As well as this blog, I also have a website and Instagram page with lots more images of my work as well as a few more stories.
If you like woodcarvings, you might want to have a look.

Thursday 23 August 2012

More work on the benches in Stoke Park, Lockleaze

We've managed to get quite a bit more work done in Stoke Park, despite our work last week getting rained out completely!

This was our fire pit, until it became a swimming pool within about 15 minutes in a heavy shower. Below, Steve tries  to keep a cooking fire going by sheer willpower as the puddle quickly grows around it.

However, the weather was much better this week and we managed to get much more done, including making a brick-lined fire pit (with a drainage channel!), installing two more benches with their own smaller fire pit and making a little removable workstation to sit on an elm tree stump nearby. Next week, we'll make a table in the woods and then that's it! All ready for Steve to use for outdoors workshops and for local people to use for evening get-togethers round the fire.

This is the ring of benches with the fire pit and drainage installed.

The detachable workstation on the tree stump

 And, after working, everyone enjoys some toasted marshmallows over a fire in the new fire pit. The second pit is in front, with a bench that we made from a yew log.

Monday 20 August 2012

Bangy's Memorial Day

On Sunday, I was asked if I could do a carving demonstration at a memorial day in St Agnes Park, Bristol. The event was to remember a local man, Evon Berry, whom everyone knew as 'Bangy'. He was the caretaker at a local community centre and was a popular and well-respected person locally.

 In 1996, Bangy and some friends were returning home after a New Year's party when they saw a taxi driver being assaulted by a group of people. Bangy and his friends tried to calm the situation down, even after he and a friend had been hit with the butt of a gun. Even as Bangy continued to try and bring peace to the disorder, one of the group grabbed him and shot him in the neck. He managed to get to a local taxi company where he died. The attacker was later caught and, for his bravery, Bangy later received the Queen's Gallantry Medal posthumously.

Even though the story is a sad one, it was nice to see how warmly his friends and family remembered Bangy, with the 'Iquater' sound system that he was involved in playing lots of classic reggae in the park and the smell of jerk chicken in the air.

The atmosphere was happy and the sun was out. With the help of local people, we carved a plaque from sweet chestnut to remember him. It shows lots of hummingbirds, which were important to Bangy and reminded him of his childhood in Jamaica. He was a keen and talented woodworker and I hope he would approve of the plaque. It has been given to his friend Constantine, who is the park keeper and can hopefully fix it somewhere suitable there in the near future.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Some of my favourite projects

I thought that, since quite a few people may just visit my blog and not my website, I'd put a few images on this blog of some of the pieces that I've made. It certainly isn't an exhaustive list, as the number of carvings done since 1994 (when I really got into carving properly) is well into the hundreds by now. These are not all of my favourite pieces either, just some of the ones that have sprung to mind - often because of very personal reasons such as the time and place where they were made .  I hope you enjoy seeing them!

If you would like to have a look at the website and see more of my work, just click on this link to go there: Website  

These are two views of the first carving that I made as an adult , which was the start of all of this. It is a walking stick which was carved in Ironbridge, Shropshire in 1994.The timber is hazel, from the woods in nearby Benthall Edge. The stick is carved most of the way down and took two months to make. It came in very useful when scrambling around on the steep slopes surrounding Ironbridge Gorge. The knife used was a number 10 Opinel knife. I still use the same knife to this day.

This little sleeping gryphon was carved from rose gum picked up in Australia in 1998. The wood was hard to carve and he turned out well. For those unfamiliar with 5 pence coins, they are 11 sixteenths of an inch (18 mm) in diameter. 

Most of my early carvings were small, as I spent a lot of time travelling and living out of a backpack. There are also limits to the size and type of carving that can be produced using only a lock knife and sandpaper.

This flower was carved in 1998,whilst staying at Onekaka, in the South Island of New Zealand. The wood is a shard of walnut from a broken shotgun butt. The blue crystal is kyanite, which I found in a nearby stream. The whole piece is about 8 inches (20 cm) long.

This pipe bowl, representing the green man, is carved from a special kind of stone called meerschaum. It was carved on and off over a period of several years from 1997 to about 2002. Hidden in the foliage are birds and fruit.

