I realised that it’s been a while since I posted and that I’d forgotten to add my exciting news about having two of my pieces selected for the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington, USA! They are now currently part of the exhibition at the Renwick called ‘This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World and will be on show until 2nd April 2023.
At the end of 2020 I was contacted by wood collectors Judy Chernoff and Jeffrey Bernstein. They told me that having lived and loved their collection for many years they had decided they would like to donate some of their pieces to the Renwick’s permanent collection. After several years of discussion with multiple curators, the current Renwick curators, Mary Savig and Nora Atkinson, were given the green light by the Smithsonian to begin the process of selecting objects from their collection, and two of my pieces were chosen – Radiolaria Vessel VII (2004) and Cinachyra Box (2000). As well as being very honoured that I was now part of such an important collection of craft, I was really happy and relieved that the pieces chosen were ones that I was still proud of. I was also very surprised as I had no idea who had bought these pieces when they were first exhibited in the USA. When you put your heart and soul into your pieces you always hope that they will go to a good home!
Unfortunately I was not able to make it to the opening but perhaps I will get a chance to visit them before the exhibition closes next year… At least I now have a copy of the beautiful catalogue that accompanied the show.
It’s the last day today of the 2021 Wizardry in Wood exhibition, normally held every four years by the Worshipful Company of Turners. I thought that I would be able to take part this year after it had been postponed from last year because of Covid but sadly I had to withdraw.
Like so many women I have been suffering with various symptoms that going through the menopause brings. It’s a very unpleasant time which throws up many challenges – particularly when it comes to trying to maintain your work levels. Not only have my energy levels and general mojo been down, my immune system has also been thrown out of wack and with Covid still very much with us I did not feel that it was a wise idea to travel to London and be at a show (hopefully) filled with people!
I did make a couple of sets of salt and pepper mills to send to the show which the organisers were kind enough to exhibit on their Bursary stand.
The pink and black mills were inspired by the beautiful Japanese magnolia trees, Magnolia Liliiflora. They began on a visit that I made to Bodnant Gardens in North Wales. This beautiful National Trust property is famous for its collections of plants from all around the world and among them are more than 500 magnolias. I love their large dramatic flowers graduating from a deep pink to white and so I used this as inspiration on the deeply carved sycamore base and top.
I also love the process of Shou Sugi Ban – the particularly striking method of preserving wood by charring which originated in Japan in the 18th century. Burning wood gives it a different softer black to colouring it with paints or dyes and accentuates the grain. So for the other mill base and top I scorched the surface of the turned elm and wire brushed it to bring out the beautiful three dimensional grain texture.
There is also a wonderful sunken pool surrounded by plants of all different purple hues which is one of my favourite parts of the garden. One of them is Osteospermum Purple Sun, with stunning flowers graduating out from purple to pink to yellow. The photos that I took of them led to this new second set of mills that I made for Wizardry in Wood. The bases of the mills are turned and carved before being airbrushed to match these vibrant colours, and the tops have a ‘blobbed’ texture to represent the centre of the flower.
I hope that all the other makers had a great show!
It’s been a while since I last made a piece inspired by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, so it was really nice to get a commission from a previous customer to make a pin using images from Haeckel’s ‘Art Forms from the Ocean’ as a starting point.
I love the delicate lattices of the Collospaera and the different layers and textures. I wanted to capture the feel of the images themselves as well, with the colours that Haeckel used to tint his prints.
The pin is made from boxwood, sterling silver and resin and measures 65mm across.
After a very strange year of Covid, Brexit and the perimenopause I am really pleased to finally be using these new ceramic mechanisms for my salt and pepper mill sets from Jon Whateley at Prokraft!
I needed to buy a new batch and after quite a lot of research I decided on these as they had a slightly more refined high quality ceramic grinder, contained no plastic parts and I have been able to work with Jon to develop a custom made brass knob for the top. He has been fantastic, and couldn’t have been more helpful, making sure that I was completely happy with the design.
It feels like there has been a massive shift in the world. Certainly for me I feel that it is even more important to be making hand made, sustainable, high quality pieces that people can use and enjoy in their homes for many years.
The National Eisteddfod of Wales will soon begin in Llanrwst, North Wales on the 2nd August 2019. I have been having fun collaborating with paper artist Chloe Augusta Needham on some new Moth lamps and we were thrilled that these were selected to be exhibited at the Y Lle Celf – the Eisteddfod’s visual arts gallery. It’s a great place to exhibit as it attracts 40,000 visitors during the course of the week!
