Monday, August 6, 2012

The Pilgrim by Glen Morris.

While I was at Strata Florida I noticed a figure on the horizon.....on the nearest hill- top behind the Abbey! 

noticed a figure on the horizon.
I asked the staff at the Abbey how long had this been there? as I had not noticed it on my last visit....It turns out it was part of an organised event, about a month or so ago. Something to do with a University, but I am sadly not up to speed on news and events happening locally and don't know any details. All I really do know it was made by Glen Morris.
'I've got to have a closer look, how do I get up to it?'
'If you go along the lane, over a stile on the left and just climb up the hillside should take you about 25 mins to get there', was the reply.

So I walked off with my camera...couldn't see a stile but climbed over a rusty metal gate into a field of sheep and went up.


my fist view of the Pilgrim

It was so steep I could not see the top of the hill and I walked past the sculpture without knowing it. When I did see it I could make out what I thought were tufts of wool blowing in the very strong wind. I thought the sheep must have brushed against it or something? Then as I got closer I could see tufts of wool all over the sculpture. I thought that was an odd but somehow relevant detail as the hillside was covered in sheep.

The Pilgrim By Glen Morris

I was so impressed with this work. I realised I had been on a micro pilgrimage to reach it. This figure striding through the landscape searching for something significant seemed to me to represent myself, and probably you as well on a journey, looking for some kind of awakening.

The backdrop was spectacular and would have been worth seeing on its own. I'm not saying I could see the Holy-Land but it made me think that we had forgotten the instructions on how to live on the earth.....You know it's supposed to be a two way thing...we breath out what trees breath in, and trees breath in what we breath out! 

 And maybe this pilgrim was also our Grandfather

When I got back to the Abbey I explained how good the sculpture was and that the tufts of wool were a odd but thought provoking detail making an earthy connection to mankind and the natural world.

'Oh I think he was wearing a woollen coat or sheep's fleece when he was made' was the reply.

Well...that does make sense as the wind was so strong up there it had blown his coat away. It was so windy up there I was unable to stand upright and take photographs. If you look they are totally out of focus where I was buffeted so strongly by the wind, unless I was laying flat on the ground.  

A great piece of work and really glad I made the effort to walk up to it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Installation of the Taliesin Stones

Site conditions are at long last dry enough to progress with the
placement of the stones at Strata Florida. I left from Kent before 4.45am and the stones left the Midlands somewhere near Stafford, I dont know what time they started but they got to Strata Florida about 3minutes before me. I saw several sheep happily munching grass by the roadside in the lanes approaching Strata Florida, not something I'm used to. But they were chilled and didnt seem to mind being on the wrong side of the fence!

finished stone left my
workshop several weeks
ago, stayed in storage.

arrival at Strata Florida,
it's a bigger lorry than
I was expecting!

The unloading of the stones went very smoothly and the driver was very patient and helpfull. The grass outside was firm and dry and our fears of a juggernaught getting stuck on the mud just outside were not realised, it was sunny. The only week of sun  after a couple of months consistant rain (even the hose pipe ban in Kent was lifted) no such problems here it seems.

easy when you got the
right equipment

lorry driver was the first
to sit on the Taliesin Stone

We set the stones out in a arc, so they provided a photo opportunity for visitors to sit on in front of the famous doorway. It all went with military prescion, no straps broke, no damage done and lorry did'nt get stuck. Smashing. Then soon after the lorry went a visiting family came and sat on the stones and started walking round following the lines of poetry that spiral round it.

No let me read it it says, .....Pass   Through this door   Into Christ, the
expanding      .Universe. Dimension:
  They asked me how long has it been here then?
I said about 10 minutes.Are we the first to see it then? yes thats right did you not see the giant lorry/crane and us lswinging them into place?   No missed that, looks like they have been here for ages...............

Find your own elsewhere.

Below is a slide show covering the making and installation of the feature at Strata Florida.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Mosaic Sign at Strata Florida

One of the open day events at Strata Florida Abbey was a mosaic workshop. This was was open to all visitors and produced an archway or door made in mosaic. This was glued onto paper temporarily untill I had the time to make it into some kind of finished work. At the end of the open day event I took away a piece of off-cut slate left at the site, and I thought the mosaic arch could be inserted into the slate to create a sign.

the inspiration for our sign

visitors making the mosaic

wetting the paper and peeling off to reveal the mosaic

the finished inlaid mosaic sign.
  I have uploaded a selection of images to create a slide show showing the sign being made at the initial mosaic workshop, and then its progression through several stages untill finished. It looks good in my back garden at the moment, but when I next travel to the site I will hand it over the staff at Strata Florida.

Monday, June 11, 2012

End Part One

I have completed the first part of this commission, that also means grouting. The heavy rain has delayed site preparation at the Welsh end of things. So I will start a slate sign started on the open day at Strata Florida.
In the mean time before work starts on site here is the actual poem I have been working on, written by Gwyneth Lewis especially commissioned by CADW for the site.

Strata Florida.......

