Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley of Wales was a French Benedictine Monastry for 100s of years in the middle ages.

It grew, thrived and expanded with tremendous labour from the monks and attached staff and workers.

The fish laden waters of the Wye and lush pastures of the valley made it self sufficient and wealthy.

In the C14 The Black Death decimated the population of Europe and Tintern was a heavy casualty. 60% of the population died and there weren’t enough labourers to maintain the farming.

This weakened state and decline made it even easier for Henry VIII to attack and steal all they had, to destroy the Papal and French control of the area.

Many still mourn the loss of the windows and sculptures and interior of the church and surrounding buildings. But for 500 years it has been a romantic and beautiful symbol in its own right of the transiency of man’s worldly efforts the valley itself is the special place.

Whatever we add to it is extra and one day shall pass.

“No stone shall be left on another.”

Learning from the beginning.

Rhinos_Chauvet_Cave

In what seems like a lifetime ago, or more appropriately, in a previous incarnation, my chosen role of class teacher to a very mixed group of young people with learning needs put me in my element. An element I had spent years training for and thinking about, trying all sorts of media; trying very hard, and failing, to understand the spiritual task of curative education.

The Waldorf School Curriculum calls for the grade 11 students to study the history of art, my class responded well to hands on experience rather than theory. Therefore it only seemed natural to begin at the beginning and to do some prehistoric cave painting, a theme that could be expanded to take in Native American art, very appropriate to rural Pennsylvania where the school was situated.

We walked the woods and gathered plants and berries to make our own paints also finding coloured clays and stones that would grind and mix into further paint and media. We even made our own brushes.

There was no cave on the campus, but as it was a 200 year old farmstead, it had an old abandoned ice house.

As well as copying the classic animal images from the famous French paintings, we made our own pictures of horses and people who lived in the community.

With fear of sounding at all boastful, this experience was the best artistic experience of my life (and I’ve had many).

All the elements I see as worthwhile in creative activity came together to make it an all round discovery for the class the helpers and everyone in Beaver Run School who came to see the work.

The only disappointment was that the ice house wasn’t as big as the French caves, it would have been good to paint for many days, but we ran out of space!

I really hope it is still there.

It was 24 years ago now.

Maybe it’ll last for millenia?

Bestias11

Light eye egg

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On occasion light and shade cry out to be noticed, recorded, the potential in the simplest of forms.

You wonder though, like all sensory phenomena, did I really see it, do others marvel like me?

Helpers

On sitting, potentially trapped, inside the, at first sight, genial and convenient arms of our local car wash, I realised what such an entrappment could involve.

 

The machine could malfunction and break the glass, subjecting me and my dog to a shower of suds and shattered glass. (at least the wounds would be clean).

For at least 50 years now we have been entrusting the care of our oh so precious vehicles to these automatons, these robots, effectively.

They have become part of our daily lives to the point where we hardly give a thought to their true nature as powerful programmed devices that do a hard job quickly and effectively. They save us effort and do a better job than we could ourselves.

But

They have not eradicated the human touch of a hand car wash. Casting (or assisting) us into the brave new world of ‘enjoyable’ leisure.

Far from it

Many of us choose to employ crews of very active and fit young people to valet our pride and joy. To do a far better job than any machine could do unaided. In fact 2 weeks before this video was shot, I left my Toyota in the extremely capable hands of a group of enterprising East Europeans in Shrewsbury multi-storey car park.

The lease

Like many other folks, my car is on a lease with Motability and needs to be kept in tiptop condition. These men can make your car look like new in a couple if hours and it costs about the same as it would to do the auto wash twice and vacuum for ages myself.

Aldous Huxley never anticipated this. No one knows what the future will bring.

Right now we are all spending too much time speculating about the future rather than focussing on the present.

As Ferris Bueller said:-‘ Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’

Post script: Safe Car Wash app reveals hundreds of potential slavery cases – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-47829016

A Raku firing

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I very much enjoyed returning to the media of Raku firing this autumn.

The freedom and immediacy of the technique calls on you to become less precious about aims and to allow what will happen to happen; within the parameters of the physics involved. The heat and cooling cause wonderful colours and pattern effects, but if not controlled can leave you with nothing to show at the end. This comes through experience.

I did my first Raku firing in college in Derby in 1980; I wrote my college thesis on the culture and technique, had my own wonderful coke fired kiln in my audio in Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire. The pots I made there were extremely popular and I sold virtually all I produced.

I got to share firings with friends in America, there is always an atmosphere of sociability and sharing food and drink at a firing, the whole technique itself was created to enliven the tea ceremony in imperial Japan for that very reason.

As a teacher of ceramics through the rest of my time I have found it to be invaluable as a way to encourage students to learn the totality of ceramic making, especially the effects of fire on ceramic, as one gets to see and smell the force of the heat directly, rather than just through a peep hole in a gas or electric kiln.

On our recent visit to Japan, Sarah and I enjoyed a stroll through a beautiful suburb of Kyoto to visit the Raku museum situated alongside the traditional home and workshop of the original Raku family. Now in it’s 15th generation!