An apocalyptic vision in response to the environmental problems that are tipping our fragile eco-system.
An apocalyptic vision in response to the environmental problems that are tipping our fragile eco-system.
For the last couple of months I have been working on a commission in the other hours between making new pieces of jewellery, Christmas craft markets, packaging sales online and celebrating.
I was asked to make a mosaic for an outdoor wall based on my customer’s family and wife’s families coat of arms. He sent me photos of the arms by the Herald of old Graubuenden, Marco Foppoli. His arms being on the left and his wife’s on the right.
My customer also sent me a picture of a Christmas card designed for them by Marco that was inspired by old sgraffito decorations of the Rhaetia mountains.
I was allowed to have a certain amount of artistic licence without changing the images so much that they were no longer their family coat of arms. So my proposed design was very close to the Christmas card but simplified. I chose to make a winter and summer alpine willow tree and to let the leaves from the summer tree blow across the hare’s feet as well as merge the backgrounds of both families to symbolise their union.
I made it in sections on mesh and indirect and worked the backgrounds and border direct.
Coat of Arms Mosaic for outdoor wall approx 1metre x 85cm made with stained glass, iridescent stained glass, glass tile and vintage tiles from Marble Mosaic Company once based in Weston-Super-Mare!
You might remember last year I made some gilded glass brooches, bees (Bah Humbug Bees) and fish (Fish for Funky Punks). They were sold so quickly from various outlets, so this year I thought I would make some more. This time I have redesigned them so they are more refined and they are made of acrylic instead of glass. The acrylic is etched so I can fill in the lines to represent the grout lines, and like the glass ones they are gilded using variegated metal leaf.
I have also made some more golden leaf coasters, these are gilded glass on wood. These have also been refined by making them on a thinner plywood with a felt fabric underneath, now perfect for any table!
You can purchase all these items online from my Folksy shop (or click the pics) or from the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen’s new shop in Wells and from Somerset Crafts Gallery, Avalon Marshes Centre, Westhay.
If you read the last 2 posts you will have some insight into the sculpture I am making for an exhibition at Delamore House, Devon in May. In response to the very sad and destructive fungal disease causing ash dieback, I have now finished my “remembrance” sculpture/seat. It retraces the path back to the Viking age telling the story of Yggdrasill (the ash tree) from Nordic Mythology.
(Don’t be alarmed at the yellow stain on the wood where I spilled some cement colour!)
You may wonder what the hole in the top is for ……………………
Go on then ……I wonder , wonder , wonder …maybe it’s for an ash tray? Ha, ha ha!!!
No, not an ash tray, a nest. You have to imagine that the ash tree trunk has rotted inside and a bird has made its nest in it. (Yggdrasill really was rotting inside , and the ash fungal disease if allowed to take its course would eventually rot the inside of the tree).
I made the nest using a structure of chicken wire and mesh :
Then I sandwiched it in between the wood and cement board fixing the wire edges to the board with tacks:
Then I could begin the mosaic on the top of the sculpture.
And finally this is what it looks like:
Here is Yggdrasill, like a golden shadow, an echo of the past, always remember and cherish the ash!
In detail –
This is Ratatosk, the squirrel who runs up and down the trunk carrying gossip and insults between the dragon Nidhogg and the Great Eagle at the top of the tree. (if you remember Nidhogg was in my last post at the bottom of the third root to Niflheim)
And this is the Great Eagle who has a raven (some versions of the story say a hawk) in it’s brow:
Ash dieback rings alarm bells when we think that we may lose “The World Tree” . Just like many religious apocalyptic stories, a final battle to end the world takes place. In Norse mythology Ragnarok is the final event, also known as the doom of the gods, darkness, and sometimes as twilight of the gods.
At Ragnarok the sun and the moon are eaten by the wolf, Fenrir (fathered by Loki); the Midgard Serpent writhes in fury its monstrous body over the land, while the sea advances bringing with it the ship Naglfar which is made from the nails of dead men. The sky splits apart and the fires of Surt and the other sons of Muspell ride in……
But like all good endings there is always a new beginning – a Creation Myth ……..
During the battle two people have hid themselves inside the ash tree. Their names are Lif (Life) and Leifthrasir (Life Yearner) . The tree must have looked like this one:
In my sculpture I made 2 eggs for the nest, they represent these two survivors, the beginning of something new:
Thank you for reading
I took lots of photos of the ash tree bark and chose the tiles I would use, which included some recycled floor tiles that have been in a dark corner of my garden for years and some of my own hand-made stoneware tiles.
I studied photos of Viking standing stones from Scandinavia and I wanted to copy the style of the naive pictures that were carved into the stones. (Not difficult for me as my style is already quite naive!)
