Kilkenny limestone water feature

I recently made this piece for a private garden in Norfolk.

The client saw my work in an exhibition in Houghton Hall, run by Norfolk by Design. The process of making such a piece is very laborious, as the stone is really hard. This makes is more rewarding in a way, and the hardness of the material is beneficial in terms of durability and frost resistance. It also me and the material can be polished to give very different surface tones and texture, which is something I like to explore. Here are a few images of the various stages. Special thanks to my assistant Dan Meek for his expertise (see video at the bottom) and our local hero Steve Cooke of A&B Clark, whose expertise with moving stone is invaluable.

Kilkenny limestone in situ

Back in December I wrote a blog about this sculpture made using kilkenny limestone. Well I now have pictures of it in situ thanks to my client. I made a similar sculpture over 10 years ago which was in the same material (see bottom image), but quite different in that it is well grounded and bottom heavy. This is obviously more top heavy. I wanted to push this idea and make something that looked poised, or as if it were balancing. Then we had the idea of having it installed in a sleeve so it can be rotated. The client is an engineer/builder so he did a lot of the work on this, and installed the stone himslef using block and tackle and scaffolding. He tells me it can be turned using one finger! I love the idea of it being both solid and movable. It is a very tactile piece with polished areas and rough clawed surfaces. It is also fun for the kids!

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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!!

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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.