This year for Devon Open Studios I decided to have a change of scene and participate in a couple of sculpture trails. As a result, Yarner Wood has been the main focus of my work for a while now, its a English Nature reserve outside Bovey Tracey on the edge of Dartmoor and is being restored to a Western Oak Wood. The theme of the trail is man’s relationship with the environment and I have taken the history of the wood as inspiration for my pieces which combine cross sections of tree trunk from Yarner Wood (48ish year old Douglas Fir) with fused and mosaic glass. Speaking to the staff at the woods gave me the idea of the wood being at the heart of all the human activity in the woods and in turn human activity having shaped the woods use and appearance. This is turn led to the idea of taking the core, or heart out of the discs of wood and fill them with glass pieces; the juxtaposition of the natural wood and the very modern man made glass is very appealing to me. There are 10 artists exhibiting on this fabulous trail from conceptual to sound artists and everything in between and I am very excited to be part of such an interesting project.
I picked the tree trunk up in 3 and 6 inch cross sections, with quite a lot of wild life attached and I must confess it was a bit daunting….but then my ever useful Dad arrived and cut all the central cores out of the slabs of wood, many thanks to him, I would never get any sculptures made without his patience! Each of the sculptures is cast to the size of the individual holes and are made from recycled waste glass. This series of sculptures is my largest series of sculptures to date and I am very pleased with the results.
The first piece on the trail is my take on the age old Green Man ‘Welcome to the Woods’, it is right at the start of the trail and is there to welcome people to the woods, reflecting man’s symbiotic relationship with nature and the timeless cycle of life. The first firing of this piece cast all the scraps of clear, green and yellow glass into a disc shape, then I painted the design on and fired it again.
Becoming Autumn is the second piece on the trail. Again I used recycled waste glass (this time Spectrum 96 series), and depicted oak leaves changing colour as the season changes. The trail starts at the beginning of autumn and it seemed like a great reflection of human enjoyment of nature for leisure, a very modern use of the natural environment!
My third piece on the trail is also inspired by the modern use of woodland for peace and reflection. ‘ Looking up at Mountain Ash’ takes inspiration from the wonderful Rowan trees in the wood and the simple pleasure of looking up at the shapes and light of the woodland. As with the previous piece this one is fused with small scraps of Spectrum 96 glass. While I was installing this piece I had a fabulous interaction with a young male deer (whose antlers were still small and fuzzy) who came bounding through the wood, regarded me and then turned and bounded on through the undergrowth.
The wood has not always been a tranquil retreat from the pressures of modern life and 150 years ago a very active copper mine was on the site, lots of charcoal burning and the lord of the manor owned the area and exercised his horses on the wood. The next piece ‘Copper Blue’ riffs on this history, the blue glass is copper bearing and the cast disc has copper sheet inclusions and is hung between two fence posts, a prolific sign of how humans have shaped the wood!
In World War II the wood was earmarked to be cut down to assist with timber for the war effort, however, when a German bomber discharged his last bombs after a raid on Plymouth (in order to get home faster) the wood was hit and many of the trees then grew twisted and damaged, no good for timber manufacturing. This has inspired the next piece ‘The Bomb that Saved the Wood’. Here 2 pieces hang one above the other. The top one has 2 discs of glass within it to give a sense of depth and fire and the one below has a fun Pop Art feel with the word BANG painted across it.
The trail now turns a corner and the piece of the woodland really encompasses you, this is where I have placed my last hollowed wood piece, ‘Tranquil’. I have used various pieces of blue and sea green scrap glass to create the disc and then cast a separate acorns and oak leaves from crushed cast glass which have then be attached to the disc.
I continued with cast glass objects for the next piece, ‘Which came first?’. Here I have mosaic waste white and cream scraps of glass to the shape of the central core of the wood, which is happily egg shaped and then attached my cast glass bird. I am very pleased with both my cast pieces and this is a skill I am very much still learning this complicated area of glass art!
My final serious sculpture on the trail is ‘Cogs’ made to express how we are all part of the great machine of life I have taken 3 of the cores my Dad removed from the wood and created different coloured bands which match up with the tree rings below.
All this serious art work is all well and good, but we all need a bit of fun and to add this to my trail I have made a child side bird house from recycled marine ply, which I got from the fabulous Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Permanent markers will be available for visitors to decorate the bird house as the pass it and lots of colourful material will be inside for children to make their own birds nest.
The trail opens on Saturday 7th September and is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until the 22nd September, refreshments are available in the woodland centre and the trail is free and only 2.5 km, so a child friendly distance! click on the link for more details http://www.artecology.co.uk/page2.php
Our preview is Saturday 7th September and all the artists will be on hand to talk about their work and show people round the trail.