Soil is the dead
Of all ages. Pass
Through this door
Into Christ, the expanding
Universe. Dimension:
Wonder. Uplands bare,
Riches below. Through
This door, be proud
As a blackbird,
Where the humble fern
Blossomed to stone,
Then back again. This
Door. Find your own elsewhere.
Now. The future. Then. Then now.

By Gwyneth Lewis (the first Welsh Natational Poet).

the last few words


cleaned up after grouting

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mosaic Update.

A small selection of images showing recent development.

Hi Cosmo.



I am on the last few 2-3 lines of the poem now and I hope to push on with it during the rest of this week. I am starting to will I do the plain areas without any lettering?  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mosaic Progress 2

Slowly things progress along, if I complete a whole line in one day that is my equivelent of a forced route march. Yesterday I only managed to do    n. Bloss    still every little helps. I am well over half way in terms of text, but still quite a bit of stone to cover. This must mean that there will be plain areas of white to cover.

I have a ritual every morning where I have to scrub and clean up yesterdays work. If I leave it longer than overnight then the cement finger prints I make and the squirt up through the gaps bits are really hard and more difficult to remove. If I try and remove them after the end of the final session it's all to soft and I damage what I just made.

a good scrub with a stiff brush and a tidy up with a metal thing every morning

I give the image files names according to where I am in the poem
This one is called 'a blackb'

this one is called Bloss

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Open Day at Strata Florida.

Free to everyone, talks on history and poetry. Recitals of work from poets, and picnic lunches in a medieval style. For a very good account of the days activities see Hiliares blog click here. My role was to run a mosaic workshop as a way of introducing my sculpture for the site. I showed photos of the work in progress and displayed the maquettes I had made for presentations to CADW earlier. 
My stall was pretty busy all afternoon with visitors contributing to a Strata Florida sign which (when I finish it later) could go at the entrance to the site somewhere. 

Here is a montage of photos I took during the days events

two people working on my sign 

Gwyneth Lewis reading her poem Strata Florida

'where the humble fern blossomed to stone'
Here is the sign when I bought it home after a fun day out in the Abbey ruins. It is made on paper using what is called the reverse technique. I took a large piece of slate home with me to complete the sign and mount it for display. I also was very pleased to meet Gwyneth Lewis whose poems I am working on. 

I will finish this off later when I get time

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Approaching half way and had a sticky moment this morning! I don't have enough tiles in stock to complete this whole stone so I order some more from the supplier I have used for over 20 years........only today their phone is dead? I email them with a tile order, but deep down I've got that feeling they may have ceased trading as things just felt strange.

I spent most of the day trying to source the same tiles to complete the job. I spoke to a general UK tile distributer who passed me onto my recomended dealer for that particular manufacturer and tile range.........The upshot was my tiles were not in stock and it would take in the region of 6 weeks to get some. Further more I could not order single sheets either and could only buy tiles by the box full, thats 14 sheets to box. 

I only need one sheet of that colour 2 sheets of another you know 3 of that one etc .....madness to wait 6 weeks and buy a thousand percent more materials than you require. Great service from my new supplier, thanks.

Later in the day I recieved an email to say sadly yes we recently ceased trading, the long and the short of it is: get your tiles from The Mosaic Workshop for their website click here. They bought what was left of the entire stock of my previous supplier. Panic over and my tiles should arrive by the end of the week......The future of mosaic tile distribution may look a little different if information today proves to be correct? 

Riches below.Through . This door

Of all ages. Pass through this door

Monday, May 14, 2012

'Giornata' (a days work).

drawing of my new cement spreader
 I was surprised at having to pay £12.50 for this tool, I thought it was a lot for little metal trowel spreader thing. But it is a great tool and invaluable on this job, really good for what I call 'cutting back' which is removing the unused cement around the tiles where another work session will join it. The term 'giornata' is Italian and means a days work. This was very relevant during the Renaissance when painting frescoes, as it was the new lime plaster applied today, joining the wok done yesterday. In some old paintings these joins can be seen as slightly different coloured pigments show one days work from another. My concern is the same, in that cement dried yesterday around the edge of the tiles prevents the new tiles from being positioned very close and seamlessly. If done badly a black grout line will appear if the gap is a little too large. This tool is great at removing the excess cement for good joins.

I have other trowel/spreaders but this is great and now I think very good value for my £12.50.
I also bought a pair of new tile nippers which a great. Very good at cutting tiles into thirds, which is what I need for the black lettering. I have well over a dozen pairs of nippers all rubbish at cutting thirds. Maybe it is important to have sharp nippers and I forgot what it was like, or maybe these are just a great pair of tile nippers..

drawing of my new tile nippers

Dimension. Wonder uplands bare

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mosaic Progress

I thought I would just put a couple of photos on here to show progress. Things have moved along and it's easier to imagine the whole stone now. I think it will look amazing.

Into christ the .....expanding. Universe. Dimension:

Through...this door.
 I wonder if I will be able to remember the whole poem by the time I'm finished? Words are not my medium, but I really get what Gwyneth's talking about, as I'm so close to it now.