A packed 6 months...

It's been a while since my last blog post, mainly because (like everyone these days) the weeks have been booked up with work and before you know it, another season has flown by and it's Autumn again!

Here a few highlights showing what I've been up to. Back in May I ran two carving workshops for London Craft Week mentioned in my last post, There were two 1.5 hr workshops limited to 6 per workshop and I was pleased to hear that there was a waiting list for attendance. It was a very basic introduction but everyone went away with a carved initial of their choice and everyone enjoyed themselves which was the main thing!

Ionic Capitals

Back from London and it was straight back into the thick of things working on replicating two Ionic column capitals. The originals were completely rotten and mainly being held together by decades of paint. Initially thought to be carved, it emerged that the decoration was actually applied composition, something I'd done a little of back in my uni days. After a lot of research, planning and hard work, the capitals are now on their columns and I will be completing the in situ fluting next week.

BBC Countryfile filming

Obviously there have been plenty of other commissions going on during the past few months, many of which are shown on my Twitter feed ( fancy bread boards, 33 bee reliefs, a nature themed memorial, awards for the Prince's Foundation and British Fantasy Society among others) and then out of the blue I got a call from BBC Countryfile asking if they could use my workshop as a filming location for an interview with Patricia Lovett from the Heritage Crafts Association. Obviously the answer was yes and it was shown on the 10th September. There was even a nanosecond of me carving!

Woodcarving Magazine

A couple of months ago I was also asked by Woodcarving magazine if they could interview me for a feature in their upcoming issue, again the reply was- "yes of course". As far as I know it'll be in the next issue of the magazine and here's a picture from the article (of course Billy saw his opportunity to find fame, Bobby was fast asleep in the corner as usual) and the cover from the current issue so you know what magazine I'm talking about. It's a very niche market but great exposure.

Posted on October 4, 2017 .

All things Splendour and a finished frieze!

For those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook you'll have seen that I was fortunate enough to be asked to exhibit in the the fantastic 'Splendour!' exhibition that was put on by the Georgian Group during February. Featuring a plethora of traditional arts and crafts it was an incredibly successful and well attended exhibition and did wonders in promoting the good old fashioned crafts.

I'm delighted to be returning to London on 7th May for two workshops as part of the London Craft Week. The workshops are now sold out but I will providing  a very brief introduction to woodcarving and giving people the chance to have a go at some letter carving. Looking at all the other amazing workshops, exhibitions and talks available (many for free) that are going on during the week, it's a real privilege to be part of it. The workshops will be taking place at Prince's Foundation HQ in Shoreditch where my Building Craft Apprenticeship started back in 2014 ( I'm struggling to believe it was that long ago already!) so it will be great to back somewhere familiar.

In amongst all this, I've been cracking on with my carving! The main commission since Christmas has been the 19m of frieze that will be going in to the Owslebury Church near Winchester...then there's the small matter of a further 10m to be carved before the vicar retires in the summer!

Also this last month... a spot of lettering restoration on this bench...

Still to come....

This week I'm collecting a couple of Ionic column capitals which are virtually completely rotten and so replicas are required! This is where I step in :) Very excited to get my teeth stuck in to that project. 

I have also recently acquired (from a very generous Aunt!) a lathe/circular saw/ plane which is currently happily sitting in my workshop waiting for me to switch it on have a go. If it the sheer weight of the thing is anything to go by, it should have plenty of years left in it as it's good ol' fashioned British engineering so I can't wait to give turning a go and get to grips with what does what and more importantly get a bit of instruction from Harry the woodturner to avoid any serious injury :) 

The heaters have finally been put away in the workshop (although I'm sure they'll be back out a few times more before I can officially put them away) and my workshop space has just doubled in size so this week there's plenty of re-organising and sorting to get done inbetween a varied list of carvings to be completed.

 

Till next time...

Posted on March 22, 2017 .

A busy Autumn...

Well the workshop has definitely got a lot colder since my last blog post! The heater's on and lots of tea is required to fuel all the carving over the last few weeks. Both the coat of arms and gilded frame I had just started last time are now completed and I've also been joined by the two terrors that are Billy and Bobby the spaniels.

As well as carving away in the workshop I've also spent some time in London in connection with the INTBAU Excellence Awards for which I was asked to be on the judging panel and for a dinner at the Prince's Foundation HQ in Shoreditch. Both involved meeting some fascinating people, all with an interest in traditional architecture and crafts. Next week I will be back in London for the INTBAU award ceremony, it will be great to meet the winners of the awards that we decided on last month. Following on from that I have been invited to a reception at Clarence House to meet HRH Prince of Wales again as he is the patron of INTBAU- all very exciting!!

