Installation and Private View – Salisbury Arts Centre

The final hang last week at Salisbury Arts Centre took just 3 days, which was quite a feat!  Curated by Amanda Wallwork and me, and set up with the help of many other step in stone artists and a team at Salisbury Arts Centre, including Visual Arts Manager Louise.    As part of the installation , Tessa Farmer has re-created a miniature environment in the entrance display case of her skeletal fairies and other creatures interacting and emerging from fossils, some on loan from Somerset Earth Science Centre.  Ralph Hoyte has also re-created his GPS-triggered soundscape ‘ANTICLINE’ to listen to via smartphones around the grounds of the centre.  This can be downloaded via this link.   The artwork includes a selection of indoor and outdoor pieces from our 6 venues last year.
We had our Private Vew on Friday evening (19th Aug).  It was lovely to have so many of the artists together again, many who haven’t seen each other since last year’s project.  Numerous visitors came, expressing their interest and enthusiasm for the subject, our work and the exhibition as a whole.  “An intriguing multi-media, sophisticated exhibition!” We are pleased with the information/artist panels, which really help to tell the story.
Below are some images from our installation and Private View.  Do come and visit the exhibition (runs ’til 24 Sept)!
Fiona Campbell  22/8/16
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Review for Alpine Journal 2016 by Terry Gifford

Terry Gifford, one of our crowd funding donors, has written an article featuring step in stone for the Alpine Journal, a hardback publication.   Terry is the unofficial gardener of climbs at Fairy Cave Quarry, a judge for the Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature 2016 and was Director of the annual International Festival of Mountaineering Literature for 21 years.  Former Chair of the Mountain Heritage Trust, he is the author of The Joy of Climbing (2004) and is in his 52nd year of rock-climbing.  Terry helped Cath attach some of her Gabions high up on a sheer rock face at Fairy Cave, and was a great support throughout the project.

The Alpine Journal won’t be published for several months and a hard copy will be hard to get, so Terry has given us permission to publish his article in advance.

‘step in stone’ exhibition, Fairy Cave Quarry, Somerset, October 2015

(Review offered for publication in the Alpine Journal 2016)

Mountaineers on the Alpine Ridge (PD) under full winter conditions, catching the last of the winter afternoon’s sun, photographed in close-up, can look very impressive on social media. But this is Fairy Cave Quarry’s easiest route to the quarry rim, all one hundred meters of it. When I moved to the Mendip Hills of Somerset four years ago, Stephen Venables was summing up the local climbing for me, adding, ‘and there are some over-rated grotty quarries’. A month after I moved into Stoke St Michael, unaware of this particular locked quarry (BMC website for access details) just a lane away from my house, it announced itself in the guise of a Climbers’ Club guidebook all of its own. It has since become the best-selling CC guidebook ever. What began as a bit of a joke – a sop to activists down in the lonely Southwest – from the CC guidebook committee has become a runaway success going through reprint after reprint.

So what is the secret to Fairy Cave Quarry’s popularity that draws climbers not just from Bristol and South Wales, but from all along the M4, from the south coast, and even tempts Iain Peters out of Devon? Most of its climbing is north-facing and it has a reputation for limestone looseness and vegetation. But it has the nearest slabs to London. And there’s not a bolt or peg in sight. The clean line of the classic Rob’s Crack (4c), benign beginners’ routes on the west-facing Balch’s Slide (4a) area, and the thin steeper challenge of Withy Crack (5a), plus plenty of tricky overlapping slabs at higher grades, attract climbers on most dry days of the year. But actually this is a cavers’ quarry, owned by a caver, the locked carpark reserved for cavers and its management committee dominated by cavers whose base is the cavers’ hut at the top of the lane. Apparently the many locked cave entrances in the quarry give access to some of the best decorated caves in the Mendips, where many cavers are also climbers. Withy Crack’s first ascent is credited to Cerberus Speleological Society in 1992. Given that it is also an SSSI (great crested newts; at least two species of orchids; ravens reared three young last year; Western Red Cedar has just been discovered there) climbers need to be aware that Fairy Cave Quarry is a place that we share, like so many of our crags, with other interests.

