Sunday, 30 October 2016

Moving the stones

After getting everything going yesterday we have discovered that we were put in the wrong place.
So it's all change, luckily Rebecca was here to help me lift the stones up and down. The benches weren't too difficult to move, just unwieldy.

No young ones turned up for the morning lesson which was a bit of a shame but also really useful.
Heras fencing was put up for us by a very nice as well as helpful man, and we covered it in tarps to prevent the stone pieces flying out of our compound.

our sculpture compound

Move over and this site is much better, for light and the fact that we can be seen by passers by. The idea is to get the community interested in the project because it's about their area, Broomhill.

The ideas that appeared this morning from the homework I set yesterday are inspiring. I really enjoyed hearing the stories from everyone about this area, where their parents/grandparents had worked, what it was like, and who had actually lived in the flats that are being demolished.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Broomhill, Greenock

As said in last post, here are some images and writings about my time in Greenock.

The benches were already when I'd arrived the day before and the stone was sitting outside waiting patiently, luckily Karen had brought along a trolley. Got some of the stones into place with the trolley and a judicious use of palettes to raise them to a better level and then had some help lifting them onto the benches from our photographer, Chris.

Mornings were with the younger members of the community, unfortunately only one girl turned up on day 1 but she got the hang of the tools very quickly with the file being a favourite.

Afternoon, and the adults got their turn.
The first day was spent getting to know each other and teaching a little about how to use the tools. One of the group already worked with wood so had a bit of a head start with hammer and chisel.

Steps forming

These images show the progress of a couple of the students who had never used hammer and chisel, impressed me. This next one is from the only guy on the course. He had used woodworking tools previously. 

It was a great beginning and everyone left excited, even though I gave them a little homework which was to bring back images that they'd like to use on the stone. 

beginnings of the bell

After all had left, I got to work on one of the stones and started it's transformation into a bell.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Artist in Residence - Broomhill, Greenock

A quick post just to let you all know that I had an amazing time in Greenock. The participants in the sculpture course were a delight to teach, adults and children alike.
The course came about because of  Rig Arts ( an award winning socially engaged charity. Their idea is to bring the community together with professional artists in a collaborative way. (Their words) Using any creative means at their disposal.

It has been a pleasure to be a part of this.

More to be added to this post, especially images.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


After Cromarty, I ended up Greenock bound.

Quite a history this place has.

The Tate & Lyle sugar refinery was based here and ran until 1997. It was closed due to high taxes on sugar cane (mostly from the Caribbean) and quotas enforced by the European Union. The quotas were introduced to protect European sugar beet farmers. Between 1941 and 1946 it had to be rebuilt because of bombing damage.

I have shamelessly been checking out wikipedia for some of my information which correlates with other webpages as well as stories from the residents I've spoken feel fairly confidence it is correct.

 image from the Daily Record (online)

Greenock was an important player as a world port. Because of this many manufacturing companies grew up in the surrounding areas. The usual works connected with sailing; sailcloth and rope works, sawmills, then of course there was always a brewery, often a distillery, a pottery, as well as a flax mill and a paper mill. Added to that a large cooper works and a straw hat manufacturer.

All in all a very busy place.

If you are interested, then this webpage will give plenty of information even if a little hard to read.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Saturday - the last day.

Saturday, and feeling a little blue, will miss this.

The usual morning routine but this time I also packed and took stuff to the car - thought I'd remembered everything but of course, forgot the few things I had in the small fridge in studio 2 where I've been chilling' and blogging in the evenings. Ah well, never mind.

Up the hill and straight into .... oops, forgot my glasses!
Back down the hill, drove up, and then straight into cutting, finished that 'B' of mine. I feel a sense of accomplishment because it's looking ok and I can also see where to improve which makes me realise how much I've achieved.

Here it is in all its glory. Difficult to tell the size from the photo but it is in fact 10cm high.

Moving on - now to do an 'E'.

