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ceramic stamps

Carved Stamps for Pottery

These boxwood stamps were made for a very experienced professional ceramicist named Steve Carter of St Werburghs Pottery. He has been extremely impressed with them. They are very durable, not too absorbent and do not stick to the clay. Steve says that he prefers them to any other clay stamp that he has used.

 

ceramic stamps

 

Some stamps were made for an open day at the Botany Arts Studios in Bristol. Cups were produced by Steve to serve mulled wine in. The text on the stamp is based on the Botany’s window sign.

 

botany arts studios stamp

 

These two stamps were made in February 2010. The one on the right is for garlic storage pots, the one on the left for general use. The goose motif comes from a legend about St. Werburgh, a Saxon woman after whom both the area of Bristol and therefore Steve’s pottery (which is situated there) are named. She is supposed to have resurrected a favourite goose (called Grayking) which her steward had eaten.

 

ceramic stamps for st werburghs pottery

ceramic stamp

carved Opinel knife handle

Carved Knife Handles

This knife handle was carved for a commission in 2011. The buyer gave me his own designs and I carved them onto the beechwood handle of a number 10 Opinel lock knife. The handle is 10.5 cm (41/4″) long. As this was the type of knife with which I learnt to carve, it ws very exciting for me and the whole carving was done using my own Opinel, which is also shown here.

 

Carved Opinel knife handle

 

The knife at the top is the carved commission. It’s easy to see on this image how much metal had been sharpened off the blade of my knife over the previous 21 years- both blades would have once been the same size.

 

carving an Opinel knife handle

 

The blade of the knife to be carved was extended and wrapped in thick card, to give more to hold on to when working. Work in progress can be seen below.

 

carving with an Opinel knife

 

…and here are two images of the completed handle, finished with a very light sanding and then linseed oil…

 

Beautiful carved Opinel handle

Un couteau Opinel sculpté

 

Here’s another, which was carved for a commission a couple of months later. The knife is an oak-handled EKA. The client drew a (very good) representation of his idea for me to carve, which includes his son’s initials, the sun and the moon.

 

carved oak knife handle

 

carved EKA knife handle

 

The next knife handle was carved in New South Wales, Australia way back in 1997. It was made for a very talented Spanish leatherworker named Guille. In exchange for me carving a walnut-handled knife that belonged to him, he made a pouch for my carving knife (shown below). He loved Celtic designs and so the knife has a celtic-style dog’s head on the pommel, with eyes made from inlaid reindeer antler beads.

 

Celtic knife pouch

 

I still have the beautiful pouch that he made for me to this day but after leaving Byron Bay I never met Guille again.

Here are two images of his knife:

 

carved celtic knife handle

dogheadknife2

 

If you are interested in these then you might also like a more recent commission to carve a pagan ceremonial knife handle from oak, which is discussed in a separate post.

 

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Friday Tembo sculpture repair

Repairing an ‘Ebony’ Sculpture by Friday Tembo

In January 2009, I was offered a commission to repair a sculpture by the late Zambian sculptor, Friday Tembo. The piece was carved from African Ironwood timber that had been darkened to look like ebony. Unfortunately, it had been accidentally knocked from a mantelpiece and had broken into several fragments.

Friday Tembo was one of Zambia’s top sculptors, who exhibited internationally. He was a personal friend of the owners and had given them the carving himself. It therefore had great sentimental value, particularly as he had since passed away.

It was a real privilege to be given the opportunity of repairing and restoring this strange, beautiful and interesting work. It represents a shaman in the process of transforming between the shape of a man and that of a fish.

 

repairing an ebony sculpture by Friday Tembo

 

This is how the sculpture was given to me. The small bag holds fragments which had been knocked from the fins.

 

Repairing Friday Tembo sculpture

 

Below are shown these same breaks after being repaired, retextured and then finished using the original methods that Friday Tembo would have used.

 

Ebony sculpture repair Bristol

 

The break shown below had to be reinforced with an internal metal rod to strengthen it.

 

ebony sculpture repair

 

The repaired sculpture, waiting in a friend’s workshop for collection by the client. The tools give an idea of the size of the piece.

 

Ebony sculpture by Friday Tembo

old elf

Wise old elf 2015

This character was carved as part of a project in Bristol, working with a professional storyteller and a local school to create wooden panels that form a storytelling trail through the school grounds.

In July 2015, I was invited to carve oak pictures as part of a project at St Chad’s primary school in Patchway, Bristol. The school was looking to get the pupils to generate their own stories.

Storyteller Martin Maudsley worked with them to create tales which were then told to me. I used the five stories to produce images that were then carved into oak plaques, which were set onto larch plinths in a small woodland in the school grounds.

 

storytelling trail carved wooden panels

 

One plaque tells a story about a storytelling dragon that befriends a village. At first, the villagers are advised by a little girl to turn their backs, to stop them being frightened by the dragon.

 

wood carving of a dragon talking to people

 

Another shows a person who is helped by birds to plant a magic garden. The small squares are caps of oak covering the stainless steel screws that hold the plaques firmly onto the larch plinths.

 

storytelling

 

This story is about a secret garden hidden by ancient trees, which is uncovered by reciting the magic words.

 

storytelling trail

 

This plaque shows an old elf called the ‘Father of the Forest’. The surrounding leaves are all from trees that grow in the small woodland that the trail winds through.

