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.

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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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Slate guardians

I’ve just completed a commission for three sculptures for a local garden. They are slate, and will be placed in the garden so as to break up the space visually. I hope you like them 😊

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old stone working machinery

We’re working away in Dewsbury this week, lettercutting some kerb stones for a garden of remembrance in Dalton Churchyard (see the main carving panels here). We are using workshop space in Calder Masonry stone yard, rather than transport everything twice. In the room we are in are some beautiful old stone lathes…………..just look at these, awesome. Made to withstand some serious pressure, and with lovely old paintwork and lettering. These are just like sculptures to my eye.

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Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital stone finally installed

hospital seat collage HOORAY!! This stone has taken a while to ‘realise’ from selection interview in November 2011 to installation today. We had an early start this morning as we had to avoid traffic and Hospital activity as much as possible and agreed to arrive on site at 5am to cause as little disruption as possible. This meant the crane arriving at my workshop at 4am this morning, so alarm set for 3.30am…….

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…..then we made the lift and with a bit of fiddling about getting it in exactly the right position, (and trying to get the straps out!) the job was done it a matter of minutes. It feels like the end of an era! The stone has been sat outside my workshop for over 2 years, I’ve enjoyed having it around and watching the light play on it and seeing it change in different conditions. I really hope that this piece is well used as a resting place and that people stop and touch it and enjoy it. While making this piece I was keen to create a textural piece, hopefully a therapeutic object with a grounding influence within this clinical setting with its angular architecture and hard lines. I hope that it draws people in and makes them want to touch and explore the different surfaces; the natural facets, the honed smooth areas and the claw-tooled and punched elements, as well as the carved surfaces. You will notice that on both of the smaller sides there is evidence of the quarrying of the block, you can still see that two of the drill holes are there which are how the block is split in the quarry; a series of holes are drilled in a line and then wedges called ‘plugs and feathers’ are hammered in in sequence until the block splits. I wanted to leave these in as they tell part of the story of the block. This sculpture was commissioned by The Hospital Arts Project and The Organ Donation Department (not using public money, but funded by private individuals). It was important to reflect the theme of organ donation in the words. It was difficult to find some text that seemed appropriate but then I had the idea of using wording inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’. The material is York stone (Woodkirk stone) and it weighs 3.4 tonnes. Thanks to RJ Crane hire for the lifting.

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a few close-ups follow……………….

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Hospital stone finally moving………..well on Monday

We had a little trial lift of the stone I made for Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital today. The stone is being transported on Monday morning (4am !) early in order to avoid busier times on site. I took a few snaps today on my phone. It turns out the stone that I thought was around 2.4 tonnes was in fact 3.4 tonnes. I am very excited about seeing it finally in place, and not outside my workshop where it seemed to be taking root. See the following pictures. I think on Monday I’ll take more….. maybe a video would be fun! The crane was really impressive!!

hospital crane3 hospital crane2 hospital crane1

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Norfolk Granite! and some other local stones

I recently met a local chap who told me he had a boulder he wanted me to carve. I’ve been working on it today. “Where did he get it from?” Oh, I’m glad you asked me that. Well, he told me that an 18 year old farm worker Brian Sarsby was ploughing a field near Banningham, when there was a bang and his tractor came to a sudden stop. He’d bent a plough-share on a substantial lump of rock in the ground. I know that farm worker and he’s 81 now. The stone was removed from the field and ended up outside a house in Colby. It looks to me like granite, and I’d suggest it is a glacial boulder. There are pictures at the bottom of this post.

Norfolk has no natural stone for carving. We have flint such as was quarried in Grimes Graves (below) and other places. CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE


Then there is Carrstone, a rough sandstone or iron stone (also known as Silsoe or gingerbread!) quarried near Snettisham and used a lot for walling in that area, with brick quoins. It comes in two variants; a rusty red and a ‘silver’ variety. There’s some chalk too. So nothing for me to get excited about. I have cut a letter in flint and it is possible but not much fun. Here’s a picture of the strata in Hunstanton:


Generally speaking the further West you go in the UK the older the stone is. Guess I’m in the wrong county then…..BUT now I have a source of stone I can carve…..Norfolk Granite! I’m not a big fan of granite but it is ok. My previous blog featured a massive 7 tonne boulder which I carved with my assistant Dan. This one (below) is a lot smaller! I am being quite free with the lettering on this, sketching it out roughly and forming the letters as I go, the client just said go for it, ‘just do it’. This means letter shapes and spacing need to be refined as it progresses, and the weight and depth of the letters are done in an intuitive way – what looks right to me. There are one or two flaws in the stone so I had to set it out with this in mind. It has a kind of soft crust and then it gets HARD as you cut deeper. I will wash it down after carving, and then assess if it needs some paint in the letters. Often when the dust is washed out of the lettering there is not enough contrast or shadow, despite carving VERY DEEP. Also it does need to function as a sign, and needs to be noticed. It’s about 70cm wide I guess. CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE, bye for now!!



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