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!

Heading west to the Midlands

I took a few days off last week to camp with my family down at Caerfai Bay near St. Davids. It is an idyllic spot (apart from when gales rip through the campsite!) and it was lovely to be with my in-laws and nephews and niece and go to sleep under the stars and wake to red dawns.

Rachel and I have been working on some new ideas for a commission we are hoping to get. It is wonderful how we seem to synchronise our ideas and often arrive at similar solutions for things. Again, it is a treat to work with her.

On Thursday I took Rachel on a mystery tour to the studio of Sara Lloyd Morris in Martletwy. Sara and I have been working together for a while to design some pieces of jewellery made from fragments from the Conwy windows. I wanted us both to have something special to wear for the official opening, which is now taking place on 13th September. Rachel was delighted! Sara has made a fab job of realising our ideas and I look forward to wearing my pieces on the day. Infact I shall be showing them off at the Glasshionista event which is the finale to the Glass Biennale.

I am writing this on the train to Wolverhampton where I am going to attend a pâte de verre course with French artist, Antoine Leperlier, followed by a long weekend at the British Glass Biennale in Stourbridge. I can’t wait! Leperlier learned casting from his grandfather, François Décorchemont, a legendary pâte de verre artist, so even though there isn’t much time, I will at least soak up the experience and wait to see how it will manifest itself in my work.

As the course is only three and a half days I have spent the past week making waxes and moulds so that I will have something to get started with. I am also booked in to half a days glass blowing with Martin Andrews again I have spent some time preparing so as to make the most of the time. I have made some refractory moulds to blow into and some glass pieces to use as inclusions in the blowing process. This is only my second experience of glass blowing, so, I am, as ever, ambitious!!

As well as seeing some fabulous glass, I am looking forward to seeing some old and new friends this week, including Bill Swann, from North Wales. Bill and I initiated a glass/paint collaboration many years before I ever dared to touch glass myself, Christine Lababidi who was a fellow student at Liquid Glass on my first glass course, and the inimitable Carrie Fertig who will be performing her Torcher Tailor extravaganza (which involves flamworking a glass wedding dress directly onto a living bride!) live on Saturday night.

Thanks to the Arts Council of Wales for making this trip possible for me as part of a training bursary.