Monday, December 29, 2008


The Church of St. George, shaped like a Greek cross. Photograph by Paul Zizka.

When replying to one of the comments in my last post I mentioned the rock hewn churches of Ethiopia. One of the world's most sacred sites is situated in the small town of Lalibela, Ethiopia where 11 small churches have been chiseled out of rock. In fact each church is carved from a granite block.

The Church of St. George , cut 40 feet down, the roof at ground level. Photo by Paul Zizka.

In the photographs above you can see how the earth was first removed from around the granite before work on the church could begin. It was a matter of hammering, chiselling and sculpting the rock by hand until the church took shape. No small feat! According to legend, once the workers knocked off at the end of each day, angels would take over at night.

Church interior, with carved windows and icon. Photo by Dan Gerding

More information and photographs on the Sacred Destinations website, here.
"Our elders used to tell us that all holy sites are endowed with ancient wisdom. These centres have innate powers." - Joseph Rael

Wednesday, December 24, 2008



Laser cut Christmas tree and decorations made by TinTown, South Africa.

Monday, December 22, 2008


DOUBLE HEADED SNAKE by Norval Morrisseau

To continue the snake theme............Ok I admit it! I'm obsessed with googling.

Snakes, woodcut by MC Escher

Viper made from recycled keyboard keys by Korean artist Choi Jung Hyun. I think it's been eating mice.

Medusa, clay sculpture by Erika Monique

Ken Neiderer created this snake from forged steel. For some reason Cleopatra's asp comes to mind.

Stainless Steel Snakes by George Hart. Have a look at other geometric sculptures that George Hart has made from a variety of media including wood, paper, plastic, metal and assemblages of common household objects.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


"Removing the snake from Eden" a painting I did in 2003

I managed to get in a few hours carving this morning before the heat became too intense. Look at the beautiful creature that came to visit me in the courtyard where I was working.

Fortunately my foxy wasn't lying at my feet as per usual because she surely would have pounced at the first movement. After I took a few photos my hubby guided it down the step with a broom and it whipped away through a crack in the garden wall towards the river.

Every time I see a snake I think of the poem "Snake" by DH Lawrence. At school we had to learn it off by heart and and then each pupil had to recite it, one by one. It had to be perfect or we would have to start over again. Oh the shame of it! Every eye focused on my face and the teacher becoming so incensed that anyone should forget the lines that her face turned purple. It's surprising that I even liked poetry after that and I'm convinced it was the beginning of my fear of public speaking. The good thing that did come out of this particular poem is that I learned to respect snakes and will think twice before harming even a venomous one.

SNAKE by D H Lawrence

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Photograph of one of Peter Beard's many African journals

It was a hot weekend and all we felt like doing was flopping inside, sipping long glasses of iced ginger tea. I however, cannot sit ...or flop...and do nothing for long so I hauled out a pile of my favourite books to get my mind off the heat.

When re-reading my books there are certain pages that I return to over and over again. Pages that either inspire or stir my curiosity enough to send me off on a google frenzy. Actually it doesn't take much to stir me into a google frenzy!

I thought I would share some of my favourite pages with you. The pages that stop me in my tracks even though I've seen them many times before.

The first one, from Africa Interior Design is a beautiful room in a farm house in Cape Town. The carved door from Mali caught my attention but the rest of the room is just as gorgeous. This house is featured in many books and magazines here in South Africa.

The Basket Room, Hotel Le Saxon, in Johannesburg --from At Home With Art by Tiddy Rowan.

The home and studio of sculptor Axel Cassel in Normandy. I love the mingling of books, african artefacts and ethnographic objects with his own pieces. From Contemporary Natural by Phyllis Richardson and Solvi Dos Santos.

An old favourite which I picked up on a sale for next to nothing, many years ago. Henry Moore: My Ideas, Inspiration and Life as an Artist by Henry Moore and John Hedgecoe. Seeing artists working in their studios is a big thrill for me.

This page from Art Making, Collections and Obsessions by Lynne Perrella is so my cup of tea!

In Amulets by Sheila Paine there are hundreds (431 to be exact) of intriguing illustrations. This cabinet is an 18th-century apothecary's cabinet filled with amulets dating from antiquity to 19th-century, France.

South African artist, Norman Catherine sitting amongst his giant fibreglass sculptures. They all have humerous names and are far more impressive in life than they are here in the book, Norman Catherine by Hazel Friedman.

There are so many pages that I gravitate to in The Artful Dodger by Nick Bantock but I'll share just the one of a collage which is included in Bantock's book The Venetian's Wife.

Last but not least are a few pages from Peter Beard's African journals. Many of the pages in Taschen's double volume, PETER BEARD, leave me feeling quite gobsmacked.

Can you believe the size of this mighty croc?

...And the young Peter Beard himself.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Ptolemy Elrington transforms hubcaps and shopping trolleys into the most fantastic creatures.
The fish, in particular, are ingenius creations made from discarded hubcaps.