Thins first and watching the angle

Excitement is the sentiment at the moment and more confidence as I scratch and chop away the sandstone.  Robbie remembered that he'd offered a chance to cut letters into limestone as there are a few pieces here. I jumped at the chance, Lara too.

Quite a different stone altogether. The noise when cutting is like porcelain in a strange way, and a  metallic type of sound. It is a lot softer so having to take much more care.

nearly finished

Talking about taking care - I broke through on the inner apex of the 'A'. After that I made doubly sure I cut straight and chased thoroughly so it wasn't as obvious. (it worked)

Had to have a flourish to end the cutting for the week. Enjoyed it a lot.


Food great!

During the morning, the guys upstairs drawing had had a chat and thought it was a good idea to get Robbie a little thank you in liquid form. Tim went off to do that. 
After lunch, the usual chat was had and then a wee presentation of the malt. Tim had also had a great idea of buying 8 erasers,  which we all put our names on, something to remember us by. Plus there is a lot of rubbing out.

Robbie was tickled with the erasers and chuffed with the whisky.

Back up the hill one last time.

Decided to spend the last of my time drawing out the words I want on the other side of the stone.
No tracing the letters to make it easier to learn the spacing, all my own work apart from I had Robbie's sheet of letters to consult.

Gail, David and another lady from Cromarty Arts Trust came up to see how we were getting on,

We got a certificate!

There was also fizzy or orange juice - most of us were driving so juice it was.
Photos were taken, wee speeches and then it was all over.

Before leaving I got the stone in the car.
Things like this always end strangely, everyone disappearing off back home and knowing that there will be no letter cutting tomorrow. ( got to get my act into gear and sort out an easel for the stone )

Feeling quite sad as I drove off. Will definitely be back to Cromarty though.

Got that Friday feeling!

Yup, we've made it through 4 days and still eager for more. The great company is a good part of that.

No 7am squeak this morning so woke at 7.37 according to my phone.

Fuzzy head and a slow start. A wee bit yoga, a wee bit writing then breakfast. Silly chat, smiles .... and alls well.

Everyone a little tired today. I took my computer to the Stables and showed some of my work - always feels odd to present it even though when others do I'm really interested. Maybe it's that imposter feeling again.

Back to drawing  and kerning today, finished the 'ON' of Morison and moved onto Siobhan. It takes so long to kicker around with the letters - if it's wrong, as Jo says, you can feel it in your gut - an instinctual feeling.

It's peculiar how both parts of my name have 7 letters but they take up different spacing. Which is why, we were told, there is no formula for setting out the letters.

Anyway, my words were perused by Robbie and passed as 'not bad'. High Praise!

Moving onto the big 'B'. 

Scaling up - never spent so much time on one letter - tiny little adjustments and I thought it was ok, then Robbie makes more minor modifications and the area just falls into place -  a wee sparkle of rightness. (correctness - ish) - because of course tomorrow or next week it could changed and still be right.

Ah! uncertainty, but going with the feeling. Control, finess and also emotional content.


OMG - did I eat too much or what! Didn't see a pudding put out so ate what I wanted (well more than I wanted because it was delicious) then out Gail came with the pudding - with hot custard and cream.

Felt obliged, in fact it would have been churlish not to, but boy did I feel tired all afternoon. Fabulous food but I think I need to starve myself for a week.

Stones swopped and finished off my 'C' from yesterday. Then as some of the others had done, I turned the stone upside down so that I could cut more easily.

(am keeping the other side for when I get home)

'B' carbon traced on then I felt really nervous - procrastination set in a little. Wee walk outside to photograph the Stable and Urquhart the Unicorn - as well as the sheep that had escaped from a field a few days ago and have been wandering up and down the road eating grass and becoming less nervous of us lot.

