Apologies for not posting since September, but I have been head down in the studio working on a new body of work courtesy of winning the Adrian Henri Poetry in Art Prize. Apart from being a huge boost to morale, the award has enabled me to buy a new kiln, sand blaster and grinder and has given me 5 months in my studio.
Apart from this I have been working on a window for Skokholm Island with Rachel Phillips. We will be installing the window at Easter in time for a grand opening of the Island Bird Observatory at the end of April. I would love to develop some of my Skokholm ideas more fully and am currently researching the feasibility of undertaking a more in-depth project on the island.
I continue to develop my work with children and recently worked with pupils of Ysgol y Frenni in Crymych. I am committed to the value of drawing as a learning tool. The importance of offering creative observational experiences was brought home to me recently when a primary school teacher told me how she has noticed in the last five years that increasing numbers of children are coming into school unable to actually look at anything that is not moving on a screen in front of them.
This year the gallery will be open by arrangement to enable me to devote more time to developing new work. If you would like to visit please email me or phone to make an appointment.
The past few months has been a busy time for teaching. I have done a number of glass projects in local primary schools. I love this work, it is so inspiring to work with children and get them enthused about glass!
One particularly inspiring project was to make 2 bowls with kids at Ysgol y Frenni on the theme of “patterns in the environment” (or “patrymau yr ymgylchedd” as the entire project was undertaken through the medium of Welsh!).
I designed this as a patchwork of glass so that each child could work on their own design and then we could put them together to make a group piece. The bowls will be entered in the Urdd Eisteddfod in May.
In another project we made fused glass jewellery on the same theme.
The kids were so enthusiastic, they said it was their favourite day at school EVER!!
Rachel and I have just run a “Landscape into Glass” 4 day course at my studio here in Pembrokeshire. We were teaching our students mark-making and layering techniques and ways of working with firing paint, silver stain and frits in combination with pieces of Bullseye glass. We are planning another course for later in the year.
We had a couple of field trips to absorb the landscape and to visit local artists studios, like that of ceramicist, Adam Buick and glass artist, Steve Robinson. The course was very successful and we are planning another for next year.
Apart from that I have been developing some new work in the studio looking at taking painting into glass. Sarah Harman and I have been working on our quarry project, having meetings with the National Park and technical specialists to help us hone down our ideas and firm up our budget so that we can apply for funding to make and present the work in 2014.
I have just heard that I have been successful in my funding bid to Wales Arts International for support to attend the American Glass Guild Conference in Florida in May where I have been asked to give a paper and run a workshop. I am planning a trip that includes visiting glass artist friends, Jane Bruce and Michael Rogers and spending time at Corning Museum of Glass and in New York. It will be a very inspiring trip, my first time in America, and a total contrast to life in rural West Wales!
The trees are totally magnificent at the moment! I love winter and am enjoying the crisp and the soggy days and soaking up inspiration for my work.
A very exciting development is that I am going once a week to the Department of Architectural Glass at Swansea Metropolitan University where I have a Visiting Artist arrangement whereby I exchange working with the students for access to the facilities and expertise in the department. I am working with the first years on their “Decorative Processes” module with the fabulous Lisa Birkl. It is wonderful to go there and for one day a week to concentrate solely on playing with ideas. It makes me realise how much of my time at home is taken up with admin, writing proposals, answering emails and generally making a living, and how rare it is to have uninterrupted creative time right now…I can feel a New Year’s resolution coming on! This term I have been playing around with the sandblaster, developing my skills and trying things out. I am definitely going to invest in a sandblaster soon.
Alongside this I have been developing my work in Welsh and English medium local schools and have made a total of 200 glass Xmas decorations with pupils aged 3 to 11 over the past month. It has been fantastic to work with the children and to spread the word about glass to a new generation! Their work is beautiful.
This has been quite a year for me from installing the Conwy Castle commission, winning the Warm Glass Prize, going to the Northlands symposium, collaborating with Sarah Harman on the Rosebush project, studying with Antoine Leperlier, and now working in Swansea – I am really beginning to feel things start to come together.
I am now putting the final touches to my New Year show ready for the opening on 27th December. For the first time I am showing a series of glass panel alongside my paintings. Pop in and join us for a glass of mulled wine from 27th december – 7th January.
The gallery has been converted back into a stained glass workshop and the wonderful Carwyn has constructed fantastic easel light boxes to enable us to work on all three panels together. We have been ailing with seasonal bugs but have been enjoying painting up some glass and preparing pieces for sand blasting. It is great to have the templates and cut lines up in the studio and to actually begin to assess light and colour.
I went to a fantastic gig at Cuffern Manor this week, Julie Murphy and Ceri Owen Jones performed new pieces from their upcoming album, ably supported by Fiddlebox. Julie’s songs are tender and poignant and their collaboration embodies the best of traditional and contemporary work, poetry and music, and, amazingly, Ceri played a piece from the medieval ap Huw manuscript – one of the manuscript sources I have been consulting for my windows project…synchronicity at its best!…dreaming of a harp in the chapel..!
My time on Skokholm Island was fantastic! I walked those 242 acres for a week and really began to absorb the feel of the island. Swimming with seals and puffins in South Haven was a highlight, as was lying beneath the stars at the lighthouse watching Storm Petrels returning to their nests. There were lots of wonderful moments, seeing Burnet Moths mating, coming across 50 stranded Compass Jellyfish that had lost their way in North Haven, painting a Garden Tiger Moth….