But what about three gabions of orange plastic hanging from the diagonal crack of Halfway to Kansas? Or the quarry floor littered with strange white tents on wheels in which green shoots grew from teapots? Or a disembodied voice speaking from somewhere up in the West End? Then over 1200 people finding all sorts of other oddities around the quarry during the two weeks (three weekends) when it was open to the public? Actually climbers seemed to have enjoyed sharing the quarry with the ‘step in stone’ sculpture exhibition for two weeks in October 2015 and may not have realised that they became exhibits themselves in the time-lapse, attention-provoking, photographs of Christina White displayed at the Earth Science Centre down the road. Indeed, climbers were responsible for hanging those gabions at the request of the artist, Catherine Bloomfield, so that their impact (unintended by the artist, apparently) as people entered the quarry was like a parody of three ducks on a wall. Actually, more subtle than that, they were the highest of a line of orange gabions that had colonised the quarry and clearly wanted to join in the climbing.

Poet Ralph Hoyte’s voice works were both an echo of the human construction of the quarry and an eerie post-industrial mysterious communication of echoing absence. Sally Kidall’s white tents on stick and sisal platforms looked like some post-industrial survivors’ attempts at nomadic domesticity that were now abandoned and being reclaimed by nature. From the climbers’ perspective on the quarry rim this seemed to be a community that had run its wheels into a dead-end before it simply gave up. Duncan Cameron developed a picture of the quarry site through evening, day and overnight ‘expeditions’, collecting fascinating found materials (including a wrist watch – but no old pegs!) that he finally mounted in his ‘Fairy Cave Cabinet’ on the dramatic cliff-edge start of the Alpine Ridge. For those climbers who walked around into the West End with their eyes open, a dome set into the ground will have revealed another miniature world of insects, ants and a dead bird. Tessa Farmer’s fairy world was a predatory one that certainly suggested ‘Alice’s unsettling journey down the rabbit hole into Wonderland’ as she puts in the excellent catalogue representing all fourteen artists who took part in the larger project involving six venues with workshops, walks, talks and performances that attracted 8114 visitors in total. Amazingly, the curator of all this, Fiona Campbell, found time to make work for at least three sites where ancient sea creatures that might have inhabited what is now limestone. Here, her ‘Eviscerated Earth’ combined rusty steel bits with wax, cloth, paper and wire to evoke, ironically, the strange formations lost in the destruction of caves by quarrying. Actually, what remains was not only the inspiration for the artists, but also for the audience: the natural folds and features of Fairy Cave Quarry itself, especially in the Death Wish Area, attracted a lot of public attention, which should remind us of how lucky we are to have access negotiated by BMC volunteer Ian Butterworth.

So could there be limits to sharing climbing rock with other artists? (Like bullfighting in Spanish culture, rock-climbing, we know, is an art form.) Only one climb was made more difficult for only two weeks here. And from the quarry rim climbers still get the benefit of various imitations of the famous Salt Lake land art ‘Spiral Jetty’. But on some gritstone boulders in West Yorkshire and Lancashire six poems by Simon Armitage have been carved into the rock to comprise the Stanza Stones Trail of 47 miles. Each poem is about a form of precipitation: ‘Rain’, ‘Snow’, ‘Mist’, etc. These are semi-permanent, although expected by the poet to be mossed over, erased by their subjects and climbed over. Unlike bird-bans, they don’t require art-bans. But they have, with a kind of hubris, humanised the natural rock we come to climb. Is it our rock? Of course not, and climbing is still possible. Indeed, you might feel enriched by being reminded of climbing ‘up here where the front of the mind distils the brunt of the world’ in ‘Rain’, for example. For years we’ve shared the crags with ravens and ring ouzels, and now we must share them with conservationists and curators.

My three nuts from which the gabions hung stayed untouched by other climbers for two weeks. When I mistakenly removed them, thinking the exhibition was finished, other climbers replaced them with stones so the final weekend show could go on. But at another, open, quarry, a weekend rave of six hundred people destroyed one artist’s work. There are other people we should resist sharing the crags with – the ‘green trail’ 4×4 drivers, the destructive trail bike riders, the access improvers, the commercial bolters, the selfish route-hogging groups. Beside these, a few though-provoking, amusing or distinctly odd fellow artists are life-enhancing presences for which we should be grateful, as many climbers obviously were at Fairy Cave Quarry in 2015.

