Posts Tagged ‘sculpture’

9 Aug

2017 Food Festival Art Project

Volunteer with Bettina Reeves to create stunning sculptures for Abergavenny Market Hall

Food Festival 2016Food Festival 2016





Exif_JPEG_PICTURE2009 Arts Alive Sheep in the Market Hall SELECT





Volunteers are warmly invited to join Bettina Reeves for the 2017 Abergavenny Food Festival art project.  Bettina, who retires this summer from her position as senior tutor for Theatre Design at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, has chosen chickens for this year’s art project, a theme last visited in 2008 “We will be crafting chickens from withy and willow, paper and fabric and fluttering amongst these beauties will be native butterflies of silk”.

The project takes place in the Arts Alive Wales studio over 15 intensive days from 29 August to 13 September, 9.30am to 5.30pm and will be installed in Abergavenny Market Hall in time for the Festival weekend on 16/17 September.  This hugely enjoyable and rewarding project is open to volunteers  of all abilities aged over 16 years.  Join us to share and learn new skills and to enjoy the camaraderie, fun and great lunches.  We look forward to welcoming familiar as well as new faces.

Bring lunch to share and a pair of scissors

For more information or if you want to take part email 

The unveiling of the annual art project is an eagerly awaited moment in the local calendar whilst the sculptures are a hugely popular feature of the Market Hall, drawing residents and visitors all year round.  In recognition of its iconic status, this year’s project has been generously supported with funding from Abergavenny Town Council

2017 is Abergavenny Food Festival’s 19th year running and reaches 35,000 people

AFF logo





19 Jan

Antonia Spowers: mini-fund project

In September 2014 the first Creative Network mini-fund was awarded to artist Antonia Spowers, based in Clyro, who used the £300 fund to support the production of a new sculpture, exhibited as part of a Sculpture Cymru show at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

“The Garden has initiated a project to barcode from DNA every plant indigenous to Wales before 1500. The scheme has been adopted by other botanical gardens worldwide. As the brief for work was based on ideas associated with DNA and barcoding I realized that by setting random sequences of barcodes both vertically and horizontally the result had parallels with hieroglyphics and other ancient scripts. Humanity has always been keen on systems to classify information and increasingly so in the modern world and I wanted to take this principle of barcoding and set it into a wider historical context.”

– Antonia Spowers

Scroll down for the latest blog post from Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager, responding to the new sculpture…


Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales
Visit to National Botanic Gardens Wales

16th January 2015

On a cold Friday morning, my fellow travelling companions sculptor Antonia Spowers, artist Justine Cook, Project Assistant Emma Balch and I headed off to the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire to see the new Sculpture Cymru show.

I’m ashamed to say that this is the first time I have ever visited the gardens and was won over by the elegance of Norman Foster’s domed glasshouse nestled in the landscape amongst the remnants of the the Middleton’s regency estate, a grand servants quarters and stable block set in 568 acres of rolling Carmarthenshire countryside.

We walked through blasts of sun and freezing sleet showers, past purple cabbage patches and felled ancient trees. We patted Sally Matthews’ magnificent, rusting bull sculpture and walked down a small hillside where Antonia’s new steel column overlooked a wintery pond.

Antonia had created a bar code design to fit a polished, steel sculpture. She was visibly frustrated by the finished piece and has had lengthy correspondence with the fabricator over a catalogue of errors. Antonia and Justine spent time photographing the work while we enjoyed a window of sunshine. It was clearly a fraught and expensive process to produce this sculpture. When faced with the limits of working within budget, within a range of skills and within schedule, sculptors will often work in a gradual series in order to have the opportunity to play with ideas and processes and allow work to evolve over time. Despite Antonia’s dissatisfaction, the column had a strong presence within the January landscape of bare trees and wild grasses, a reminder of the solitary standing stones that one meets in the Black Mountains.

We huddled in the café to warm up. A friendly robin flitted between the tables, seeking out crumbs of bara brith.

