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 using  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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Let There Be Light (and Water)!

Pool of Dreams

I wanted to make a bird bath loosely based on The Whirlwind That Takes Me There only using a different colour palette.

Like my Pretty Maids and cockle shell bird baths, I made this one by hand forming the base using wire, glass fibre mesh (I recycle the mesh sheets that mosaic tiles come on) and cement mixtures. I have another bird bath I make using a bowl as a mould but I really prefer the hand shaped ones as they can be any shape and they are so imperfect which exaggerates the idea of hand-made. In this world of highly finished craft objects, this is possibly seen as taking a step back again, but maybe it’s important to do that from time to time otherwise we lose sight of what really is hand-made and the work begins to lose integrity. I see so many craft objects that do nothing for me. Ok, they are technically brilliant which is what the maker has strived for, but what has it become? It’s started as a blob of glass, clay or metal, it’s been melted, beaten, punched and hammered, it’s been transformed into something else, something beautiful maybe, but along the way it seems to somehow have lost it’s soul. Of course if you recognise this mosaic bird bath as an art piece, then perhaps I wouldn’t need to justify it, (since we know art is subjective and can be anything)  but as I always think of mosaic art as craft as well as an art form then I feel the need to justify it a little bit. So yes it has an imperfect shape and yes it is hand-made! And yes it holds water and looks lovely in the garden!

Rant over, I’ll show you some photos of the process…

I started by buying some beautiful ammonites. Madagascan and Jurassic coast.

I was very excited to finally be using some of my stoneware ceramic tiles I made in a pottery class over 15 years ago.

After making my bowl I rendered the bottom brushing the cement mixture to smooth the surface. This can be done at the end but I was waiting for my fossils to arrive!

I began with the large fossil in the centre and began to work around it. I didn’t really have a plan, it was quite spontaneous, I just placed several pieces next to the prior pieces and considered how it looked aesthetically.

And finally picking out the tile adhesive between the tiles before grouting.

When I had grouted it (charcoal colour) and it was finished it wasn’t until I added the water that I felt satisfied. The water brought up all the colours beautifully.

I have used gold leaf glass as well as my hand-gilded metal leaf glass and tried to get a photo to show it shining.

Some details.

Pool of Dreams is 60cm in diameter and holds over 4 litres of water.

I used fossils, glass tiles, vintage glass tiles from Marble Mosaic company, ceramic tiles, hand-made ceramic and gilded metal leaf glass, gold leaf glass, stained glass (iridescent), smalti, slate, glass marbles, glass nuggets, milliefiori, glass rods, gold-lipped oyster shell from Boris Anrep’s studio.

Happy Easter!

🙂

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Mary Mary Quite Contrary Bird Baths

The last few weeks I have been making bird baths for the Bishops Palace English Country Garden Festival in Wells this weekend. Today was the first day but you still have a chance to come along tomorrow or Sunday!

I thought how nice it would be to make some work based on a garden theme and remembered that old traditional English nursery rhyme …

“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells,
And Pretty Maids all in a row”

I have read that there are different views about the meaning of the rhyme, some say it was about the reign of  Mary Queen of Scots, while others believe it was about Mary Tudor. The rhyme might suggest religious metaphors of Catholicism (silver bells) and maybe the pretty maids all in a row symbolise the rows of Protestants that were executed by Mary Tudor.
However if the rhyme was written not long before it was first published in 1744 then this would be unlikely as both queens reigned in the sixteenth century. But then it could have been written earlier …

I find it interesting that many traditional nursery rhymes appear to be all sweet and innocent but turn out to reveal a much more sinister meaning.

However I made these bird baths in all sweetness and light, taking the nursery rhyme only as it reads!

They are all hand formed shapes (some using a mould and some without) using cement mortar mixtures.

Here is a collection of the baths at the garden festival.

Silver bells, cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row, displayed in different ways, on cobbles, terracotta drainpipes, slates and balustrade plinths to help customers imagine ways they could place them in their gardens …

Silver Bells, Cockle Shells and Pretty Maids All in a Row at the Bishops Palace

 

Silver Bells

 

Silver bells

 

Cockle Shells

 

pretty maids fb

And Pretty Maids All in a Row

 

And a flower bowl

 

At the Bishops Palace

At the Bishops Palace

 

Click here if you would like to know more about the English Country Garden Festival and visit.

🙂