Who hasn’t picked a pebble up whilst strolling the coast of Britain? They look especially inviting lying covered in the shallow water of a rock pool, the wetness showing colour that pales when the salty surface dries. There is something about walking along a beach that is meditative and frees our minds, allowing us to focus on – well, what is at our feet. Just shingle and horizon. Homeo sapiens are hunter-gathers with brains programmed to look for patterns and anomalies within these. For example, to find a juicy berry amongst a thicket and our modern interpretation may be to find the most alluring pebble.
Christopher Stocks suggests many more reasons – historic and contemporary – for this popular activity in “The Book of Pebbles”, a new book published by St. Jude’s and lavishly peppered with artwork by Angie Lewin who traces the routes of her own pebble-picking habits in a foreword to the book. Following chapters examine other reasons for and peaks in the popularity of pebble collecting; from fossil-hunting Victorians to those inspired by Derek Jarman’s “Garden” in Dungerness.
In the back of the book is a handy section on the best beaches to visit for pebble collecting, advice on the legality of the activity and a glossary of commonly found types of stone. ” The Book of Pebbles” is an enjoyable, fairly quick read but one must allow time to linger over Angie’s prints and watercolours whilst fully absorbing the words. Signed copies of the book and limited edition prints will be available at Tinsmiths during Angie’s exhibition here, Prints, Pots and Plants; an exhibition with potter Mark de la Torre, running from 16 March to 29 April 2019. Opening hours Tuesday – Saturday 10am to 5pm.
Tideline Feathers, Wood-Engraving by Angie Lewin
To begin our 2019 exhibition programme we welcome artist-printmaker and illustrator Angie Lewin and potter Mark de la Torre to Tinsmiths for our Spring Exhibition. This is their first joint exhibition; both have shown here in the past and their work has a particular commonality. Both are very interested in and inspired by plant forms and the natural world. Both approach and execute their work with precision – crisp lines, smooth forms, “quiet” compositions that have style but don’t shout too loudly for attention – in other words, these are designs to live long with.
Angie’s fabric designs for St. Jude’s (the company started by Angie and her husband Simon Lewin with a group of artist-printmakers) began as fairly simple motifs, for example, a single seedhead; more recently she has made patterns using several overlapping, repeating elements from her drawings bringing the same delicacy of outline seen in her sketches and prints. The latest design “Clover” combines leaves and flowers in seamless abundance. Angie explains her inspiration as, “Thinking of clover and daisies dotted through a grassy field and the sound of bees evokes memories of warm summer days. The plant’s unmistakable leaves and soft red and white petalled flowers, though small and insignificant, have a graphic quality when studied in detail, and I hope I’ve captured this in my latest fabric for St Jude’s, developed from an original wood engraving of the same name.” We are pleased to show Clover in “action” at Tinsmiths’ with a variety of cushions, lampshades & curtains using the fabric alongside her limited edition linocuts, screenprints and wood-engravings.
For this early Spring event Mark has made one-off stoneware planters and some of his hallmark “doughnut” cacti pots; any of which, being planted as we head into the growing year, will have a very good opportunity to establish. Talking of things settling in for the season, he adds to these the most beautiful bird nesting boxes. A keen and knowledgeable ornithologist, Mark watches the many garden birds busy around his pottery in Herefordshire. A couple of years ago he began to make ceramic nesting boxes for blue tits (primarily, although others fancied them too) and his latest design is intended for one of his favorite summer visitors, Swifts. Coming indoors for a moment, Mark will also be showing a series of one-off stoneware table lamps which, especially when lit, show off his expertise and creativity in texturing the smooth, pressed forms.
As I write this, we are yet to set up the show and until we are ready open the doors can’t precisely predict the effect of pairing these two artists. What we can promise the visitor is that each piece has been carefully considered and expertly undertaken; we hope you’ll come to see the show and look forward to your response.
Cork Harvesting – a one-man job
Cork, a beautiful material which has fallen from favour in recent years following over-exposure in the 1970’s, has a fascinating history and stunning properties. In a world that must manage resources more and more carefully, re-considering the use of cork is a great idea.