Terry Gifford

 

Looking back… and a few of the best pics

step in stone by numbers:

Visitors 8114
Volunteers 43
Website/blog views: 16,984 visitors: 4,974 from 68 countries
Facebook Friends: 2475
Twitter followers: 201
Workshop Participants: 257 for workshops (16), 102 for Walks (6), 56 for Talks (4)
Family Day: 190
Age range 0-95

 “I have been utterly entranced by what has been achieved by this extraordinary collaborative event. The fourteen artists are from a myriad of artistic disciplines yet have created a glorious spectacle. From the vastness of the quarries to the intimacy of the Black Swan’s Round Tower, the site-specific works harmonise with their environment. Fiona Campbell and her artists have achieved something wonderful.”  Amanda Sheridan, Black Swan Arts

 “Visitors have been fascinated and intrigued by the installations, which have brought together the arts and sciences. We have been able to reach a new audience by looking at geology from a new angle.” Juliet Lawn, SESC

It’s been a very intense and challenging few months.  Incredible seeeing step in stone through to fruition, and so fulfilling.  Overall, the project was a tremendous success, very well received by an extremely varied and broadly based audience.  We were overwhelmed by such a high volume of enthusiastic visitors from the area and further afield, who visited our 6 venues.  Through special events (workshops, walks, talks and performances) we enjoyed engaging a whole spectrum of the public, participants of all ages and interests, including school children, families and the elderly.  We received massive public support for the project;  people were genuinely delighted and inspired by the fusion of sound, art, landscape and wonderful use of unique quarry settings.

The project gained momentum as it progressed in steps to its finale. The final fortnight, tied in with Somerset Art Weeks Festival, was brilliant!  Each weekend approximately 300 people visited the magical Fairy Cave Quarry venue alone.  Family Day was really special, a huge success, so many enthusiastic children, grown ups and in-betweenies enjoyed a range of organised activities in the quarry.  The 3 Finale venues added fresh impetus, with all 14 artists showing together for the first time in the project at Black Swan Arts.

The Black Swan exhibition was a beautiful, strong, inclusive show in a wonderful gallery space, including the Round Tower and Hall (where the young sculpture design entries were on show).  It came together naturally in a grid-like structure, echoing the work.  The Preview was buzzing and feedback excellent.

An ambitious project for the budget, with a very small management team, it was incredibly hard work.   I really enjoyed working with such a fantastic set of high calibre artists, whose work I admire.   All of us explored and developed new areas of our practice.   We had immense support from many quarters: in-kind gestures, discounts, time given, technical help, assistance at special events and manning.  Partner Nick Weaver helped me enormously throughout and volunteer photographer Duncan Simey was a huge asset.    It was highly motivating to have such support.  Our legacy includes a documentary filmcatalogues, website, and artwork donated to Somerset Earth Science Centre permanently for educational and recreational purposes.

Bringing step in stone to fruition is the fulfilment of a dream to have contemporary art exhibited in these enigmatic, spaces in the Mendips.  I have so many people to thank for this, particularly our funders including Arts Council England/National Lottery, partners, venues, supporters, visitors and of course, the artists!

Some visitor comments:

That was my best HOUR of this year

In many years of visiting art events, I have never experienced anything as fascinating and inspiring as my visits to quarries today – especially this one.” (Fairy Cave Quarry)

“Had a lovely day with the boys exploring, was great to combine being outdoors with some interesting art..”

“Spent a fascinating afternoon at Halecombe and Westdown/Asham quarries. It was a treat for the senses and a revelation about the environments on our doorstep. Thank you!”

“Wonderful – best art gallery I’ve ever been to”

“We’re really enjoying the step in stone events and seeing places/quarries never been to before!”

“A hit for all ages”

“What a brilliant, inspirational and unique exhibition in a stunning setting”

“Love the work in this setting, quite magical in amongst the trees, and thank you to SESC for a warm welcome”

“Ingenious art in a spectacular setting. Do go! Fairy Cave quarry”

“Amazing creativity & lateral thinking. Our family enjoyed a really interesting ‘exhibition’. A wonderfully different experience.”

“Inspiring and fun – creativity thrived in the kids as a result”

“A wonderfully different experience”

“Like being back in Africa in my village – brilliant! Can’t wait to bring my grandchildren – thankyou!”

“Unique and surprising”

As a geologist (amateur) married to an artist I found the combination of the 2 subjects absolutely fascinating. Especially loved the sketchbooks, also Catherine’s and Amanda’s work..”