These are actually tools to eat wild cactus fruit,which were plentiful around the caves that I was living in at the time in the Canary Islands of Tenerife and La Gomera in the year 2000. They are carved from brezo, the timber of the tree heather which is also used to make briar pipes.
The pronged tool, representing a cactus flower, is pushed into the fruit and then used like a handle to pull the fruit off the spiny plant. The spatula-like tool is then used to slice open the skin of the fruit and remove it. Any tufts of troublesome spines remaining on the fruit could be scooped out using the small gouge on the spatula. The fruit was then de-spined and ready to eat.


This carving was made on the 1st January 2000 on the beach at San Pedro in Andalucia, Spain. The wood is azinho (holm oak) from Portugal and the stone is calcite from the valley, rubbed down with an old whetstone. The tangled shape of the carving could refer to my uncertainty about what the coming year would bring, or the state of my head after a very big party the night before!

This was the first stonecarving that I ever produced in 2001. I still like it, even though it must be admitted that some of the facial proportions aren't perfect. The face seems to take on different moods depending on the lighting on it.

This carving, which I call 'Power slug', was made in 2002 from a variety of woods. The theme was to be continued a few years later in the 'metainsecta' series (see below).

The bowl shown above, like most of my work, was made from found wood, in this case from Fernworthy Forest on Dartmoor in Devon. The textured and smooth surfaces are wonderful to touch. When carving it in 2004, I was studying the work of the artist Richard Long, who can condense the tale of a walk of a thousand miles into a picture of a spiral which traces the path. The text carved onto the bowl tells a little about where the wood came from, so hopefully beginning the process of holding tales which the bowl was made for.

This 'scorpion fly' was carved in, I think, 2005. It is about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. I have made a whole series of these carved critters and you can find out more about them by clicking on these links... Mechanical insects and More mechanical insects.  

In August 2008, I curated a group exhibition called 'Metainsecta' in Bristol. The scorpion fly was one piece exhibited. The show was a great success and led to two more 'Meta' themed shows, as well as the chance to exhibit some pieces in Bristol museum's Natural History section.

The piece shown below, called 'Velocivenator satiei', was shown in the second of these 'Meta' shows. To find out about the odd places that I picked up some of the timbers used and the meaning behind that strange name, click on this link:   V. satiei

In January 2009, I was offered a commission to repair an ebony sculpture by the late Zambian sculptor, Friday Tembo. The piece had been accidentally knocked from a mantelpiece and had broken into several fragments. The sculptor was a personal friend of the owners. Friday Tembo was one of Zambia's top sculptors, who exhibited internationally and had given them the carving himself. It therefore had great sentimental value to them, particularly as he had since passed away.
It was a real privilege to be given the opportunity to repair and restore this beautiful and interesting work. It represents a shaman in the process of         transforming between a man and a fish form.

Also in 2009 came the opportunity to make this 9 feet (275 cm) long oak bench, which was commissioned by the National Trust and is installed on Stokeleigh Camp iron age hill fort in Leigh Woods, Bristol. It was a fascinating project to work on and  the bench is carved all over with information about the rare wildlife and long history of the surroundng area. More information can be found by clicking here

..and in the same year, I carved this owl as part of a privately commissioned sculpture. I like what I see as his slightly disgruntled expression.

The 'gramophone weevil' was made in 2010, entirely from timbers collected at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire. Even the 'vinyl' is actually dust from charcoal burning there, cast as a 12" in resin. More information about this sculpture can be found by clicking on this link

A commission in 2010 saw me carving in Leigh Woods again, putting a memorial inscription onto a bench. One of the highlights was when the two young sons of the person being commemorated came to visit and had the opportunity to help carve some of the lettering themselves.

A commission in 2011 gave me the chance to carve the handle of a knife similar to my own Opinel. I had always wanted to try it, but never got round to it. The carving was done with my own number 10 Opinel, which you can see next to the carved one in the lower picture.

Also in 2011, I was commissioned to make a shop sign from solid oak. The design was worked out through discussion with the client and the finished sign measures 3 feet by 3 feet (90 cm by 90 cm). The project was a joinery one, a little different from my usual line of work, but I was very happy with the result:

And finally, I have to include working at the Boiling Wells site for St Werburghs City Farm in Bristol. Since 2009, this role has covered all kinds of things, from running green woodworking courses to renovating hazel coppice to working with young people who are out of education. It has been a chance to meet some incredible people and to work in one of the most beautiful secret places in the city.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Benches at Stoke Park, Lockleaze

Last week, a group of young people worked with Steve England, Anna and I to install some larch benches at Stoke Park in Lockleaze, Bristol.