Below are some work in progress photos of the new lamps – Moth II and Moth III that we have been working on that you will be able to see on show.
I’m happy to soon be showing again at the Clay Barn down near Stratford Upon Avon. I’m currently busy making new mills for the show and it will be the only place you can see them in the flesh this year! It should be a great show with 7 other talented makers displaying their wares. (directions are at the bottom of the page)
The WIT (Women in Turning) organised ‘Turnabout – Women at the Lathe’ exhibition is now about to open at Arrowmont School of the Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA on August the 10th 2018. It will run until October 10th giving people another chance to see this diverse selection of work.
The image above is from this months American Woodturner Aug 2018 vol 33, no 4.
This is my latest salt and pepper mill design – a set inspired by the wonderful hand tinted botanical lithographs of the nineteenth century. They also pay homage to the exotic and extravagant interior of Brighton Pavillion, the seaside residence of King George IV.
I was making a piece for the upcoming all-woman show ‘Turnabout: Women at the Lathe’ organised by the WIT (Women In Turning) branch of the American Woodturners Association. I have made of lot of salt and pepper mills over the years, but never exhibited them in any exhibitions in the USA so I thought it was time that I made a special set for this interesting exhibition.
I was really pleased with how they came out, with the pyrographed artichoke leaves and new purple texture on the tops to represent the flowers, and so I went on to also use the inspiration to make a new coleopteran pendant too!
The show will travel to three venues:
Appalachian Center for Craft (ACC), Smithville, TN, January 15- March 12, 2018
AAW Gallery of Wood Art, St. Paul, MN, June 3-July 29, 2018
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Gatlinburg, TN, August 10-October 10, 2018 (exact dates to be finalized.)
Helen, Dilys, Dawn,Stephen and Emmi talking about drilling
Stephen’s homemade hole-punching jigs
South entrance of Plas Tan y Bwlch
Emmi, Sue, Dilys, Chris, Helen and Stephen
Copper, silver and unknown stone pendant
View over the valley at the front of Pas Tan y Bwch
Stephen, Chris, Sue, Dawn and Helen
I’ve just come back from a fun weekend, taking part in a jewellery course at Plas Tan y Bwlch – the beautiful Snowdonia National Park Environmental Studies Centre with stunning views of the valley of the River Dwyryd. (click on Plas Tan y Bwlch for more information about other interesting course that they have there)
Run by Stephen O’Keeffe it was a great way of recapping many basic jewellery skills that I’d learnt many years ago at Brighton Uni as well as some new techniques that I was very keen to learn about, such as setting stones. Stephen, with his years of experience teaching jewellery making gave us many useful tips to make things easier and was also great at showing us how to make many special jigs and tools to help keep our budgets down. Working on a number of projects, I got to set my first cabachon – a skill that I’m excited about being able to use in my one off pieces in the future.
The nine of us on the course were lucky to be doing it in the wood panelled library – a fine space with beautiful views. The tables were a little bit wobbly to be hammering on but we managed ok!
It was great to get out of the workshop for a bit, meet some lovely new people, learn some new things and eat lots of good food. I now feel ready to get back to my orders…almost…
I’ve just returned home after a great week down in London for Wizardry in Wood. Although I hate having to drive in central London it was worth it to catch up with old friends and new at the show at Carpernter’s Hall. It was also really interesting seeing how everyone uses turning in different ways!
I had made a special set of mills for the Open Themed Competition. The theme was celebrating the 350th Anniversary of the Great Fire of London. I’ve always loved the patterns and styles of the black and white Tudor buildings and so I thought it would be fun to make a pair inspired by the Pudding Lane Bakery building where the fire started. I turned the basic shapes and on the bases marked out a design based on the wattle and daub timber framed shop with its tiny glass paned windows and brick herringbone in-fills. I then looked into painting and etching of the period for ideas for the flames which I wanted to have on the tops. I found a great etching from a book about the Great Fire by Samuel Rolle, written in 1667. I loved the rolling smoke and simple flames in the image and used this as inspiration, and used acrylic modelling paste to create extra texture in the flames and many layers of acrylic paint for the flames.
I was really pleased with the result – so different from my other work and I was very happy to win first prize when there was very stiff competition! Many thanks to the judges and to both of the Sheriffs of London who purchased sets!
Banner for Wizardry outside Carpenters Hall
Felix Levy Open Competition 1st Andrew Mason 2nd Sally Burnett 3rd Roy Weare