 

A few best pics to tell the story…

step in stone artist research trip to Westdown/Asham Quarry.  Photo by Duncan Simey

Artist research trip, Westdown/Asham Quarry, Jan ’15. Photo Duncan Simey

Amanda Wallwork on Artist Research Trip at Fairy Cave Quarry

Amanda Wallwork at Fariy Cave Quarry, Jan ’15. Photo Duncan Simey

'step in stone' artistes reccy trip to Fairy Cave Quarry and Whatley Quarrey

Artist research trip, Whatley Quarry, Feb ’15. Photo Duncan Simey

Bronwen drawing at Westdown

Bron Bradshaw sketching at Westdown Quarry. Photo Duncan Simey

 Frost on research trip in rain

Stuart Frost, recce to Fairy Cave Quarry, Feb ’15. Photo Duncan Simey

Tessa & Jack - Fairy Cave

Jack Offord filming Tessa Farmer, Fairy Cave Quarry.  Photo Duncan Simey

Charlotte McKeown - young sculpture competition design winner

Charlotte McKeown – sculpture design competition winner

Charlotte and Lucja (under 13yrold winner) making winning sculpture

Lucja Korczak and Charlotte McKeown working on winning sculpture – made in a day

Kinetic Structure - made in a day - being used for the first time by Duncan Cameron, Charlotte and Lucja

Charlotte McKeown, Duncan Cameron, Lucja Korczak trying the newly made ‘Kinetic Structure’ – designed by Charlotte

Duncan Elliott's Sleeping Beauty at Somerset Earth Science Centre

Duncan Elliott’s Sleeping Beauty at Somerset Earth Science Centre. Photo Duncan Simey

Ducks and diatoms (by Fiona Campbell) at SESC.  Fiona's work.  Photo by Juliet Lawn

Duck on Fiona Campbell’s Diatom, SESC.  Photo Juliet Lawn

Tessa Farmer at SESC

Tessa Farmer, Out of the Earth, wormshells, soil, fossils, insects, bones, plant roots, tufa, glass dome, SESC. Photo Duncan Simey

 

Stuart Frost  Pavimentum  limestone dust. Photo by GUNHILD LIEN

Stuart Frost  Pavimentum limestone dust, Westdown/Asham Quarry. Photo Gunhild Lien

Bron's Guided Walk at Westdown with Somerset Wildlife Trust

Guided Walk with Bron Bradshaw and Somerset Wildlife Trust, Westdown/Asham Quarry

Christina White's Ocean Floor - Halecombe Quarry

Christina White’s ‘Ocean Floor – Halecombe Quarry ST697474’, installed. Photo Duncan Simey

Artmusic's BLAST at Westdown 22:8:15 - participating audience following live trumpeters

Artmusic’s ‘Blast’ performance, Westdown Quarry. Participating audience following trumpeters

Christin White's outdoor photographic workshop at Halecombe

Christina White’s Cyanotype/Vandyke Potographic Workshop at Halecombe Quarry – using bench as darkroom!

 

Tanya Josham's stone carving workshop

Tanya Josham’s community stonecarving workshop, SESC

Family interacting with Charlotte McKeown's Kinetic Structure, SESC

Family enjoying interactive Kinetic Structure, SESC

Duncan Cameron's Fairy Cave Cabinet

Duncan Cameron, Fairy Cave Cabinet, steel, wood glass, lamp, found items. Photo Duncan Simey

Above: Caroline Sharp, Pioneer Seeds, Stoneware and Whatley Clay, Willow.  Photo Duncan Simey

Below: CarolineSharp, Birch Layers, Birch, Split Hazel, Willow.  Photo Duncan Simey

BSA Exhibition, photo by Sally Barnett

step in stone Exhibition at Black Swan Arts. Photo Sally Barnett

 

BSA - step in stone, photo by Christina White

step in stone Exhibition at Black Swan Arts. Photo Christina White

Cath Bloomfield Collagraph on Black 01 Jo Hounsome Photography

Cath Bloomfield, Collagraph on Black 01. Photo Jo Hounsome

Duncan Elliott & Bronwen Bradshaw, BSA Round Tower, photo by Sally Barnett

Duncan Elliott and Bronwen Bradshaw, Black Swan Arts Round Tower. Photo Sally Barnett

Tessa Farmer  'The Quarry' (detail), BSA. Photo by Christina White

Tessa Farmer, The Quarry (detail), BSA. Photo Christina White

InspirED School Workshop with Fiona Campbell - students from Yrs 4,5,6, Curry Mallet Primary - Wire and paper Seeds, SESC