As well as subscribing to the Creative Network, Antonia is also a member of The Welsh Group, 56 Group Wales, Royal British Society of Sculptors and Sculpture Network Europe. She admits she might belong to too many artist groups and it can be difficult to get the right balance. There is a continual push and pull between the need to make connections with others or apply for exhibitions and having essential time in the studio. However, the networks Antonia belongs too have offered her valuable opportunities, to exhibit in Ireland and Germany for example and she feels that being part of a group gives an artist a louder voice – you can have a greater influence as a group than as an individual. This is particularly important in Wales where we have a limited number of galleries and a negligible art market.

Antonia grew up in what she describes as an austere Yorkshire landscape and moved to Surrey then London in 1982, where she developed a connection with the Pumphouse Gallery near Battersea Park. It was here that she had ‘delusions of grandeur and started to make big sculpture’ – a bold statement to say ‘this is what I do’. In 1996 Antonia moved from London to Wales and settled in a cottage with studio near Talgarth (which was sold last year to Owen Sheers). Antonia has recently purchased a plot of land near Presteigne where she is busy planning the building of a new eco home, studio and all important storage space for her sculpture. She feels there is a certain extravagance about living rurally – the distance travelled to buy a pint of milk or the energy required to heat an old cottage – but remoteness appeals, and over the years it has become more important to her.

In a rural place it can take time to establish yourself, to find suppliers, fabricators and foundries. Over the past few years Antonia has given away her welding tools and has focused on creating sculptures from paper, to be used for bronze casts. She says you can make almost any shape from paper; it’s cheap, light and non-toxic. Antonia has experienced sinus problems from plaster and Perspex dust in the studio and now has difficulties with her hearing from using heavy machinery in the workshop. It all catches up with you one day.

She is drawn to sculptors such as Brancusi, Eduardo Chillida, Eva Rothschild and Conrad Shawcross, but above all Antonia is inspired by the ancient world, which speaks to her in a different way. Wales and the Black Mountains in particular hold ‘a potent feeling of stuff hidden beneath the surface’. On a recent visit to Castell Dinas, an Iron Age fort and Norman Castle, she was acutely aware of the close connection to history and the evidence of human occupation over hundreds of years.

Antonia is also influenced by the ‘infinite variety of the landscape,’ its ever changing light, weather, colour, atmosphere. Each localised area of the Black Mountains is different, unfolding as one passes through it and inviting you to travel deeper within your own mind. Antonia feels one builds an inner life of the mountains, a deep memory – but it’s important how we treat that memory, we can work on our visions in numerous ways, by developing our imagination, creativity and sensitivity.

- Rebecca Spooner

(images: Emma Balch & Rebecca Spooner) 


• The Sculpture Cymru exhibition at NBGW features nine artists and runs from January – September 2015.

• The National Botanic Gardens Wales will be working in partnership with Oriel Davies Gallery to deliver the gallery’s summer show, Flora.

• Antonia is part of a 56 Group exhibition in Kidwelly Castle this Spring and will be showing work with Czech illustrator and designer, Martina Jarankova at the Mid Wales Arts Centre in June.


Next deadline to apply for the Creative Network mini-fund is Friday 27th March 2015. Click here for more details.



30 Sep

Winner of the Creative Network mini-fund…

Not Quite Cloned

Thank you to everyone who applied for the Creative Network mini-fund this September. We were really impressed by the variety and vision of the applications and it was a hard decision to select just one winner.

We’re delighted to award the mini-fund to artist Antonia Spowers, based in Clyro, who will use the £300 fund to support the production of a new sculpture which will be exhibited as part of a Sculpture Cymru show at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales during 2015.




Black Sun


“The Gardens have initiated a project to barcode from DNA every plant indigenous to Wales before 1500. The scheme has been adopted by other botanical gardens worldwide. As the brief for work was based on ideas associated with DNA and barcoding I realized that by setting random sequences of barcodes both vertically and horizontally the result had parallels with hieroglyphics and other ancient scripts. Humanity has always been keen on systems to classify information and increasing so in the modern world and I wanted to take this principle of barcoding and set it into a wider historical context.” – Antonia



MyriadAntonia is currently creating a bar code design to fit the mirror-polished, steel column sculpture.  The column will be sited on a hillside surrounded by meadow flowers and grasses. The project at the Gardens includes an educational programme with workshops, a seminar and an inside exhibition.

