Cyanotype / Van Dyke workshop – Halecombe Quarry

Awoke to a bright sunny day (amongst a series of very wet days) so it was all systems go for a workshop ‘in the field’ ! Conducting a workshop outside has logistical problems, especially when you have to construct a mobile ‘darkroom’ (ish!). Halecombe has a lovely grass walkway along the rim, with a large clearing and outstanding view of the working quarry. The bench was the obvious structure to use to create the sunlight proof room, so using blackout material I was able to create a space where the participants could coat the chemicals onto paper and cloth, leave them to dry and process after exposing.

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A blue tarpaulin demarked the classroom, giving us somewhere comfortable and dry to sit on!

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After introducing and discussing the processes and their applications, we coated the materials with the cyanotype sensitizer, made by mixing Ammonium Ferric Citrate and Potassium Ferrycianide.

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Whilst they were drying, we collected plant materials which were then arranged into compositions using printing frames, which were then loaded with the sensitized paper. The frames were then exposed to the sun!

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Watching each print change under the sun, going from yellow to blue to grey, once it is correctly exposed is a fascinating process!

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To ‘develop’ the exposed prints, you wash them in water till the yellow from the unexposed area is removed. This is done under the ‘sun proof’ room as is the drying. We then changed water and chemicals for the Van Dyke process, the poor man’s ‘Kallitype’. The chemicals involved are mixed from Ferric Ammonium Citrate, Tartaric Acid (Brewer’s Yeast) and Silver Nitrate. It is a more complicated, but produces a much more sensitive solution. The bright sunshine meant it could overexpose quite easily!

 

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All 3 under the blackout material, coating paper!!

The prints were exposed the same way, but turn bright orange! We then wash them, and fix them in Hypo solution (Sodium Thiosulphate), which makes them turn brown.

 

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Working in a field situation has its problems, but it is a wonderful way to engage with the landscape. The background of the quarry and its noises enhanced the atmosphere, and at the same time we were able to look at the installed artworks. The results had an ethereal quality and were not as precise as under controlled conditions, which in itself enhanced the experience.

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Christina White  22/8/15

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

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.

 

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Fiona Campbell  27/2/15

Artists Research Trip 1

An Artist Research Trip on a cold, wet day in January gave those involved an opportunity to get together on site, explore various starting points and develop ideas and artwork for the project.

It was very inspiring despite the weather and I got home buzzing!” says artist Suzie Gutteridge.

The 3 quarries have very different characteristics – Westdown/Asham is disused, massive and dramatic, with a long pathway and stream, neighbouring Asham Woods SSSI. It was used as a backdrop for filming Dr Who. Halecombe is a working quarry with a peripheral circular public pathway overlooking the site, while Fairy Cave Quarry is mysterious with stunning limestone rock formations and renowned caves.

I found the quarry landscapes really fascinating, alien, exciting …” artist Ralph Hoyte.

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Artist Research Trip 1

 

Fiona Campbell  9/2/15