January 8th 2013
I went, with my husband, to the opening night of the open art exhibition in Y Galeri, (St Fagans Street, Caerphilly, Wales) on Friday night. The Gallery was packed, not just with people, but with an amazing range of quality painting and sculpture. 300 art works were submitted. I was lucky enough to have one of my bowls selected for the exhibition (Beacons bowl, blue interior). Exhibition dates: 4th January – 23rd February 2013. Well worth a visit if you are in the area!
How amazing to have so many projects on the go! I am still working on the previous ideas, but inspirations continue to flow. My near neighbour, who, after a prolonged visit to India, asked how my work was going. I walked her round the studio explaining things – so much to tell her and, well, she did ask! I now have 3 cheese dome prototypes with their dishes, all ready to be turned into plaster of paris moulds. The weather at this time of year is not good. Plaster can get into clay and ruin fired items so outside is the place to make and mix and pour and cure plaster moulds. I have made one. The mould turned out fine but the folding gazebo fell foul of a winter storm. Oh dear! Now I have to mend the gazebo before I can continue, or enjoy make the moulds on 2 consecutive days of bright, warm sunny weather. I would much prefer the latter but have (slightly) more control over the former.
Anyway, my neighbour must have been fairly impressed. She would like to buy a pedestal, a head, and two customised PenPals.
I will add the brightly coloured latest version of the PenPals to the website tomorrow.
The Merthyr Tydfil and District Naturalists’ Society (Merthyr Nats) story is closely linked to mine. When I designed and project managed the construction of the stone table in the Outdoor Classroom in Penmoelallt Community Wood, I didn’t dream that eighteen months later I would host, with three other Nats volunteers, an event for fellow participators in the transnational SHARE project. SHARE will run for three years. Each project is very different but the common themes of industrial history; restoration and volunteer participation, link us together.
After completing the circular walk and learning how to use the way-stations in conjunction with the 12 leaflets, especially designed for Penmoelallt, www.merthyrnats.org.uk the twenty delegates from the Netherlands, Belgium, France and UK ( National Trust in Devon) made their way into the Outdoor Classroom. They chose from activities displayed along the eight meter stone table and constructed bird boxes, bird identification rings, and learned about a year in the life of a honey bee colony. The fire was lit and delicious (really!) stew and leek and potato soup were bubbling away. It was a great way to get to learn more about the projects and to begin to connect with the delegates.
I have been busy over the last 2 months, making, glazing, decaling and firing. My PenPals have increased in number and colour. They are quick to make – I even had help on one day towards the end of the long summer holidays, from a cooperative teenager called Jordan!
A most exciting event took place on 21st September. I won the Merthyr Business Club award for Best Creative Industry! However... my husband had to receive the award on my behalf. (Oh what complicated lives we lead!) I was still travelling back from Germany where I had been on a Bees and Biodiversity conference. I missed receiving the award by 10 mins. The photographer was kind enough to take my picture later with the celebrity host Roy Noble, (a BBC presenter) and the two award sponsors. My name automatically goes through to the regional competition. Helen Murdock‘s seminar entitled ‘And the Winner is...’ was invaluable. Thank you also to all who took time and trouble to write testimonials. The event was splendid - company, food, and band. Thanks to Wendy Locke for all her organisational abilities.
I didn’t crash the deadline for my tile of Rolf and Fred!
The tile is 27cm x34cms and is uploaded below.
I met Fred Bray quite by chance last week! He was a mine of information and very pleasant to talk to.
Rolf Harris visited Fred Bray, on 13th March 1991, to watch the art of sweet making. Rolf, an artist with paint visited Fred, an artist with confectionary.
Based on a photograph on Alan George’s website ‘Old Merthyr Tydfil’, my slipware tile reinterprets the photograph. Rolf’s catch phrase ‘can you tell what it is yet?’ can be seen hovering above the two men’s heads. The words turn into the swirling, boiling background of molten sugar. The other words read Fred Bray and Sons makers of traditional handmade sweets 1934-1995.
