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

 

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