Year: 2013

The Wrecking Season

Winter is a great time for beachcombing and we spend a lot to time finding our own treasures on local beaches. It’s blowing a hooley this morning, and my first thoughts are always, ‘I wonder what the tide has brought in’

Bude Arts and Music is driven by a local arts lover Anna Worthington  and she brought a great filmmaker to Bude last night for an intimate  film evening. The ‘Wrecking Season’  Filmed in Cornwall by  Jane Darke, a very engaging lady, her story was lovely although very much tinged with sadness by the untimely death of her husband Nick Darke a talented playwright.

Living in a beautiful part of Cornwall, right on the beach they have been avid beachcombers for years.  The gulf stream comes right past our doors and with it brings flotsam from the east coast of America, the carribean and further afield which eventually washes up on our shores. They traced the fishing tags and made contact with their owners to build a story of fishing and friendship right across the Atlantic.

They also found lots of wood, which has always been in short supply in Cornwall because we are not blessed with lots of trees. They and others over the years have creatively used this wood to build sheds, make workbenches and even house extensions.

We are also avid beachcombers and have found many small pieces of interest, but our best find was a ‘chunk’ of very heavy wood. It was dark, had been in the water for some time, dinged and embedded with barnacles and stones.  We dried it out and with help identified it as Jarra wood.

Jarra wood, more properly spelt jarrah, comes from a tree native to southwest Australia. Also called Swan River mahogany and Eucalyptus marginata, this tree grows up to 130 feet high, with a trunk up to 10 feet in diameter. The wood is dense and heavy, bearing a strong resemblance to Honduras mahogany. In North America, jarrah is an exotic wood, used for strong furniture, flooring and other materials requiring durability.

Jarrah is a reddish wood, with pink to dark red sapwood turning brown with age. The heartwood is a dark, rich, brownish red with dark brown radial flick marks. The cut wood may have black streaks. Over time, heartwood turns a rich mahogany shade. This wood has an interlocked or wavy grain and coarse texture. It varies significantly in colour between boards and tends to contain pockets or veins of gum.

 It is considerably harder than most North American and European hardwoods, including oak, at 1290 to 1360, sweet birch, at 1470, and walnut at 1010. Jarrah wood is also harder than many strong tropical woods, such as purpleheart, at 1860, but less dense than mesquite, at 2345 or ebony, at 3220.

So how amazing that it should wash up at Bude and where did it come from? We will never know, but watching last night’s film made us realise that we are part of the band of ‘Wreckers’ and this piece of wood has become an integral part of our home.  A piece that was cut from the middle was also given to friends Pete and Denise who have also used it as a mantelpiece.


The Idea of Stories in Objects and Space in Art

I’ve just finished reading “The Hare with the Amber Eyes” by Edmund De Waal.  A potter by trade, he inherited 264 netsuke. They had been in his family for 150 years and he set out in the book to trace the life of the netsuke and the stories of the Ephrussi family.

One theme from the book is the idea of objects having a life and absorbing stories, loved and handled by unknown people before, journeys as they are bought, sold and travel the world; the fact that many are bought for a reason, a love token, or to make a wedding, a birthday a gift with meaning.  This is very true of the netsuke; small  objects created out of ivory,jade and wood by japanese craftsmen in the 1800’s.

It was a happy coincidence that having just finished the book, there was a BBC ‘Imagine’ programme on Edmund, the story of the netsuke and a his new project ‘Atemwende’.

The new project links his love of poetry and music to pottery. He explored the music of poetry and importance of the breath, the space, the hesitation, the spaces.  Akin to negative space in art, these still moments are so important. and once you are aware of them, very beautiful, meditative.

I’ve been thinking about new ways to make pauses, spaces and silences, where breath is held inside and between each vessel, between the objects and the vitrines, the vitrines and the room. In working with the vessel, working with porcelain, and with colors that express the great history of Oriental ceramics, but also the colors of modernism and minimalism; this seems to be enough material to be getting on with.
—Edmund de Waal

edmund de waal atemwende

I love the installation and you could stand and look at the 3000 little pots each made by Edmund for hours, the eye moving from group to group.  He sees them as an expression of poetry and some of the pieces also as music, but for me it’s about the objects, and particularly about the spaces and the way the objects displace space around them.

