These carvings of birds were made for ‘Woodland Arts’, an exhibition in Leigh Woods, Bristol in 2017. I like making new pieces to show in events like this one. Although it can be time consuming, it always gives an opportunity to explore themes that interest me but perhaps haven’t come up in my commission work.
I hadn’t carved a bird sculpture for quite a while, and the woodland setting for the show seemed to make them an ideal subject. Kestrels (as above) and nuthatches (shown below, poised to run down a tree trunk as they do) are both birds that interest me and that live around these woods, so they were the ones chosen.
For the bodies of each bird, I used European larch timber. These were timber offcuts from companies that share the area that my workshop is in. Larch isn’t particularly easy to carve with traditional hand tools, no matter how sharp they are, so much of the work was done with abrasive discs fitted to angle grinders.
This also gave the carvings a smoother, slightly abstract feel which I really like.
The pale wood in the kestrel’s beak is hornbeam, taken out during building work at Bristol’s Southmead hospital.
The dark wood used for the eyes and the beaks is a bit of Bristol’s heritage. It is a timber called greenheart, from offcuts which were given to me by a furniture maker friend named Jim Sharples. Jim had made a large bench to be placed near Bristol’s ‘Mshed‘, using wood from the old North Junction lock gates which led from Bristol Harbour to the Avon Gorge and then the sea. The huge trunk of tough African greenheart wood lay on the top of the old gates, to protect them from bumps by ship’s hulls. It was removed when the gates, which were fitted in the nineteenth century, were recently replaced. These small bits of wood are really pieces of Bristol’s maritime history.
The is the single exhibition to date where I have only shown only stone carvings. The venue for the Mythic Garden was stunning: a large garden on the edge of the high moors that houses the national collections of birch and alder trees. Artworks were dotted throughout the space, so there was plenty of room around each one and a wide variety of possible locations to site pieces.
I don’t carve stone that often: to be honest, working with wood is really where I’m happiest. It was an interesting change though and I’m very grateful to have had the chance to put work into this lovely spot.
This exhibition is perhaps closest to my heart as I initiated the whole thing, was the main organiser and exhibited with fourteen other artists. It was a success, with approximately 700 visitors in 6 days! It took two years to gather all of the exhibitors together and, when we opened in August 2008, they had created some really interesting and thought-provoking work. The group went on to show twice again, with some lineup changes, at ‘Meta anatomica’ and ‘Metamarine’.
After the success of the ‘Metainsecta‘ exhibition in 2008, some of the group were invited to show their work in the beautiful Bristol museum. It was the ideal venue, surrounded by mahogany cases containing taxidermied specimens that were often over a hundred years old.
I’d love to show the Metainsecta series in a similar venue again one day. It seems to suit them very well.
This was the second in the ‘Meta…’ series of exhibitions and took place at the Grant Bradley gallery in Bedminster, Bristol in 2009. The theme was ‘the sea’ and exhibits included everything from ceramic turtle-shaped dinnerware to origami hats made from nautical charts.
In 2010, I was accepted to show in the RBSA Open exhibition. It was good to go back to a city that I know well and to show my work there. The society is also based in the Jewellery Quarter, a very historic and beautiful part of Birmingham and one of the last real trades quarters left in Britain. Almost everything around is connected to the jewellery making trade: assayers, tool suppliers and workshops as well as the jewellery college. It’s a lovely place to go for a wander!
This exhibition could not have been held in a more appropriate location! The Walcot Chapel was once a mortuary chapel and is surrounded by a graveyard, so was the perfect venue for an exhibition about anatomy. In June 2011, the group reassembled to examine anatomical subjects with the same eclectic range of media and approaches as before.
Sadly it was the last of the ‘Meta…’ shows, partly due to the illness and subsequent passing of the ceramicist Liz Krčma who had been an organiser, exhibitor and important contributor to the exhibitions since the first show.
In 2012, I was invited to show my work in Cardiff, at the studios and gallery called ‘Oriel Canfas‘. It was great to be able to see what the other artists in the studios were working on and to be given the opportunity to exhibit with such talented people as the late Judy Foote and Brian Denham, amongst others.
The Great Oak Hall at Westonbirt Arboretum is a beautiful structure and the standard of the other exhibitors here was very high indeed. It also gave another opportunity to look around the Arboretum, which is always worthwhile and especially when the blossoms are out.