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!

Digging into Autumn

Wonderful David Nash sculptures at Kew Gardens.

Autumn is truly upon us and I have been busy squirrelling away new work and spending far too much time writing proposals and funding applications.

Rachel and I heard that we have been invited to America to give a paper and a glass painting workshop to the American Glass Guild in Florida in May 2013. This is mega exciting for me as I have never been to the States and I have begun to make so many artistic and personal connections there since I began working with glass.

Unfortunately the honour does not come with any funding attached, so it is taking quite a bit of my time to fund-raise for the trip. To that end Rachel and I are holding a Studio Sale of our work at my gallery from 23rd-25th November. There will be an opening event on Friday 23rd from 7pm and you are all invited! I will be offering 20% discount on all framed work and will have a selection of unframed sketches and studies from £45. We will be making glass Xmas decorations and producing Xmas Cards of our work. Come and join us for a glass of mulled wine on the night, or pop in over the weekend.

I am also organising a preview for my Cân yr Oerwynt project in Rosebush with Sarah Harman. This event takes place 4-6pm on Sunday 11th November at The Old Post Office in Rosebush. Sarah has written a suite of songs about the history of the village and the human shaping of the landscape and I will be showing my ceramic, slate and glass sculptures and some of the historical material I have unearthed. If I don’t loose my nerve, I will also be singing one of the songs with Sarah and friends!

Aside from all this organising I have been exploring some of the Bronze Age archaeological excavations that have been taking place in Pembrokeshire this autumn. This is all part of my project based on the human shaping of the landscape and I am spending a good deal of time thinking about how I am going to work with all the material, how (and if!) to work glass and paint and how to take the whole thing forward in a coherent way.

A very interesting dig at the Bronze Age Trefael Stone undertaken by Bristol University and the Welsh Rock Art Society. You can clearly see some of the 75 cup marks on the stone.

This is a very creative and exciting time for me. The symposium at Northlands in July gave me space and context to consider things, to contemplate the relationship between my painting and my glass work and to wonder if maybe two dimensions isn’t all bad!

Another fantastic thing to come out of my time at Northlands is my friendship with Emma Woffenden. At Northlands we spontaneously collaborated in making work based on figure in landscape, we want to continue our collaboration and I have just spent time with her in London seeing exhibitions and talking about our work and projects.

Collaboration with Emma Woffenden in Caithness.

Emma Woffenden’s studio showing her sculptures: ‘Elephant’s Revenge 1’ and ‘Elephants’s Revenge 2’.

Whilst in London I went to a fantastic glass show celebrating 35 years of glass making at London Glassblowing. This show is curated by Cathryn Shilling and is beautifully laid out in London Glassblowing’d new venue on Bermonsey St. near London Bridge.

‘Woven’ by Layne Rowe.

This piece is an incredibly skilled piece by Layne who pulls canes of clear glass which are encased in a thin layer of white and coated in colour (if he lived in Wales he would surely be called Layne the Cane!), he then lays these side-by-side and picks them up on hot clear glass on a blowing pipe, he then blows the whole thing, and cold works the finished piece with a copper wheel to reveal the inside of the canes…madly intricate work.

I ran a weekend painting course at my studio this autumn. Thanks to my students who threw themselves wholeheartedly into working expressively and trying out new ideas. My next course is in February, information on my website.

Chris getting into his stride on my painting course.

Finally, I have been to some excellent exhibitions recently. One of the most moving was the extraordinary pairing of Celia Paul with Gwen John at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. Although both artists are separated in time by around 80 years, they have a lot in common as both being strong and quiet artists who make deeply personal, spiritual work. It is a beautiful exhibition, well worth the trip to Sussex. There is also an inspirational Dubuffet exhibition upstairs, which is particularly relevant to the venue at Pallant House as it has a very active commitment to supporting non-traditional artists.


Celia Paul in her studio.