This week I had a meeting at Owslebury Church following on from our initial meeting in 2013- playing the long game on this one! The restoration of the internal panelling is finally underway and I've been asked to replicate the missing frieze section. Very glad to finally be getting started on this one after it being in the pipeline for so long!

Below are a selection of finished carvings I've produced over the last three months. I was particularly honoured to be asked to carve a memorial plaque by the widow of Rick Cornwell who I did a beam carving for about 4 years ago and who sadly died in 2014.

Till next time...

Posted on November 11, 2016 .

Back after a bit of a break and keen to crack on...

My workshop currently has a wonderful mix of commissions happening at the moment, some big and some small but all enjoyable. Having returned from a week away, I'm keen to get back to the workbench and get on with my carvings, in particular the two large ongoing projects of a gilded mirror frame and a large (600 x 600mm) coat of arms.

As usual, the onset of wedding season also brings various chopping boards, tealight holders and anniversary gifts (with the 5th being wood). It's always satisfying to produce something that has something a little bit special and personal about it.

Below are a few of my latest projects, either in the middle of work or now completed....

Posted on July 24, 2016 .

Heritage Craft Association Newspaper

I'm delighted to have received my box of HCA newspapers hot off the press, its the first time they've created the newspaper which will be distributed across the country. It's great to be featured amongst other craftspeople who are passionate about keeping traditional skills alive for another generation and working hard to hone their craft. Now to get distributing my copies around West Sussex...

The workshop is getting busy again at the moment with a couple of particularly exciting projects in the pipeline. The first is to be a gilded frame very similar to the one I created whilst on placement with Charlie Oldham. Like that one it has a 'kit kat' look to it but with a few design tweaks here and there to make it a truly bespoke design for the owners. The design stage has now been completed and I'm very excited now that I'm beginning to bring the design to life in wood. I can't wait to see it finished but it'll be a little while to go yet...

I've also been taking full advantage of the beautiful weather this week by putting the final touches to a coat of arms design whilst sat in the sun...this method of working is imperative to creating a successful design and must be adhered to whenever possible.

And here's a few images of my other carvings at various stages of completion including a tree sculpture, some moulding for a corner cupboard carved for the joiners Hayter and Smythe and the beginnings of a very unique 'Hound Water Bar'!!

Posted on May 5, 2016 .

Bespoke gates and architectural detail

It's been a while since I've posted on here so a very belated Happy New Year! Having moved house shortly before Christmas I've been without internet for (what seemed like) and incredibly long time, but it's all back up and running now so some level of normality is resumed.

In the workshop commissions include these pine corbelsfor a fireplace mantel. The mantel was reclaimed and the owners wanted a couple of corbels just to finish it off nicely for its new home. The brief was to keep the design quite simple to stay in line with the look and period of the mantel, my clients were happy with this final design and Richie fitted it in time for the Christmas party- happy customers all round!

Back in December, I spent a fantastic week down in Cornwall staying near Treyarnon Bay and Padstow. The weather was typically wild and windy but long walks taking in the rugged beauty of the Cornish coastline blew the cobwebs away and was suitably refreshing. Whilst down there I had a wonder around Lanhyrdock, @LanhydrockNT owned by the National Trust and, as you would expect from a stately home, there was a plethora of traditional skills on show…carving, gilding, plasterwork, stucco work, marquetry, the list goes on. It never fails to impress and inspire to see examples of how the masters worked and I’m always keen to get back in the workshop afterwards and have a go at replicating some of the designs I’ve seen.

Below shows the carving on the entrance door (yes, unfortunately I can’t just walk through the door, I have to get in the way and take pictures too.) Also some fantastic stucco work on the ceiling of the library, one of the oldest parts of the building that remained since Lanhydrock has been through several transformations over the years.

 

Straight back to the carving after Cornwall and I went to work on these beautiful gates made by the guys at Jameson Joinery in Billingshurst. Was great to be able to put the final bespoke details onto the gates- and I got to meet the guard geese, who definitely were not happy about a stranger being in their midst!


Another really lovely project to work on was an oak plaque that is to be fitted into the side of the owners staircase under the banister. They have been working on the property for many years and this provided the finishing touch to the stairwell. 

Plans are afoot for a beautiful Georgian style mirror as well as some sample pieces of architectural moulding- best get my gilding brushes out :)

Posted on January 25, 2016 .

A trip to Windsor Castle, wood turning and BFS winners

The new gouges are certainly getting a lot of use at the moment and I've been getting to the end of a few commissions and in between I've been visiting some amazing places which, as always, provide bucketloads of inspiration.

I had a good excuse to visit Windsor Castle recently, ridiculous that I'd never been before but isn't that usually the case..you never visit what's on your own doorstep. Unfortunately you're not allowed to take photos inside the castle so you'll just have to take my word for it that there are some INCREDIBLE Grinling Gibbons carvings to see and in St. George's Chapel is the stunning 'Monument to Princess Charlotte'. The picture doesn't do it justice so I would encourage you to visit it in person. 