 

old elf

 

oak relief carving

 

Finally there is a story about St Chad (a Saxon boy) and the people he meets on his adventures.

 

relief carving of St Chad

 

I also made some benches from durable larch timber, for children to sit on and make up their own stories (or just play!)

 

benches made from larch

Part of the project also involved carving a panel live at Patchway community festival in Bristol, which was a lot of fun and meant that I also got to meet some of the parents whose children go to St Chads.

Carving at Patchway festival

 

Naked grouse whisky slider

‘Naked Grouse’ whisky bottle 2014

In 2014, I was asked to turn and carve oak replicas of the distinctive bottles that ‘Naked Grouse’ whisky is sold in. They were to be used in the promotional launch of the whisky in the UK. As part of the commission, I also carved the logos of five different bars in the prestigious Mayfair and Marylebone districts of London live in the bars themselves.

 

Woodcarving for a publicity event

 

The Glasgow-based marketing company  Material approached me during the summer of that year to ask if I could make some oak sculptures as part of a promotional launch. The makers of ‘Famous Grouse’ whisky were introducing their new premium malt blend, called ‘Naked Grouse‘, to customers in the UK. The marketing centred on the craftsmanship involved in producing fine whisky.

The sculptures were replicas of the Naked Grouse whisky bottle, turned and carved in oak which originally grew on the Quantock Hills in Somerset. They were mounted on oak plinths that had LED lights installed to illuminate the bottle.

 

Naked grouse oak whiskey bottle

 

It was fun doing some woodturning again to make the bottles, especially when an electrical fault in the first lathe shorted out the workshop’s electrics!

 

woodturning a naked grouse whiskey bottle

 

The labels and embossed grouse design were replicated using a Dremel hand drill.

The bottles were then stained to match the colour of the whisky as much as possible. Fitting the LED lighting systems into the oak plinths was quite interesting; I haven’t studied physics since school, so it was quite an education learning about resistors, diodes and the like!

 

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Six bottles and plinths were made in the end, of which five were used in the promotion as one bar dropped out at the last minute.

 

'Naked Grouse' whiskey promotion

 

Then it was time for the next stage of the project: live carving at bars in the prestigious Mayfair district of London!

 

promotion for naked grouse whiskey

 

The demonstrations involved carving the logo of each bar onto each plinth in the establishments themselves. The sculptures were then left at each bar. The bars themselves ranged from a Lebanese restaurant (complete with Arabian dancers) through a bar having a ‘beach party’ to a very exclusive place with no sign and a doorman.

 

london bar

 

It was great fun doing the live carving, as well as a bit of a challenge to reproduce the logos with a time limit and an audience. I’m happy to say that everyone was very pleased with the finished sculptures.

 

turned and carved bottle

Carved panels using braille 2016

These oak panels, featuring braille as part of their design, are part of a permanent installation at the Brunel building in Southmead hospital – a major healthcare facility in Bristol.

Initially, the commission was to make an artwork that would include words and phrases chosen by patient’s knitting and writing groups as being important to them. As part of the making process there also had to be an opportunity for patients, visitors and staff to try their hand at carving parts of it during two hospital open days.

 

woodcarving the braille panel at Southmead hospital

 

On visiting Southmead, I realised that most wall-hung artworks there didn’t really give much opportunity for blind or partially-sighted people to interact with them. They were mainly prints behind glass.

Working with guidance from local braille users, together with organisations and blind artists from around the country (particularly Alan Michael Rayner), I designed a touch sculpture that also includes braille as a fundamental part. The Bristol Braillists group were particularly helpful with this area of the project. Paul and Hazel from the group even visited my workshop to give help and advice on the design.

 

making a sculpture for blind people

 

Eventually, the installation developed into three panels. The largest one shows the patient’s groups knitting and writing, together with a carver (who might that be?). The knitting, writing and carving is spilling off the table to become a landscape with the important words and phrases written on it. In the top right-hand corner are well-known buildings in Bristol. Above it all is a description in braille, made from brass pins that have been fixed into the oak.

 

braille woodcarving

 

The second panel shows a much smaller version of the main panel (a bit bigger than A4 size), with different features labelled in braille. This was suggested by Camilla at Living Paintings, who pointed out that blind people can get ‘lost’ when feeling their way through a large area. This small orientation panel allows visitors who are using touch to work out where they are going on the larger artwork.

 

braille on woodcarving

 

The third panel is a key to Grade one braille, so that sighted visitors who would like to work out what the braille on the other panels says can do so. There are several types of braille, with grade one being the simplest – a letter-by-letter translation. This inspired some discussion about whether it was the best form to use, as most British braillists use Grade two braille which is quicker to type out and to read. However, most users felt that people who weren’t so confident in reading braille and those from other countries would find this form easier to understand.

 

grade one braille key

 

Once the panels had been fitted in March 2016, the installation was unveiled by the Chief Executive of NHS South-west, Andrea Young. She is standing in the centre of the photo below with Ruth, the arts director for Southmead, standing to the left of the picture. It was great to see that Paul and Hazel, who had helped in the design, could make it to the unveiling too.

 

south mead hospital braille artwork

 

I really appreciated the opportunity to explore new ways of interaction with public carved sculpture but also being given the chance to find out more, as a sighted person, about how blind and partially sighted people interact with the world around them. I hope that the things learnt can be incorporated into future projects and thank you to everyone who generously gave their time to help me with practical advice and suggestions.