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!
















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.




Mosaic Heart Leaf Bird Baths at Chedworth Roman Villa

A couple of months ago Chedworth  Roman Villa got in touch and asked if I was interested in submitting work for their inaugural art exhibition this year. They wanted the works to have some relationship with the Villa, a sense of place. I decided to pick out elements from the Chedworth Roman mosaics to use for inspiration.

I had leaf bird baths on my mind having just made a couple only recently and so the heart leaves seemed to fit.

This one which is a detail of the dining room mosaic showing Cupid as the figure of Spring with flowers and a bird and the two heart leaves…

summer Cupid at Chedworth

And this one with the two heart leaf motifs…

hearts at Chedworth

I made three heart leaf bird baths, two based on these designs using glass tile and my hand gilded metal leaf glass and one in a more contemporary style using just my hand gilded metal leaf glass. They are hand formed using wire and cement mixtures.  Then I searched around the reclamation yards for something I could use for plinths to stand them on. I found some concrete balustrades and took some time up-cycling them.

I turned them upside down, and asked my stone sculptor friend to cut the bottom but now top square off. I cleaned them with patio cleaner to remove as much of the algae as I could, then I built up layers of concrete around the top (now bottom) square to make it more stable as well as give it all a more rounded look.

making plinth


They remind me a bit of horses hooves, but they look ok in the grass!

Although I had added yellow cement colour into the mix to match the colour of the rest of the plinth which worked quite well, the texture was too different so I painted them. The only masonry paint I could find was “stonestone” but it was too pale and bright so I added cement colours brown and yellow and a little black paint and lots of sand to get the texture the same overall. It was fun and I was beginning to feel like I might start up a paint effects company!


Hmm, maybe not, but they are quite an interesting colour… My daughter calls it “nude”, my partner calls it “nuddy”!

And it is very much like nude, in fact it is so nude it almost disappears…strange…

So anyway here we are, some photos of the finished bird baths, “Spring Heart Leaf”, “Heart Leaf” and “Golden Heart Leaf” some taken at Chedworth Roman Villa and some in my back garden. They are temporarily fixed to the plinths to give buyers the option to purchase with or without  plinth and make transportation easier.

baths at Chedworth

baths at Chedworth 2

cupids heart

baths at Chedworth 3

heart bath with water

heart bath

baths at Chedworth 4

golden heart close up

baths at Chedworth 5

See mosaics and sculptures by various artists at the

Inaugural art exhibition

12th September – 4th October 2015

Chedworth Roman Villa,

Yanworth, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL54 3LJ

Telephone: 01242 890256