InspirED workshop with Fiona Campbell – Yrs 4,5,6, Curry Mallet Primary School – Wire and Paper Seed Forms, SESC

Amanda Wallwork at Fairy Cave Quarry

Amanda Wallwork, ‘Geo Code Specimens – Eastern Mendip Sequence’. Photo Duncan Simey

Tessa Farmer's installation at Fairy Cave Quarry

Tessa Farmer, ‘The Colony’, wormshell colony, crab claws, mummified birds, taxidermy thrush, wasp nest, dried frog, dried bat, dried lizard, bones, coral, insects, plant roots, Fairy Cave Quarry.  Photo Duncan Simey

Installations by Suzie Gutteridge at Fairy Cave Quarry

Suzie Gutteridge, Squaring the Circle, local wool. Photo Duncan Simey at Fairy Cave Quarry

 

Fiona Campbell's 'Eviscerated Earth' (detail) at Fairy Cave Quarry

Fiona Campbell, ‘Eviscerated Earth’, scrap steel found in quarries, recycled wire, paper, wax, string, nylon, cotton, oil.  Photo Duncan Simey in Fairy Cave Quarry

Visitors crossing the stepping stones at Fairy Cave Quarry

Visitors crossing the stepping stones at Fairy Cave Quarry

Workshop with Duncan Cameron - Clay and Plaster Relief Tiles, SESC

Workshop with Duncan Cameron – Casting Animal Tracks, Clay and Plaster Relief Tiles, SESC

Fairy Cave Quarry - end of the day..  with Sally Kidall's work

Fairy Cave Quarry at dusk with step in stone installed.  Photo Clive Gutteridge

 

Fiona Campbell   23/11/15

 

 

 

 

 

Final weekend coming up!

Drawing to a close this weekend, we have been staggered by the large number of people coming to our 6 venues, taking part in our events and wonderful feedback from visitors of all ages, local to international.  Last weekend over 300 people visited the magical Fairy Cave Quarry venue!   Family Day was a fantastic success – really special, so many enthusiastic children, grown ups and in-betweenies enjoying the ambiance and art at Fairy Cave.  Activities included Scavenger Hunt, Rubbings, Interpretation sheets, Clay pressings, Game of Stones and Photograms with Christina White.  Cavers, climbers, artists, walkers, people from Bristol, Taunton, London, France, Uganda and Spain have visited.  For Artmusic’s Blast performances a live trumpeter ambled among the visitors, echoing around the quarry.

Thanks to Duncan Simey, Sally Barnett , Crysse Morrison, Duncan Cameron, Sally Kidall, Emma Warren  and Chris Lee for some of the photographs:

Stode students looking at Fiona Campbell's 'Eviscerated Earth'Eviscerated Earth - Fiona CampbellChris Lee's pic DSC_2437 Finale Preview eve at BSA, step in stone Sarah - cleaner _DSC1954 _DSC1984 _DSC1996 _DSC2002 IMG_0943 IMG_0966 IMG_0976 IMG_0979 IMG_0980IMG_0765 IMG_0988Sally Kidall's work at Fairy Cave QuarryArtmusic at Fairy Cave QuarrySuzie Gutteridge at Fairy Cave Quarry Christina White at Fairy Cave Quarry Sally Kidall's work at Fairy Cave QuarryFiona Campbell's work at Fairy Cave Quarry Bronwen Bradshaw's work at Fairy Cave QuarryCatherine Bloomfield at Fairy Cave Quarry

It’s been a hectic time for all involved, but we all feel hugely encouraged by the positive responses.

Comments from visitors include:

In many years of visiting art events, I have never experienced anything as fascinating and inspiring as my visits to quarries today – especially this one.” (Fairy Cave Quarry)

“Had a lovely day with the boys exploring, was great to combine being outdoors with some interesting art..”

“Inspiring and fun – creativity thrived in the kids as a result”

“A wonderfully different experience”

“Wonderful – best art gallery I’ve ever been to”

“Unique and surprising”

“Spent a fascinating afternoon at Halecombe and Westdown/Asham quarries. It was a treat for the senses and a revelation about the environments on our doorstep. Thank you!”

step in stone’s final set of workshops have begun: Wirework with me, Wet Felting with Suzie Gutteridge, both at Black Swan Arts, Clay and Plaster Relief Tiles with Duncan Cameron at Somerset Earth Science Centre. Several schools are taking part again – All Hallows Prep School did Perambulatory Poetry at Fairy Cave Quarry with Ralph Hoyte, who also led an awesome night walk yesterday, and Robert Blake students made pinhole cameras with Christina White today. Tessa Farmer is giving insights into her work through Talks in the next couple of days.