I drew a picture of the 3 roots of Yggdrasill:
and mosaiced the design onto the side of the tree:
The first root leads to Asgard, the realm of the Norse Gods. Under the well of Urd live the three Norns – “Fate” (Urd), “Being” (Skuld) and “Necessity” (Verdandi). They nourish Yggdrasil by sprinkling wet clay and water around the roots:
The second root leads to Jotunheim, realm of the frost giants, under which the bubbling spring of Mimir lies. Wise Mimir’s head was cut off by the Vanir and Odin set it here. To gain knowledge, Odin gives one of his own eyes for a sip from the spring. Here also lies Heimdall’s horn for the time when he needs it at Ragmarok. Heimdall is the watchman of the Gods, and a son of 9 sisters:
I made Odin’s eye by fusing glass in my microwave kiln.
And the third root delves down into the realm of Niflheim where the spring of Hvergelmir lies and the dragon Nidhogg. Nidhogg rips open corpses, and with many other serpents he gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasill:
I used a deep copper gold stoneware tile that I made several years ago for the roots.
Having sought scholarIy advice from several professors in Nordic studies, I decided to use the “Elder Futhark” runic language for the inscription. This language would have been used from the 2nd century AD to about the 8th Century AD after which the Younger Futhark was developed. The runes mean “Unna Yggdrasill” which roughly translated is Old Norse for “Cherish the Ash“. I have used a bit of artistic licence in using the Elder Futhark, as Old Norse actually corresponds with the Younger Futhark. However I found the Younger Futhark alphabet more difficult to use as it is shortened and not all the letters have a corresponding rune; several letters are shared with one rune. The Elder Futhark language corresponds with Proto-Norse and Proto-Germanic which is an older language than Old Norse but not much different, and as some of the Norse myths are passed down from an older time I felt that perhaps I wasn’t serving it too much injustice!
As if carved into the bark, the runes are made by leaving spaces within the tiles and then grouted with red coloured grout. Originally the carved runes on Viking standing stones were painted with a red pigment.
You read the runes from a clockwise direction and tilt your head so they are like this:
The 4 stags, “Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr and Durathror are nourished by eating Yggdrasill’s new leaves.
I used some more of my tiles I had made several years ago; an earthy green stoneware tile with rusty edges and patches. It was perfect to describe the lichen on the tree. And a brown green stoneware tile with a slight shine on the surface that I used as part of the bark:
It’s interesting to think that the inscriptions on the Viking Age old standing stones were a form of graffiti. Many of them were memorials raised in memory of the deceased and often with the name or initials of the rune master. The drawings depicted Viking myths.
On my ash tree trunk there is a bit of bark that has been stripped off, that probably seared off when it was cut down, and the fresh wood has been inscribed with some modern graffiti …… and just as the inscriptions of the standing stones would have had – the artists initials!
Come back soon and see the final part of Yggdrasill – the top of the sculpture!
Yesterday was the swan launch for the Swans of Wells public art project. 20 of the 60 swans were flown in and they settled down on the Cathedral Green while us artists and passers-by mingled and wilted in the heat of the late morning sun. Photographers and TV reporters came and went and after a couple of hours of this my skin scorched and my throat dry from dehydration and too much talking, we were refreshed with a “light lunch” in the Swan Hotel. My swan wasn’t in the flock, but I was assured that it was on it’s way to being installed in the market square.
Today was another busy day as I set out to the Bishops Palace moat walk to do a little “conservation” work on the Worminster Dragon Mosaic. The Dragon Mosaic was made with 6 schools and community groups and installed in 2002. It had a few tiles come astray either through wear and tear or vandalism. It also needed a good clean-up and fresh grout applied to areas where the rain had eaten away the concrete.
Now it looks good again…
I sent Ian off into town to see if my swan, Odile, had been installed. It had and he took this shot of it.
There’s another photo on his flickr page with a joke caption here
I was left with my “quick snaps” camera , I usually use Ian’s camera for higher quality shots, but he won’t let me have it any more because I keep forgetting to change the settings back … he says “never lend an artist anything” (does this sound familiar?)
So I got some “not quite so good” photos…
I was annoyed with that white van because I wanted a clear shot with the cathedral in the background! I’ll have to try another day.
What I like about Odile is that she is quite subtle, from a distance she almost fades away into the background, quite different from my lion last year!
The Swans of Wells will be on the streets until September before being auctioned. Net profits from the event will be donated to local Wells charities. Come see them if you are near or far!
More details about the project: www.swansofwells.com
The final days of “swanning” were long and arduous, day became night and night became day, I was losing sight of reality, I wondered if there was life outside my shed!
I emerged hungry and tired, in need of refreshment…
A name has chosen by my sponsor – “Odile” – The Black Swan from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. At first I thought the name was inappropriate as she isn’t wholly a black swan, but when jogging my memory about the story of Swan Lake, I realised that it was a really good name. Odile is the evil twin of the white swan “Odette” and during the ballet she disguises herself as her sister. It’s as if my swan Odile is morphing into Odette!
Here are some pictures of Odile in my garden:
Here’s a video I made earlier called “How to Move a Swan!”
Come back soon when I post some more photos of her in Wells Market Square.