Back in the workshop, I got the 17 bookends finished and shipped off to the British Fantasy Society awards in time for their 2015 convention. Congratulations to all the winners @laurelsills tweeted this pick after their win .

The grotesques have now been completed and sent on to their new home. They are in the style of the earlier type of grotesques hence the lack of proper proportions and tooled finish.

I also had these large letters to make which are going to end up in the owner's garden. Line carved with a floral pattern I think they make a really unique wedding anniversary gift.

I was contacted to make some replacement knights and pawns for a chess set and seeing as I don't have a lathe it was a good excuse to catch up with my 'go to' woodturner, Harry Butler. The video below shows a little bit of him turning the pawns.


Posted on November 15, 2015 .

Farnham Castle, Grotesques and Gouges

The workshop is pretty busy at the moment, in between dodging all the spiders I'm just about managing to get some carving done! And I've also been guilty of doing a spot of shopping. Yeah...I may have bought a few gouges....

But they were purchased on the advice of Charles Oldham, and to ignore the advice of a master carver would be foolish indeed.

I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to be shown around the beautiful Farnham Castle last week by Louise who works there and who I met after she commissioned me to carve into a puzzle bench for her children's school. I would recommend a visit if you're in the area, some lovely carvings and such a rich history spanning 900 years. A wedding was being set up when I was there so I couldn't get any wonderful photos of the fireplace but you should get the idea. 

Also of interest if you're into such things was the recent BBC 4 programme on an oak tree...sounds geeky?...well it was a bit. But it was very interesting and although I knew I owe a lot to oak trees, it turns out the whole nation does. Skip to 38:40 for some lovely views of Salisbury Cathedral's roof and a rather cute squirrel also features!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06fq03t/oak-tree-natures-greatest-survivor

Carving started on the main sections

Carving started on the main sections

Thomas the workshop cat completely oblivious to the dangers of jumping up onto a bench covered in gouges. Fortunately he was completely fine and after a quick snuggle I removed him to safety!

Thomas the workshop cat completely oblivious to the dangers of jumping up onto a bench covered in gouges. Fortunately he was completely fine and after a quick snuggle I removed him to safety!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've started work on a couple of oak grotesques and, although far from finished, the photos left hopefully show you how the first one is progressing. It's great to have an opportunity to design something from scratch and slowly see that idea come to fruition.

Last year I carved 14 bookends in oak and elm which were given out as awards, this year it's the same again but 17! Below shows the various sections cut out and ready for sanding, carving the design has now begun and with it the perfect reason to try out some of those new gouges!

Posted on October 4, 2015 .

From Hampshire to Frome, to Scotland and back

I feel like I've spent more time in the car than the workshop over the past couple of weeks but all for very good reasons.

This week I was reunited with the other Prince's Foundation Apprentices that built our Doocot for our Graduation back at Dumfries House. It was fantastic to see everyone again and find out what they're all up to since I saw them last. Our lovely little Doocot has weathered in a bit now but still looks as gorgeous as when we left it in October. Official photos from the ceremony aren't out yet so there's no proof that we did actually meet Prince Charles...I shall post them when I have them! We also bumped into one of this year's apprentices whilst wondering around the workshop, a familiar face as Michael was part of the Summer School section last year.

And from Prince Charles to another Charlie, I stopped by Master Carver Charlie Oldham in Frome for a catch up and some carving advice. I also got to have a cuddle with Murphy the Poodle once he remembered who I was. Scary to think that it was nearly 10 months ago that I was there for my placement, felt like I’d never been away! Here’s a few ornamental mouldings that I was looking at in Charlie's workshop …

So in amongst all that travelling I haven’t managed to get many carvings actually finished although plenty of pieces are underway. This is one of three children’s room door signs that I did  manage to complete. Plenty of pretty flowers and butterflies to brighten little Esme’s door!

Posted on September 13, 2015 .

A few recent carvings

I'm now fully back into the swing of things following my wonderful trip away so I thought I'd share a few of my latest commissions.

Above is a coat of arms I carved for a wedding present for the marriage of Hannah Milnes and James Sutcliffe. I combined the two family crests to create a new one to represent the joining of the two famlies.

I was asked to carve some lettering into these entrance gates for Universe Gates. A nice bespoke touch to some rather smart looking gates!

These are a pair of hop themed bookends which I designed for a client who was after a leaving present for one of his colleagues. Unfortunately in my haste to get them in the post in time for the deadline I forgot to take a picture of the finished article which was waxed with a medium stain beeswax. So here they are in their almost finished state!

