Put it together again

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I’ve known about the ceramicist studio of Peter Hayes on Pultney Bridge in Bath for some time but weirdly have not visited until now.

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Peter and his son, Justin had an open day on the 24th September so I made a special trip in to see them.  How I wish I’d done it before.  Rarely have I met not only such a friendly couple of people, but also people who are passionate about what they do.  I have to admit I was smitten by the place.

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Set over three floors abutting the river, the top floor houses the showroom.  Here are the quite fabulous annulus with resin insets, obelisks, monolithic ‘stones’, and more.  The place is a treasure trove of quite stunning work which could have been either made yesterday or  thousands of years ago.  Timeless and enigmatic, the simple beauty of design speaks of a continued humanity which spans our existence.  The second floor houses the workshop with the bottom floor holding works ready for sanding and the outside decking area to the river.

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Peter and Justin create raku-fired pieces which are sometimes made in sections and / or  are broken before re-assembling with coloured resins. I mentioned the Japanese art of fixing broken ceramics and he said that he started off with this in mind.  Kintsugi was once seen as inferior to the original unbroken vessel despite the man hours and materials which goes into their rebirth.

Peter has experimented with leaving his unfinished work to weather, both aerobically and in water, often throwing bits into the River Avon which runs through Bath.  The pottery fragments were enough to excite one history lover who thought they’d found some Roman artefacts.

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Justin (above) told me some pieces had been left in the Caribbean sea around 20 years ago but Peter had left and not used them.  Years later, he told divers where he’d dropped them and sure enough, the divers found the pottery pieces half-covered in coral and now part of the reef.  What a sight that must have been.

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So did I buy a piece?  I would have LOVED to buy one (or more) or the larger pieces but unfortunately my pockets aren’t deep, but I did buy a smaller work which I will treasure.

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Silk screen

5 Jun

It’s my birthday in May, but as seems the norm, celebrations started early, and so my friend Alison and I caught the train to Bristol late April for a day out.  There was plenty going on, a vintage fair, bike show and of course the Nelson Street area of Bristol always has something to catch the eye.

After finishing the testing collagraph project, it was so good to ease into silk screen printing.  My latest project needs a medium such as this as I want to have busy lines and detail.

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Looking at everyday relationships of my world, the place we make for ourselves and the dent we make within it, I am planning on a series of hand-drawn design turned into silk DSCF1050.JPGscreen prints which focus largely on the space between us.

This is the first of a test print run.

I started out by adding colour with more printed swatches, but decided in the end on a

chine colle technique.  The bold colours of tissue paper really seem to show off the detailed printing.  I feel the combination of hand drawn patterns and typed text speak volumes about the incongruity of existence and the harmony which it can often bring.

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My birthday ‘proper’ took my friend and I out once again.  (She spoils me).

We stayed Air B&B in Worthing, a pleasant seaside town just west of Brighton.

It was here I took the second on the series from.  Alison always likes to have a full English breakfast (not that she eats it all), and so it seemed only right that I include this in the next piece.

I did a poll on Twitter as I couldn’t decide between the green or orange background.

In the end, the green won, but only just!

The next one is to come.  Watch this space🙂

My love / hate relationship with print

21 Apr

There’s no denying printmaking has become a minor obsession since the day in January 2013 when I walked into the studio to ‘give it a go’.

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I was looking for another angle on image-making which I just couldn’t seem to quite achieve with paints alone, and it has sent me on a journey.

Mostly it has been a pleasant one, but WOW, some days have left me feeling bereft of talent and struggling; feeling as if I am sinking into an abyss of failed work and crushed aspirations.  Dramatic?  Well, it is!  It puts me in a sombre mood for days when things have not gone according to plan.

Bella Bee, artist

So, I made what has been the third series in a study of the stones at Avebury, starting with creating printing plates from mount board and strong PVA glue.

