Sunday, April 26, 2009


Stone sculpture by Hirotoshi Itoh, Keiko Gallery.

How can one not smile at Hirotoshi Itoh's rock sculptures. From zippered rocks containing shells, coins or coffeebeans to a mouth full of teeth......many mouths full of teeth! He also sculpts the most amazing stone garments. Have a look at his site, here.

Photo taken by TruShu

" Although I work with various kinds of stones, most of my work consists of optimizing a stone's original shape. I pick up these stones from a river bed in my neighbourhood. While utilizing the image that a stone is hard, I think even from now on I would like to express the warmth and humor."

Stone sculpture by Hirotoshi Itoh, Keiko Gallery

On to the powerful sculptures of Ilan Averbuch

Loneliness of Queen Hatshepsut by Ilan Averbuch

Grapes and other promises by Ilan Averbuch

Tree sculpture by Alastair Heseltine

Eucalyptus Bark Pod in Wood Frame by the late Valerie Pragnell, Brown Grotta Arts

"I try to distill the essence of a place into the work, so that each becomes a small environment in its own right." - Valerie Pragnell

That Word by Gyong Laky, Brown Grotta Arts

River Squares by Richard Shilling

Richard Shilling's art keeps drawing me back to his site. He has this amazing empathy with the land and through studying his work I am developing a new sensitivity to the natural environment around me. Richards land art images are now available at Red Bubble.

"I didn't know when I started if I would find enough colours to fill the platform, but as always as you start to get a feel for the pebbles that are there, you start to see many more colours than were first apparent. It takes a few hours of being there before your eyes become attuned and the different hues reveal themselves. This is what is interesting for me when making these sculptures that as you spend more time looking you become more absorbed in the environment and more and more aspects are revealed to you. This process is at the heart of land art. Through making sculptures with natural materials you peel back the layers of the place and discover what is at first hidden from the the fleeting eye." - Richard Shilling.

Sitting Pretty by Patrick Dougherty

My rock garden

Friday, April 24, 2009


There's a shop in the little dorp* of Howick that we visit every month or two, called Back in Time.

We daren't go more often because our house just isn't big enough to cope with all the "junk" we cart home with us.

It is a sprawling double story building with many rooms surrounding a courtyard and each room is filled to the brim with curiosities.

From weathered whale vertebra to buck horns, hyena trophies and zebra hides...

Metal trunks and farm impliments in various stages of decay........

Rusty "everythings" hidden in boxes under tables laden with antique silver and old china....

Beautiful old furniture and bouquets of golf clubs.

On the way out there are tiny shops selling patterned gourds....

Handwoven rugs and animals.......

Baskets, books, beads and artefacts.

I mentioned one of these shops in another post, here....but much to our disappointment it had gone so I never did get a chance to ask about the sexy red underwear.

*Dorp - afrikaans word for small town.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Detail of amulets, talismans and charms from one of my earlier totems.

Amulets, talismans and charms. From snakeskin pouches holding ancient Ethiopian prayer scrolls to Bamana hunters tunics festooned with tiny leather parcels; Christian Crusifixes to the Hand of Fatima; rabbit foot charms to the saint christopher medals so many of us have worn at some stage in our lives; then there are the old favourites such as charm bracelets and the silver charms found in christmas puddings.

There is always some overlap in the meaning of the three words...amulet, charm and talisman. Shiela Paine in her book Amulets says.... "An amulet is a device, the purpose of which is to protect, but by magical and not physical means."

"A charm is something believed to bring good luck, health and happiness. In so doing it might also be expected to protect from bad luck, sickness and misery, but protection is not its primary function."

"A talisman is something thought to be imbued with some magical property. It can both protect, and radiate power, and is often used in ritual."

Details from past totems I have carved. The central figure is the Healing Goddess.

This morning I revisited Keith Lobue's website and discovered he has started a blog.

Telling the bees by Keith Lobue (The title refers to the old folk practice of telling the bees of a loved ones death; it was believed that the bees were attendant to the soul of the departed.)

Keith Lobue writes about his work using found objects.
"Many of these objects are centuries old, and they lead me to create works that seem to have been conjured from a rather improbable past. Presenting themselves as scientific instruments or devices of divination, these assemblies appear to have some particular function. Without that utility, however, these pieces are left with a sense of mystery; of questions yet to be answered."

Requiescat by Keith Lobue

Susan Lenart Kazmer is another artist whose work intrigues me.

Talisman by Susan Lenart Kazmer

"Recently I have considered another dimension utilizing found objects. Picking up a piece, holding it and contemplating it, I let the object lead the way as to what direction the finished piece will emerge. The magnitude of energy carried with the found object from their previous lives can be seen felt and touched. When you close your eyes and hold the object in your hand you can feel whether the user has enjoyed, neglected, or cherished it. Fear, happiness, struggle, and strength are also feelings embedded in an object. My job as an artist is to take the found object and present it in a new and unexpected way. Combining these energies in recycled objects is indeed creating a contemporary talisman." - Susan Lenart Kazmer
Talisman by Caroline Soer

Caroline Soer created this delicate drawing of an Omani necklace in her collection. It is called a kirsh kitab (coin or disc with writing) and was worn by women throughout Northern Oman not only to offer protection, but also to bring gladness and cheerfulness to life. Read the post about it here.