I'm now in the early stages of creating some low relief grotesques for a house which contains some panelling dating back to the 1200's, it's absolutely fascinating seeing the tool marks which were made so many years ago and I'm very excited about the opportunity to contribute to the story of the woodwork in the property!

Also worth a mention is the BBC Four programme "Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer"  which is worth a watch if you're into such things. Really well presented and full of interesting stuff about architecture and the goings on at the time, the presenter also does some pretty impressive drawings!

Posted on August 4, 2015 .

Inspirational Italy

I have just returned from an AMAZING week travelling in Tuscany taking in the stunning architecture on every street. The skill involved in designing the buildngs by architects such a  Brunelleschi was staggering but the skilled craftspeople who brought those designs to life was every bit as incredible.

Here' s just a taste of what I saw, all very  inspirational and now I'm itching to get back in the workshop and start carving away again! Plenty to be getting on with with a move away from lettering this week, a set of bookends with a hop theme (similar to my beam carvings at Dumfries House) and plans for a decorative panel are also underway. 


Posted on July 22, 2015 .

Bradfield, Winchester and LOTS of lettering

I’ve been busy with lots of lettering both in situ and in the workshop with lots more still to come. I was fortunate to meet Danny Tongeman of Besp-oak Carpentry last week as I’d been asked to carve into the oak bench he had made for a school in Rowledge. As he’s a timber framer who works a lot with listed properties and is also a fan of the Weald and Downland we had much to talk about including plans to carve some pagan symbols into the didgeridoo he plays in his band. 

I loved the idea one of my customers had for a wedding gift which I just finished this morning. The bench has various co-ordinates relating to the locations of their wedding and honeymoon together with the date of the wedding. Admittedly there has been a slight delay in getting the present sorted but I think some things are worth waiting for!

Work began and (continued through the heat wave last week) on these beams at the beautiful Bradfield College near Reading. A stunning location to work in and with gorgeous old buildings to geek out over. My brief was to carve the donors names into the beams of the recently restored 'Stunt Pavilion' .

Now i've stopped gallivanting around the country with the Prince's Foundation course I've finally been around to attend another INTBAU meeting, this time in Winchester. We were given a tour and talks from the ADAM architecture headquarters before a visit to Winchester Cathedral and a walk round town taking in all the beautiful old buildings. ADAM architecture are behind some stunning large scale buildings going up both in England and abroad based on traditional design. They also design new urban developments based on  thorough research into social interaction and requirements in today's world and how town  and architectural design can improve quality of life.

Posted on July 5, 2015 .

A return to The Weald and Downland Museum

What a couple of weeks! Firstly an update on the columns for the clocktower at Breamore House in Salisbury. I finished carved the capitals on Friday just gone so hopefully if all goes to plan James should be getting them craned into place either this week or next.

Now they've had the extra section added to the top I think they look so much better.


The Clocktower before it needed restoration work. You can see where the columns will be going just above the clock face.

The Clocktower before it needed restoration work. You can see where the columns will be going just above the clock face.

On Sunday The Prince’s Foundation apprentices were invited to join a PF and National Trust two day event hosted at the fascinating Weald and Downland Museum, not far from where I’m based. I also visited the museum whilst studying for my degree many moons ago so it was really great to have an excuse to return,If you even have a passing interest in how our building were once constructed then I thoroughly recommend a trip to Weald and Downland.

I was invited to give a short presentation explaining how I got into woodcarving, my experience of the BCA course and goals for the future. Another BCA and a Young Heritage Apprentice, Miriam, also spoke about their time with the PF. We also got to hear from the National Trust apprentices which was great to see what they get involved in on their course. We were privileged to be present at the National Trust Apprentice’s graduation ceremony at Petworth House where we were also told about the restoration of some rather magnificent metal gates which had fallen into a sorry state of disrepair. Very impressive work and some gorgeous acanthus leaves on show which I can use as inspiration for my own work.

Day 2 was where the real fun began as we got to take part in workshops choosing  2 from 6 traditional crafts to try out. My choices were cob building and blacksmithing.

The cob workshop was led by Alex Gibbons, Director of Earth Building UK and friend of fellow BCA JeffreyTheNaturalBuilder.com. Very informative and my idea of living/working in an earth building has now been fortified. 

The Blacksmithing was a wonderful experience. Taking place in an old ‘Smithy’ from c.1850 brought to the Weald and Downland to save it from demolition in 1971, you really felt like you had stepped back in time. A few hours later I had produced my very own hook based on a typical Tudor design, had a go at keeping the bellows going to feed the fire and once again realised that anything that seemingly looks easy very rarely is!

Also thrown into the mix I completed a third vineyard sign for Chilworth Manor, a coat of arms for a 70th birthday present and carving into an oak porch. Things should start to settle down a bit next week!

Posted on May 20, 2015 .