“I love the way the fourteen different artists have all been inspired to respond to various aspects of quarries in so many different and interesting ways.” Nick Weaver – partner in the project.

This weekend (17-18 October) gives the public a last chance to explore the magical Fairy Cave quarry, normally gated, so don’t miss it!

 

Fiona Campbell  14/10/15

 

Step 2 Installation and Opening week

It’s been an incredible fortnight, unleashing inner reserves of energy I didn’t know I had, and thank goodness for the unyielding patience and support of partner Nick Weaver, helping to pull off the installation of Step 2 while finishing off artwork, getting signage done for 2 venues and co-ordinating it all…  Halecombe and Westdown quarries are now open daily for all to visit – see Duncan Simey’s wonderful selection of pics from a very rainy Friday.  Jack Offord filmed us for the documentary – looking forward to seeing the results of that on our Preview evening of 2nd October at Black Swan.

Below is a selection from our Step 2 installation days and a couple of photoshoots by Duncan Simey taken since.

WESTDOWN:

step in stoneInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown Quarrystep in stonestep in stone

HALECOMBE:

IMG_0622

And some of our finished work:

WESTDOWN:

step in stonestep in stonestep in stone

step in stoneBunker circa 1970's Westdown Quarry grid ref ST717456 pigment inks on Somerset enhanced paper

Installations at Westdown Quarrystep in stone

Installations at Westdown Quarry

HALECOMBE:

step in stoneInstallation day at Westdown Quarry

Installation day at Westdown QuarryInstallation day at Westdown Quarry

My main pieces are the ones with long colourful tentacles, based on crinoids (see earlier post about the making process)!  Sadly a heavy steel spring (a small component of my work) went missing and other parts tampered with at Westdown the first weekend – if anybody spots this lurking in the bushes there, do contact me, it might be from my work!

The past week has been filled with our workshops, guided walks and talks, held at SESC, Westdown and Halecombe Quarries.  The guided walks, in collaboration with Rosie and Pippa from Somerset Wildlife Trust, have been really well attended, and workshop participants of all ages have explored a range of creative approaches related to artists’ work and the project.  Thanks to our wonderfully inspiring workshop leaders (Bron, Tanya, Christina, Suzie), all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience!   Sally’s talk was much appreciated and I did a talk for 27 Active Living members, who were enthralled.

IMG_0718 IMG_0714DSC_0002 DSC_0019IMG_0698 IMG_0690 IMG_0699 IMG_0702  IMG_0752 Installations at Somerset Earth Sciences CentreIMG_0803 IMG_0823

Last week culminated in a very inspirational performance at Westdown/Asham: Artmusic’s ‘ECHO’ sculpture and sound installation on Saturday 22nd Aug was animated by live performances of Artmusic’s ‘BLAST’ – a theatrical response to the rock and mechanics of quarrying, with specially composed trumpet music being played from locations which echoed around the quarry.  We had a great turn out and the audience seemed to really enjoy the unique show and setting. “A delightful melange of live and recorded fluttering trumpets grab our attention this way and that while butterflies flit among the stones…. As they move slowly up the valley from stone to stone, always edging closer to melody, we begin to follow, or not, or meander above and below. ..”  Caroline Radcliffe

People brought picnics, dogs, cameras, sketchbooks and the sun was scorching all day!

IMG_0775 Artmusic's BLAST at Westdown QuarryIMG_0778 DSCF2039 DSCF2071 DSCF2078 Artmusic's BLAST, trumpeter John Plaxton (photo Rupert Kirkham) Artmusic's BLAST, trumpeter Jack Vincent (photo Rupert Kirkham)

Can’t wait to download Ralph Hoyte’s GPS Soundwalk ‘ANTICLINE‘ – now available for your smartphone before visiting Westdown.

step in stone

Hope you can visit soon!

Fiona Campbell  24/8/15

Sculpture in a day.

