Making a relief.

The pit edge

The pit edge

I am making a relief out of black materials, card and paper, old prints. I want to build up layers of strata, and show where these have moved over time. Our intervention has altered the landscape of the Mendips irreversibly by mining the black limestone and other minerals. A friend asked me how the quarries could be filled in, by excavating a huge pit somewhere else. Dig a hole to fill a hole!!

Looks like Fiona and the team had a wonderful day in Bristol , the pics look great.

Cath Bloomfield  15/6/15

The Age of Stone

Getting stuck in to two large pieces for the fist installation of step in stone at the Somerset  Earth Science Centre at Moon’s Hill Quarry at the end of the month.

The first of which is a piece I call “The Age of Stone” after Rodin’s “The Age of Bronze”.

Auguste_Rodin-The_Age_of_Bronze-Victoria_and_Albert_Museum-2 (2)

I don’t see what I do as being contemporary art. It’s conception is far to connected to the hunter-gatherer experience, seeing movement in stone and seeking to animate, and too closely involved in re-imagining classical sculpture to want to be tied down to post Duchamp perspectives.

However there are times when the contemporary perspective really ties in to the conversation I am having through my practice.  With “The Age of Stone” I am really wanting to highlight  geological timescale and the extraordinary perspective that the understanding of deep time has on our experience of the world.  I find that in an era of fundamentalism I am using the fundament to talk about my fundamentals. The fundamental in this case being that if we look and really examine the world around us it reveals to us it’s history in an intricate and entirely cohesive way. We can see that these limestone rocks that we walk on every day were formed from the bodies of sea creatures. Because the Calcium in bones and shells is in fact a metal, we can examine the magnetic signatures created as the rocks were formed that reveal their location at that time within the earth’s magnetic field, we can date their formation from the organic chemistry within  the life that became rock.  We find that we can build up a picture from the bedrock, from the fundament that dwarfs the biblical story in every respect. Every rock. every stone on the planet is interconnected in this same story, of a planet that created this life from itself.

What a great opportunity step of stone  has given me to exhibit “The Age of Stone” in the context of Moon’s Hill Quarry and the Somerset Earth Science Centre.

Duncan Elliott  1/6/15

Halecombe Quarry

Halecombe Quarry

Halecombe quarry is a fully working quarry, its first load way back in 1854.  Currently operated by La Farge Tarmac, owned by Hobbs, the quarry has expanded dramatically and has excavated down several benches below the water table, with strict regimes of pumping and water disposal. Standing above on the peripheral public pathway, the views down into the quarry and across the fields beyond are extraordinary. You get a sense of man’s industry at work from afar – a bird’s eye view into dinky land, man’s toil and rubble, spewing out thousands of tonnes of rock for our roads and airports – particularly Gatwick – all over the South of England.

Nick Weaver, Christina White and I were taken on a special tour of the inside workings of Halecombe by Vaughan Gray recently. On a lower level, we saw the most incredible vertical seabed with very visible ripple patterns running through it – ripples made in the carboniferous period, so precious that Vaughan is guarding it to ensure it doesn’t get quarried.

Photo by Christina White

Photo above by Christina White, who will be revealing the inside of Halecombe on the outside, as part of the Trail

Grand tour of Halecombe - inside and out

Halecombe is proud of its good relationship with neighbours, especially with Leigh-on-Mendip primary school, who visit the peripheral area for forest school activities. They’ve even made some lovely posters reminding dog-walkers to be a little more caring of their environment…

Earlier on this year, Nick Weaver and I felt we wanted to enhance the experience of walking round the quarry.  On Easter bank holiday Monday, Nick and I enjoyed the warm spring sunshine while sowing wildflower seeds on molehills along the pathway.  Ideally seeds need a well cultivated bed of soil to germinate and grow well so, rather than choosing where to sow the seeds and then digging over a patch of grassland we decided to let the moles choose and do all the hard digging work for us.  All we had to do was scatter the seeds, pat them down and give them a little water. Time will tell if this is a success or a flop but it seems like a fun idea at the moment and if it works there will be an intriguing display of wildflowers in randomly distributed little patches during the summer.   ‘step in stone’  have teamed up with Somerset Wildlife Trust with a view to promoting their current ‘Save Our Magnificent Meadows’ project, and we wanted to say something about the interaction of quarrying with the environment and local people. Slightly eccentric, perhaps.

IMG_9990 IMG_9989 Sowing seeds on molehills

Save Our Magnificent Meadows is not only about saving existing wildflower meadows but also aims to restore and recreate flower rich habitats which support a huge range of wildlife as well as just looking beautiful. Our 4 guided walks in collaboration with them, will involve experiencing the wildlife close-up, with both an artist and wildflower expert.  For more information or to book a place on one of these walks visit: https://stepinstonesomerset.wordpress.com/workshops-walks-talks/

Fiona Campbell & Nick Weaver  19/5/15

work in progress

Finally got going on this malarky!!

New camera at last, just getting to grips with it….

Attached some on going ideas about the black limestone from the quarry.

What an industrial space, a space loaded with memories.

Scar print

 

Cath Bloomfield  18/5/15

Age of Crinoids

step in stone has been totally absorbing me – not only in my role as curator and manager of the project, but also as a featured artist.

Having always been interested in the way life forms so often repeat themselves throughout the macro and micro natural world, from tiny microbes to nervous and planetary systems, I was interested to recently discover the term ‘convergent evolution’.  This describes the independent evolution of similar features in different species – structures that have a similar form or function.  The ability, over time, of insects, birds, reptiles and some mammals to fly is one example.  David Attenborough’s “Conquest of the Skies” series illustrates this beautifully.

