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!

Settling back into Pembrokeshire

I have been busy all week with the interpretation for the Conwy Castle windows, so yesterday I took a break and we went over to Skomer to enjoy the bluebells at their best. We had the afternoon on the island before Den’s guided boat trip in the evening, so we got to see all the old favourites and reconnect with the place.

The short eared owls were flying in North Valley, the guillemots and razorbills were doing their thing on the cliff edges and the puffins were starting to bring sand eels in to feed the first chicks. At the latest count there are something like 11,400 puffins nesting on the island! So, it is a busy place, but if you time it right you can get around without bumping into too many people, and the bluebells, which are very late this year, are in full bloom and creating spectacular carpets all over the island.

The weather was fantastic and the evening boat trip was wonderful, we saw a few porpoise, gannets, puffins and other auks. The views of the island were breathtaking and the reflected colours in the water were amazing.

The trip was capped off by being surrounded by a raft of shearwaters as they swooped and glided over the water at sunset.

This morning I went on a (Welsh language) guided walk across the Preseli’s to remember those who protected this landscape from being requisitioned by the M.O.D. during the Second World War. The guide was Geraint Harries, a local National Park Warden who explained  about the wildlife of the place and Hefin Wyn, a local author and historian who has written extensively about the history of the area and was able to tell us more about the history of the landscape.

Unfortunately I couldn’t do the whole walk, but cut back through Rosebush with Sarah Harman so that we could discuss our on-going project research into the human shaping of the landscape around the quarry. I am looking forward to spending more time in the studio in June finishing some pieces that are in progress on this, and Sarah is well underway with writing a suite of songs. It is good to catch up and fill each other in on our progress. This is part of a research and development project I am undertaking with the support of The Arts Council of Wales.

Oriel y Shed Exhibition Opening!

I presented my week’s work on Skomer to all the inhabitants and occupants of Skomer island on Thursday evening in a show in my temporary studio space (better known as the Volunteer’s Lounge and Sue`s Potting Shed!) on the island. Everyone came and the opening was probably the best attended, noisiest and most friendly I have ever had!

Thanks to Chris and Sue for letting me use the space, to Mary Jo for the delightful canapes, and to everyone who came along and made the event a success.

Here is a selection of the work on show:

Skomer Studio

It’s great to be back here and to know I have the week ahead of me to absorb the colour and inspiration of Skomer once again.

I have set up my studio and begun to get down to it. I have been coming here for 18 years and it is so amazing to be back, always something new amongst the familiar, and always changing light and colour….I love the place!

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A great day sketching on Skomer!

My Skomer Bluebells painting course is under way and today we spent the day on the island sketching and making notes to bring back to the studio tomorrow.

I have been coming to Skomer for 18 years, I even lived there for a while when Den was Assistant Warden, but it was the first time I had been to the island this year and Skomer was resplendent in its cloak of bluebells and campion. The island has been so influential on my work and holds a special place in my heart. The colours, atmosphere and wildlife of the place are amazing. I am staying on the island next week to paint and am really excited about it.. Next year I really want to run a residential course on the island – anyone interested?

The season is two weeks ahead of normal schedule due to the warm weather in April and there was a lot of Puffin activity all around the island.

Congratulations to Kenny Gainforth, the boatman,who has just won the individual European Federation of Sea Anglers Trophy in competition in Ireland. Although somehow he didn`t have any mackerel to spare today! Well done Kenny!

Easter painting days in my studio.

“I haven`t had so much fun with paint since I was four years old!”, said Gill, one of the students on my painting course today.

My next course runs 10-13th May and includes a day sketching among the bluebells on Skomer Island.

Skomer blues…

Yesterday I had another gorgeous day over on Skomer Island painting and researching for some big paintings that are in the pipeline. The bluebells and campion are at their very best now and it was a perfect day – overwhelmingly beautiful, almost too intense to work with!

Back in the studio now I am trying to get over the stunning blues and pinks and work on some of the ideas and inspirations with the benefit of a bit of distance.

Some of you know that Skomer holds a special place in my heart and I have been visiting, staying and painting on the island for 17 years now. I am thinking of running a painting course on the island in September. If you might be interested send me an email!