Monday, 23 October 2017

Harcourt Arboretum

I had always wanted to visit the Arboretum in Oxford, and last weekend, when we were visiting family, my wish was fulfilled.

It was a good day for walking. The trees are impressive, and we had a very pleasant walk.

The heady perfume of this incense cedar was overwhelming. I did not want to move away.

We started walking along the aster avenue and the colours at this time of year were wonderful

Lots of fungi about

Some very tall, mature trees here

The mahogany-coloured bark of this Tibetan cherry was a pleasure to behold. I had seen one before at Blenheim Palace, which is also near Oxford

looking closer

We moved on and eventually got to


to the pig pen where we saw the sow and her seven piglets.

Too sweet for words....

A hazel coppice

led to this structure

where a peacock stood on the table

Intricate branch formations

and then we reached the lime wood.

which lead to the meadows.


We then came across three peacocks. We were intrigued by the white one and could not decide whether it was an albino or whether the young are normally white.

Having looked it up I have learnt that even though people tend to assume that white ones are albinos, this is not the case. The colour is due to a genetic mutation that causes loss of pigmentation and is called leucism. However, the eyes are not red as is the case with albinos.


The stack of red cedar was fabulous

so many colours and hues


while the sawdust was bright red.

Ken decided to try out

this seat.

Lots of mushrooms in the meadow - I was told that this one might be poisonous

whilst these flat caps are edible

there were loads of those

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Autumn exhibition, 2017 - the Stour gallery

Autumn exhibition, 2017, the Stour Gallery, Shipston-on-Stour.

Lavinia Gallie:

Carol Sinclair:

Carol Sinclair is a sculptor living and working in Hildersham in rural Cambridgeshire. The river Granta, which passes her house set in water meadows is a frequent source of inspiration. Her sculpture uses mixed media, frequently wood, reeds and other natural materials. 'I am intrigued by the natural process of reduction and regeneration; by the effects of natural forces such as water on wood, stone and metals; by the way the materials are eroded and broken down to basic elements. Even hostile man-made materials such as plastics are gradually coaxed and nudged by the elements into becoming soft, round and delicately coloured in the regeneration process'.

There is often great beauty in naturally eroded materials - they encapsulate the elusive concept of time and infinity. She likens her sculpture to the contemplative qualities of Japanese design. Similarly, it is about stillness and observance of things.

Ceramic bowl with pebbles

Flotsam Staithe

looking closer

Pebble Staithe

looking closer

Grey pebble hemisphere

looking closer

Niche wall piece

Staithe Cube

Staithe Cube

Belinda Durant:

I was very pleased to see some of Belinda Durrant's work in the exhibition. I am a great fan of her work - you can see more of it here and here

Gilded Cage (hand coloured drypoint)

The Five Poisons (papercut, watercolour)

Durrant is a conceptual artist so most of her sculptures are accompanied by a statement. This is the statement for The Five Poisons:

'The five poisons, snake, centipede, toad scorpion and lizard (sometimes spider) are used as decorations during the Dragon Boat Festival that takes place on what was in ancient China considered to be one of the most dangerous and inauspicious days of the year. It occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month, according to the lunar calendar. In 2017 it is on 30th of May. This is traditionally considered to mark the beginning of summer. Heralding by midseason the arrival of dangerous animals and insects, the spread of infectious diseases, and the appearance of evil spirits.

The Chinese believe in combatting poison with poison. They used to drink wine containing arsenic of cinnabar (containing mercury) to drive away the evil spirits and poisonous animals during the Drago Boat Festival. However the most common form of protection from danger was to wear five poison charms. Parents would have their children wear an amulet bearing the images of all of the five 
poisons. The idea was that the presence of all five poisons together neutralised their individual effects and the child would be protected. Parents still dress their children in clothing decorated with all five poisons during the Dragon Boat Festival.

My five poisons are on five separate pairs of Chinese lotus shoes. The practice of foot binding was begun on girls as young as 3-4 years old and was instigated by their parents, usually the mother, because without tiny golden lotus feet, the girl would be considered un-marriageable and therefore worthless. The process of foot binding was very dangerous and often led to the loss of toes, a limb, or even death from sepsis.

A person can only wear one pair of shoes at a time...'

The Five Poisons, Snake

The Five Poisons, Lizard

Small Reliquary, (lead, mixed media)

'I learned a little about the manufacture of silk when I was artist in residence at Sudeley Castle. Its Victorian Chatelaine Emma Dent came from the Brocklehurst family who were silk mill owners. I managed to rear a few silk worms on leaves from the mulberry tree Emma planted at Sudeley Castle. Watching these strange creatures toiling away spinning their cocoons I became aware of how underrated they are.

It takes each larva around 3 days to make its cocoon from one continuous thread. It takes around 110 cocoons to make a tie and 630 for a fine silk blouse. In honour of these amazing little creatures I decided to make a reliquary. A reliquary is a richly decorated, often bejewelled container for precious holy relics. These relics might be nothing more than a small fragment of cloth or a piece of bone and they almost never have a monetary value. Their value is in their origin, usually some saintly or religious figure of extreme importance to members of that religion. To place the moth and the fruits of its labour inside a reliquary should raise the status of the poor silk moth from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Yet it does not.

This box, although decorated, is not of precious metals. It is not bejewelled. It is of base metal.

Silk moths are still reared in bulk, as a commodity. On the one hand they are prized for their 'achievements' yet on the other, they are worthless. It is what they make that counts, not what they are'.

Butterfly Slippers, (papercut/mixed media)

'These were made in response to a visit to the Butterfly House at Berkeley Castle. Inside there are so many exotic butterflies and it is possible to get really close to them. In fact they sometimes alight upon the visitors, much to everyone's delight. They are light as a feather, fragile, ephemeral creatures... so easily harmed. I had to watch where I walked as they were everywhere, even on the ground.

This is how Butterfly Slippers came about. A delicate step was required, so delicate slippers would be the best thing to wear. I have exaggerated this point by making my slippers too delicate. They are made of paper cut and if worn, would be destroyed. This is to reflect the ephemeral fragility of a butterfly'.

Tissue Corset with Birds, (drypoint on Japanese tissue)

Solitary Swallow, (watercolour and stitch on cotton)

'When I was artist in residence at Sudeley Castle two young swallows somehow managed to become trapped in the stairwell of the haunted staircase. Whilst it was worrying to see them stuck and trying to escape, it was also wonderful to watch their graceful flight and listen to them calling each other. Then suddenly one was gone! It had flown at a weak point in the window, breaking the fragile lead and so pushing its way out. The other was left perching on the window just looking.

I have used stitch direction to emphasise the subtle shades of blue, green and predominantly black and the lustre of the feathers. For the architectural features I used repetitive patterning. The geometrical design of the leaded windows offered an opportunity to refer to the geometric patterns of Tudor blackwork so the patterns used are based on blackwork stitch patterns although are rendered far more freely, ignoring both the traditional method of thread counting and the strictly limited palette of blackwork embroidery'.