The Day of the Iguana

The Green Iguana is the largest of the lizards found in Grenada.  Most of the time they live in the trees eating leaves, new shoots, and fruit.  Sometimes they are seen walking on the ground and today we saw two.  The large bright green one above as the featured image of this page and, later, a smaller one with a green body and turquoise head.  They can grow up to six feet long with at least half of that being their tail which they whip about when they walk.  They also appear to be excellent swimmers as both rushed into the pond once they were spotted and swam away easily.  Iguanas are actually endangered due to overhunting and also, like so many other of the animals, residential and commercial developments that wreck their habitats.

One of the nicest things about this resort is that they have maintained a large pond area that is full of birds and lizards.  I have also appreciated their labelling of the local flora and fauna.  Despite it being ever so dry here there are a few flowers that are still managing to bloom.
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It was 28 degrees with a UV Index of 10 today and 31 mph winds.  Despite the strong winds, everyone felt extremely blessed to be able to be outside.  There are so many Canadians here and the weather showed it snowing in Ottawa with snow showers in Winnipeg and temperatures of -4 C.  It is a wonder that we didn’t all rush the Air Canada office to extend our stay.

In the evening the perfume from the Frangipani flowers fills the air.

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Grenada is located near the Equator.  It has some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world.  Today I talked to a couple from England who said they had also witnessed the full moon rising up over the horizon.  What a sight that must have been!

This is a really short post but I wanted to just add some images for all of those stuck in a lingering Canadian winter.  The top one is the Caribbean Sea looking from Magazine Beach to St. George’s in the distance.

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Views from my son’s house in Egmont Bay.

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Everywhere you drive in Grenada, you will see goats tied at the side of the road eating the grass.  Today, in our ride back from Grand Anse in one of those wonderful minivans, the van backed up to let a man out by his house.  Little did we know till they stopped that the bag on the floor beside us held two baby goats!  Today, some people make the local goat cheese which is delicious.  Other goats find their way into the local dish, roti.  Roti can be filled with vegetables, fish, boneless chicken, or potatoes and peas.

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And speaking of roti, I apologize.  It was simply too good to stop at the beginning and take a photograph.  The Sugar Shack makes the BEST roti in St George’s.  They are located on True Blue Road.  Eating local is not only economical but can be delicious.  Three roti – 1 fish and 2 boneless chicken – a Monster drink, 2 Cokes, and a Sprite was 66 EC or about $29 CDN.  It was full of chicken, both dark and white meat and the seasoning was spot on.  They are moving from their temporary site into a permanent building with a new kitchen on True Blue Road shortly.  If you get to Grenada, take the minivan and ask the conductor to let you off.  They will surely know the place!

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Dusk over Magazine Beach, Grenada, West Indies

It’s the end of another warm, beautiful day during the dry season in Grenada.  It began with feeding the fish in the pond in the featured photo.  The egrets and herons watch you very carefully and have learned that if tourists feed the fish they can get in the action and have a great big meal.  At dusk, the herons and egrets settle in for the evening on the island.

One tourist area that could grow in Grenada is birding.  There are 160 different species of birds.  Just staying in one location, over a couple of days, there have been that spectacular little blue heron from yesterday, a great egret, many little egrets, a Caribbean Elaenia, a blue-black grassquit, a pair of Eurasian collared doves, a Zenaida dove, a royal tern, a tricolour heron, a Caribbean Grackel,  and a vast assortment of smaller hummingbirds that have been simply too fast to photograph and identify.  There is a stand over the mangroves in Woburn and if it is high tide, it is apparently filled with lots of various species.  I also noted that there is a walking tour through the rainforest that includes bird watching.

The Royal Tern is about the size of a seagull.  It wasn’t much interested in us as it had its eyes fixed on a fish in the pond.  These are common coastal birds in the West Indies.

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This pair of Eurasian Collared Doves were just sweet.  This medium-sized grey dove with its distinctive collar around the hindneck was introduced into Cuba in the 1970s and has now spread to all of the Lesser Antilles including Grenada.  This dove is a ground feeder but today it took a keen interest in the food that we were feeding to the fish making me believe that all of the animals and birds will be happy when the rainy season begins in June.

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This Carib Grackle made himself a bit of a pest today!  And in doing so he entertained me completely by the way he broke the crackers down in order to eat them with his beak and claws.  He is also the pesky creature that likes to steal food off the plates in the dining room.  No kidding.

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I know that most of you didn’t come to this blog to read about my new passion birding.  So here are some continuing tips on getting around the island of Grenada and being a ‘wise’ tourist.

