly, although clay therapy sessions have been found to support the interactions between care staff and residents, Ms Buck believes that care workers can also often undervalue their skills and can be shy about providing craft-activities.

She suggests that, at times, care staff require ‘encouragement to feel confident that clay activities are about providing a sensory rich experience, rather than creating a piece of art’.

Clay gives shapes to formless entities of feelings and ideas

Since conducting extensive research, Sumita Chauhan, researcher at the University of Kent, found that clay is the most familiar material to make sculptures with and is currently used for therapeutic as well as creative purposes.

She said: “My workshops on clay modelling involve people with dementia and are organised to provide enjoyment through the creative process of making sculptures. Working with clay is a very effective way of individuals expressing themselves as it doesn’t restrict it to verbal communication only. I have realised the act of creation and involvement in the process is as important as the final creation.

“Creative activities have many benefits for people with dementia. The possibility of transforming a lump of clay into a form provides self-control and builds up confidence. Clay as a material has many qualities. Its softness and smoothness has a calming effect on people with dementia, and the process of using clay to make a sculpture offers individuals a wide variety of sensory experience.

“Preparation of the clay starts with kneading first and this process requires a lot of force and pressure. Sometimes, while doing this, individuals living with dementia let out their pent up anxiety and, to a certain extent their frustration, as a non-verbal communication.”

‘Clay sculptures become a source of communication and reflection’

Clay modelling can also be a valuable social activity. Co-operation and sharing of ideas in groups can promote a sense of identity and a sense of belonging.

Commenting on the many benefits, Ms Chauhan said: “Clay modelling is a slow process and as the form starts building up, it takes a lot of patience to complete the details required on the surface. This allows individuals to leave a personal mark on their work. As a result, clay sculptures not only become a source of communication but also a source of reflection.

“Most of the participants in my workshop sessions instantaneously react to the material. I have found that the tactile contact of the material often becomes the starting point of conversation. An open discussion across the table makes it easy to know each other and be social.

“It is worth giving maximum time to develop individuals’ ideas of what they want to create, thus helping to build their identity. Instead of explaining the process, a demonstration is more effective.

“Watching others working with clay or making a sculptural form certainly stimulates individuals. There is a definite involvement and the outcome of such interaction is their response and comments about the sculptural form, such as their likes or dislikes. Sometimes people reminiscence a past experience which they associate with the material or the form they are seeing.”

Art projects in care homes rekindle imaginations and trigger memories

A two year arts care project involving residents at Gwalia Mynydd Mawr care home recently culminated in the unveiling of a new sculpture.

‘Yma a Nawr’ was funded by the Baring Foundation and delivered by Carmarthen-based Arts Care Gofal Celf. The project brought professional artists of various disciplines into Gwalia’s Mynydd Mawr care home to work with residents and their families.

The interactive sessions included printing, textiles and sketching.

Commenting on the success of the project, Jodie Boyd, occupational therapist at Gwalia, said: “The arts are proven to have numerous benefits within residential and nursing care settings, the storytelling and reminiscence work is particularly successful when a person’s short-term memory has started to deteriorate but their memories from years ago remain intact.

“Arts Care Gofal Celf’s work has rekindled imaginations, triggered memories, provided opportunities for socialising and conversation and increased self-esteem.”

How to Make Abstract Sculpture in Clay; working solid and hollowing out.

 

Over Half a Century III.

Half a Century VIII.

The Edge VII

Wyvern VIII, 2015, 39cm H x 71cm L x 34cm D, ceramic.

Up is Down VII, back view

Up is Down V, 44cm H x 58cm L x 50cm D,

Up is Down VI, second view.

Up is Down V, back view

Making Abstract Sculpture can feel very elusive; where to start, when to stop? This post aims to de-mystify the process and give you an ideal technique that will allow you to go with your flow to make beautiful Abstract forms that express those things that are not easily put into words or naturalistic art.

Because there is no right or wrong with Abstracts you are better off with a technique that allows you to feel your way around the form and to change your mind any time you want to. Building the piece in solid clay allows you to separate the ceramic-technical needs from the flow of creativity for the most part. You do need to make good joins as you go along but with the right clay that is not a distraction. It’s a great method for pieces up to 1 metre. For larger Sculptures I often use it over a hollow clay-armature to reduce the over-all weight. Use a clay designed for sculpture and hand-building with plenty of grog (gritty bits like sand). Scarva’s ES 50 is fab and excellent value for money.

I work to music and usually have a theme I am following.  When you start out with Abstracts you need to put some boundaries in place; have a theme (an emotion, geometry, etc) or abstract a known form like a figure or an animal. All the pieces above were made using this technique. All but one are made in combinations of Scarva’s black clays.

