East Brackley Benches
Sited on the highest point along the Loch Leven Heritage Trail is a viewing point Pavilion, the perfect spot to take a break from trekking around the track and glory in the view across the loch. Commissioned by TRACKS, the body responsible for creating the Trail, I have completed two benches for the space. On this page is a record of their creation from rough sketch to final completion on site.
Each of my designs is worked out within the pages of my sketchbooks, going through a process of change & refinement till the final desired design comes into focus. This is where the real creation happens, every subsequent step becomes a technical challenge. My design process is driven by thoughts about how the site will be used and how my work can make a positive contribution to the space. I always enjoy looking back through the scribbled undefined sketches to see the nascent beginnings of the final design.
Loch Leven is one of Scotland’s top natural assets; it is the largest naturally utrophic (nutrient rich) loch in the UK. Due to its position, size, nutrient rich shallow waters, and comparatively undisturbed nature, Loch Leven has an ecosystem ideal for a wealth of plants, insects, and fish. These in turn support a wide variety of birds at different seasons, making the site important throughout the year. (SNH ‘The Story of Loch Leven)
The Loch Leven spearwort is particularly special as it is a local hybrid between lesser and creeping spearwort and endemic to Loch Leven. It is thought this hybrid is a result of birds carrying seeds on their wings from one water refuge to another. The leaves of this plant are long elegant ovals and form the basis of the forms for the benches.
One of the challenges an artist faces is that what they have imagined has not always been made before so there is no simple construction template to follow, they have to have confidence in their own processes and believe in their own abilities to solve all the unforeseen technical problems. This was certainly true of the benches for me, I had anticipated the end result but many of the steps for how to get there remained unresolved as I begun the project.
The benches are made from Scottish Pink Whin stone coming from a quarry near Stirling upon taking delivery of the base blocks you are filled with a mix of emotions, pure excitement at the prospect and sheer terror that it is now up to you to make it a reality!
For the first bench I had decided to carve the arch stones off-site as I thought this would be the most efficient way to achieve the bench shapes, unfortunately due to registration issues; only being able to work on one block at a time & the complexity of the curves, this actually was pretty inefficient as when the blocks were finally put together I had to rework all of the surfaces, sometimes only marginally.
So for the second bench I decided to modify my process & do the majority of work on the blocks once they were together, the following sequence illustrates how the benches were constructed.
I had prepared a methodology which I hoped addressed all the issues I would have to face.
The key to a solid installation was making sure the three base blocks were secure on the foundation pads & that they were orientated correctly, if my first block was out of line there was potential that I could miss the foundations for the last block! I also needed to build in some opportunity to correct any levelling or angular issues, I achieved this by having the fixing detail sitting on the blocks pivot point.
Blocks were joined using threaded rod pins and an epoxy bonding glue.
This process continued till all 8 blocks of each bench were together.
Once blocks were securely together I could begin carving them to shape, this was achieved using a variety of different grades of flush cut diamond blades.
The process of cutting and shaping progresses from knocking of large areas through refinement of every surface till the final shape & finish is achieved.
The final stage to the benches is to handcarve some text along the front edge.