Pocket Divinity, pewter sculpture by Malaki Blunt

Malaki Blunt creates small sculptures to carry in one's pocket as a reminder of one's connection to the divine. He refers to them as "A talisman, an amulet, a meditative friend". If you happen to wander over to his blog look out for his "Murder of Crows", pocket sculpture.

Warrior of light (protection for Obama) by Adriene Cruz

I found this talisman on Fiber Focus a wonderful blog full of textile and fiber art.

Ethiopian prayer box beads from Africa Direct

One of the most intriguing aspects of these prayer box beads is that they have probably survived a hundred years of wear and traveled through at least 3 continents. How exciting is that? I wonder what the history behind them is. Who wore them? What is their story?

Inuit amulet cluster, ivory and sinew

Monday, April 13, 2009


Lirrminginging by Yidumduma Bill Harney (wood, natural pigments, fibre,feathers)

I read somewhere that totem poles are long sticks that tell a story. Put simply, that is exactly what they are. I've been carving totem poles since my teens though my first totems were based on the North American Indian totems. Completely different to what I do now. I was always on the lookout for anything totem related but the only information I ever found was about the Native American totems. Now having access to the internet I'm amazed at the different interpretations I have found.

Columns by David Nash

Gavin Young's typographic tree sculptures installed in Crawley Library

Fourteen oak trunks were used to display carved passages of text from literature within Crawley Library. The lettering on the trees is sandblasted out of the wood. Read the story here.

Totem IX by Ralph Holker

"Among Native American people's totems represented the clan and it's ancestors through an animal or natural object related by blood and taken as its symbol. The clay and the abstract carvings of these Totems are my connection to the natural symbols and the artists of the past" - Ralph Holker

Totem (2 piece) in clay by Louise Gelderblom, South Africa

"Louise Gelderblom’s sculptural vessels are handmade in Cape Town, South Africa. While the working methods are firmly rooted in an African clay tradition, the work is part of an urban contemporary aesthetic."

"I only coil, because when I coil it feels like I am busy drawing in three dimensions. The shape of the piece and the surface markings on it create a rhythm, a percussion beat that I think of as a wordless tactile language." - Louise Gelderblom
Totem (made with scrap metal) by Meagan Wainwright

Moon Spot Totem, waxed linen, iron and brass by Mary Giles

Totemobile, painted steel by Louis Fatta

" I work from large gage steel sheet and I-beam, 1/4” to 1” thick, cutting silhouetted images of objects such as cars, cities, birds, plants, and ants. My work involves the environment formed by the automobile and related elements of the urban surroundings and explores their relationship with nature. The works present themselves as artifacts enduring time, seeking to atone themselves with nature through their deterioration. My sculpture touches upon the imprint these images have left on our psyche, awakening personal and emotional connections." - Louis Fatta

"....each totemic ancestor while travelling through the country was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes among the lines of footprints." - Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Ceramic flower by Astrid Dahl

Captivated by the exquisite clay vessels of Astrid Dahl, an artist living here in KwaZulu Natal, I began noticing work by other artists who are inspired by organic plant forms. Each artist I discovered creates unique clay pieces so beautiful that I just sit back and look in wonder.

Astrid's extraordinary plant forms took off after Neville Trickett (of Saint Verde fame) stumbled upon her work. He showed her a collection of photographs of magnified flowers, buds and seed pods by botanist Karl Blossfeldt which inspired pieces like the vessel above. The rest is history. One can now find Astrid's work in Liberty of London and Amaridian, New York

Ceramic Plant Forms by Astrid Dahl. (Photo montage from 2Modern DESIGN TALK)

Memories by Betsy Nield

Another artist from South Africa, Betsy Nield who's "porcelain boxes represent the re-used boxes stashed into the back of a dark cupboard, containing our cherished mementos, and they have no colour because it is dark a cupboard. The platters symbolise a vessel containing our memories such as the brain. And of course the leaves are our dreams and memories themselves; cherished and stored away or on display; some whole and strong, some fragile and broken."

Pods by Alice Ballard

Alice Ballard's textured pods had my fingers dancing to touch. 

"My art is a reflection of my relationship with natural forms. These forms come to me on walks, while I work in my garden, on visits to the produce section of the grocery store or, appear as gifts from friends who share my fascination with beauty inherent in Nature's abundant variety of forms. To be more specific, it is often the metamorphosis of Nature's forms, as they change from season to season, that attracts me. I am endlessly drawn to that universal world in which differing life forms share similar qualities. Tulip bulbs and the human form for example share many of the same sensual qualities. I spend countless hours contemplating a particular form in order to feel its energy. It becomes a Zen-like connection not unlike a mediation. Next I will begin to draw the form, trying to capture the essence of what I have felt and observed. Then I begin to bring this form to life in clay. As an artist, I hope that those who choose to connect with my work can share some of the harmony and tranquility I feel through the creative process. Perhaps, at the very least, the viewer will give those small, often unnoticed forms in Nature, a second glance." - Alice Ballard

Pods by Alice Ballard

"The grand magnolia trees are just one example of a neighbourhood subject I use often in my work. I collect all parts of this magnificent tree from the leaves to the flowers, petals, pods, the branches, the protective petals around the flower buds, etc. My own garden also offers constant inspiration for my work. Fabulous forms reveal themselves every season. The first hostas begin to push through dark soil as an early reminder of spring. This is followed by a full array of buds, flowers, leaves, branches and pods. My neighbourhood and garden never disappoint me when it comes to the inspiration they constantly offer."

Various small pieces by Alice Ballard