Exhibitions, shop updates, photoshoots and FUNDING NEWS!

This is a rather image heavy post! Where to begin? This Autumn I have…

  • Exhibited in two places for Devon Open Studios (at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and at Coombe Park Craft Studios)

  • Exhibited in Glastonbury

  • Sold three costume necklaces and received a commission for another

  • Moved studio into the centre of Totnes (I now have lots more space, so I’ve extended my work bench and put up lots of shelves!)

  • Re-photographed ALL of my pieces and updated my online shop listings, including a new range of brooches and bag pins (pictured)

  • Started a job in my local pub (diverting my focus for a couple of nights each week from craft to craft beer and the art of pouring the perfect pint)

  • Organised a photoshoot of my jewellery work for the 28th October (watch this space)

  • RECEIVED FUNDING FROM ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND!!!!
    Back in August, I applied for a ‘Develop Your Creative Practice Grant’ to develop my woodcarving, and last week I found out I had been successful! This will fund 2-3 weeks of mentoring from top woodcarvers, some new tools/materials, a bit of promo, and most of all, some wages so I can support myself whilst I learn and expand my portfolio. In truth, I first applied for the scheme back in February and was turned down, so I’m flying a flag in the name of perseverance!

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Imperfect circles and learning curves…

‘Gold finches’ - relief carving in lime wood, finished with Bolgers wood dye, Danish oil and beeswax.

This summer I’ve had a bit of spare time from other work so, back in June, I decided to embark on a new carving project, something I haven’t attempted before: my first relief carving, a hangable piece of wood-art! While I delight in carving small treasures such as my jewellery pieces, I’ve always had dreams of working BIGGER. But working bigger can be an intimidating prospect when carving with wood. Why? Well, to begin with, good quality, seasoned timber comes at a cost… then there’s the added time it takes to learn a new process. Consequently, with every chisel cut, I worry that I’m wasting both time and money, and the ensuing anxiety is somewhat detrimental to a relaxed creative process! Nevertheless, on this occasion I decided to put my doubts aside and get stuck in, and I’ve learnt A LOT, both about carving and about my own creative anxieties…

For starters, it turns out that carving in relief is a whole new kettle-of-fish to carving in-the-round as I am used to! In truth I nearly shelved this piece just days before completion, afraid that I would never achieve a professional finish. This project has felt like an exercise in technique, rather than an act of self expression, and it’s good to remember that practising for the sake of practising has its own value, whatever the outcome. This piece is far from technical perfection, and in case I’m sounding overly self-critical here’s why in plain, geeky wood-carving terms:

  • Tool marks: the background plane is scarred with some untidy tool marks. They are the ghosts of chisel cuts from when I first ‘set-in’ the birds from the block of wood, which have now cut too deep to be removed. Next time I will take more care with the ‘setting-in’ process.

  • Inaccessible nooks and crannies: the forms in this piece are closely juxtaposed and that has caused me no end of challenges trying to get the background level and smooth. The purchase of some new ‘spoon-bent’ chisels has alleviated some of the stress, but next time I’ll give myself more space to work!

  • Imperfect circles: this circular design was cut out on a bandsaw then carved by hand. Next time, I will spare myself the agony of trying to carve a perfect circle and seek advice from a wood-turner instead!

Now, technical critique aside, here’s what I’ve learnt about creative learning curves. By repeating these mantras to myself I got this piece to completion, despite its technical imperfections:

  • Be kind to yourself. It’s ok to ‘screw up’. It’s ok to get it ‘wrong’ before you get it right, especially when you’re trying something for the first time. And really, ultimately, there is no such thing as ‘wrong’ and no such thing as ‘failure’, they’re just the downward dips in your ongoing creative development. For every dark valley there is a sunlit peak!

  • As already mentioned, practising for the sake of practising is time well spent. Every artist has a studio containing unfinished pieces, unsuccessful pieces, seconds and practice pieces.

  • Learning a new skill can make you feel vulnerable, and consequently it can feel difficult to share a new work-in-progess with the world. That’s ok, you’re allowed to hide sometimes. Turn off your all your social media apps and get back to the root of things.

  • If you feel dissatisfied with your work, remember that you’re probably your own worst critic.

  • Ultimately, a successful artist is someone that enjoys what they do, and doesn’t let a fear of judgement stop them from creating. If you can let the enjoyment outweigh the fear, then the battle is half won!

To conclude, I AM happy that I set myself a new challenge this summer, and I can’t wait to put what I’ve learnt into practice with my next piece! And if you’ve stumbled upon this post and like what you see, then watch this space, because there will be more!

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Preparing for September exhibitions...