- Finally, bit the bullet - in for the scratch!......
Then nervous again - not sure why the big letter makes me so nervous.

first chop

Went for it and chopped left and right, round the curve - even had to use the big chisel - the width of the chisel has to be slightly wider than the line being cut.

round the curve



Kept at it until we had a short break, a wee talk, with slides, about the history of lettering. From pre-cuneiform, cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greek, Roman and to the Trajan lettering.

Either the chairs were uncomfortable or I was still too full from lunch. The talk was really interesting and makes me want to research more about it.

Back to cutting. 5.15pm, left late and most of the others still behind.
Computer/ photos/ writing /shower, then we left for the Royal Hotel where Innes had booked us a table. A wee saunter down the street, dropped in to pick up Alan on the way and then to the pub. Jo already there.

What a fabulously, enjoyable, funny, silly evening! Life is good.

As a joke, Robbie had said he wanted 500 words on the lettering of The Royal Hotel sign.
On leaving, and before our stroll back up the road, we tore apart the sign. Kerning all over the place and the serifs were too modern.

Hadn't realised how much we had learnt - Happy days.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

4th day - can you see a pattern yet?

Thursday, We're rolling through the week, really glad it's a six day course - enjoying it too much to stop, picking up snippets of stone info from the others too.

Could also get used to this cooked breakfast malarkey - more silly chat, a laugh does start the day off well. 

Up the Stables well before 9.30, but want to get on. A wee talk and handouts about spacing/kerning, then downstairs to cut.

Here I am. Strange seeing myself with glasses.

Today I didn't cut many letters but I took more care over them all and drew them out - well, apart from the 'O' which was from Robbie's cheat sheet - was having problems with curves - the angle wasn't clean and smooth enough inside - so that is my practise today.
Interesting drawing on the stone, took longer but getting easier to see the mistakes - the differences between fat/thin/normal widths, and the curve of those serifs. Also getting a little better with control of the chisel.
Definitely a much slower day.

Today's fun is brought to you by the letter 'Q'.

Drawn out and starting the centre line scratch, then the curves mostly chopped out.


Curves chased out and scratch on the tail then next image shows the tail chopped out.

Here is the'Q' finished along with his friend the 'O'.


Then Robbie suggested we take a look at Hugh Miller's house/museum.

Hugh Miller was a Cromarty lad who, fed up with school went off to apprentice as a stonemason. He was fascinated with fossils and subsequently became a geologist. Two of his books, 'The Old Red Sandstone' and 'My Schools and Schoolmasters' include descriptions of his searches for fossils on the beaches near his home.

One of his phrases that I like very much is, as noted on the webpage above,

“Life itself is a school, and nature always a fresh study.”

Hugh also worked for newspapers and was extremely vocal about arguing against the removal of people from the land to make way for sheep.

He did end up with lung problems from his work as a stonemason so moved on to letter cutting.

During our visit at the museum I noticed that Hugh's son had married a Jane Morison Campbell (nee Buchanan) and their son became Capt. Hugh Morison. Very interesting as it is my surname and Morison with a single letter 'R' is not that common. A story there, I'm sure. On searching the family tree there was also an Ada Mary Morison. Hmm?

I spent a little longer there than expected chatting with Dr Alix Powers-Jones of the National Trust for Scotland. 

I was last up the hill and straight into spacing - very difficult. Getting a sense of it, a feel for the gaps or as Robbie would say, the volume between the letters as if they are 3D which in a sense they are.

Lots of drawing/ rubbing out/ re-drawing/ more rubbing out.... all through the afternoon. Not easy at all but when it's right something clicks into place like a jigsaw piece and then the eye has the pleasure and a feeling of success fills you.

Simple things!

The Stables and Urquhart the Unicorn.

The day went really quickly, more concentrating and feeling tired - it was also colder today.

Down the hill.
Michael wondered if the gate to the tunnel was open so we had to try it - and it was - so of course we had to creep down to the end. Footsteps echoing slightly we came across a log pile, washing machine and then a dog's basket, I looked up and there was a door too - oops - back to the road in a speedy fashion. 
It must have been horrible for the servants in winter - really dark apart from 3 places where the roof opened up to the air with a circular grid in place.