One of the best ways to get around the island is by mini-van.  The driver normally owns the van and has a license for a certain route.  The route numbers appear on the windscreen.  Each license gives the owner a limited number of trips (daily) on their route.  This is precisely why the young man who opens and closes the door keeps his eyes out for anyone who might want a ride and is nearing a bus stop.  Don’t take offence as he will not chat with you.  It is up to him to fill that bus – the more passengers that can be crammed in, the more money that is made!  You might actually think not one more person could fit in that van but the conductor (that young man sliding the door and taking the money) knows precisely how many people he can fit in the bus.  Sometimes he might even shift people around in the seating after a stop.  Don’t fret, just go with the flow and enjoy Grenada time which is much slower than anywhere else in the world.  Fares vary on the length of the route you are travelling.  Typically, a ride from the Starfish up by Maurice Bishop Airport to Grand Anse or St George’s will cost you 10 EC.  Tell the conductor where you want to get off.  You will hear him knock on the roof or the door to tell the driver to stop.  Don’t do this yourself unless you are not wearing any rings – scratching the paint will get several people mad at you.

One of the things that many tourists do is sign up for tours, sometimes very, very expensive tours.  But for those who are curious and a little more adventurous at heart and who want to save a heap of money, I suggest you pick up one of the free Grenada Road Map guides.  Almost every shop we have been in has at least one copy.  What is so interesting is that the map highlights many of the tourist attractions you might be interested in and the number of the local bus to take to get there.  So tomorrow, instead of spending more than $300 CDN to go on a tour to Belmont Estates, I am going to take the bus to Grenville, switch at their bus station and head straight to Belmont Estates. You can have an amazing lunch there, check out the making of the goat cheese, there is also a gift shop, petting zoo and a look at what life was really like on a 17th-century plantation.  Check back with me in a couple of days but by my figuring, I will save approximately $275 CDN!

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The mini-vans are also great entertainment.  There is always reggae music playing and you will be surprised at how courteous these young men are to their customers.  I have seen elderly ladies transporting propane tanks and chickens.  The driver will pull as close as he can to their house and the conductor will help them unload.  This morning he helped a  woman and her daughter with eight bags of groceries.  This is great service – and respect.  Sure isn’t that good in Canada most of the time.  So don’t get in a rush.  Take the local mini-van.  Get lost in Grenada somewhere.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Shopping.  I have already mentioned Art Fabrik as one of the true local shops that employ local sewers.  But today, let’s talk a little bit about breakfast options, book stores, and ready-made clothes.

There are two malls near Grand Anse Beach.  There is the Spiceland Mall opposite the Coyaba Hotel.  It has doubled in size over the last couple of years.  There is an IGA, various clothing stores, a duty-free shop, a local art gallery and shop, and quite surprising an excellent bookshop, Art and Soul.  They had a large area for children and young readers, Caribbean cookbooks and a really good selection of Vegan, along with the New York Times bestsellers and ‘beach reading’.  I was looking for a book on birds as well as one on the history of the Grenadian Revolution that wasn’t slanted towards the US view of the world.  I came away very happy.

If you are looking for beer, wine, or spirits, head to the IGA (or any other grocery store).  They have a large selection priced in EC, much cheaper than the Duty-Free (Unless you are looking for something exotic).  Personally, I think the grocery stores are the place to buy local chocolate and cocoa.  There are now five chocolate producers and all of their products are organic. The Grenada Chocolate Company was the first.  The grocery stores also sometimes carry the local vanilla or the passionfruit honey which is to die for.

You will save approximately 50% by doing your shopping for these local items at these big grocery stores as opposed to the smaller tourist shops near the cruise ship port.

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The second mall is a short walk from Spiceland and is located across from the Raddison Hotel.  It is the Grande Anse Shopping Centre.  There is a grocery store and this is where you will find Mike’s Pizza.  He opens at 11am and he used to also have ice cream.  But there is also a little dress and gift shop tucked in right by the fountain.  Too-kachi Boutique and Craft Studio carry a nice selection of locally made gifts, cotton and beach clothing.  All prices are in EC.

BTW.  I am not a fan of malls anywhere but I am also not keen to spend 50% more for anything.

Eating out in Grenada can be very expensive if you go to restaurants (as opposed to the local stands).  We stopped for toast and sausages at Moch Spoke (you can also rent bicycles but you are taking your life into your hands on the Grenadian roads!), a cup of coffee, and a shared orange juice.  For two it came to $12 CDN.  The full English breakfast with toast, eggs, bacon or sausage, and beans is $33 EC or about $16.50 CDN each.  Note:  You can also get a great breakfast – some of the most amazing French toast – at The Papillion.  It is a short walk up the hill behind the Spiceland Mall.  They are open Wednesday through Sunday.

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KFC is spotlessly clean, large, and is freezing cold.  Early in the morning, you can see the locals heading in there for fried chicken for breakfast.  Here is a look at their Value Menu.  The best way to convert currency for Canadians is simply to divide the EC by 2 and you get the equivalent Candian dollars.  Despite what the currency exchange boards say, by the time you are finished that appears to be the most accurate conversion.

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Last tip of the day:  wear a hat!  The top of your head can get sunburned very quickly!  And if you forget your flip flops, you can purchase name brands and no name all over the island.

