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The Monk



The Llangollen Museum came to collect the Monk from the Summer House this morning with the aid of a motorised wheel barrow.

I’m heading back to Manchester for some urgent business this evening so unfortunately there will be no open studio tomorrow, apologies if you  had planned to come out to visit the studio. There are now three, small artworks installed onsite and several more to follow next week. The next open studio event will be Thursday 2nd May, and then every Thursday and second Saturday until August 2013.

You can read about what’s happening over in Wrexham this weekend over on Steffan Jones-Hughes blog which also includes details of my small showcase of existing works at Oriel Wrexham and plenty more.


The Resonance of Things


Back on site this week as the snow started to thaw and I have now moved in my collections of found objects, my work bench and tools so the Summer House now feels a lot more like my studio.


Collection is the main driving force behind my work, I am interested in how objects carry narrative and how I can manipulate them to present particular ideas. I mostly collect fragments or objects that show signs of age or previous human interaction as they have the timeless, dreamy quality that indulges our desire for the fantastic. I use objects that have a certain kind of unwritten symbolism: the broken cup handle that silently communicates use or the steel blade that could still pierce skin, the doll’s leg which reminds us of several things and the animal hair paintbrush that is still soft to the touch. We reflect all of our unique resources of memories and knowledge upon objects so when you start to pair them with other ‘things’ we project ourselves upon them, weaving unspoken interpretations and stories.

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So this week I’ve been taking out the objects from my collection of ‘stuff’ which now seem to have a particular resonance with the Abbey, the Frozen Charlotte dolls hint at ideas of white figures, glass evokes the speculated coloured and painted shards said to have been found on the site from the latter years of the Abbey’s working life, decorative print on broken ceramic jars reflects the ornamental stonework around the remains of the building. They are also all fragments albeit on a much smaller scale than the fragments of Valle Crucis.

Time, Risks and Legacy


Hello, I am now very much in residence at Valle Crucis. The Summer House behind the Abbey is now my studio and I am staying practically next door on a residential caravan site. I think being in one place, focusing on one thing, for a six month period has yet to sink in but it is very, very much welcome. Like most contemporary artists I’ve done a roaring trade in spinning various plates all at once: a combination of part time jobs, making, writing, exhibiting and cut and thrust research. It’s easy to lose time for reflection, proper reading and taking risks – you end up fighting for it rather than it happening organically. So it is quite a shock to stop; physically removing myself and landing here in the “Vale of the Cross” to focus on many things which drive my work under one, Abbey shaped, umbrella.

Needless to say, I have brought all the books I haven’t got round to reading and I know I have enough time for some of those things I’ve wanted to do, but ran out of time to try to filter back through and inform my response to the Abbey. So I am settling in.

20130204_115911The Summer House until recently housed an animatronic monk and other heritage interpretation about the site, but now it houses me (normally animate after 10am) and in time will house my work in progress and my creative interpretation of the Abbey. I hope it’s an upgrade for visitors, I did joke with Roger, custodian of the Abbey, about donning the monk’s robes and sitting very still but I promise I won’t do that.


Dormitory walls

The Summer House has also been a holiday retreat and there was some discussion yesterday about the building being much older than the 1774 stone suggests plus its possible function as a mill during the working life of the Abbey. This reuse and changing of function chimes in with the themes that drive my work, repairing and altering things so that we are inadvertently, or purposely, stamping ourselves on an object, material or place. The Abbey has so much of this, doorways have been bricked up and inserted, new floors have been put in and destroyed, there was at least two fires, it was farm buildings following the dissolution, and a rich man’s folly at some point. There’s original mason marks on the bricks which must be circa 1201, and today I spotted contemporary graffiti on the inner Chapter House wall. The dormitory walls are currently my favourite for obvious reasons.


Arriving with the knowledge that I would be spending six months here responding to the Abbey made me instantly aware that it was much bigger than I remembered. Where to start?

I am interested in breaking down the abbey into fragments -something which, over the years, has clearly happened once or twice at Valle Crucis before- and rearranging these in a way which really reflects our experience of spaces and buildings and mimics the way in which our minds reorder these fragments to create memories. My background in found object jewellery means I am familiar with reducing materials into components and I am interested in what narratives emerge once we bring objects and narratives back together in new ways.

I have been collecting images of negative spaces and ornamentation across the Abbey site to begin but more about where that takes me once I am fully installed in the Summer House.

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