This is the final piece I made at Michael Roger’s Masterclass. The experience at Northlands was very intense, living, breathing, eating, drinking and working with a great bunch of artists, being away from domestic and family commitments and being able to live steeped in glass for two weeks has given a huge boost to my work.
It takes a while to arrive back home, to settle in to the studio here, to walk alone in this landscape, to adjust to the teen scene that is part of my life, and to begin to unpack some of the things I have learned at Northlands.
I return with new resolve to be focussed on my Rosebush project and have begun to make a moulds for a casting idea I have for that. Also I have been shortlisted for a commission at Conwy Castle, so I have a trip to North Wales next week to research for that. The gallery is in a quiet period just now, we are in the last few weeks of regular opening hours and from October are open by appointment.
I managed to sell enough work to go on my Northlands Masterclass! Thanks to those who took advantage of my discount offer and supported me by buying some work.
Yesterday I had a crises of confidence about going when I discovered that I will be working alongside some of the most talented glass artists around. I had a very reassuring email from Michael Rogers, the tutor, and today I feel only excited and full of anticipation about working with people who are so engaged with their practice.
Michael has asked all participants to bring with them a small suitcase of inspirational material to work with and I spent the day in the junk shops of Cardigan selecting priceless objects of Welshness to take with me to Caithness.
Cardigan proved a great place to start my search, it is full of cheap tourist places and charity shops (the most disorganised and grubby ones are best for this kind of thing) and I set myself the target of not spending more than £2 on an object. Michael has given me licence to hang out in the most fascinating emporia known to man and a budget is a necessary constraint if my studio is not to become even more of a junk store!
I love the serendipity of what you find in these places and of the co-incidences and connections you discover along the way. My suitcase is going to need some heavy editing, and that is a good process for me to apply to my ideas in general. Sometimes I feel that I have too many ideas and can not find the space to explore any of them deeply enough, archiving them and putting them in boxesmay just help with that, enable a lot of things to coexist without becoming overwhelming – why did n`t I think of this before?!
I had lunch in Y Pantri, a lovely local cafe, strictly tea and toasted sandwiches, not a tapas in sight! Quite a change from Narberth! So a successful days hunting and I topped it off with a visit to see the Cardigan Cardigan, an enormous (5m x 2.5m) cardigan knitted by local people last year to celebrate 900 years of the towns heritage. Inspired by the work of assistant designer, Susan McComb, the work is mostly in cable stitch and was knitted by 300 people of all ages and abilities, who met and knitted together, or in their own homes, over 9 months. A wonderful example of a truly inclusive community art project.
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.
A day in Cardiff with Ruby on Saturday and I managed to fit in a visit to the superb Silverstruck exhibition of contemporary silversmithing at the National Museum in between the visits to New Look and H&M and lunch at Jamie Oliver‘s restaurant!
This is a fantastic showcase of contemporary work and is well worth a visit. It runs until July 24th. I especially liked Junko Mori`s organic forms, Alex Ramsay‘s gorgeous double-skinned vessels, Adele Brereton‘s delicate vessels and Rajesh Gogna‘s imaginative and witty pieces. The show is a testament to the imagination and incredibly high standard of craftsmanship of contemporary makers and to their dedication in following a line of inquiry.
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.