There’s a lot more  I could have written here.  The ‘Imagine’ programme might not be available any more, but there is lots of information online  from the Gagosian Gallery in New York and Edmund’s own website here.

All this reminds me of  Allyson Hallett’s poems, ‘The Stone Library’, but I will save that post for another day.

A Visit to Porthmeor Studios, St Ives

Who doesn’t love St Ives! and with the September Festival running with the  studios at Porthmeor Studios open to the public we made a last minute decision to visit.

St Ives is known for its light.. and its very true. It was a morning of low cloud, but the sun was burning through and sparkling on the water

View out of the harbour

View out of the harbour



My other motive for visiting was to see my charity postcard displayed in the St Ives Rotary Club Annual Auction, where my painted card was sat among very prestigious art company.

My Seascape Postcard is in the middle/

My Seascape Postcard is in the middle

Window over Porthmeor Beach from the loft studio

Window over Porthmeor Beach from the loft studio











The studios didn’t disappoint. Run by a charity, The Borlase Smart John Wells Trust, they have been restored beautifully and looking at the photos of how they were, were in dire need of help. Some created from the net lofts, more studios were added on top of the fishermans cellars,  using brick and pipes from mine shafts and huge lengths of timber.

Still keeping their individuality, some now have white painted floorboards, most have enormous woodburners and all have beautiful large windows looking out over Porthmeor Beach from where the clear bright luminous light from the beach can stream in.

For many years it was also the home of the St Ives School of Painting and they now run a very successful calendar of short art courses

With a vibrant history of past artists including Ben Nicholson  Patrick Heron and  Francis Bacon they ooze kudos and style.  With the opportunity to speak with several of the artists, we managed to get a little insight into the thoughts of the abstract artist including Iain Robertson, Gareth Edwards, Sax Impey, Noami Frears, John Emanuel and Felicity Mara.  I loved Felicity’s work. She was working on a piece, inspired by the colours of Bonnard, my favourite impressionist.

John Emanuel was loving the open studios. He is the oldest, longest occupant still resident at the studios, since 1983.  A gentle man with a twinkle in his eye and soft northern accent he gave us a potted history and delved into his plan chests to dig out pieces of work he completed years ago and also quick sketches he loves to do.  He had one of the biggest studios, but with the remodelling it was halved but still remains spacious with new large windows over the entire North Eastern wall over the beach. The original windows blew in and destoyed some his work in a winter storm in 2008 and may have been pivotal in the trust securing the funding to start restoration.

I had never heard of John Emanuel.  He told us he regularly sent work to London and an art dealer and he exhibited all over the country and in St Ives. We were very taken with his work.  He married figurative with landscape, so the two merged, finding human form in the landscape wherever he could.  It’s an idea I played with, but am now thinking I should explore more.

He had a few works for sale dotted around the studio, all telling a story, but Don spotted something in one of the drawers and asked him if it was for sale.  Yes it was… so we bought it.

I did a little research on the web when we got back to the Bed and Breakfast and discovered he was 83!. What a marvellous man. Nothing pretentious or arty, just genuine, modest and a real people person.  I think he would have had more than a few stories to tell.  When we collected the painting, he remembered we were from Bude and wrapped it very carefully, and gave me a lovely wry smile and a kiss on the cheek.

It was a moment and a man who will be remembered always.






Autumn break to Burgau and Aljezur, Western Algarve

Burgau is on the westerly tip of the Algarve, Portugal, away from the high rise tourist spots and expensive restaurants and full of locals and ex pats who are there because it is still unspoilt, but with a vibrant community who keep it going all year round.

