Some memories just stick. My soon to be wife and I were sitting on a plane heading out to Turkey for a seaside holiday in what was then a relatively new tourist destination in 1987. Ahead of us stretched long hot lazy days flopped on the beach topping up our tans, eating, drinking, whiling away the time dozing and reading.
It’s factual books over fiction for me, Danzinger’s Travels was a book I’d heard discussed on the radio it was first on my reading list. A graphic hair-raising account of travelling alone through Asia and on into war torn Afghanistan by Author/photographer Nick Danziger it is a powerful account filled full of daring-do approached with warmth and wit.
Apart from it being a terrific read what I remember most about it was his introduction where he explained how his adventure started. Describing how he sat anxiously in a corridor belonging to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust waiting to be interviewed for a Travelling Fellowship that ultimately funded the trip. Wow! I thought how nerve-wracking & amazing would that be. Perhaps you can imagine my excitement nearly 30 years later when ‘little old me’ was sitting in the exact same corridor awaiting to be interviewed for a WCMT Travelling Fellowship then the thrill when the letter informing me that I had been successful popped through the letterbox.
Various things have delayed my travels but they are finally upon me. Summer 2017 sees me and my wife Jane heading off to the USA & Canada to undertake my research project – ‘the contemporary use of stone and how traditional skills & modern creativity can make a positive contribution to the shared built environment.’
Over the last 30 years I have focussed solely on my own career and worked at developing my stone working skills. This is the most brilliant opportunity for me to take some time out to meet other talented members of the ‘Stone Tribe,’ to spend some time with them, hear their thoughts on the craft and see the results of others working in a similar way. Over the course of 5 weeks (not long enough) we are going to be zipping about the USA and dipping our toes into Canada with the hope of seeing lots of ‘Custom Creative Stonework’
My belief is that stonework still has an amazing lot to offer Society and a personally fulfilling creative outlet for those willing to dedicate themselves to it. Along the way I’ll be showing the odd pic of my own work I may even get dusty a few times. I’ve set up a specific page to record the journey – come along join us on our trip of a lifetime…read more.
I’d like to thank the Trust for this wonderful life opportunity and of course not least thank the great man himself, Winston who as the picture shows dabbled a bit in the craft – I’m not too sure about his tools or his pointing but good effort!!!
Spring 2016 proved to be a long, hard & busy one. Set the challenge of constructing a series of Basalt stone ‘Mounds’ by rising young designer Hugo Bugg for his 2016 Chelsea Flower Show Garden; it was one of the most difficult projects I’ve created, it proved to be a very demanding but nevertheless interesting build. The Garden is now on it’s way to be replicated on a public site on the Channel Island of Guernsey. (read more about the garden)
My final contribution to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail is a feature stone sphere with some carved birds upon it, to be sited between the two feature benches I previously installed at the East Brackley viewpoint. This is to be carved from a 5ton block of Indian Galaxy Green granite that I nicknamed ‘The Beast.’ Working this block was a trial in itself, follow the process & challenges on the dedicated blog page – East Brackley Sphere Carving.
One of the things I love about being an artist is the new challenges and opportunities that it throws up, there is very little chance of boredom setting in. Every client has different requirements and therefore each project has a different design solution which gives me plenty of excuses to use a variety of materials & techniques. My latest commission proves the point. Tasked with providing a set of automatic gates for a private client I have designed a scheme that will use stainless steel, kiln formed glass & wood.
Key to the simple design of the gate is the inclusion of 24 pieces of glass, these are going to be made for me by one of the UK’s leading practitioners of contemporary kiln formed glass, Deborah Moses. I am very excited to be working alongside an artist who produces such fantastic work & am looking forward to seeing how the gate progresses.
Over the last few weeks I have been busily working up some new designs for a viewing area to be created at East Brackley on the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. Since it’s opening in 2008 the trail has only been 3/4 complete, the final section, from Vane Farm around to Kinross Mill is now being developed to complete the circuit of the Loch
Designed by Edinburgh based Architects, Icosis, the new viewing point Pavilion is placed at the highest point along the trail and offers up stunning views across the wetland areas on the South side of the Loch out over towards Bishophill. My brief was to look at developing ideas for some ‘furniture’ for the area which would incorporate some interpretation. Through the design process this has now simplified down to 2 carved stone benches & a carved sphere decorated with migrating birds that flock to the area. Follow this project on it’s own dedicated page here.. East Brackley Benches
During the first phase of constructing the path I was involved in creating various artworks along the route, I’m looking forward to the challenge of again contributing to this project.
After the creation of much dust and rubble the 5 carvings for the new Orchard Bank entrance feature are all complete and good progress is now being made installing them onsite, follow this projects development on the dedicated page Panmuirfield.
With the imminent arrival of 5 stone blocks I can now contemplate the exciting prospect of undertaking my next project. Designed to form an entrance way feature into Orchard Bank Housing Development in the Panmuirfield area of Dundee, the scheme offers me the chance to continue my recent series of stone carvings.
2 walls are to be build using locally sourced stone on either side of the main driveway, there will be 3 carvings on one wall with the remaining carvings going on the other. These will be some of the biggest carvings I have tackled – to date! Opportunities like this don’t come along every day, so the prospect of the next 5-6 weeks carving is something I am relishing.
As my work on the Forfar Botanists Garden draws to an end my focus shifts towards the next project. Commissioned by the Elsick Development Company to commemorate the Founding of Chapelton New Town, (ten miles South of Aberdeen), this Cairn Seat will sit within what will become a central civic space for the Town. Constructed using a mix of reclaimed materials sourced from the existing Estate this landmark will symbolically mark the beginning of the process, a period of transformation and change that is aimed at creating a new vibrant and sustainable community.
It seemed a distant prospect when I signed up for it but the months have whizzed past and here I am right in the middle of my first ever Perthshire Open Studio Event. Project commitments have meant that I am not as prepared as I had wanted to be. There have been a few long weekends sawing, ,hammering, filling & painting to get my ‘Shed’ beyond the rough & ready workspace it usually is, to the point where it is ready to show my work and accept any prospective visitors.
The newly painted white walls has transformed the untidy & chaotic space into a reasonable personal gallery where I have the opportunity to display past projects and more recent new work offering an insight into my artistic practice. Visitor numbers have not been very high but those who have come to view the work have been incredibly generous with their praise. With a couple of potential leads the event has been a worthwhile undertaking so far, I look forward to welcoming many more in the next few days.
Having spent the last two weeks creating the carved elements for the South Wall for the Forfar Botanists Garden, this week has been taken up with installing them into their final positions.
Correctly spacing them meant that I have had to be very careful in watching my levels as the wall grows in height, the main fear I had was that if I didn’t control the spaces between the elements by the time I started creating the alcoves for the sculptures they would looked ‘pinched’ within the height of the wall. Now that it is complete I think I pulled it off – phew!!