Enjoyed a terrific day at the Somerset Earth Science Centre working with competition winner Charlotte McKeown making her ‘sculpture in a day’. We all collaborated to grind, weld, glue and assemble the conveyor belt inspired piece and were delighted to help charlotte successfully complete the work in time for the 5-o-clock opening.

e SESC Charlotte #2 e SESC Charlotte #1 e SESC Charlotte #3 e SESC Charlotte #4

 

 

Duncan Cameron  17/7/15

Opening Week – STEP 1

Our opening week of Step 1: installing artwork, signage, running school workshops, guided walk, making a sculpture in a day, press launch and official opening at Somerset Earth Science Centre has been a whirlwind of activity!

4 of us spent 2 days setting up artwork inside and around the grounds of SESC.  My artwork forstep in stone includes both new work inspired by features of the quarries (for Steps 2 & 3) and pre-existing work (for Step 1) that reflect how the quarries resonate with my interest in life forms.  The installation of my floating pieces involved adventures in a boat.   2 helpers were enlisted from Moons Hill quarry (both called Paul) to assist with this.  Slightly perturbed by the strangeness of it all to start with, they were soon singing rowing songs – delighted by the novelty once they relaxed into their new roles and we floated the first ‘Diatom’ in the water.   My other installations meant climbing up tall ladders, and wrapping ‘Lichen’ round a tree with helper Nigel.  Duncan Elliott dragged his heavy stone pieces up the road on a trolley, and built huge scaffolding frames to hoist up his ‘Age of Stone’ – a back-aching job, but worth the effort – it is magnificent!  Tessa Farmer arrived on a train from London laden with her intriguing boxes of insects, miniature evil fairies, worm casts and bell jar – the intricate work taking her hours to install – and Christina White set up her beautiful multi-exposure photographs in the Centre against limestone walls.

Some of this process was documented by Duncan Simey (see ‘wild-landscapes’ photos below) and filmmaker Jack Offord, for our final documentary film.

Installing Diatoms on Monday

 

Diatom

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

"'step in stone' installation at the Somerset Earth Sciences Centre"

We opened on Wednesday 8th July, and have already had a wide range of visitors of all ages engaging with our work, including 2 school groups through Somerset Art Works’ inspirED programme and some guided walkers through our collaboration with Somerset Wildlife Trust.  My half day workshop was with Yr 7 pupil premium students from Selwood School.  In small groups they created group wire pieces based on silver birch seeds.  Suzie’s workshop the next day with Castle School students resulted in felted balls using locally sourced wool.  Both sets of work will be exhibited as part of the Trail at Halecombe Quarry from Step 2 onwards.

Guided Walk at SESC Rubbings IMG_0368

Our first week culminated yesterday in the making of Charlotte McKeown’s sculpture with her in just one day.  This was her award for winning for our ‘Under 20’s Sculpture Design Competition’.  A bit like scrapheap challenge, a small, dedicated team worked hard to create the sculpture in a day.  Despite having prepared materials and got some parts together for it, the challenge was still a little daunting.  Our team included Charlotte, Lucja Korczak, who won the under 13 year-old design competition prize, her mum Aga, Duncan Cameron (step in stone artist and Strode College tutor to Charlotte), Nick Weaver (step in stone Partner) and me.  Perhaps the best thing about yesterday was how everyone worked together so well to make it happen and with such aplomb!    A slight rush to finish before the arrival of press and guests for our official opening at 5pm, the sculpture was installed by the Centre entrance.  Sarah Jackson from Mendip Hills AONB kindly did the honours to ‘open’ the event, and we all celebrated the start of an exciting few months ahead!

Kinetic Sculpture design - Charlotte McKeown

IMG_0383 IMG_0397 IMG_0400 IMG_0409 IMG_0420 IMG_0429 IMG_0430 IMG_0441 IMG_0453 IMG_0454 IMG_0466 IMG_0479 IMG_0490 IMG_0498 IMG_0506 IMG_0509 IMG_0515 IMG_0521

 

 

Thanks to Gill Odolphie and Juliet Lawn at SESC for putting up with us all week and supporting us throughout!

 

Do please come and visit Somerset Earth Science Centre (SESC)  – open to public Weds 9am-4pm & special events

Artists exhibiting at SESC: Fiona Campbell, Duncan Elliott, Tessa Farmer, Christina White, Charlotte McKeown – young sculpture design competition winner

 

Fiona Campbell   12/7/15

 

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

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