The climate is obviously a big attraction and with clear light and blue skies and very warm sunshine, they are already onto a winner.  Combine it with some lovely country drives through eucaylptus and pine forests, orange groves and the best beaches we have ever seen, it is paradise.

Cutting across the southwestern tip, the few roads take you to the surfing beaches of Aljezur.  Accessed down dirt tracks or winding narrow roads through the hills, you suddenly come upon a vista of pure magic, the sea rolling in; and at it’s warmest.

We stayed at a lovely boutique bed and breakfast called Salsalito. Just four rooms in a traditional slightly mexican hacienda style casa with established tropical gardens.  It had been lovingly restored and decorated with years of collecting local artifacts including enormous terracotta olive oil pots which were around the perimeter.

Sally and Ralph Eveleigh were the perfect hosts, happy for us to come and go and use it as our own. Lucky and Noddy, the portuguese dogs were friendly but had nightly conversations with other local hounds.

Obviously local characters with Sally Vincent who owns the Casa  Grande up the road, Sally 1 and Sally 2 were great fun and must have had some amazing times in the past.

Three days we drove up the Aljezur coast to the big open bays of Praia do Amado and Arrifana.  Both different, but great to get some good long surf waves to splash around in. Likened to Cornwall, it might be, but many years ago and much less populated with even nicer beaches.

Even in October, we had temperatures of 28C  and the water at 22C. It was hard to take ourselves away from the coast, but we had two nights slightly inland near Silves.  We drove there through the Monchique Mountains with vistas over the whole of the Algarve coast.

A totally different experience, we stayed with a dutch couple, Karin and Imco  who had turned a derelict farmhouse into a contemporary space near Silves. It had amazing large loft ceilings and the rooms were decorated with oversized furniture, with views  over the lagoon towards the river that comes up from Portimao. At Tapada do Gramacho, I had a fresh pomegranate in my yogurt for breakfast every morning from the tree outside our room and every afternoon, the local farmers herded their goats up the lane and sat in the shade of the pool watching the visitors.  God knows what they thought of it all.

We ate soft curds with chestnuts in a salad, piri piri chicken and slow roast kid with plums and a lovely fig and carob tart in the hills after a steep descent from La Foia the highest point of the Monchiques.

All the villages and towns have a moorish feel with whitewashed low buildings, decorated tiled surfaces on the outside!, large churches and cobbled streets.  Sardines are cooked at lunch and evening in the streets and all the local dogs come out to meet and greet when it cools down.

It was incredibly peaceful everywhere and the portuguese although direct and abrupt in their manner, they are very cool with most of the English if you are gracious enough.  We met one or two absolute ass’s, but also came across lovely people.  It’s the same the world over I guess.

Modern Day Morwenna

One of my ideas for the Cruel and Curious Sea Art Show was to make sure Saint Morwenna had a place. She had and has a great influence hereabouts.

This is my take on Morwenna, bringing her into the 21st century, with a nod towards Russian iconography, painted on wood, adorned with gold leaf. Strong, feminine, compassionate she must have been quite a lady. The swallow on the board often a sailor’s tattoo, represents safe passage home. The yellow flowers are Gorse, which has always been the unofficial emblem for Cornwall.


Morwenna getting a coat of varnish

Morwenna getting a coat of varnish

The daughter of the a welsh king Brychan and sister to Saint Nectan, Morwenna is said to have built the church at Morwenstow for the local people, carrying stone on her head from beneath Hennacliff circa 500 AD.

Even in the sixth century summers, the water must have looked very tempting and I really want to believe Saint Morwenna enjoyed it as much as the rest of us.

Here she is finished and displayed. I found an old reclaimed salvaged garden metal plant hanger which sets her off perfectly.  It doesn’t really show here, but the LED’s showed off the gold leaf a treat.

Modern Morwenna complete with lighting.

Modern Morwenna complete with lighting.

I think she would have greatly appreciated this film made by Lee Robertson for the Cruel and Curious Sea, projected onto the wall of the shippon with music created specially by  Jack Bessant