Having finished my residency at Oriel y Parc, December sees me back in my own studio and continuing to process the material and ideas arising from my project, ‘ob•serve’ based on Skokholm Island. I am working deeper into ‘colour extraction’ and am exploring various avenues, so far all in oil paint, but glass is never far from my mind! This work is supported by a Project Grant from the Arts Council of Wales and will result in an exhibition in July and August 2016 in the Tower Gallery, Oriel y Parc, St Davids.
I have also been busy with my online winter sale which features many sketches and studies and is helping me create space for new work.
Even though I am concentrating on paint right now, I have been firing the kiln with Xmas spirit, making glass Christmas decorations with local people who made an incredible 50 decorations during a workshop I ran in the village school hall last weekend!
Happy Winter Solstice to you all, and I look forward to more light in January!
I am now half way through my month long residency at Oriel y Parc in St. Davids. It is wonderful to have such a beautiful big studio in which to begin to process the material from ob•serve, the project I have been researching over six months at Skokholm Island Bird Observatory. The work I am doing will develop over the winter and will be the basis of an exhibition in The Tower Gallery, St Davids, next summer.
I decided to focus particularly on my sketchbooks and the colour “transect” studies. I chose eight sights around the island which I visited every month from April to September and recorded the colours I could see, this now forms the basis of a series of canvases I am painting in oils.
The residency is teaching me some unexpected things: the benefits of having a studio away from home, of having people around and a context to work in which is less isolated (and has an excellent cafe!), the importance of having clear space and the value of having a routine of going out to work and stopping at 5pm. As a result I have resolved to have a clear-out of my studio and gallery and to reorganise my workspace at home, especially to make space for painting. This means that I will be having a massive sale of work this winter which will (hopefully!) free up space.
I will be giving a public talk about this work at Oriel y Parc on Friday 16th October at 6pm, and also welcome visitors to the studio 4-5pm on Thursdays and Fridays (other times by arrangement). On Saturday 21st November I will be running a one-day painting course focussing on colour at Oriel y Parc. To book phone Oriel y Parc on 01437 720392.
I am immensely grateful to The Arts Council of Wales for funding this project which is allowing me to take the risks necessary to develop my work, to The Wildlife Trust, South and West Wales and the Skokholm Island wardens for giving me the chance to work on the island, and to all the staff at Oriel y Parc and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for making me so welcome in St. Davids.
Courtesy of a Continuing Professional Development Award from the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and support from the Arts Council of Wales, this week I am up in Caithness at North Lands Glass Centre on a masterclass with Australian glass artist, Deborah Cocks. Deborah is a glass painter who works mostly on blown glass forms.
The masterclass gives me the chance to immerse myself in glass painting for 8 days and learn from Debs and the other students approaches to the materials. This is the first time I have used paint in relation to a 3d form so there is plenty to think about!
I am experimenting with engraving and layering text and paint in new ways, inspired, as always by history, the land and the human shaping of it.
For me this is an opportunity to prepare for an intensive time in my studio this autumn and winter when I have carved out five months to concentrate on my own work funded by the Adrian Henri Poetry in Art Prize which I won earlier this year.
Having finally got some of my slate pieces out to the quarry and with the kiln cooling with the latest Rosebush piece inside, I am headed north to Lybster in Caithness to have 9 days to play with glass as my prize in the Warm Glass competition. I am having a few nights in Edinburgh staying with my sister enroute, and hooking up with some glassy friends on Monday, before embarking on the 8 hour journey to Caithness by train. I will be away from home for two weeks. That piece will be well annealed by mid July!
I am looking forward to having time, facilities, materials and space at Northlands to experiment with ideas and make work inspired by the landscape, alongside an exciting bunch of glass artists from as far afield as Sydney and Portland. Scarey and exciting to be part of this. I can’t believe I have come so far (and ended up in the same place!) in less than a year. Last year I remember a sinking feeling after the Northlands conference of “what the hell am I doing?” when I listened to a tired and disillusioned glass artist sharing her perspective on life as an artist working with glass. Actually, I cried, to be so far out of my comfort zone, to be taking such risks as a painter entering a new field, an artist meeting craft. And what a journey it is ! I am constantly surprised by how long everything takes, Rachel smiles wryly and says “welcome”! The medium imposes this discipline on my unruly ideas, which is just as well.