Fred Bray finished in 1995 but the company is still in business today, though not based in Merthyr Tydfil. Stephen Bray is the owner.
I’ve just begun a ceramic tile that will have Rolf Harris and Fred Bray on it!
So this is why. I’ve responded to an Arts initiative called ‘Pontmorlais: The changing face of the town centre’. FW Bray and Sons’, a sweet factory, produced handmade sweets from the 1930’s until 1995 at Pontmorlais, Merthyr Tydfil. Rolf Harris’s father, who was also an artist, was born in Merthyr Tydfil. There is a picture of Rolf and Fred Bray on www.alangeorge.co.uk of Rolf visiting ‘Uncle Fred’s works (not sure when but before 1995, obviously!). I’m using that photo as the inspiration for my art work. I can’t decide if will call it ‘Can you tell what it is yet?’ or bring the Bray sweet factory into the title – perhaps that’s more suitable (sweetable). Sorry!
I don’t work in 2 Dimensions very often. I’d like to emulate Rolf’s large paint brush style but on the A3 scale.... We shall see.
I have just completed the Creative Industry category entry form for the 2012 Merthyr Tydfil Business Club Awards. I was nominated last year but didn’t win. Helen Murdock www.slideshare.net ......delivered an excellent seminar entitled ‘And The Winner Is....’ My entry form last year was different in character – very businesslike and clipped. Now it contains photos, captions, testimonials, recommendations and much more of my personality. ... Result to be announced in September- not long to wait then!
Meeting Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip was an extraordinary experience! I was chosen because, during 2011 The Merthyr Tydfil and District Naturalist’s Society (The Nats) had won 2 Awards at the Royal Welsh Show and we were runners up in the National Biffa Awards where we receive our awards in London’s Covent Garden for bringing Penmoelallt Woodland to life. I was there to receive all the awards and then the cherry on the icing on the cake - meeting The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. To say that my ceramics are at the centre of an award winning woodland is certainly no exaggeration!
Anyway back to meeting the Monarch. We were searched as we arrived (I went in with the Chair of The Nats), given a cup of tea then we just milled around chatting. Soon we were ushered into the beautifully restored dining room of Cyfarthfa Castle, where we waited... lots of thoughts run through the mind – will the Queen shake hands with us, will Prince Philip be interested in The Nats, will they just walk straight past because the visit is running out of time?
Well in the end, after what seemed like forever, they appeared and were both much more relaxed than we were! Prince Philip shook our hands and asked about the Red Kites in the area and the Queen even said ‘Hello’! ... And breathe!
We followed the Royal entourage through doors that usually remain firmly closed and out into ‘picking’ rain. The Queen and Prince Philip sat under a canopy and we (all the Charities and Industries that had met the Royals) stood on the grass still smiling but getting damper by the second. It began to’ proper rain’ as our visitors left for the car and we, as elegantly as we could, rushed indoors.
Afternoon tea was served and every one’s heartbeats slowly returned to normal!
I gave a 1 and a half minute presentation to the business club, showing them the ‘Business Card Carousel that the delegates had helped to make. That morning I gained a new customer!
It all began back in September 2011. ARC was the business ‘in the spotlight’ at Merthyr Tydfil Business Club. I encouraged everyone in the room to make a seed that represented their business in a way that was meaningful to them. This was a new approach for the ‘spotlight.’ I presented the finished ‘Business Card Carousel’ to a subsequent Business Club meeting; a 35cm dish - each ceramic seed next to the business card of its maker.
My new customer visited my studio and commissioned a Beacons Bowl in dark blue. You can see a picture of it on my commissions page.
21st February 2012
We have just had such a good week-end. We visited The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition (so thought provoking yet playful) for which Grayson Perry has selected items from the archives of the British Museum collection and displays them alongside some of his ceramic work and his designs in iron, plastic, mixed media and textiles.