First, we cleaned off the bark using drawknives and scrapers.
I had previously cut the trunks in half with a chainsaw, so the participants all used drawknives, planes and chisels to smooth the surfaces. We then cut in mortices so that the roundwood legs would fit into the seats nicely. The legs were fixed on with coach screws, then the benches were installed (after a lot of hard work by everyone digging holes!). Finally, the benches were joined with coach screws and the recesses that the screws were in were capped with larch plugs.

As well as pitching in with the hard work on the benches, Steve led a few bushcraft walks when everyone needed a break and Anna sorted some great food out on the campfire. The photo above shows the smoke drifting through the woods.

The hexagonally-shaped benches will have a fire pit put into the centre this week and will be used for outdoors workshops by Steve, as well as being there for local people to enjoy when they are in the woods. Having a purpose-built  fire pit will hopefully also protect the roots of nearby trees (such as a beautiful old yew tree) from damage by random fires all about the site.
The larch used was very kindly donated to the project by our friends at Touchwood Enterprises in Bristol. You can have a look at their website by clicking on the link here.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

New model of the Matthew figurehead

After a day of sketching all sorts of hounds with their tongues out and leaping, I have made a new maquette of the talbot figurehead. I wanted it to look keen but not aggressive or dopey and I'm happy with the outcome! It will be attached to look like it is springing out of the bow, looking for adventure (or it's home port)

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Beds, benches and giant creepy crawlies

Apart for carving the Matthew figurehead, I just thought I'd post information about a few other projects and potential projects that are on the go at the moment...

I'm making a king-size bed for my friends Andy and Victoria, using Lawson cypress from the same trees that provided the timber for the Matthew figurehead. These trees grew next to Ashton Court in Bristol and were real local landmarks, so it's great to be able to be able to turn their timber into things that will be genuinely appreciated for the wood's background story too. I'm also hoping to set a lovely piece of driftwood into the headboard that I collected on a beach near their house on the day of their wedding. This is a picture of that beach...

Next week sees the beginning of a project building some benches in a wood on Pur Down, on the edge of Bristol. The site is not far from where I have been building a pizza oven recently. I'll be working with local young people as well as Anna from St Werburgh's City Farm and Steve England, a local outdoorsman with a lot of local knowledge. It should be good fun and hopefully will be a stepping stone to getting Pur Down more respected and maintained after some time without structured management. It is a beautiful and interesting place and has some fascinating history. You can go to Steve's website by clicking on this Worth a look, with info about Pur Down which is a very important place to Steve.

There will also be more work with local young people coming up at Boiling Wells and possibly also with an organisation called Groundwork, who have asked if I'm interested in assisting with some conservation management and maybe also running some short courses. Early days, as they have only just been in touch, but sounding interesting. I may also be running a carving workshop for my driving instructor later in the year!

Yesterday I went to a stretch of disused railway line near Pucklechurch, which has been turned into a cycle path by volunteers. The path will connect Bristol and Yate. There is a chance that I could make a bench to go there and I discussed ideas with Rachel Goodchild, from an organisation called Art Express, who is looking to get some sculptures situated along the path. I fancy making a bench in the shape of a giant creepy crawley, as the area is rich in coal seams that were laid down during the Carboniferous period (about 300 million years ago). At that time, giant creepy crawlies were commonplace- huge dragonflies, scorpions and an ancestor of centipedes and millipedes which grew to about 20 feet long! It would be a great project, but I know from experience not to get too excited about these things until it is all confirmed and definite. Learnt that little lesson the hard way, and no mistake!

Roughing out the Matthew figurehead

So, at long last the figurehead is beginning to be roughed out! Today the profile that will sit up against the central beam of the prow was started. This was what dangling over the river in a climbing harness was all in aid of- the figurehead needs to fit snugly up against the prow, or it will look a bit odd.

At first, I had a go at cutting the profile with a small chainsaw with a carving bar on it, but the results weren't really good enough. Then my friend Tom Redfern kindly lent me his big circular saw and removing most of the material became a doddle.

The plan now? The chunk cut away will be sawn in half. Each half will then be dowelled and glued (with strong waterproof glue) back onto the outsides of this central block. This will expand the block sideways, to allow legs, ears and other wider bits to be carved. Before that, I'm going to cut the curves of the profile carefully out with a bandsaw so that everything fits well. Then roughing out the talbot carving can begin!