We’ll be posting a short interview with Antonia and images from the progress of her project on the Creative Network blog.



If you’d like more information about arts funding, promotion or project management why not sign up for a REVIEW session, providing one-to-one, tailored advice for creative practitioners of all disciplines. Click here for more details.


(images from top: Not Quite Cloned. Black Sun. Myriad. Antonia Spowers)

2 Sep

To The Lakes


As part of our PEAK project, Rebecca Spooner, Arts Development Manager, reports on a research visit to Grizedale Arts, Cumbria.


29th & 30th July

Artists Richard Harris and Morag Colquhoun joined me on a visit to Grizedale Arts, Cumbria for ‘another epic art speak trip’. This trip was different because it revealed the artists’ personal connection to Grizedale Forest and how their experience in the Lake District profoundly affected their lives. Proceeding northwards, to Coniston Water, we retraced roads travelled by younger selves…

Coniston Water
Globe courgette
View across Coniston Water
Adam Sutherland at Lawson Park
Communal living space
Communal living space
knitted teddies in the honesty shop
Morag stood on top of the Richard Harris sculpture at Grizedale

Morag served an apprenticeship as a horse logger in the forest in the 1990s after time spent as an archaeologist in Peru and the Hebrides. She still owns her first logger horse, Molly, now grazing in the fields at Penpont, Brecon. Molly was a gypsy horse, unused to hard work but soon developed the discipline and muscle needed to rear against the weight of enormous logs as the horse teams determinedly set to shifting their heavy cargoes. Horse logging has always been difficult and dangerous work. The loggers kept sharp knives with them at all times to quickly free horses from their collars to prevent choking. Morag’s stories from that time created a picture of the forest as a living and working place.

Richard was the first artist in residence in Grizedale over thirty-five years ago. As an artist he worked alongside the foresters who once supplied the UK with timber, which is now imported from across Europe. Richard lived in a caravan in the woods during his six-month residency, with a break during the worst of the winter weather. Richard also met his future wife at Grizedale, sculptor Sally Matthews. We visited the original work he created in 1978. Grizedale Forest has changed enormously, the car park has doubled in size, a café and visitor centre now replace the redundant sawmill and timber yard. I came across Richard’s sculpture in a small dell just to the right of the forest track. Layered slabs of stone poised on hinged posts of wood – the materials merging together in my mind as I think back. The structure is a path, a slim, curving arc creating a transition, connecting one place to another. Cracks had started to appear in the stones and green moss had gathered. The sculpture made me aware that I’d not taken any notice of where I was – no attention paid to the trees, wet earth, stones – and my relationship to it all.  Richard carefully walked back and forth across the structure, filming his journey. It felt like a rare moment to witness an artist revisiting a work they created at a formative age, free of life’s responsibilities. Richard explained that the themes and concerns he explored then are the same now. Artistic progress isn’t linear, perhaps it is more cyclical or seasonal. We subtly and continually repeat ourselves.


The car crawled through the forest up a winding gravel track to Lawson Park, a RIBA award wining converted foresters cottage and home of Grizedale Arts.

We were met by Director Adam Sutherland and it quickly became clear that the directorship is no day job. Adam lives in a small cottage on one side of the building and Grizedale is clearly driven by his vision and energy, he almost has a guru-like status and the resident artists seem reverential towards him. Adam is immersed in the village life of Coniston – dealing with anything from local politics, issues concerning the impact of tourism, second home ownership and planning applications, to villagers fiddling the honesty shop.

We met Fernando, a Spanish artist in residence who was working on a project to lease a cheese-making machine to local milk producers and we were introduced to Jin and Jina, two Korean curators researching the history of artist residencies at Grizedale.

