The Relics of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere

As I mentioned in the last post I will be posting fairly regularly in the next few weeks to show you my work for the Glastonbury Abbey exhibition “Traces Revealed”

The inspiration for the pieces I made came from the abbey’s precious relics that were once in abundance in medieval times but then lost or destroyed by the Abbey fire and the reformation. Whilst other abbeys successfully moved their relics to safe houses during the reformation, I found very little evidence or traces about the whereabouts of the Glastonbury Abbey relics, so I wondered if the monks had hidden them to keep them safe. Perhaps in hidden hollows under the Tor.
6 magical birds (double headed eagles) keep guard as ‘guardians of the relics.’ They guard King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s relics, 3 of the abbey’s saint’s relics and a living legend ‘rock star’s’ relics!

The relics are mostly playful analogies, comparing the Catholic tradition of the veneration of relics with modern day trends and the culture of souvenir gifts.

King Arthur’s Relics

In 1191 the monks discovered King Arthur’s and Queen Guinevere’s skeletons buried in the ancient cemetery within Glastonbury Abbey . They knew it was King Arthur because they found a lead cross with writing on it in Latin. Translated it means ‘ Here lies buried the renowned King Arthur in the isle of Avalon’.

In other words …

(fimo clay, metal leaf)

The monks were quite surprised at the size of King Arthur’s bones, he was a real giant of a man. They noticed his thigh bone (femur is it?) was broken, presumably from his last battle before being laid to rest several hundred years ago in the cemetery. Of course it unmistakeably belonged to Arthur as they noticed his name was written on the bone just like the end of a gift shop stick of rock!

King Arthur’s bone (cement structure, gold leaf glass, hand-gilded glass, marble, stained glass, vintage glass tile, millefiori, gold lipped oyster shell)

underside of bone

 

Queen Guinevere’s relics

Then the monks picked up a tress of golden hair still attached to Queen Guinevere’s skull and it turned to dust.

Or did it??

Queen Guinevere’s hair (cement structure, hand gilded glass, gilded grout)

The monks made a black marble tomb for King Arthur’s and Queen Guinevere’s relics (there were various treasures amongst the bones which included the leaden cross, and four lions heads) and invited pilgrims to visit. It was a useful find at a time of impending impoverishment of the abbey.

….come back soon to see the Magical Guardian Bird of these relics ….

or visit the exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey which begins on Saturday 30th September and continues until January 28th 2018

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Traces Revealed exhibition at Glastonbury Abbey

I’ve been working flat out for several months and now find myself completely enclosed in a Medieval fantasy. It’s weird how the more you work on a theme the more mad and obsessed you become. However I have nearly finished the exhibits for this exhibition “Traces Revealed“.Β  I’ll be exhibiting with twoΒ  Somerset artists, Alicia Merrett, known for her colourful map quilts and Hiro Takahashi, who makes amazing textured ceramic sculptures.

I will be presenting new work inspired by Glastonbury Abbey’s legends and historical past. The relics of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, three saints and a rock star! The rock star is still alive and performing and he has a connection with the Abbey.
There will be birds (of course) … Guardians of the relics who keep them safe in tunnels under the Tor.
My work is a mix of truth and fantasy, old and new. The relics are mostly playful analogies, comparing the Catholic tradition of the veneration of relics with modern day trends and culture and the souvenir gift shop in general.

I hope some of you will be able to attend the exhibition. As it continues until January there will be plenty of chances!

Here is the bone of King Arthur as a taster … !

I’ll be adding posts in the next few weeks about each Guardian bird and the relics so keep your eyes open and follow along!

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What do the four seasons, four birds, and a key have in common?

This school was a joy to work with. A small primary school of just over 100 pupils, every child was able to take part in making it.

I was sent lots of drawings from the children to use for a design and spent a day sketching possibilities and a final cartoon.Β  I spent a couple of days preparing sections so that we could get on with it on the two days in school allocated for the mosaic.

The sections were made indirect on sticky back plastic using pva glue.Β  I learnt my lesson using this method without the glue last year with another school. As the children touch the sticky back and rearrange tiles it stops sticking the tiles to the plastic which makes turning over and fixing to the board impossible. Last year I had to stick mesh to the back of the sections with tile cement before I could install them on the board.

Trying out this method of sticky back plus pva glue beforehand I found that once the section was transferred to the board and the sticky back plastic pulled off there was less glue residue left on the tiles than when using straight plastic, because the sticky back holds onto to it, so I’ll be using this method for my own projects in the future!

We had 12 sections with two children working on each section. I also had a good team of eager parent helpers that I couldn’t have done without!

The oldest children love cutting tiles!

After the sections were finished they were left to dry over night and the next day I was in early with the parent helpers to transfer them to the board. Then the children filled in the snow border and the background spaces.

The adhesive is a quick drying one which meant we didn’t have to wait long before taking off the plastic and grouting.

Et Voila!

The border is made up of the four class names … Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and in the corners are the 4 house names …Buzzards, Ospreys, Kestrels and Harriers. The school motif is the key…Keevil.

Keevil school … you are the greatest!

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Do Swallows Eat Olives?

This commission for a private customer was a delight to make. My clients wanted a mosaic for their wall outside their house. After initial discussions by email and a site visit I made three drawings and they chose this one.

As my clients didn’t want very strong or bright colours I chose to use stained glass as I could choose colours that were not as bold as smalti but fresher than vitreous glass.