“Unusual” Uses of Cork
Portugal is the largest producer of cork by far and the wine stopper remain the most common use of the wood. But, would you consider sitting in a car seat made from cork? If you did your car could be 45 kg lighter, use less fuel and at the end of its life the seat would be entirely recyclable. This is one of the new applications being pioneered by Magna, the world leader in automotive parts. It is undoubtedly a supremely functional material, light, warm, water resistant and sustainable but what about good looking too? Here are some examples from Tinsmiths’ Homewares.
Tinsmiths’ Corkage – cork for bathroom, dining table and kitchen.
Rectangular Cork Placemat
Thick Cork Teapot Stand
Cork Shower or Bath Mat
Insulating Cork Tea or Drinks Tray
Large Round Cork Placemat
Cork Facts: Cork oak grows in areas of the world that would suffer desertification without it and provides employment for local people with specialist knowledge. Cork Oak is harvested from the outer layer of the tree every nine years, for an average of 150 years and when expertly done, the tree is unharmed. There is no waste in the processing of cork as even the smallest or least valuable pieces are used in a composite material that can be shaped and moulded.
The world’s largest and oldest cork oak is called Assobiador (whistler). This name is inspired on the sounds of the songbirds that land on its branches. This Cork oak was planted in 1783 and it is over 14 metres high and has a trunk perimeter of 4.15 metres.
Assobiador – 235 years of cork from the oldest known tree.
If you think, when strolling around Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, that sounds are “soft” and the floor is warm – well guess what? Yep, cork.
Sagrada Familia Cathedral Cork Floor (Gaudi, Barcelona)
Finally, to make an even more forceful case for cork, let’s compare CO2 emissions; cork versus plastic stoppers? A plastic closure emits 10 times more CO2 than a cork stopper and an Aluminium cap closures emits 24 times more CO2 than a cork stopper. Hurrah for cork and its future use.
Today I had my passport photograph taken. I sat in a booth and followed a disembodied voice instructing me to adjust my seat, take care to neither smile or frown and look straight ahead. I waited a few moments for the results. I didn’t recognise the person in the photograph, it wasn’t me – well not all of me.
Petr Horáček is a funny person; through what he says and does but more than anything by the expressions he pulls. Born in Prague – a communist Prague – in 1967 Petr’s career in the arts had an amusing and rather ironic beginning. From the age of 19 he worked at a state advertising and design agency. “It was a joke. In communist Czechoslovakia there was nothing much to advertise or design. But the experience was fun and rather inspiring after all. I met interesting people and it was an interesting time,” Petr explains. His career took a better turn with six years of hard work from dawn to dusk at the Prague Academy of Fine Art where students were expected to learn classical skills before pursuing their personal muse. Whilst there the 1989 revolution (and a student strike) erupted and Petr remembers this as a moment that encouraged creativity and was – in one of his favourite expressions – great fun!
Petr at The Prague Academy of Fine Arts around 1989, unknown photographer.
In 1994, Petr moved to England, to marry, become dad and begin writing and illustrating children’s books and this is where we go back to the importance of expressions. Petr has always concentrated on books for very young children, mostly those just beginning to recognise letters and yet to learn to read. For this age group the expression on a face is very important to understanding the world and, in Petr’s case, for the understanding of the story. More than this, Petr has a particular talent in conveying meaning through the expressions of the characters he imagines and draws. How can he make a goose look excited, hopeful, startled, relieved, boastful? It seems easily.
Photographs above by Anthony Pearson: dankspangle.com, flickr.com/photos/dank_spangle
All of his many books have an animal as a central character and all have a wide repertoire of expressions. I asked Petr how he worked with expression. “I often ‘think in pictures’ and I see the character in my head, but the truth is, that when I’m drawing a certain character I shrug my shoulders and I pull funny faces. I think it’s a common thing to do. Lots of us pull faces and stick out our tongue when concentrating and drawing. I also know a couple of illustrators who use a mirror to get the right expression”, he explained and I’d love to see more of those expressions – perhaps at our summer event?
Above: Story books by Petr Horáček
Do come and meet Petr Horáček and Nicola Davies in Ledbury when they read and draw from their new book “A First Book of Animals” (published by Walker Books). We will hold this event in the beautiful garden of Abbots Lodge Church Street at 10.30am, 30th June 2018 and accompanied children are positively encouraged.
A solo exhibition of paintings and drawings by Petr Horáček opens 1st June 2019 at Tinsmiths, Ledbury. Please join our mailing list if you would like an invitation.