"My fish try to say things about our wasteful society and about our prejudices towards value. Hopefully they will encourage people to reconsider before they discard something which apparently has no purpose."

This piece was commissioned by Anglian Water to highlight river pollution. Elrington created 10 river creatures out of discarded shopping trolleys. Read more about it here.

There are more amazing photographs and an excellent interview with Polemy over at Layers upon Layers.

Monday, December 8, 2008


My studio is in desperate need of a tidy-up and whilst tentatively organising a cupboard (one baby step at a time), I discovered a box which hadn't been touched since our move here 7 years ago. In it I found the old carving (above). It is called Sawabona which is a zulu greeting meaning "I see you". It feels strange looking at something I created well over 10 years ago. I was into bright colours and quirky ladies back then.

This newspaper cutting shows another one of my quirky ladies made from papier mache for a christmas show.

.....and that's as far as I got with my studio tidy-up. Maybe tomorrow I will take another baby step.

Before I end off I would love to mention a new blog, DJ'S STUDIO, started by a dear friend. DJ is a wonderful art teacher with a heart of gold. Pop on over and see what she's up to.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Swan's Nest Maze , 40m diameter earthwork.

Since everyone enjoyed the Nest post I thought it would be a good idea to follow up with an Egg post. Each masterpiece has been a revelation, from the tiniest Netsuke egg to the biggest landscape sculpture. The Swan's Nest Maze above, is part of a series of works interpreting nests and habitats of wetland species. This site is well worth a visit. A maze "leads into a central area where people discover a series of large stone egg sculptures containing carved alabaster representations of the three main stages of swan embryo development."

"Displaced Egg" by Max Nowell - Westmorland green slate. 7 feet tall.

There are some magnificent stone sculptures on Max Nowell's site. If you like Andy Goldsworthy's work you will like Max's work too. In fact he has worked with Goldsworthy.

"Stone is a fascinating material. It is easy to think of it as an inert, never-changing, lifeless substance, but I think of it differently. Geologists know that every rock or stone that we look at today has a history of change and movement on an immense scale. My work gives the same stone a chance to express its life more immediately. Whether it is a sinuous carving of a knotted rope or an imposing dry-stone sculpture representing an egg or a seed, the ever-changing play of light and weather on the rough-textured surfaces provides endless interest, and the slow changes wrought by mosses, lichen, insects and birds only add to the richness of the piece." - Max Nowell

Carved eggs hewn from massive oaks by David Nash

Turul Egg by Yin Peet. (Turul is the legendary Guardian Bird of Hungary)

Downsizing to Susan Wraight's carved wooden Netsuke.

"Netsuke (pronounced "netskay") originated in Japan. It came about because traditional Japanese dress didn't have pockets. A woman could put small things in her sleeve, and samurai could hang small objects from their weapons, but this really wasn't ideal so they began to suspend everyday things from the sash (obi) with a silk cord. The netsuke was a little carving that was positioned at the top of the sash to stop the whole thing from falling to the ground - it acted as a fastener.

Netsuke is a small, thumb size sculpture that is figurative and highly detailed. The carving can be of animals, figures, mythical creatures or almost everything to do with everyday life. Traditionally, ivory and wood as well as other organic materials such as bone, shell and coral were used. Half the appeal was that they were using a non precious material and giving it a highly decorative, precious treatment." -

Carved Egg by Wang Jinyi

The Rothschild Faberge Egg (estimated at $18,000,000 by Christie's)

I couldn't leave out the famous Faberge Egg, "one of the most impressive and exclusive works of art ever made. "

The Rothschild Egg contains an automaton diamond-set cockerel which pops out of the top on the hour. It flaps it's wings four times and then nods his head three times while opening and closing his beak, crowing at the same time. Each performance lasts about 15 seconds, before the clock strikes the hour bell.

"The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities." - James Allen

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Delicate Wait III (detail) by Giselle Hicks

There's a huge interest in bird nests in the blog world which isn't at all surprising. Who wouldn't be amazed at the beauty of a tiny Hummingbird's nest covered in moss and lichen.....or watching a Thrush feed a nest full of chirping, gaping mouths.........or finding a clutch of speckled eggs in a hollow, still warm from the mother bird.
Passage by Giselle Hicks. I took this photograph from that wonderful book 500 Figures in Clay.

Giselle Hicks writes in her artist statement...

"I am fascinated with the idea that skillful construction with delicate materials can yield a structure strong enough to house and protect the fledgling inhabitant of the nest. This process demands diligence, patience, careful craftsmanship, commitment and resilience. These same qualities are required to build and maintain relationships to a person, family, and community. "

Bird in Nest, Etching by Scott Fitzgerald

Bird Nest by Antonia Munroe. See more of her delicate bird nest paintings here.

Joe Pogan's Bird and Nest made from found objects.

Fiona Hall has made a series of nests from shredded dollar bills. Lifelike aren't they?

Nils-Udo Clemson Clay Nest 2008 Installation.

Man sized nest created by Benjamin Verdonck. (There is an egg in the well as a man)