When I got them into the workshop, I just could not seem to get the right mix of texture and colour.  Lunch break saw me with a headache, sore eyes and back, and a feeling the afternoon was going to be more of the same.

Never one to give up, I was still of the same opinion when the session finished and packed up my work for home.  Usually I put everything out to dry, take snaps, feel happy.  This time they remained in the portfolio case, and I imagined them heading for the fire.

Many an artist has told me to put things away which are making me unhappy and retrieve them later with a fresh eye.  It is something I have done many times in the past, so should know by now.

Bella Bee, artist, Bath

Silbury Hill

Experimenting at first with pulling away a lot of ink (above), this print was meant to focus on the embossing effect that collagraph gives.

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HATE this one!

I preferred this last selection out of all the prints but was still not happy.

Bella Bee, Bath Artist

The next day, I took a second look.

Then, I saw what was happening.  Just needed a space, that’s all!

These prints will be cropped and framed to demonstrate the 3D, textured surfaces.

I will go back to try for more in this series as I have a couple of plates not yet used, so who knows what else will come out of it?  Fingers crossed I like the result!

Moleskine Exchange

11 Apr

A few years back I took part in a Moleskine exchange project.  There were four artists including me, who each chose a theme and then posted the books round, each one adding to the chosen theme as they went.  It was such a fun thing to take part in.  It brought us all together which is no small feat considering we were spread from Moscow, Ontario, Tokyo and Bath (England).

DSCF0020The theme for my book was ‘Into the Garden’, although it is easy to see that I was so immersed in the design, I forgot to pay attention to the actual words and had to squeeze it together at the end!

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We pulled a name out of a hat for the starting point and as we were spread across the globe, we sent the books in a clockwise rotation, so I sent my book off to Masha in Moscow, she to Megumi in Tokyo, Megumi to Shelley in Ontario and back to me.

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Masha’s garden (above) and Megumi’s below.

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DSCF0280 Shelley’s in Ontario (above)

As you can see, some did 4 pages, others did 2.  It really is just a bit of fun and entirely up to the individual what they do.

It was some time ago we did this and the images I had of the others’ books are lost on an old computer, so all I have left is those taken from my book.  Needless to say, it was a fun thing to do and probably the first time I looked forward to receiving post since I was a child.🙂

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Gallery

Avebury

23 Mar

Binary Sun

17 Mar

Avebury, from an aerial perspective, shows a main circle, which has the remnants of two smaller circles inside.

Thanks to www.londontours.com for the image

Thanks to http://www.londontours.com for the image

It is strange to think that it became custom and practise in the Victorian era to attempt to use the stones for building materials, even removing one which was ‘blocking’ a gateway!  Suggested methods included a winter one of striking the stone to create a fissure if none existed, then pouring water into it.    Once the water froze, frost-shattering occurred, which effectively pushed the stone apart from the inside.

 

It seems a distant memory that is not the first attempts at destroying the stones, so I hope t is not a false one.  I understand Cromwell’s agenda of reducing religious iconography to rubble included Stonehenge and Avebury and I believe there is the mark of a canon ball strike in one of the ‘female’ stones visible today.   It is a childhood memory and one I am not certain of.

A testament to the enduring engineering of the ancient people that made the monolithic structures is that, despite all these efforts they remain in situ, even if they have been pulled apart and partially rebuilt since their conception.

Click here for further reading.

For me, this is the second part of the series looking at Avebury and it focuses on the perception of a binary sun.  It is one that appears to crop up in a few ancient cultures around the globe and is still scientific debate today.  I am more interested in them as an artistic concept, the idea of two circles within one.

There is current debate over the existence of a dwarf sun and it’s effect on an elliptical orbit.  To see more, click here.

 

The first three collagraphs depict an abstraction of the binary sun idea, two glowing orbs circling in a dark universe.

The stones appear largely as rounded or straight tall ones and it is understood this may well be a reference to male and female stones.  Walling round the site, it seemed plausible to me, especially seeing how they were arranged, often paired.