Petr Horáček is one of a shortlist of seven for this year’s Kate Greenaway Award for children’s book illustration – the only such prize for illustration. We congratulate him for getting this far and keep our finger’s crossed for the final decision in mid June.
Above: Board books by Petr Horáček
Following last year’s trip to Ukraine, we are bringing some of Ukraine to Ledbury this March with a Pysanky Egg Workshop and Traditional Ukrainian Lunch held at Tinsmiths and run by Nataliya Cummings (Experience Ukraine) and Helena Orlowski.
Traditional Psanky Eggs from Ukraine showing traditional motifs.
The tradition of decorating eggs using hot wax resist (Batik) techniques dates back to pre-Christian times and The Hutsuls––Ukrainians who live in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine––believe that the fate of the world depends upon the pysanka. As long as the egg decorating custom continues, the world will exist. If, for any reason, this custom is abandoned, evil––in the shape of a horrible serpent who is forever chained to a cliff–– will overrun the world. Each year the serpent sends out his minions to see how many pysanky have been created. If the number is low the serpent’s chains are loosened and he is free to wander the earth causing havoc and destruction. If, on the other hand, the number of pysanky has increased, the chains are tightened and good triumphs over evil for yet another year.
Colours and symbols are specific to a region and family and these are passed from Mother to daughter. The blessed eggs are given to relatives and respected community members as a talisman against bad fortune in the coming year. A good number are placed in specific places around the house and with livestock to ward off evil and secure fertility for the coming season. Young women would present an egg to eligible batchelors in their community – the antidote to online dating!
One example of many, Birds, were considered the harbingers of spring, thus they were a commonplace pysanka motif. Birds of all kinds are the messengers of the sun and heaven. Birds are always shown perched, at rest, never flying (except for swallows and, in more recent times, white doves carrying letters). Roosters are symbols of masculinity, or the coming of dawn, and hens represent fertility. Very many of these symbolic motifs appear in the folk embroidery and textiles of the Ukraine.
Once a design is settled on colour has to be seriously considered as it carries its own meaning ie.
- Red – is probably the oldest symbolic color, and has many meanings. It represents life-giving blood, and often appears on pysanky with nocturnal and heavenly symbols. It represents love and joy, and the hope of marriage. It is also associated with the sun.
- Black – is a particularly sacred color, and is most commonly associated with the “other world,” but not in a negative sense.
- Yellow – symbolized the moon and stars and also, agriculturally, the harvest.
- Blue – Represented blue skies or the air, and good health.
- White – Signified purity, birth, light, rejoicing, virginity.
- Green – the color of new life in the spring. Green represents the resurrection of nature, and the riches of vegetation.
- Brown – represents the earth.
Some color combinations had specific meanings, too:
- Black and white – mourning, respect for the souls of the dead.
- Black and red – this combination was perceived as “harsh and frightful,” and very disturbing. It is common in Podillya, where both serpent motifs and goddess motifs were written with this combination.
- Four or more colors – the family’s happiness, prosperity, love, health and achievements.
For an opportunity to see all the colours, motifs and combinations you couldn’t do better than to visit the Psanka Museum in Kolomyya where you can see 6000 of the best examples of Psanka not to mention it’s eggcentric building design.
Pysanky means writing or to write and the eggs are decorated using a wax resist method. Beeswax was heated in a small bowl on the large family stove, and the styluses were dipped into it. The molten wax was applied to the white egg with a writing motion; any bit of shell covered with wax would be sealed, and remain white. Then the egg was dyed yellow, and more wax applied, and then orange, red, purple, black. (The dye sequence was always light to dark). Bits of shell covered with wax remained that color. After the final color, usually red, brown or black, the wax was removed by heating the egg in the stove and gently wiping off the melted wax, or by briefly dipping the egg into boiling water.
N.B. The eggs are never blown or boiled and must be fertile, ideally the first from a young hen. To stray from this could bring infertility and bad luck.
Pysanka continue to be made in modern times; while many traditional aspects have been preserved, new technologies are in evidence. Aniline dyes have largely replaced natural dyes. Traditional styluses are still made from brass and wood, but modern versions offer built-in, heated wax reservoirs and a choice of profiles for your dots and dashes….
You can easily book a place on our Egg Decorating event on Monday 26th March – just prior to Easter and in time to ward off any bad spirits. Places (10 available) are reserved through our website, here.