Back at Brewery, and I was standing outside to get a phone signal, quite random here for mobiles, which I quite like in a strange way. Just about to wander off up the beach a bit and another friend rang - perfect timing. Another few steps and I would have been out of signal again. 
Spied a couple of likely stones as I was chatting and put them aside for later.

I went along the beach, jumping from stone to stone as I used to do as a child - great fun.

I can understand why Hugh Miller was fascinated with the stones on the beach...  The rocks are so varied - swirls/ colours/ types - the sea has worn them in wonderful shapes. Couldn't take many photos as phone ran out of battery.

Wandering along in my happy state I happened upon a dead sheep and then felt bad, it had been washed up I think but the blood was really red and fresh so not sure what happened. Mood dropped fast.

Took a different path back, above the beach and focussed on something else which worked after a while.

A similar evening to the rest - food/ blog/ music/ chill then shower/ bed /book.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Third day!

Wednesday morning and the squeaky floorboard alarm woke me at 7am. Yoga, writing and then -

It's lovely being around people during the day - especially morning, kind of changes the rest of the perspective of the rest of the day.

We seem to be eating then going straight up the hill, beautiful sunny mornings and a fresh stillness that can't be beat. A wee chat on the bench outside overlooked by the unicorn then in upstairs to focus on drawing letters. Today I decided to do the ones I want in my final piece, i.e. - 'Time Suspended' - hopefully it will be a good example of what I can do. Enjoying the drawing - hand to eye through the pathways of the brain and small, tiny adjustments until the letter morphs into a balanced and dynamic form. (What I'm aiming for anyway)

We had a tea break today! Quite short though as I wanted to get back to the letters.

- 3 days in and I can see the difference. Each letter takes longer now because I refine them more and am beginning to see where it looks wrong.

Soon enough - lunchtime - a cold buffet today but as usual, very tasty. I even managed to cake, lemon madeira - extremely moist and exceptionally flavoursome.
Bit o' banter over lunch, questions/ chatting then a slow toddle uphillwards.

Stone swop and off again with the dummy and chisel.
It's the turn of 'H' today and I'm taking more care of my serifs (as Lara piped up - 'I shot the Serif')

Pleased with the end result, mainly because the letter was hand drawn to begin with. I can now see how much better it can be - plenty practice ahead.

Robbie allowed us to use his cheat sheet - his drawn letters on tracing paper -  so I went all out and tried an 'R'.  Plenty to think about before tackling that letter - I can tell you.

Where to begin? - joins? - but maybe that lovely sweeping tail? (it was most enjoyable to cut)

Then I decided to draw in my own 'S' to cut - an easy letter, it is not.

I even went over 5pm just to finish it. Keeping the angles right was tricky (didn't quite) but I am pleased with the end result.

We also got shown how to sharpen the chisels today.

Off downhill but I stopped by the small cemetery (also known as the Pirate's Graveyard) I have never seen so many scull and crossbones carved into gravestones in one graveyard. Wow! 
Interesting looking at the lettering - I now have something else to draw my eye.

The light - as seems to be usual - was warming, a nostalgic kind of light, or maybe that's because I was in the cemetery. As it dappled through the trees it seemed timeless - (I know, a few cliches going on here).

To the stables and then I drove back up the hill - new build on top and I thought the road stopped but on hindsight I don't think it did.

Anyway - I drove back the other way which definitely did come to a dead end. Car stopped, parked, locked and off for a wee wander up the hill. - what a view - and that light again - gorgeous shadows in the grass - the head of land opposite was coloured with a redness from the sun.

Back to base with a smile on my face - wee snack and downloading photos, hadn't realised I'd taken so many.

Robbie popped in to see if I was alright on my own and Lara had asked during the day... really nice.

Blog updated - music listened to - snacks eaten, then it was off to bed with my book.