I was also able to use a fair amount of gold smalti. As the gold smalti was thicker than the stained glass I decided to make it indirect on plastic. It would need a fairly deep bed of cement adhesive to make a flat surface. The flat surface would make it easier to clean off any algae that might collect on it over the years.

Once the leaves and birds were complete I received my luscious order of gold!

There is always so much satisfaction when placing the last piece!

I used sand to stop the gaps so I could grout from the other side. Here you can also see the electrical cable flex I used as a temporary edge while I filled the mosaic with cement adhesive. (There’s always a use for broken things one day)

 

Thick bed of adhesive and levelling before pushing boards firmly on the top. (And piling on the weight to ensure a good hold)

I made a sandwich of light weight cement boards with adhesive in the middle (my partner called it a custard cream) not only for strength but also because the boards were in two halfs; the first layed horizontally and the second vertically.

However it was still very heavy!

After a few days drying it was turned over and the plastic pulled off.

The trunk was made as a separate piece.

Thought I’d learnt my lesson from the last one I made on plastic and I used a weaker pva glue than then, but it was still a devil to get clean.

Brushed out the sand and grouted.

And gazed at the gold…

I had some help with installing it on the wall.

Final touches glueing olives over the screws.

My two boys doing a few hours work for a change!!!

The Olive Tree (2.12m height x 1.20m wide) (stained glass, ceramic tile. marble, gold leaf smalti glass)

Details

 

One happy customer

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One happy me

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Red Pretty Maid birdbath

In a couple of weeks (9th – 11th June 2017), I’ll be showing my bird baths (see recent posts) and other bits and pieces at the English Country Garden Festival at the Bishops Palace in Wells.

I decided to add to my collection of Mary Mary Quite Contrary themed bird baths that I made last year and made another red “Pretty Maid” to replace the red one sold last year.

This one was made a little differently than the original one as I added a mix of glass nuggets, half cut glass marbles, milliefiori to the cut rounds of vintage glass tile in the centre.

I also commissioned some metal ‘stems’ to hold the baths that can be pushed firmly into the ground.

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Coral Reef bird pool

I had a day off the other week so I went to Lyme Regis on the Jurassic coast on the Devon/Dorset border. I had a hunt for some fossils on the beach but the best finds were on a stall on the front.

I bought this wonderful piece of polished fossilised coral which is 345 million years old (carboniferous period).

I thought it would make a great centrepiece for a birdbath, although I felt a bit guilty that I would be hiding the unpolished underside by cementing it to the bowl. So to appease my guilt here’s a photo.

When I got home, I couldn’t wait to start. I made the concrete bowl using the same method and mould as the Garden Treasure bird pool.

Again I just let the fossil inspire my design, I didn’t plan it, just let the fossil talk.

The grey cement mortar you see here isn’t there to make me work fast! It was a coat to bring up the surface so that the coral wouldn’t be raised too high above the rest of the mosaic. Surrounding the coral I used copper gold leaf glass and milliefiori.

I wasn’t sure what to do next and mulled things over for five minutes, then it all seemed to make sense.

I emulated the design of the coral and like nature that does it so well I attempted to find perfection in imperfection.

Picking out the cement that is squeezed up above the surface of the tile.

Grouting and cleaning with my trusty toothbrush (don’t worry, I use a different one on my teeth!)

 

Coral Reef bird pool made with hand made concrete bowl and usingΒ  polished fossilised coral, gold leaf glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, milliefiori, glass rods, pearl shell rounds, smalti, glass tiles.

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Garden Treasure Bird Pool

Welcome to new followers and thank you for all your lovely comments about my Pool of Dreams bird bath. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed but feel privileged to have been featured on Discover .

I have made another bird pool. This one is a lot smaller and constructed by using my other method by casting the cement mortar into a mould which in this case was a plastic melamine salad bowl from Tescos! “You can’t use that” my daughter insisted, “it’s too nice, you’ll get it covered in concrete and we could use it to eat salad out of!” So I had to sneak it into my shed while she was at college and I covered the inside quickly with wire, mesh and cement mortar.

Again I began from the centre with a beautiful ammonite.

I didn’t like the horizontal direction of the first few strips of gold metal leaf glass, so I redid it …

Old toothbrushes are great for cleaning out that stubborn grout!

Garden Treasure Bird Pool

I love using glass marbles in these pieces combined with glass nuggets and milliefiori tiles. The marbles were bought years ago on a trip with my kids to the House of Marbles in Devon. Many years ago we watched the marbles being made in the factory, which was fascinating. I think even my hyperactive boys were mesmerized and settled down for five minutes to watch. We all bought a tub of marbles each and when we got them home they were played with for a short while before being left to collect dust on shelves in the bedroom. When my kids left home and cleared their rooms they gave me their marbles and I stored several jars of them in my work-shed with the idea that I would use them one day. It wasn’t until I discovered I could cut them into two halves (not an easy cut, and not 100% accurate or successful) that I began to use them in my work. That way I had a flat base to stick them into the cement adhesive.

Garden Treasure Bird Pool and the Pool of Dreams.

Hand cast wire and concrete bowl, glass tile, vintage glass tiles from Marble Mosaic Company, glass nuggets and marbles, hand gilded metal leaf glass, milliefiori, ceramic tiles, fossils from madagascar and the Jurassic coast, gold lipped oyster shell from Boris Anrep’s studio)

Happy May Day

Garden

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