Rugose Coral sketchRugose Coral fossilErnst Haeckel's illustration of Rugose Coral

Delving into the quarries theme for the project, I’ve learnt that the earlier part of the Carboniferous period (Mississipian) has been coined the Age of Crinoids.  Locally, in the Mendips, the most dominant rock is carboniferous limestone, which is full of fossiled skeletons, particularly crinoids (sea lilies) and corals (e.g. rugose).  Both marine creatures, they are from completely different families, yet have strong similarities, as do diatoms (marine micro-organisms). Over 350 million years ago the Mendips were submerged under a warm, swampy sea, the Mendip Hills hadn’t yet formed into a range of mountains – now substantially eroded back –  and animal life comprised mainly of primitive reptiles, giant insects like dragonflies the size of seagulls, and a myriad of sea creatures such as echinoderms and corals.  Crinoids were abundant in thousands of varieties, showing huge morphological diversity.  These fascinating ancient creatures look like exotic plant forms and many varieties still exist today.  They cling to the bottom of the sea bed by long spiny stems, others are unstalked, have tentacle legs or long arms which enable them to drag themeselves along.

Crinoid and Coral sketchesIMG_9949

It’s a strange concept that old seabeds are often now vertical.  Fossils found in limestone rocks exposed in the quarries brings into question our origin, distant past and future.  Captivated, I have been imagining these other worlds.  My step in stone work is inspired by crinoids and other similar forms as visual metaphors of complex primal systems in nature, universal forms which echo others, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Tumbleweed/neuron/crinoid ideaTentacles

Ideas include tumbleweed-like spheres with branching ‘cirri’ (tentacles, tendrils, hairy filaments..) – examples of fractal geometry.

Each time I visit the quarries I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of what they represent: the geology; how far back time goes; what extraordinary life forms exist now and in the past; how incredibly tenacious nature is; how we are all linked; how insignificant we are as individuals in the greater scheme, yet how we each impact on everything around us…

Quarry at Stoke St. MichaelScarlett Elf Cup fungi

Last week Nick Weaver and I set up a stand for step in stone at Frome Town Council’s AGM.  Having been funded by them we were asked to present our project to attendees.  It was a full house – the energy in Frome seems infectious!  This Wednesday (8th April) I’ll be taking part as a speaker in a public discussion at Wells Museum about Public Art (7.30pm if you’re interested in coming!).  I will be showing our step in stone film and discussing the project.

Fiona Campbell  7/4/15

Launch of Sculpture Design Competition

Somerset Earth Science Centre - photo by Duncan Simey

We held a Launch for the Sculpture Design Competition at Somerset Earth Science Centre, Stoke St. Michael on Monday 23 March, to give the public a chance to come along and find out more about the competition and our project as a whole.

Photoshoot by Mark Adler

It was good to hear artists discuss their ideas and see examples of work for the project so far.   Juliet Lawn, from Somerset Earth Science Centre, illustrated the geology of the area, allowing us to see and feel different types of limestone  in the Mendips –  black rock being most typical of the carboniferous era, when the Mendips were submerged by swampy sea,  giant dragonflies and a myriad of sea life forms existed.  In between slideshows Fiona Campbell, Duncan Elliott, Bronwen Bradshaw and Cath Bloomfield spoke about their different art forms and gave ideas about how to approach design work.   The contrast between Duncan’s found rock pieces, Fiona’s mixed media sculptures, Bron’s hand-made books fusing words and print and Cath’s cut-out reliefs gave a strong indication of the range of work that will form step in stone.

Left to right: Bron, Cath and Duncan - photo by Duncan Simey Geology slideshow by Juliet - photo by Duncan Simey Slideshow by Fiona illustrating the project's development and design possibilities - photo by Duncan Simey Duncan Elliott with sculptures - photo by Duncan Simey Bronwen Bradshaw talking about her books - photo by Duncan Simey

We had resource tables with examples of sculptures, designs, rocks, fossils and other imagery to give inspiration.  Young visitors were able to talk to individual experts and start designing.

Scrap steel sculpture, Fiona Campbell - photo by Duncan Simey Mendip rock - photo by Duncan Simey

Thanks to those who came, and to all who helped and supported including Nick Weaver, Jack Robson, Duncan Simey, David Chandler, Mark Adler and to Juliet Lawn for hosting on behalf of Somerset Earth Science Centre.

Designs by Duncan Cameron

Entries for the under 20’s Sculpture Design Competition are open online from 1 April – 18 May ’15 at:  www.blackswan.org.uk/sculpturedesign2015

Fiona Campbell 29/3/15

Artist Research Trip 2

On 19th February, one of our artists, Stuart Frost, flew over from Norway  to do a recce of our Mendip quarry sites in Somerset.  We were unlucky with the weather again as it poured with rain all day, but  the 3 of us – Nick Weaver, Fiona Campbell and Stuart – managed to visit 4 quarries and our indoor sites –  Somerset Earth Science Centre and Black Swan Arts.  Joined by step in stone artist Suzie Gutteridge and photographer Duncan Simey in the afternoon, we took a minibus trip into Whatley quarry.  This isn’t part of the Trail, but it was incredible to venture into one of the largest quarries in Europe right on our doorstep, accompanied by Juliet Lawn from Somerset Earth Science Centre and donned with hard hats and glasses.  Whatley is owned by Hanson UK who also own Westdown, where we will be installing some work for our event this summer.

Thanks to Duncan Simey for taking some great photos of the day.

 

Stuart at WestdownFairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries   Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries   Research Trip 2 - Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries    Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries  Fairy Cave, Westdown, Halecombe and Whatley quarries           Cake as reward!

 

Fiona Campbell  27/2/15