It’s already August and I’m super busy preparing for three exhibitions next month! First up I will be participating in Devon Open Studios from 7th September, with my work on display in two locations: the Devon Guild of Craftsmen Riverside Gallery and Coombe Park Craft Studios (details below). Then, at the end of the month, I’ll be hopping across the border into Somerset for the Exhibition of Mythic Arts and Crafts in Glastonbury! I’ll be exhibiting both old work and new, and some work is yet to be finished - better sharpen those chisels!

7th-29th September 2019
Devon Open Studios
Riverside Gallery, Devon Guild of Craftsmen, TQ13 9AF

7th-22nd September 2019
Devon Open Studios
Coombe Park Craft Studios, Ashsprington, TQ9 7DY

28th-29th September 2019

The Exhibition of Mythic Arts and Crafts
The Assembly rooms, Glastonbury

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A touch of Mediterranean colour...

This year I became a new member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and in May I made my first delivery of work to the Guild shop in Bovey Tracey, Devon, UK. Five of my costume jewellery pieces can now be seen, chisel marks and all, in the shop as pictured here! Furthermore, this weekend I’ll also be exhibiting three new pieces on the Devon Guild stand at this year’s Contemporary Craft Festival, which runs from the 7th-9th June. For these pieces I’ve hopped across the British channel and taken inspiration from more colourful and temperate climes, resulting in a hoopoe, a bee-eater and a roller-bird!

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Iron-Brow and Thorn-Coat - Part 2

This spring I have been immersed in a rather special project. I have been working in close collaboration with writer/storyteller Tom Hirons and artist Rima Staines, who together make Hedgespoken, a travelling storytelling theatre company, and Hedgespoken Press, an independent publishing company.

This April, we rehearsed and launched the first two public shows of Iron-Brow and Thorn-Coat, a retelling of a classic Lithuanian folktale. Steeped in old magic and half-familiar memories, this beguiling tale of magical transformation, love, betrayal and endurance weaves together storytelling, puppetry, mask-work, foolery and live music…

I had the pleasure of co-directing and co-producing this piece, working with an extraordinarily creative, compassionate and good-humoured team of artistic folk (credited opposite). I also got to do what I love best - wood carving! The puppet for this project was carved by myself and Rima Staines, with advice from master puppet makers John Roberts and Jan Zalud. To view more photos and videos of the puppet being made, visit Iron-Brow and Thorn Coat - the making of part 1 . Iron-Brow-Brow and Thorn-Coat will continue it’s journey this year as we take it into the great outdoors. More news to come!

Iron-Brow and Thorn-coat
by HEDGESPOKEN

PLAYERS:
Storytelling - Tom Hirons
Puppetry, maskwork, foolery - Helen Aldrich

MUSICIANS:
Louis Bingham
Griselda Sanderson

CREATIVE TEAM:
Artistic direction and production - Sarah Vigars
Performance direction and puppet direction - Howard Gayton
Design and artistic direction - Rima Staines

Puppet-carving - Rima Staines and Sarah Vigars
(with assistance from Jan Zalud and John Roberts)
Mask-carving - Jan Zalud
Writing and story-development - Tom Hirons

Production Photography - Lawrence Galloway

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February carvings

Here are a few snaps of some recently completed pieces. I hope to get these on sale soon. I’m currently in a flurry of puppet making for Iron-Brow and Thorn-Coat, so my own projects are currently on hold!

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Iron-Brow and Thorn-Coat - the making of part 1

January and February have flown by in a flurry of admin and emails, including, amongst other things, an Arts Council application, a tax return, a Guild application (more on that soon) and preparations for an exciting new project, which I can now at last reveal! Last Monday, work began for Iron-Brow and Thorn-Coat, a new storytelling piece by Hedgespoken. If you are not familiar with Hedgespoken’s work you can find out more about them here. In short they are writer/storyteller Tom Hirons and artist Rima Staines and together they travel the country, telling tales from their off-grid storytelling theatre…

I am currently working alongside Rima Staines as Co-Artistic Director and Creative Producer of Iron-Brow and Thorn-Coat. Based on a traditional Lithuanian folk tale, this piece will interweave Tom’s storytelling with puppetry, masked performance and live music. Rehearsals begin on 25th March, concluding with two preview performances on the 12th and 13th April at Dartington Arts (link below)

This week, myself and Rima began the puppet making. We have been lucky enough to work under the expert guidance of master puppet makers and wood carvers John Roberts and Jan Zalud. Take a look at the gallery below to see what we’ve been up to... and there’ll be more photos to come as the project develops!

Iron-Brow and Thorn-Coat previews at Dartington Arts on the 12th and 13th April. Tickets can be found at: www.dartington.org/event/iron-brow-and-thorn-coat-by-hedgespoken/

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