It is an exciting path. I am so grateful to my new glass artist friends who are making me so welcome, to Bullseye Glass for sponsoring the prize, and to The Arts Council of Wales for supporting my travel to Northlands, and to Jeremy Lepisto, Michael Rogers and others who have shared their skills and knowledge and continue to make supportive “Likes” from afar. Thanks to everyone else in my life who puts up with my absences, my enthusiasm and nerdy fascination with coefficients and historic documents…
Whilst making these windows I have been coming to realise the power of making to move people. I have always made things, but somehow the making aspect of this project is more accessible to people than it is in my painting, where the “art” appears to get in the way. People have often asked me how long it takes me to do a painting (that old question that Whistler answered so perfectly – a lifetime!), but here, in the glass, the time, effort and skill we are spending on it is plain to see. That, combined with the beauty of the glass and the complex stories and referencing within the piece, are proving to be very popular.
This week I have made an item for the Welsh language TV programme, Wedi Saith (which will go out on S4C at 7pm on monday 13th February) and hosted visits from Maenclochog primary school and various friends and neighbours. In response to this interest, Rachel and I have decided to open the studio for an hour on Sunday (4-5pm) in an attempt to give people a chance to see the work before it goes to Swansea on Tuesday to be leaded.
Meanwhile we have plenty to do getting the final firings in the kiln, doing the calligraphy and balancing out the colour and tone of the whole piece.
It is all 12 hour days in the studio right now to get all the glass painted and fired so that the panels can go to Swansea for leading next week. But deadlines can be a positive thing, and I am sure I would spend another 6 months tweaking details and that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.
The amount of detail in these panels astounds even me! How any crafts person is supposed to find time for social media is beyond me – medieval craftsmen had it easy, or, you might say that York Minster would never have been completed if they had had Facebook!! Actually, I am finding social media really useful at the moment for research and for networking with other artists and historians and enthusiasts of various types.
On Sunday 12th February we will host a viewing of the panels in my studio before they go down to Swansea to be leaded next week. People are welcome to come between 4pm and 5pm (sorry, but we have to restrict the time to one hour as we have so much to get done by Tuesday).
This week we had a visit from Kathryn Campbell, an artist based in Carmarthenshire who trained as a calligrapher. We have been searching for a calligrapher who can work with us to incorporate the beautiful couplets written by Damian Walford Davies in the windows. Kathryn is an artist I have known about for a while but had no idea she was a talented calligrapher, and, what’s more she is excited about our work and able to fit in to our tight deadline! Incorporating the poems in the windows needs careful thought and we have gone through a number of options and approaches, finally we decided we need to commission a calligrapher in order to do the work, and the poems, justice.
The painting is coming along well, we need to get all the glass painted and delivered to Swansea in a fortnight’s time for leading in order to comply with our installation date of March 8th.
I took a day in the week to work with Sarah Harman on our Rosebush Quarry project “Canu’r Oer Wynt”. This is a project I began in the autumn supported by a research and development grant from Arts Council Wales. I have been researching in archives, interviewing local people and experimenting with some glass ideas in my kiln, but since November the project has taken a back seat because of the Conwy commission. Sarah is a singer/songwriter and talented choir leader who is planning to write a suit of songs based on the history of the quarry, together we interviewed local people who remember the railway in Rosebush when it was operational, Peter Claughton, an industrial archaeologist and Geraint Harries, a friend and local man who works for The Pembrokeshire National Park Authority. We recorded the interviews to form the basis of our research for our project and discussed our ideas and plans. It was good to get back into this project.
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..!
Finally made it to Skokholm Island early this morning. It is years since I was here and I am in seventh heaven! The red of the sandstone is amazing, I am collecting some to use in my glass work and paintings. So far I have set up my studio and orientated myself, spending a while with the seals in South Haven to chill out and adjust to being here.
The accommodation is newly renovated by volunteers last autumn and is absolutely lovely. The chemical toilets have been replaced by compost ones and the rooms have sinks (although water has to be brought up daily from the well!). Everything is spick and span.
I will update this blog with photos when I get home because this BlackBerry is pretty useless for pics.
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.