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Monday 28 September 2015

Teaching woodcarving for the NHS at 'Fresh Arts' festival 2015 in Southmead hospital

Recently, I've been working on a major new commission for 'Fresh Arts', the arts organisation for North Bristol National Health Service Trust. It is a relief carved oak panel to be installed in the main concourse at the new Southmead Hospital, which is now the main hospital serving Bristol and the surrounding area.

fresh arts festival 2015

As part of the commission, I was asked to do some carving on the panel with passing patients, staff and visitors to the hospital at the 'Fresh Arts' festival, organised in association with Willis Newson. I have to say that I really enjoyed the two days there. Some patients even came down from the wards to have a go.

teaching woodcarving

It's always really interesting to see what people think of carving when they haven't tried it before. I got a strong feeling that some of them got a lot from the experience and a few people spoke of how relaxing they found the process. 

southmead hospital woodcarving

I've often thought of the similarities between the repetitive motions of a carver using their tools confidently and someone who is using a mantra in meditation. Both involve a focus of attention on a repeated action towards a purpose that usually isn't immediately fulfilled. Carving can definitely (but not always!) be a relaxing activity in itself.

There were a group of Japanese artists and designers also participating in the festival, including Architecture students from Tsukuba university.

I'm fascinated by the Japanese approach to art and craft and the sense of aesthetics there. One day, it would be great to have the opportunity to show my own carvings in Japan, particularly the 'Mechanical Insects' series. For now, I really enjoyed seeing the group producing their work. 

There were several other artists, poets and creative people also working in the festival, including Sue Mayfield's writing workshops and Guy Begbie doing bookbinding next to me. It was great to chat with them and everyone else. There were also choirs of singers entertaining everyone.

The panel is now back in my workshop, where I'll be working on it for the next couple of months.

I plan to make it interesting for blind and partially-sighted people as much as for sighted people like myself. To research this, I've been in touch with a blind artist and carver called Alan Michael Rayner, who is based in Wakefield, as well as the RNIB and arts organisations such as Arthouse and LivingPaintings, who work with blind people. They have all been very helpful and generous with their time and knowledge. I'll let you know how it develops!

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