Gill Tennant-Eyles, Emma Bevan and Tez Roberts came to Osprey Studios for a Workshop. We had an excellent day going over this technique and sharing each other’s ideas.

Make a block of clay that has the approximate hight/width/depth you feel you need at this point. Rough out the beginnings of a form.

Make a block of clay that has the approximate hight/width/depth you feel you need at this point. Rough out the beginnings of a form.

Work all around the form in stages, giving each area equal attention, refining with each rotation.

Work all around the form in stages, giving each area equal attention, refining with each rotation.

Add or subtract clay. A paddle will be very useful.

Add or subtract clay. A paddle will be very useful.

When the piece starts sagging leave it to harden up a bit. Use plastic to keep the drying even.

When the piece starts sagging leave it to harden up a bit. Use plastic to keep the drying even.

For larger pieces the process is the same. Use props or leave temporary supports of clay to hold up the form until it hardens. These might stay there until you have hollowed out the sculpture and reduced the weight.

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Once the piece is leather-hard carve/scrape the surface. You can still add clay but pay attention to the joins.

Once the piece is leather-hard carve/scrape the surface. You can still add clay but pay attention to the joins.

At the point where the form is complete apart from finishing the surface stop building and get ready to hollow -out. The piece should be firm enough to resist a thumb-print. On very large pieces you might start hollowing the top while the lower parts are still too damp; the hollowed clay walls will need to be able to support themselves with-out distorting. Don't let the form get to hard or you wont be able to cut it open.

At the point where the form is complete apart from finishing the surface, stop building and get ready to hollow-out. The piece should be firm enough to resist a thumb-print. On very large pieces you might start hollowing the top while the lower parts are still too damp; the hollowed clay walls will need to be able to support themselves with-out distorting. Don’t let the form get too hard or you wont be able to cut it open.

How thick the clay can be to fire well depends on the amount of grog, the denseness of your modelling style, drying time and the speed of your firing.

Air bubbles trapped in the clay will expand with the heat. Grog and/or a loose surface will allow the air to seep through the clay. The same is true with water but steam expands fast. If your piece breaks into big bits during the fire it was trapped air and you will be able to see where the bubbles were in the shards. If it blows up into a trillion smithereens it wasn’t properly dry!

I dry thick sculptures slowly under plastic which I turn daily for 4 weeks minimum and then 1-2 weeks in a plastic tent with a dehumidifier. A long dry allows the water to level out as water loves to do and that will enhance the structure of the clay within it’s new sculpture shape. You will get less cracks or distorting in the fire.

I fire very slowly with an 18 degree C rise until 600 degrees C.

Generally 3cm is a fair maximum thickness for a well grogged clay.

Choosing where to cut is easy: Starting at the top make the first cut at the point where you can  reach all the parts that need hollowing to leave 1-3cm walls. That may mean cutting off a very small piece and hollowing barely a few scoops, for example the head of a figure: drill a tool down the neck and then your next cut would be low on the chest, etc. Always ensure there is an air outlet for each hollowed area. Hard to reach areas can be skewerd from the inside or outside to make channels for the air/water to escape.

Horizontal cuts are best because gravity is on your side while the piece is drying.

Horizontal cuts are best because gravity is on your side while the piece is drying. Lay the cut section on foam.

Hollow the cut section first, score the edges with a serrated kidney (NEVER make deep scores) moisten w/ water and /or slip so that that edge can soften while the section is upside-down. The hollow into the rest of the form going as far as you can reach. Mark how far you reached on the surface to help you decide where to make the next cut.

Hollow the cut section first, leaving a wall approx 1.5-2cm thick. Do not smooth this inner surface: it will make it difficult for any trapped air to pass through the clay during firing. You can leave ‘buttress’ type support walls. Score the edges with a serrated kidney (NEVER make deep scores with a pointy tool. Tiny bubbles of air will get trapped there all along your join and possibly cause a crack.) Moisten w/ water/slip so that the edge can soften while the section is upside-down. Then hollow into the rest of the form going as far as you can reach. Mark how far you reached on the surface to help you decide where to make the next cut.

 

Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together. Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Picture a magnified image of hair. Score marks do not give the surface 'tooth'; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces they hold the water in place to give it time to sink in. Slip is not 'glue', it is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay. Manipulate the softened clay at the join to encourge further integration of those particle-chains and to disturb the straight line of the join; cracks love to zing along a nice straight slip-weakened join during the firing when the pull of shrinking stresses the sculpture.