Then a two and a half mile walk through the streets of London, (with a minor detour into an occupy protest camp where I thought my husband had been kidnapped but he was only having a chat – well he just disappeared, what was I to think?) led us to Atlantis (on the second floor not under water) www.atlantisart.co.uk/ to buy canvas and gesso for a very large painting I am doing as a birthday present. (I’ll take a photo and post it if it’s any good!)
By then we were hungry and enjoyed an excellent Bangladeshi lunch in the Preem and Prithi restaurant followed by a quick visit to Whitechapel Art Gallery where we gazed at a Rothko – forever hoveringly calm.
What a wonderful Eucharist at St John’s Wood on Sunday www.stjohnswoodchurch.org.uk Thank you every one who contributed to the service, especially the singers – individually amazingly talented – heavenly synergy.
3rd November 2011
My ceramics are now at the centre of a triple award winning Community Woodland!
Rob Taylor, Chair of the Merthyr Tydfil and District Naturalists’ Society, and I travelled to London’s Covent Garden to receive an award for Rebuilding Biodiversity from Biffawards http://www.flickr.com/photos/biffaward/sets/72157628082942549/
The other 2 awards were collected in July, at the Royal Welsh Show, both for Best Community Woodland: the Gold award and the Meirion Davies Memorial Perpetual Challenge Cup. It is great to be a volunteer in an organisation that gives so much back, not just to the community and the environment but also to its volunteers.
I am making another award. The focus is an indoor climbing centre http://adventures.rockuk.org/centres/summit-centre that is just about to have a major refurbishment. I always make 2 awards in case of mishaps and kiln failures. They are both looking good. I have taken inspiration from the weird and wonderful curvy shapes of the handholds that are strategically placed on the metres high wall. I visited the Summit Centre last week and was too scared to try the practice wall centimetres from the ground!
Visit www.galerieimagine.fr/galerie. Steve uses basic raw materials with such creativity.
‘The faces were heavily inspired by my friend Alison Richards, a wonderful potter from Merthyr Tydfil – visit her at www.alisonrichardsceramics.com . They will happily hang on a garden wall – ‘a garden angel’ for the home! ’
Thank you Steve. The dish you made us, that stands on impossibly long legs, still delights and amazes us.
September 20th. Another good firing! Phew! My brother commissioned 3 bowls each with a different quote added to the outside. I took them from the kiln on Saturday, he collected them on Sunday. The deadline was tighter than comfortable!
29th July. I am pleased that the 'thinking heads' have survived the rigors of the kiln's intense heat - so many angles and joins. The Architectural Stoneware clay from Scarva is great to work with - be prepared to build slowly: three or four coils per day. For me, coiling is a great wind-down at the end of the day, I love it!
June 29 Two more customers from the Merthyr Tydfil Business Club awards last night! Fantastic evening with Roy Noble as compere and fabulous live music. We danced until the small wee hours!
I love working with the chocolate brown clay to create gentle sculptural curves. The curved, pierced, upright edge of the dish is inspired by the 14 arches of Crawshay's viaduct which marches acroos the Taf Valley. When the clay is fired it has the appearence of darkly coloured beaten iron. The halo of white in the centre is made by spraying glaze through a pierced pebble pot. I have sold this dish with it's accompanying pierced sphere and am enjoying making two more.
I have now completed the four head sculptures. They are drying quietly in my dining room which has a cave like environment whatever the weather: excellent for the slow drying of large sculptural pieces.
I recently completed a commission for Wirral Boys Grammar School, the "Book of Knowledge". I am creating a new sculptural form that is a development of the Garden Angel sculpture.
I am back working with clay after three months of support for the Merthyr Tydfil and District Naturalists. We have been working to develop woodland near to Merthyr Tydfil: Penmoellalt a woodland lost in time. You can see some of our achievements on the website www.merthyrnats.org.uk