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!

thompson

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

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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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Kilkenny limestone sculpture………………phase 1

hello again! I thought I’d make a record of the design and making of a sculpture, from initial sketches to finished piece. It’s early days……….this is the first instalment. I made a similar piece about 12 years ago, and here’s a picture of that one:

kilkenny stone

Kilkenny limestone sculpture made in 2004

I have been commissioned to make another. Here are my initial sketches for it:

sketchesThe client opted for the second of these, and I have been working on it recently. The darker areas will be polished, and the lighter shades represent a chiselled surface, which is a mid-grey colour. This finish will be created with a ‘claw chisel’ which is a chisel with a series of ‘teeth’ a bit like a comb. The stone will be shaped using angle grinders (diamond blades) diamond ‘cup wheels’ and hammer, pitcher, punch and chisels, and then finally polished with velcro sanding discs on a grinder/polisher. The stone is unusual for a limestone in that when polished the main material turns almost black, and then the fossils (mainly crinoids) within the stone show as paler elements:

kilkenny 2So I ordered a slab of Kilkenny blue limestone from Feelystone (good name that) in Ireland and it was delivered about 3 weeks ago. Kilkenny stone is a carboniferous limestone, sedimentary, formed about 370, 000, 000 years ago. The block was 1200mm x 650mm x 350mm, and weighed in at 750kg. Below are a few pictures of the progress so far. I shaped as much of the top as I could with the stone upright, but it became difficult to successfully work the chamfers (angled cuts) around the form, so I will now work the main shape with the stone horizontal in order to get better flow around the whole of the shape. The curved outline needs to flow naturally right around the shape. I will now do most of the work with the stone flat, but will drill a hole in the bottom so I can finally stand it up and finish it off with the stone standing (poised, balancing on a stainless steel pin) to ensure the shapes flow from every angle. Then I can add the polished and rougher elements. The client and I have discussed the rather exciting idea of having the stone balanced on a single dowel, in such a way as it can be rotated. WATCH THIS SPACE for more pictures.

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oh, and by the way! In case you’re wondering about my health and safety procedure check out this lovely selfie: (lol, as one says these days)

dusty me

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Wymondham Abbey plaque……..continued

Well I was up early to check the size on the plaque mentioned in the last post. The size (or glue) was 12 hour, and when I checked it at 10 hours it was ready to go. Humidity and room temperatures make the timing a little unpredictable with gilding. If you put the gold on too early it wrinkles up and looks awful, put it on too late and it won’t stick. The trick to it is to check regularly, and put plenty of test patches on as you go. Then to check the size, you lightly press your knuckle or finger joint on the test patch, and lift, listening carefully. If it’s not ready you’ll lift off and feel a stringiness and stickiness, but no noise, if it’s good to go then you’ll hear a definite click as you lift off, and if you’re too late then you’ll get nothing……….and you’ll have to put another coat on. So here are some pictures of working towards the finished piece. The plaque will be blessed on September 14th and then installed once the building work is finished. Then I can photograph it in situ……….in about 18 months time.

gilding1 gilding2wymondham det2 wymondham det1  wymondham det3 wymondham 1

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Wymondham Abbey plaque

I have been working on a plaque for Wymondham Abbey, this will be like a foundation stone, albeit applied after the building is finished, in about 18 months time. The stone is Westmorland slate, from Honister mine. I’ve taken a few pictures to show the stages of painting and gilding it. I’m putting the gold leaf on tomorrow morning and will show final pictures tomorrow. So the paint is flooded into the lettering and then sanded back afterwards. This is the quickest and most successful way of ensuring full coverage. See below. The sanding with wet and dry paper is really exciting, seeing the lettering emerge. The last picture shows the gold size, and the leaf will be applied in the morning. Thanks for looking.

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