Avebury, Bella Bee

Collagraph

The second collagraph shows a ‘male’ stone standing witness to the huge disc that is the sun; moons placed around in semi eclipse.

The third looks directly at the sun, and one requiring more work.

Gold leaf has been applied in small sections, a concept that I might add to later.

You tube video

 

Stone

11 Mar

The stones at Avebury and Stonehenge are the inspiration

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It has been my intention to try something new and being introduced to a new printmaking medium, carborundum, seemed the perfect time to use some sketches done a while back.

Making a small collection with the intention of building on it, I started with collagraph plates in a classic square before making dry-point etching plates in the shapes of the stones saw at Avebury.  It is not just the stones which hold significance but how we interact with them which makes them the iconic things they are, and it was this I was trying to convey.  The stones become light as they emulate the celestial bodies they appear to mirror.

I live not too far from Avebury, so it is just an half hour drive to the site.  I always thought some of the stones seemed to have a personality but it was just recently that I realised they represent genders.  The male stones stand long and thin whereas the female stones tend to be more rounded.  If anyone can tell me how this stone (below) came to have what looks like a millstone at the centre, I would love to know.

Bella Bee

Female stone with centre

 

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To see the video showing the idea behind the project, click here.

The Albion

29 Jan

It is no small joy to be back working with the Albion Printing press.  A Victorian piece of cast iron engineering requiring only man power to break into action.  As seems so often the case with engines built in this era, the decorative features of what is essentially an industrial piece of equipment only serves to heighten the romance.

 

The resulting prints are so much more vibrant than any I am able to produce burnishing, which probably is more testament to my lack of patience than anything.

Here is a hand-burnished print next to one produced on the Albion.

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I notice the first has a more vibrant blue, so might print off some more using this ink instead.  I use oil-based relief printing inks in the workshop but have water-based ones at home, mainly due to cost.

Here is a short video of Martin and me using the press last year.

So, what was run off this week?

I caught up on finishing off for some illustration work as part of a poetry roadshow starting April (2016).  Fault Line, a selected works by Paul Mortimer, published by Lapwing will be showing some of my work.

Not all the above images are prints, some use water colour, pastels and India inks.

I may reverse colours on that first print.

Had a play with a reduction lino cut print

(Only had time to do a couple of these so will get to a better registration next week – hopefully)!

 

New media

16 Jan

It seems January is a month of change.  The end for some, the start for another, and I am no exception.  Holed up in my warm fortress of choice, it has been hard to look for the fresh shoots of the new.  However, after filling the bin (more than once) there is light.

Using an old favourite, pastels and inks and after weeks of nothing, today has seen two images grow out of the paper.

 

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The first is of my daughter, Ellen.

I don’t usually like making portraits of people, they always complain and say they don’t like what they see.  It is one reason I think many artists choose to use themselves as models.

Here I am in a less than flattering pose, but then I don’t mind!

Turn to rust, liking the way I can play with pastels to make them appear weathered.

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The pastels which appear to work best are few, so the resulting images will all have a similar hue.  Still, nothing wrong with a bit of conformity.🙂

Sketching out the winter

6 Jan

January not only sees the start of Twitter challenge #sketchjanuary

It is also the time when I get busy in preparation for time well spent at a print workshop.  It really does pay to be prepared as hours sketching and inking up at home saves valuable workshop time.

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Hoping to get busy on screenprinting once more, the outlook has been very black (and white).  Once committed to silk screen, the colours can be added and played with, so it is all looking a little sombre.

Maybe I should start making more colourful sketches?🙂

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For many people, creating art is about the process as well as result, and I am no exception.  It is for this reason 2016 should see a slight departure from previous work as I test out new material and ways of playing with it.

Silkscreen printing makes a crisp, clear and exact copy of what has been placed, so maybe now is the time to start adding words?