As a sculptor, with 20 years’ experience in direct stone carving, I have developed a strong sense of working with a natural material in a physical direct way, alerting my senses in the process of it. In recent years I have experimented with materials and techniques.
Focusing on the process of making I incorporate materials like cloth, wax, paper, discovering qualities that expand my sculptural skills, returning new finds indirectly to the direct carving. I am interested in light, shadow, form as negative imprint, form fully realised and mobility of form. My aim is to observe and capture fleeting moments, combining permanent materials like stone with ephemeral materials and processes.
I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to share this approach with young adults and adults who have taken part in my direct stone carving courses over the last 10 years. On this background I have been commissioned by New Brewery Arts / Cirencester to create a project investigating, with the aid of digital tools, my process and the process of groups who partake in direct stone carving.
As well as me being 'wired up' in my studio, spring 2015 'Echo' will take part in several secondary schools where I am running stone carving workshops and digitally recording them. 'Echo' is a project in its early stages, my experiences with the digital medium are new and I am excited where a connection between handmade and digital will take me in my own practise.
The impact of information and communications technology is vast and gains importance in many creative areas, with a multitude of possibilities, the restrictions are of a very different nature to the once in a handmade process, where qualities of a material and the engaging process through skill form possibilities and boundaries. Pretty much anything in the material world can be made through 3-D printing - products in engineering and design to medicine, touching into all areas of our society.
So how can the handmade connect to the digital? Making by hand experiences move to a holistic memory inside the maker. It is a process that encompasses a multitude of skills and continuously develops and because of it we see, we act, we touch, we think, we decide on the next step to take and which tool to use. Out of this grows the journey to the finished object, with a new set of skills in how to use a tool to extract certain aspects out of a material, and an understanding of how the material responds. As a skilled maker I know instinctively about the restrictions of a material and its possibilities. The handmade process of learning consists of repetition and a collection of embodied memory.
The digital process differs from the handmade and connects equally. When using 'Rhino' 3-D modelling software, forms are generated and designed through CAD. When moving and shifting forms on the screen all is much faster, almost instant, a fluid experience, opposite to the weeks it takes to create a carving. Yet I notice the same gut feeling towards the form on the screen as to the one on the workbench, perhaps my memory of form is so embedded that it relates to all forms, physical as well as virtual ones.
So how can I build on this connection between the two? During direct stone carving a soundscape is generated by which the experienced stone carver can tell a lot about the material and about the person interacting with the material. In 'Echo' I am using digital technologies at different points to survey the 'intuitive knowing' - during the carving process as a tool for collecting data; the sound of carving/the physical touch of the maker with the material; the internal sound in the stone when it is being carved and scanning of forms at different stages of the process.
This is followed by the analysing of data, detecting emerging patterns and forms. Finally, utilising 'digested' data, I am designing sculptural forms which will be 3-D printed. With the hand-carved sculptures and 3-D printed sculptures I am creating an installation as part of my residency at New Brewery Arts summer 2015.
'Echo' is a starting point for my own practice to enrich the direct intuitive approach with digital technology. I see 'Echo' as an opportunity to engage with contemporary making practice, rooted in the oldest tradition of making. 'Echo' highlights some aspects of the direct stone carving process through 3-D printed forms 'grown' out of a digital data.
'Echo' is supported by New Brewery Arts
Dr Paul Harper, academic and writer on visual art and craft
Dan Hughes-McGrail, sculptor, specialist in 3-D modelling
Stephen Ives, sound artist, Hackerfarm
Paul Lewis, managing director of Cadventure