Tales from the Wood

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Black Ceramics, Chestnut, Oak, Sycamore and Box

A real adaptive challenge : combining ceramics with wood.

After a lot of 'on the spot' experiments, I've just completed these 4 pieces. The fastenings turned out to be relatively simple. A reinforced hole in the ceramic body and either a sprung forged-wire handle or, as with the steam-bent chestnut, a metal peg, capped with boxwood.

The boxwood has been seasoning for 3 years and is incredibly tough to work (I'm told boxwood was once used to make hair combs) so in these pieces, as it's doing an important structural job, box it has to be.




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Hawkmoths

The moth trap produced two splendid hawkmoths last night. An eyed hawkmoth (Smerinthus ocelatta) which refused to show its eyed wings for the camera, and a poplar hawkmoth (Loathoe populi). Lots of micro moths too, which I have yet to identify - and probably never will !

Eyed Hawkmoth

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Wood Stack 2019

Just in time for summer seasoning: the double windrow of split timber for next winter.

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Layed Hedge and Spring Growth

The first section of hedge has now been layed, and after just a few weeks, the first signs of new growth are showing. Always amazing to think, that with just a few millimetres of stem left at the severed base, the sap still finds a way through.


Layed Hedge


Hedge Leafing Up

Low Energy Ceramic Composites

Ceramic composites are becoming increasingly prevalent in the new technological fields of precision engineering. However, very little translates, so it seems, to arts and crafts practice.

It's a complex and sometimes an eye-wateringly difficult subject, but at it's simplest level, it can be viewed as a way of extending established ceramic methods by exploring different components to form sintered bodies. Or in other words, using other materials besides clay!

To cut a long story short, I've been testing some simple composites to try and cut down firing time. It certainly seems to make sense to reduce energy consumption, but also, as an interesting spin-off, it became apparent that a simple way of constructing, was to use folded-paper moulds. This technique proved nigh on impossible with standard clay slip, for more reasons that I can list here, but with a carefully designed composite, it casts up strongly and the paper mould can easily be peeled off (and recycled). Glazing is also straightforward.

As to firing times. Well, to achieve a comfortable low-fire (raku) temperature, it takes about 10 minutes. And no, absolutely no pre-firing needed!



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The Art of Hedgelaying

Way back in history, when I lived on a farm in Staffordshire, hedgelaying was part-and-parcel of everyday field maintenance. It ensured that field boundaries were stockproof and the hedges dense and secure, It gave the hedgerow-birds good tight cover for nesting and provided seasonal employment for the local 'Hedgers and Ditchers'.

I was lucky enough to be taught the art by two of Staffordhire's best; Bill Windley and Geoff Key (1985 British Champion) but despite the illustrious tuition, I was never more than a jobbing, rather than a hero hedgelayer and never did particularly well in local competitions.

But, I really loved it; there's nothing better on a freezing winter's day than a few hours grubbing around in a hedge bottom - it keeps you warm as toast and you can see a real transformation, as the neatly sloping pleachers follows your billhook and axe.

Now living in Norfolk, I've found much less evidence of hedgelaying: beets and potatoes have taken over from sheep and bullocks. However, staring me in the face, for too long now, there is a good 150 yard stretch of overgrown hedge bordering the wood, and it's ripe for laying.

The principles of hedgelaying are fairly simple, you thin the individual hedgerow trees, cut through each stem with a slicing cut, leaving just enough bark and cambium to enable the sap to rise, and then, carefully bend the stem (now a called a pleacher) down into the previously layed section.

Iv'e made a questionable start, but by the end, I guess I'll be back to average!



Hedge Laying 1

Hedge Laying 2

Hedge Laying 3

Hedge Laying 4