Quality Joints:  Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together. Genuine joins are formed when the chains of platelet-shaped particles from each section inter-lock. Picture a magnified image of hair. Score marks do not give the surface ‘tooth’; they allow water into the clay-body. On vertical surfaces they hold the water in place to give it time to sink in. Slip is not ‘glue’, it is clay particles spread out in water and has little strength, especially when it has dried. It is ideal for holding a lot of water in place to give it time to be absorbed to soften the area of leather-hard clay.                                         Once both edges are softened put the pieces back together and move back and forth until you feel the edges lock together.        
Manipulate the softened clay at the join to encourage further integration of those particle-chains and to disturb the straight line of the join; cracks love to zing along a nice straight slip-weakened join during the firing when the pull of shrinking stresses the sculpture.

 

Smooth the now recessed join with water + rub until a slip is lifted from the join's surface. Make a coil 1.5cm thick by squeezing. Do not roll your coils; it packs the finer particles on the coils's surface making it resistant to joining. Attach one end and inch the coil into the join; press in then squeeze the coil to force it to inch forward along the join; this friction creates the bond.

Smooth the now recessed join with water + rub until a slip is lifted from the join’s surface. Make a coil 1.5cm thick by squeezing. Do not roll your coils; it packs the finer particles on the coils’s surface making them resistant to joining. Attach one end and inch the coil into the join; press in then squeeze the coil to force it to inch forward along the join; this friction creates the bond between the surfaces. Coiling explained here.

Blend the coil in, leaving it raised. The excess clay will slowly release it's water into the join, slowing drying. Wrap the piece in plastic and leave for week or so until the coil has the same hardness as the rest of the form. Then you can scrape it away, compressing the clay as you go to leave a strong join that wont recess during the firing.

Blend the coil in, leaving it raised. The excess clay will slowly release it’s water into the join, slowing drying. Wrap the piece in plastic and leave for week or so until the coil has the same hardness as the rest of the form. Then you can scrape it away, compressing the clay as you go to leave a strong join that wont recess during the firing.

Make you next cut and repeat.

Make your next cut and repeat.

Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculptures surface and edges.Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculptures surface and edges. Then set to dry very slowly (min 4 weeks) under a 5-sheets-thick-newspaper or cardboard box. For very large forms you can use a double layer of bed-sheets. If you use plastic turn it regularly so that condensation doesn't drip onto the clay and spoil it.

Once those coils have hardened under plastic you can complete the Sculpture’s surface and edges.   Then set to dry very slowly (min 4 weeks) under a 5-sheets-thick-newspaper or cardboard box. For very large forms you can use a double layer of bed-sheets. If you use plastic turn it regularly so that condensation doesn’t drip onto the clay and spoil it. Or stick plastic over your selves to make a micro drying-room.

Work in progress by Gill Tennant-Eyles

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Work in progress by Emma Bevan

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Work in progress by Tez Roberts

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These sculptures were all made with this excellent, versatile technique.

The Edge VIII, in progress.

The Edge VIII, in progress.

Up Is Down IV, in progress.

Up Is Down IV, in progress.

Up Is Down II, in progress.

Up Is Down II, in progress.

Up Is Down V, in progress.

Up Is Down V, in progress.

Up Is Down X, in progress.

Up Is Down X, in progress.

Over Half a Century, in progress.

Over Half a Century, in progress.

Wyvern VIII, in progress.

Wyvern VIII, in progress.

 

What Was the First Abstract Artwork?

click on this title to see the original article. Artsy has some really interesting reviews and is a great place to see stunning art-work.

  • Wassily Kandinsky, Composition V, 1911. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Who made the first Western abstract painting? That was the question that Wassily Kandinsky’s widow, accompanied by a team of researchers, set out to answer in 1946. Her late husband, a Russian painter who was among the pioneers of abstraction in the early 1910s, had himself been personally invested in the answer.

In 1935, Kandinsky had penned a letter to his gallerist in New York to insist on his preeminence. “Indeed,” he wrote of a 1911 work, “it’s the world’s first ever abstract picture, because back then not one single painter was painting in an abstract style. A ‘historic painting’, in other words.”

Kandinsky wasn’t the only artist interested in preserving his legacy. He and several early abstract painters—including Robert Delaunay, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, and Kazimir Malevich—backdated their works, in some cases several years before they were actually completed.

This artistic jostling reflects a focus on invention as an individual act, notes curator Leah Dickerman in an essay for MoMA’s 2012 show “Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1025: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art.” But, as she goes on to say, that approach is in some ways misguided. Rather than the work of a solitary genius, abstraction “was an invention with multiple first steps, multiple creators, multiple heralds, and multiple rationales.”

What Makes an Abstract Expressionist Painting Good?

At the turn of the 20th century, the world was becoming increasingly connected. Steamships, cars, and trains facilitated international travel, while telephones, telegraphs, and radios allowed for conversations between people on opposite ends of the globe.

