Last weekend I spent three days on a busman’s holiday at West Dean College in West Sussex (https://www.westdean.org.uk/study). Set in stunning gardens and beautiful landscape, the college is a leading venue for short courses in the arts as well as conservation (we sometimes send our team to courses from Lincoln Cathedral Works Department).
My course was carving plant forms, with talented and lovely Jo Sweeting www.josweetingsculpture.com. Although I could have attempted to lock myself in my own workshop to carve for three days, anyone who tries to juggle family (or other responsibilities) and work will know in reality that this simply won’t happen – particularly as there is always your paid work on the bench and easel staring at you! Much easier to let someone else cook beautiful food for you and have no other distractions. Below is the start of my piece, carved in Lincoln Redbed limestone – soft to carve and a warm pale ochre colour. As yet unfinished, I might manage to complete it before next year’s course…!
This year’s Christmas card – a simple mistletoe print. All good wishes to you for a happy Christmas and peaceful new year.
Today we fixed a commemorative stone in a local churchyard. When fixing in a cemetery it’s usual for the stone to be laid on a concrete pad. In a churchyard, we usually lay on to earth.
On the right you can see a snapshot of the stone in progress in the workshop, carved from Crosland Hill sandstone.
Below right you can see the stone base being prepared. The stone is carefully lined up with its neighbours and also over the top of the ashes – often a compromise resulting in having to split the difference. A hole larger than the stone is dug to the required depth, then the earth prepared and tamped. Two concrete kerbs are laid down and checked for level, usually with a slight fall to allow for rain water.
Gravel is then added to be flush with the kerbs to ensure that the stone does not remain saturated in the ground.
The stone is then laid in place and the turf carefully replaced. See the finished result in the gallery.
I was recently asked to Lincoln University to demonstrate lettercarving to the British Epigraphy Society, as part of their summer school. This is a group of academics who formed a society in 1996 to promote the study of inscriptions, texts and historical documents in Greek, Latin and other languages. As well as studying the copious Roman inscriptions held in the Lincoln Collection (museum) stores, there was theoretical discussion and practical lessons on how to take a paper cast of an inscription (see image below), done simply using widely available cotton rag paper, water and brushes. As part of this event, I was delighted to be able to talk for an hour on the carving process, then showing the students how to cut, with many of them (including the tutors) having a go themselves. For the record, the process remains very much unchanged for these last 2000 years! www.britishepigraphysociety.org
This month I’m taking part in an exhibition at the beautiful National Trust property Gunby Hall, East Lincolnshire. The Art on the Map group are born out of Lincoln Open Studios, and offer a refreshingly wide range of art and craft from felted clothes and glass and ceramics to metal and stone sculpture, as well as more traditional paintings. If you’re out towards the coast, please drop in – the gardens and cafe (drinks and cake only) are also highly recommended.
It’s been a busy month. In June, Lincoln Cathedral hosted an extraordinary ‘Heritage Skills Festival’, which included for the first time ever City of London Livery Companies leaving London and coming together with Lincoln to celebrate traditional crafts and skills essential to the preservation of the Cathedral. There was everything from stonemasons, embroiderers, plumbers, tilers, turners, scribes, illuminators, glaziers, plaisterers, goldsmiths, horologists, glovemakers and carriagemakers, and more. The Cathedral nave, chapter house, cloisters and east green had the feel of a medieval marker, which was extraordinary. A huge well done to all those involved.
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I made this robin print in the workshop this winter from vinyl. It’s produced from three blocks and printed in three colours – gold background, followed by red then black. Cutting Japanese vinyl is a real pleasure. It’s incredibly soft, allows for a great deal of detail and doesn’t seem to need to be used fresh in the way lino does – available from www.lawrence.co.uk amongst others.
It contrasts with the more rustic feel of using plywood block – see below, made last year with brown and black, for which I use wood cutting tools, and can create different effects.
Hopefully, more time for printing later this year.
Saturday 10th September not only sees Lincolnshire’s Heritage Open Days, but there will be a rare free opportunity to visit Lincoln Cathedral’s Works Department, where you can see the masons, carvers, conservators, plumbers and joiners’ workshops, and meet some of the team who keep Lincoln Cathedral and it’s estate of 80 properties in good condition.
Carving has been on the back-burner recently as I’ve been concentrating on stone conservation more. However, I did find time to make a couple of simple coasters from Cumbrian slate for teachers, as my daughter was leaving primary school.
Meanwhile, a work trip to York Minster in July to meet the Clerk of Works and head mason and conservator gave us a great behind-the-scenes tour, including this glimpse of their carving casts collection.
An inability to say no has led to a busy spring. Here are a couple of pieces of work carried out these last 3-4 months:
The plaque for Stanley Grant at Eckington Church in Derbyshire was cut in a (rare) piece of Hopton Wood (it looks a little patchy here as it is still damp from washing down). An even, hard limestone, it gives a lovely crisp letter and was a favourite of Eric Gill. Only available in very small quantities from Lowes Marble works in Matlock, Derbyshire as it hasn’t been quarried for some time. Best used inside as it weathers to an effect similar to a breakfast cereal (I’m told!).
This Crosland Hill headstone was quite a design challenge. The client wanted a smallish stone, but a lot of references to different parts of the deceased’s life. Therefore, I also used the back of the stone to bring in all the elements she wanted.
Both of the above were designed and drawn by me, and beautifully cut by my colleague Alan Micklethwaite.