First day of term, trip to Kestle Barton 20/09/13

Time travel!  I just found this unpublished post  from last September and thought I would share it anyway since the day signified the beginning of a path that I am now treading.


Travelled with another’s music in my ears and warmth at my side. Transition.

I always enjoy listening to music that someone else has chosen, all the pressure of choice is taken away leaving only the enjoyment.

This was my first trip to Kestle Barton although some of the other students had been before.  We arrived on foot as the driver of the small coach refused to take us all the way down the road.  Walking through the green leafy tunnel of a lane was hardly a hardship though.  The bands of differing soil layers fascinated me -the steep banks confusingly looked newly channeled through the earth, although the illusion was broken by the various plants that had colonised the layer that suited their appetite.

We saw work by Anthony Bryant and Kaori Homma.  Bryant has turned vessels from green wood, some of which was oak from the estate.  By using an entire section of the tree, Bryant shows the heartwood to be traveling as if through the vessel.  As the green wood shrinks back, the heartwood remains, denser and more prominent than the surrounding soft wood, distorting the regularity of the form.  The walls of the vessels are remarkably thin and even.  They must have sung on the lathe.  Bryant also used some Holly wood which was pale in comparison to the oak.  When we had the chance to handle a damaged piece, i was amazed by how light it seemed and that the relationship to paper can be felt in the hands.  The forms invite touch and once contact is made there is a strong desire to explore the curves, feeling how the prominences fit to the palm of the hand.

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Homma’s work uses the traditional Japanese technique of Aburidashi, producing work influenced by the landscape of Kestle Barton.  The site itself is fifty acres.  Homma makes her marks with acid on paper, then heats the paper over a fire to reveal the image.  I remember this being a technique for sending secret messages when I was younger and the thrill of watching the writing emerge.  Viewed from afar I found Homma’s images to be leafy and serene, almost like a screened window.  Closer viewing somehow revealed a darker side, I saw threatening branches and body parts.


We spent most of our time outside, beginning with an introductory talk.  The gallery used to be a working farm that was split two generations ago, leaving each half unviable.  The buildings, including the old farmhouse have been superbly developed by the owner in conjunction with the conservation architect Alison Bunning and there was as much to enjoy about the building itself as the contents.  It all makes a beautiful sense, from the cob to the galvanised guttering.  Three buildings are used as holiday lets and the majority of the land let for grazing, allowing the ‘other’ half of the farm to become viable once again and giving the gallery financial independence. The owner is motivated by the desire to preserve the farm itself, supporting the arts in the process.

I was given permission to dowse in the meadow, where I found an energy line cutting across the top corner.  I must look this up and see if it is possibly part of the Mary line.  There was such a good feel to the place, augmented by a happy dog and working gardener.  I collected some cups of mud which I hope to provide the beginning of my response to the day.


Since writing this last year I have seen Bryant’s work in the Wills Lane Gallery, St Ives.  He is returning to Kestle Barton this summer with some very different sculpture.images-2






It has been a week since the assessment of my final degree work.  This consisted of two modules.  Negotiated Extended Practice has run since the new year and involved developing work for exhibition at the college’s Arts and Media Summer Show.  Professional Practice has run for the same duration and deals with professional identity, finance, studio practice, career planning and general progression as well as the set-up of the exhibition itself.


I was nervous about the live assessment by a panel of four lecturers, which takes place in each student’s exhibition space.  I felt at the time that the feedback I received was positive, the charred wood being a favorite I think.  Ironically, this is a found piece, the work being the recognition of its potential.  I felt that I was able to be heard about my work and that the assessment panel understood why I had presented the work on display.

One week later however, the conviction I felt about my work and the importance of the making is being overshadowed by   ‘the mark’.  It’s amazing how quickly my attitude can shift.  I have had a difficult year, personally.  Don’t we all?  Life just gets in the way of what we think we need to do sometimes, but just a couple of months ago I made the decision to stay on the course and manage to pass somehow.  I had considering deferring for the year but everyone who knows me well advised me to keep going.  I’m so glad I listened!  So I took the pressure off myself and rather than striving for the best grade of my life, I told myself it would just be enough to pass.  This gave me the space in my mind to start making again -I had become creatively mute and the only work I had made previously reflected this.


You were there in all that I saw.

Stood with one foot in madness, the other in mourning,

My hands became mute

I was blinded by metaphor”

Becoming purposefully creative again was such a great lift.  My work seemed to support me and vice-versa.  I received some very positive feedback during our private view.  This was the first time I had ever made work specifically for exhibition and it was so interesting to hear people’s interpretation of the pieces.  The show has been open to the public for the last week, closing tomorrow.  Almost all my postcards have been taken and lots of business cards too.  This is all fantastic but there’s no more I can do and I so want to do more than just pass.


I think I’m really writing this for anyone who is struggling towards the end of something.  The beginning and the end are always the hardest parts, especially if you are a maker. If you are a creative, and stuck in yourself or holding yourself back,  find some small way to let yourself begin to make again.  Be kind to yourself, if you can, accept some help.  Martin Creed likens the creative process to being sick, vomiting.  Sometimes it’s awful, but then it comes out and you feel better. And now I really understand what Edmund De Waal meant.  Make pots or die.