Hopton Wood limestone bird

I have been working on a small sculpture this week, made from Hopton Wood limestone from Derbyshire. It is quite a hard material (which is good thing!) this enabled me to make some of the features quite thin and delicate such as the beak and tail, this would have been very risky in a softer stone. The rest of the sculpture I wanted to keep simple and bold, and allowing the beauty of the material to come through, with its fossils and beautiful tight-grained surface. It is about 20cm long. standing on an oak column, and will ultimately be installed in Liverpool University. I hope you like it!!

birdy4 birdy7 birdy21birdy14 birdy15  birdy16 birdy17 birdy19

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Kilkenny limestone sculpture

The stone is finally ready for collection. Dan and I have been working all hours to get this finished. Kilkenny stone is amazing stuff…..it’s hard, there is no easy way to polish it, every grade of paper needs doing thoroughly. The top half is polished, the bottom chiselled with a claw tool. It’s quite effective, the contrast is very strong.

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Kilkenny sculpture update

After hours of cutting, grinding and rubbing……I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having the stone stood up enabled me to walk around it and get the shape working from every angle. Also I was able to draw on the flowing line where the polished upper surface will meet the claw chiselled lower surface. Now the stone has to be laid down again to help me work the lower surface.

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some recent memorials

I have been installing a few stones recently, trying to beat the frosts! We just got back from St Andrew’s (Scotland) on Wednesday, and have installed two in Norfolk and one near Hull recently. Here are a few pictures. Three of them are York stone, and the paler one (pictured first), which is now in St Andrew’s cemetery, is a stone called ‘Moleanos’ an attractive limestone from Portugal. It’s very hard! It took us by surprise how hard it is. I had a sample sent before ordering it and it seemed very similar to Hopton Wood limestone from Derbyshire, and also a little like Nabresina limestone from Italy/Croatia. It seems harder than both when you start working it though. The design was a joint effort, working closely with the family, and my job was to make an interpretation that would work in stone.

McLelland2McLelland detail3 McLelland detail4 McLelland detail5

This next stone is in Burnham Norton, North Norfolk, a good example of how keeping it simple and having generous spacing and larger letters can be very pleasing. John, or JMW Thompson as he signed himself, was editor of the daily telegraph for 10 years, and the use of a 17th century letterform was a reference to this. He was also a Yorkshireman, so the stone (material) chose itself!


This next stone is near Hull……..carved on both sides, with both raised and incised elements.

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Here’s another York stone memorial, this time in Blakeney. This stone was to a botanist, who specialised in palmate leaves, among other things

white2 white detail

While I was in Blakeney I saw another stone I put in recently……..Westmorland slate

johnsonjohnsonbkjohnson spiral

This next stone is in a village churchyard near Swaffham……Toby was an avid reader, and lillies were a favourite flower.

harthart lilieshart book1 hart copperplate

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Kilkenny sculpture taking shape

I’ve been working on the shape of this sculpture some more, and the basic form is coming together. I’ve drilled and pinned the bottom, so I can work on it upright now, and walk around it. It’s the only way to get the shape looking good from every angle. Easier said than done! Looking forward to tomorrow……..the shape is still not quite right in places and getting into the hole and making that a nice shape is awkward. Kilkenny stone is very hard, and therefore there are no shortcuts!!

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To Hull and back……..ish

Dan my assistant and I left Aylsham at 6am this morning and drove over the Humber bridge to Holmpton, near Withernsea (near Hull). We were delivering and installing a York stone memorial. Here it is:

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Kilkenny limestone sculpture………………phase 2

Welcome!! Well, here’s the next instalment of the making of the sculpture mentioned in the previous blog. kk1I have been working on this over the last two weeks. As I said in the previous blog, it has become necessary to work the shape with the stone lying down, especially as I want the stone to be rounded at the bottom, so it appears to be balanced on the ground. This obviously cannot be done with the stone standing up. It is easier to work it in this way, as I can walk around the form, and get a good and safe working height on my scissor-lift table, which can be adjusted to a good height. This table will lift 1000kg, the stone was 750kg as a rectangular block, and will end up being around 500kg approximately. After cutting the angled sections off and pitching and cutting to the initial outline, and working the hole roughly, the next stage is working around the form cutting rough chamfers and ‘finding’ the shape. I want the shape to flow nicely from every angle, and yet not be predictably rounded. I want some asymmetry and a sense of tension and contortion in the form, so some ‘planes’ are rounded more than others, some of the curves are more flattened and compressed and some more rounded and generous. So I am basically walking round and round the table, cutting and grinding until I’m happy with the flow of the form. It is still early days, and I will turn the stone over tomorrow morning to work the other side and get the shape as a whole roughed out. I am thinking of making the two sides different, and one face will be purely rounded, and the other will have a chamfered element around the hole to add some more texture to the piece, and to make the stone different on both sides. We are planning to install the stone on a single pin so it can be rotated. I am aiming for the finished piece to be tactile (please do touch the sculpture!) and visually interesting. To be experienced with the eyes and then with the hands. There will be polished darker elements, paler claw-tooled sections, a carved chamfer with bold flat bolster chiselling. So lots of surfaces to explore. I’m very texture conscious in my work. I see an area of carved lettering as a texture in the same way as I see a chiselled surface. It’s all to do with rhythm and spacing, lettering and tool marks. I often think letters are like objects, with their own sense of gravity or magnetism, and this is how I think of them when trying to space letters evenly: I imagine they are individual magnets – and they need to pull evenly across the page or stone or they will start to draw the eye, and slide towards each other. Spacing is definitely a dark art, and for me I’d rather see good letters well spaced than beautiful letters bad lyspaced (:-0) I can get quite irritated by bads pacing!!

ANYWAY there’s no lettering on this so I’ll move on (!) This sort of sculpture is like a letter in a way (oh no back to lettering again, he’s going to start moaning about the overuse of comic sans soon………..) in that I’m looking at it like a letter, it has outline, a counter shape (a hole – like ABDOPR etc) it needs to balance and be upright, and the outline needs to relate to the hole, the proportions need to work together, there needs to be balance. That is what I’m thinking as I draw letters too, Drawing a good O for example is tricky because as you adjust the outline, the counter shape (or inner line) is affected, you can keep changing these and literally find yourself going round in circles. Time for more pictures, less talk!!

, and machinedkk5 kk4 kk2 kk1kk3 kk10kk9 kk6 kk7 kk8

These surfaces are still rough and machined, and will be worked more later, to acheive a smooth surface. This will be done with a combination of diamond cup wheels, spiracut semi-flexible silicone carbide discs, then round velcro sanding discs, and finally wet and dry sandpaper, sanded by hand, to get all the kinks and grooves out from the grinder stages. This is a lot of work, as this stone is so hard, like granite. It is unlike ‘normal’ limestone such as Portland stone or Bath stone. These would be so quick to work in comparison, but not weather very well ultimately.

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