It is always easier to work when I am alone and away from the distractions of home life. The islands give me the space to contemplate and decide where I want to go next with my work. There is a lot to think about just now – glass and paint and so many themes bubbling up…
All in all it has been a time of collecting for me, collecting material (sand, earth, seaweed, bones) and inspiration, and collecting my thoughts.
This has a parallel in the scientific work that goes on on the islands, the monitoring, mapping and collecting of data and material and the documenting of conditions and movements and migrations, these things have been faithfully recorded here since 1927 when Ronald Lockley, naturalist, farmer and writer extraordinaire, took on the lease of the island. The scientific approach mirrors what I am doing in my sketchbooks and experiments with glass, the application and attention to detail of these scientists is inspirational in itself!!
All in all it was an inspirational week and has given me much food for thought (and a studio full of detritus!). I will definitely come back next year and hope to work on a piece of work for the island, possibly a window for Lockley’s restored cottage.
I heard this morning that I didn`t get my funding to go to Northlands Glass in Caithness for an international glass conference called “Touching the Past” and to attend a masterclass with Michael Rogers. Michael Rogers is an amazing American artist who uses glass and found materials to make conceptual pieces. He also uses a lot of text in his work so you can see why I am interested to work with him.
I have been accepted onto the masterclass and I am determined to go, so I went for a walk in the quarry and picked some bilberries while I figured out how to manage it.
Lovely though they are, clearly the bilberries weren`t going to help out much financially, so I have decided to offer a 20% discount on all my work until I have raised the necessary £2000. Do get in touch if there is anything you like on my website or call in to the gallery if you are in Pembrokeshire.
Had a fantastic evening swim on Tenby South Beach with a friend after a day in the studio (not nearly as cold as I expected, and really refreshing!), and then we came across this valiant Scarlet Tiger Moth on the sand…such exquisite colours showing petrol greens and emeralds over black and then a shock of poppy red petticoats….perfect end to my day.
Having loaded the kiln with a deep firing of glass, I set off north for my old stomping ground of Aberystwyth to meet with writer, Damian Walford Davies. We are planning a collaborative project next year to do with our mutual interest in mapping the landscape. I am delighted that Damian will be using one of my paintings on the cover of his new book, ‘Cultural Cartographies – Welsh writing in English’.
This painting is inspired by exploring a microcosmic view of landscape (lichen on Bardsey, to be precise). It is part of a body of work which I had put aside to make way for other interests so I am encouraged that he wants to use it.
Aberystwyth has a special place in my heart, it is where I came to study art aged 18 in 1978. Today it is stunning with the Prom bathed in sunshine and people milling around taking the air.
I called in on old friends, Mary and John Lloyd Jones to catch up on their adventures and developments in Mary’s work.
Mary is an amazing woman, a painter with more energy at 76 than most of is have at half her age. Recently she has been revisiting work on cloth which I remember her doing in the 70’s. She has always been interested in the human shaping of the landscape and in incorporating text and Welsh language in her work, things which I am exploring myself right now. She has always been something of a role model for me as a woman who makes her living from her art and who is constantly pushing her ideas forward. It is great to catch up with her again.
I stayed the night with a friend in Borth. I was at college with Jenny and she now works as an art therapist and community artist. She is also pushing her own work forward, exploring non-toxic methods of printmaking.
Borth was incredible, the beach with its ancient submerged forest cloaked in seaweed radiant in the evening light, with dramatic showers over Bardsey 50 miles away, it is like the gateway to the north and set my mind wondering about my friends up there. Sadly I don’t have time to continue my journey north, I desperately need to get back to my studio and paint. It feels like I have been away too much recently and I need a period of time free from distraction to work.
Just before leaving Aberystwyth I went to the National Library of Wales to see Clive Hicks-Jenkin’s retrospective exhibition there. It is a very impressive show, I especially liked his small landscapes and black and white puppet maquettes.
This afternoon I went to The opening of Roger Cecil’s new exhibition at Oriel Myrddin in Carmarthen. Roger is one of Wales’s finest painters and this exhibition, exploring landscape and the female form, is a joy to visit. It was a pleasure to meet Roger and to see his new work the exhibition runs until August 27th and is well worth seeing.
I have been making casts of the wings of dead shearwaters and other wildlife in preparation for some glass casting I want to do. Not sure where this is leading but I`m sure that will become clear at some point along the way…
Yesterday I went to see Rozanne Hawksley‘s inspirational work in the cloisters of St Davids Cathedral. Rozanne is one of the UK`s leading textile artists and her pieces are amazing for their depth and contemplation. The exhibition continues until June 11th and is well worth a visit. Thank you to Rozanne for reminding me of the importance of drawing as a personal activity.
The evening concert by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble as part of their Officium Novum Tour was out of this world. I went to London to hear Jan Garbarek last year and now he actually came to Pembrokeshire! I am so thrilled. I had permission to draw during the concert but decided just to bathe in the music.Wonderful. Nothing more to say. Hear them.
I spent the afternoon yesterday filming an interview in my studio for S4C’s Llwybyr Arfordir Sir Benfro series to be screened (in Welsh with sub-titles) this autumn. It was great to have the chance to chat with the interviewer, Damian Walford Davies, (a poet and writer based in Aberystwyth), who has a lot of similar interests in his work…islands, maps, archaeology, aerial perspectives, Bardsey……it was fantastic to share ideas and talk over ideas for our work – who knows where these conversations might lead?!
Special thanks to Ruby for helping me in preparing my Welsh!