Within the art world specifically, journals sprang up in droves; in Paris alone, some 200 reviews of art and culture appeared in the decade leading up to World War I. Subscribers were scattered across Europe and America, allowing a wide swath of creatives to stay abreast of the latest developments in art. And this period also saw the beginning of a traveling exhibition culture, led by the Italian Futurists.

“Historians talk about ‘conditions of possibility,’” Masha Chlenova, a curator who worked with Dickerman on “Inventing Abstraction,” told Artsy. “For example, photography was also invented by three people at the same time. Daguerre just happened to be the best at marketing and patenting.”

Similarly, while Kandinsky is today hailed as the father of abstract painting, he was by no means the only player in the development of non-representational painting. His work Komposition V did, admittedly, jumpstart public interest in abstract painting. Exhibited in Munich in December 1911, this monumental work was just barely representational.

It was the first such work to be put on display, and “for some artists and intellectuals, abstraction not only began to seem plausible, but also took on the character of an imperative,” Dickerman writes.

Kandinsky had been thinking about abstract art for years beforehand. His manifesto On the Spiritual in Art, which appeared as a draft in 1909 and was published the same month as Komposition V went on display, laid out the tenets of abstraction. But it would still be several years before Kandinsky would finally break free from recognizable forms in his art. As Chlenova put it, “he theorized abstraction before he made painting.”

  • František Kupka, Amorpha: Fugue in Two Colors, 1912. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, NY. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
  • František Kupka Study for Amorpha, Warm Chromatic and for Fugue in two colors; Study for The Fugue, 1910–11. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976. © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Dickerman references Czech-born artist František Kupka as the first to display works that were a complete break from representational painting. His compositions Amorpha, Chromatique chaude and Amorpha, Fugue à deux couleurs were shown at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in October 1912, filmed for the newsreels, and then broadcast across Europe and America.

Dickerman believes that Kupka’s willingness to publicly defy convention was related to his personal history. Although he grew up in Prague and Vienna and started out as a Symbolist, he later moved to Paris and developed close ties with the city’s avant-garde—which, as Dickerman notes, granted “him an insider/outsider status that seems particularly fertile for paradigm-shifting thought.”

But further complicating the question of “first” is that it can be difficult to determine the threshold of abstraction. When, precisely, does a work go from “abstracted” to “abstraction”?

French avant-garde artist Francis Picabia, for example, is sometimes credited with the first abstract painting. His watercolor Caoutchouc (Rubber) was completed in 1909, which would predate even Kandinsky’s theories on abstraction. But other academics have pushed back, noting that the work still retains some semblance of form, reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers.

For “Inventing Abstraction,” Chlenova said she and Dickerman began by establishing clear criteria for what they considered abstract work. “Our main criterion was the artist’s own position and their statements that they’re doing something abstract,” she said. “The terminology is a slightly different question because the word ‘abstract’ would not necessarily be used. But there was a very clear awareness from the artists that were sensitive to what was happening.”

  • Hilma af Klint, The Large Figure Paintings, No. 5, Group III, 1907. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Hilma af Klint, Svanen (The Swan) No. 17, Group IX/SUW, The SUW/UW Series, 1914-1915. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This is why, she explained, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was not represented in the MoMA exhibition. Since 2013, when Moderna Museetheld the first-ever retrospective of her work, af Klint’s oeuvre has received renewed attention from the public. Known in her lifetime as a landscape painter and portraitist, it was revealed decades after her death that she had also been experimenting with abstraction. As early as 1906, af Klint had been painting colorful works full of organic shapes, spirals, and curlicues.

This date places her several years before Kandinsky even theorized abstraction, let alone acted on his ideas. But af Klint’s works sprang from her interest in the occult—during the 1890s, she started organizing seances with four artist friends where they practiced automatic drawing and writing.

Later, when she began her largest body of non-representational paintings, she claimed that spiritual forces were directing her hand. And for an artist to be included in “Inventing Abstraction,” Chlenova explained, they had to “formulate their practice as a conscious rejection of any reference to the outside world.”

Others disagreed with this reading, arguing that a mystical approach should not negate her contribution to developing abstraction. “‘Spiritual’ is still a very dirty word in the art world,” curator Maurice Tuchman toldthe New York Times in 2013. “When the prejudice against the idea of the spiritual life in af Klint’s work is overcome, which will require scholarship, then perhaps she will really take hold in the broader conversation.”

But there’s no disagreement that the invention of Western abstraction revolutionized art production in the 20th century, nor that it was predated by centuries of abstracted forms and patterns in non-Western traditions.

“One can treat abstraction a little bit more abstractly, if you will,” Chlenova laughed, “without ultimately being too concerned about who was first.”

—Abigail Cain