Skokholm Spring

Since my last post I have been concentrating on my residency at Skokholm Island Bird Observatory and have spent two more weeks on the island. In May the island was covered with a carpet of spring flowers and the seabirds were returning and starting to lay eggs.

I am continuing with my “colour collecting”, and started to explore colours obtained directly from plants.

Back in the studio I have been recreating the colours from my landscape grids in glass powders which I am meticulously weighing out and casting into small tesserae.

During my May visit I made a mould of the hand of a bird ringer (“bander”, for my American/Canadian chums!) holding a wax model of a Pied Flycatcher which I made for the purpose. Tony used to be Assistant Warden on the island in 1965 and had returned from Canada, where he now runs a research station, for a visit. My aim now is to cast this in glass using lost wax method, it will form part of a series I am making.

In June I started work on a some collotype images using the u.v. from the sun to make photograms on paper I had chemically prepared. Collotype is an early photographic process and is much less toxic than most, so is ideally suited to island conditions. I enjoyed the mix of art and science involved, I am continuing to develop this process in my studio.

In early June I went to The National Museum of Wales in Cardiff to meet Ben Rowson, a malacologist (an expert on molluscs, or in Ben’s case, slugs) who I met on Skokholm while he was sifting North Pond searching for rare slugs. Ben showed me around the invertibrate and ornithology departments and introduced me to his friends and colleagues. It was a fascinating visit, great to see behind the scenes of the museum and to see the work that goes on there…endless inspiration…!

Apart from working on the Skokholm project I took time to take friends for an overnight visit to Skokholm’s sister island, Skomer, which was my first spiritual home in Pembrokeshire back in the days when I married the assistant warden. Nowadays Skomer is a whole lot busier, with hundreds of day visitors and lots of researchers and people staying in the hostel. Skomer has recently been voted one of the Top Ten places for families to visit by Lonely Planet – needless to say it is not quite so “lonely” anymore, but it is still a fantastic place to visit. There is nothing quite like an evening stroll down North Valley with the Short-Earred Owls hunting low over the bluebells in full bloom – magical!

In late May I went to Stourbridge for the opening of the British Glass Biennale, which featured my Bonne Maman piece. It was a great event even though I only had one day there. Pembrokeshire’s Ashraf Hanna took the main prize of the evening and Ruth Shelley from Cardiff won the Glass Sellers Prize, so Welsh artists did very well despite the fact that only three of us were selected! My piece will be going on show in Essence exhibition at London Glassblowing from 7-29th August. Bonne Maman sent me some jam as a reward for the publicity!

So near and yet so far…

Crash cooling the kiln.

I was supposed to go to Skokholm Island today for 4 nights painting, but nature intervened in the form of high winds, so the boat didn`t run. I ended up setting the kiln and taking off for St. Davids with my friend and Skokholm companion, Rachel. I wanted to show her some amazing glass pieces in Oriel y Parc. These delicate and intricate pieces were made in the second half of the nineteenth century in Germany by Leopola Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf ( 1857-1929) and are intended to illustrate underwater life-forms. They look like contemporary glass pieces (Rachel said they could be miniature Cihuly‘s) yet also have an archival quality. Very interesting and lovely to see in the context of my current interest in historical material, landscape and glass.

I also love the fantastic Peter Lanyon painting on show there and this brilliant hounds sculpture by Catrin Howells which is based on the story of Cantre Gwaelod.

We called in to visit Steve Robinson in his glass studio near Solva and Adam Buick near St. Davids. Adam is preparing for a kiln opening event on 29th July, and has lots of new work ready to load into his kiln. He has also recently been awarded a research and development grant from the Arts Council of Wales, and has been busy experimenting with various new glazes made with seaweed. I love visiting Adams studio, his work is beautiful –  forms, texture and the very smell of land and sea.

On the way home we stopped off at the church at Little Newcastle to see the stained glass windows there.

Window made by Roy Lewis in 1962


Caroline Lovelys’s Resurrection window at Little Newcastle Church, 1995

So, a lovely day out, and now home to crash cool the kiln and wait for a call from Jerry, the Skokholm Warden, to let us know whether we will be able to get there tomorrow. Either way, I am itching to get some painting done.