We had a guided tour of the garden terraces of home grown fruit and vegetables – raspberries, artichokes, beans, lettuces. Indoors, the house felt intense with a display of the Grizedale collection of modernist and post war design – glassware, pottery, furniture, prints, books. A visual overload of charity shop treasure.

The ever-changing household of resident artists and curators live communally, allocating responsibilities for cleaning, cooking and gardening. We shared an evening meal, a fusion of dishes, beetroot gratin, stir-fry and sticky rice, seaweed broth, blackcurrants. Exhaustion and wine started to take over. I felt speechless. Maybe I could manage a day here, I thought to myself, then I’d have to leg it – escape through the woods. “Want to watch a video about Japanese pottery?” No thanks. I sloped off to the twin bedroom, a vase of sweetpeas on the chest of drawers and fell asleep in my cold, creaky single bed.


The next morning we visited Coniston Institute. Grizedale got involved in the management of this village hall in 2011, to renovate the building and develop a cultural and educational programme. Originally built in the mid 1800s with a quirky façade of arts and crafts architecture, the institute houses a reading room, library (designed by artist Liam Gillick), kitchen and large hall. The honesty shop offers an eclectic range of homemade products created by the villagers – knitted hats and teddies, drawings, candles, ceramics and cakes.

Conveniently the Ruskin Museum is next door to the Institute. John Ruskin (1819-1900) spent the last twenty-eight years of his life at Brantwood (where he suffered several mental breakdowns), overlooking Coniston Water. Ruskin’s critical writings on art, architecture, aesthetics and his views on social justice and educational philanthropy were an inspiration to the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts & Crafts movement.

Adam guided us through the museum collection of watercolours, crystals, plaster moulds, drawings and personal objects. Ruskin’s life and work clearly informs the curatorial approach at Grizedale Arts, which has evolved from a genuine place, from artistic and social principles that were sincerely practised at Coniston during Ruskin’s time – an effort to connect people, art and craft in a relevant and useful way

Sometimes this process works, sometimes it doesn’t, but maybe attempting it is enough. Adam told us a revealing story that illustrated this thought. In 1874, as a Professor at Balliol College, Ruskin instigated a project to repair the main road of Hinksey village, Oxfordshire, which was regularly flooded. Ruskin was joined by twelve of his students including Oscar Wilde (“entrusted with Mr Ruskin’s especial wheelbarrow”), historian Arnold Toynbee and painter WG Collingwood, in an attempt to improve the lot of local residents while educating themselves in the nobility of manual work, much to the hilarity and scorn of local labourers and the fops of Balliol. Wilde summed up the initiative, “And what became of the road? Well, like a bad lecture it ended abruptly—in the middle of the swamp.” Although this project failed in the short term perhaps the mere attempting of it was able to instigate a modest shift in Victorian social attitudes and values.


On our return to Wales we stopped to see Richard and Sally’s sculpture studio at their cottage in Rhosgoch. I stepped into a rough barn and was confronted by an extraordinary menagerie of greyhounds, horses, wild boars and sheep alongside drawings, paintings and maquettes. It was refreshing and stimulating to observe the essential forms and materials in the studio. The space was evidence of two artists totally dedicated to their work, living and breathing it, through productive and fallow periods, combined with home and family. What the Black Mountains have, that is not so visible in the Lakes, is a resident community of exceptional artists.

I still feel unsure of what I think about Grizedale. Morag and I have had several conversations about it since. The one thing you can’t feel is indifference and I’ve taken away the importance of ensuring PEAK’s creative projects are genuine and distinct to the place they originate and that they sincerely attempt to communicate with people.


 – Rebecca Spooner

With thanks to:

Adam Sutherland

Artists and staff at Lawson Park, Coniston Institute and the Ruskin Museum


PEAK is an initiative devised and delivered by Arts Alive Wales, seeking to research and develop platforms for the creation and presentation of contemporary art in the Black Mountains.

During summer 2014, PEAK will visit rurally based arts organisations across the UK to establish partnerships and opportunities for artists and audiences.


Arts Council of Wales



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