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Monday 10 June 2013

Bristol Festival of Stone 2013 stone carving competition

The festival of stone ran for the first two weeks of June at the Harbourside in Bristol. As part of it, there was a carving competition which saw about 40 carvers given blocks of Bath limestone to carve.

It was great weather for most of the competition and it was fantastic to be surrounded by and working alongside so many talented carvers, a situation that doesn't happen that often in what can sometimes be quite a solitary, studio-based pursuit.

It also gave me the chance to meet Paul Caton, whose carved wooden bowls I've admired for a long time. It was an opportunity to meet skilled stone carvers from all over Britain, most of whom were very friendly and also enjoying the festival a lot. Some of them came from backgrounds that are not British, such as Samson Kizito who was born in Uganda and Tania Ivanova Tzanova from Bulgaria. It was very interesting seeing what everyone made of the theme: 'Emergence'.

A stone worker from Austria, Dylan Thomas Craig, was also visiting and a group of stonecarvers from France had come over, along with their musician and DJ friends, who added a great atmosphere to the festival.
Two of the French group, Laurent Donnadieu and David Bonhomme, also did a performance piece which involved moving huge blocks of stone using pulleys, accompanied by music.

As Laurent and David began one of their performances, which involved setting the ropes into the pulleys, a drunk in the crowd started heckling them. He soon shut up when he saw the two of them move those rocks though!

This is my sculpture, with an image of my friend's daughter who modelled for me:

 I must admit that it was quite a challenge to work in stone, which I haven't carved on this kind of scale for several years, especially when surrounded by such talented stone carvers. I feel that, to be honest, the sculpture isn't at the same level as most of the others at the festival but it was a very interesting thing to do and a chance to explore an unfamiliar material. 

I also managed to carve a good likeness of the model, which was the technical exercise that I really wanted to achieve. I don't feel ashamed of the sculpture and had great fun making it, although it obviously needs to be worked more to be anywhere near finished. It would be interesting to see it set into a structure, like a wall,  in some way. 

Here's some of the other pieces that were carved in the competition:

It was great to be carving next to Pippa Unwin from South Devon, whose crocodiles won two well-deserved awards in the competition. I was also lucky to be sharing our tent with Iain Cotton (who is based near Bath). It was a great atmosphere in there and that made the festival even more enjoyable.

David Bean, who graduated as a mason two years ago, produced this sculpture:

Jez Fenton, who went to art school with me in Exeter, made this dark-toned piece:

Danny Clahane had come from Cumbria to compete. It was great chatting to him:

This baby turtle won its creator, Mickey Carpenter, an award. It's so simple and effective and was very popular. Mickey is finishing the third year of an apprenticeship at Bath College:

Patrick Barker, who is based in Somerset, made this figure:

Pete Graham from Cornwall carved this bittern coming out of the reeds, which a couple of other carvers were also overheard admiring:

I was very struck by Will Whitmore's tree with a city in its branches (well, that's what it looks like to me)... well as Sam Flintham's two dragons biting each other, which also won an award.

A large part of the material removed from this carving, by Bristol-based Matthew Billington, was chopped out with a normal hand axe- a rather unorthodox method but a very interesting one:

Peter Crinnion carved this piece, which won an award for technical merit:

Patrick McGrath, who works primarily as a prop and model maker for television, carved this abstract form:

This piece by Paul Wilson won an award from the RWA. It reminds me very much of Peter Randall-Page's work:

Richard Mossman and Ben Dearnley are shown here working on a large sculpture to be installed in Ashton Court estate. It commemorates ' The Father of the Bicycle', James Starley . Ben was working on this throughout the festival, as a separate project to the competition, along with his students and some of the French carvers. Hot work!

All in all, great fun and well worth being part of. Look out for the next festival of stone at some point in the future!

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