 

 

 

Chillin’ Out in Grenada

Grenada is a small volcanic island in the southern Caribbean near Trinidad and Tobago.  I have been travelling here to visit my son, Cristofre, and his wife, Tammy, for fourteen years.  Many call it ‘paradise’.  Sick and tired of a long Canadian winter with snow showers still falling and temperatures hovering around -2 Celsius, it is no wonder that most of the people around the pool at the Starfish Resort are Canadian.

Fourteen and a half years ago, the people of Grenada were trying to come to terms with the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan in the south part of the island and Hurricane Emily in the north.  Ivan arrived on September 7, 2004, and damaged 80% of Grenada’s buildings.  It was common to see houses without roofs and many of the locals called the category 3 storm, ‘Hurricane Rufus’ or ‘Ivan Rufus’ due to the tragic situation of the homes covered with blue tarps trying to keep them dry.  Everyone had a story about where they were when the storm struck.   Packs of wild dogs roamed everywhere and at night if one of them barked, all of the others started.  The palm trees along Grand Anse Beach, one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world, were torn from the sand, their branches scattered hither and yon.

Well, that was nearly fifteen years ago.  Today, the palm trees have grown back lining the white sandy beach again along with a growing number of luxury hotels.  What used to be $100 a night at an all-inclusive hotel right on the beach, will be more than three times that now, without meals.  One of the newest, if not the latest offering, the Silversands Grenada has the longest infinity pool in the Caribbean and has, at the top end, four bedroom beachfront villas measuring 2,071 square meters (22,292 square feet), four and a half bathrooms, private pools, and outdoor dining to name a few of the amenities.  Indeed, Grenada has set itself up for the 5-star market as opposed to the budget traveller according to many of the locals.  It is, thus, interesting that one of Canada’s leading charter airline companies, Sunwing Airlines, has recently purchased the Starfish Resort and will begin a refurbishment on May 15.  Today, this hotel is a good value for families that want an all-inclusive break.  The resort sits on Magazine Beach.  The grounds are immense with some rooms facing a central pond with bridge and islands with trees laden with the beautiful white Egret. The white ‘things’ in the second tree left of the waterfall are Egret.

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Some shots of the current Starfish resort:

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And while the rooms are a little tired and yes, there are a lot of stairs, the views are incredible and the staff are friendly and helpful.  There is, however, only one a la carte restaurant, The Oriental, while I am told that the Silversands has fifteen.  The point that I am trying to make is that Grenada has changed significantly in the past decade and continues to make progress in attracting tourists back to the island.  Recent promotions have really helped.  The economic boom can be seen in Spice Island Mall doubling its capacity, the number and variety of restaurants, tour companies, hotels, and shops.  When once you could only get the local fare, today you have a choice of almost anything you could want ranging from sushi to East Indian to pizza and fried chicken alongside road stands selling roti and jerk chicken.  That said, I would personally encourage resorts like the Starfish to provide local fare including roti for their guests.  The other big difference in this growth is the number of airlines serving this small island paradise.  Air Canada and Caribbean Airlines have direct flights from Toronto.  Delta, British Airways, and American Airlines handle the American and European markets.  And with Sunwing entering the market, there will be more options.  The average temperature is around 27 degrees.  The rainy season begins in June-July and ends normally in October.  I have been here over the Christmas holidays when it poured every day.  It never seemed to bother too many people at the beach!

You can come to Grenada and just sit at the beach.  You don’t have to do anything.  But, if you like to snorkel or scuba dive, you are covered.  You might get lucky and land a Marlin if you go deep sea fishing but, you can also hook up with one of the locals and go out for something a little smaller.  Other water sports abound near Grand Anse Beach.  There are tours of the island and I suggest that everyone who comes here for the first time compare prices and go out and see the waterfall, the old plantations, one of the cocoa processing plants (it is all organic), hike through the rainforest or check out the 160 species of birds on the island.  Here is a great shot of a blue heron at sunset the other day:

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The food offerings in Grenada have changed immensely since I first began travelling here.  You can even get schnitzel!  Yes, in downtown St George’s!  You apparently need to make an appointment but the food is, apparently, out of this world.  Check it out if you find yourself here.  And there are enough fast food chains like Subway, KFC, and Pizza Hut to keep people happy if they tire from the all you can eat buffets at the hotels or want something more familiar.  But the small mom and pop stands that sell one specialized local item remain popular.   Stop and have some of the local jerk chicken,  the roti or doubles (originally from Trinidad I am told with the jerk from Jamaica).  Find someone to take you off the main drag to find them.  You will be glad you did.

No visitor should leave Grenada without at least visiting a shop in the old part of St. Georges, Art Fabrik.  Chris Mast and Lilo Nido are creative designers.  They have been here through the economic downturn following Hurricane Ivan and survived.  They do the design work and have more than 45 women in the local community sewing the shirts, hats, dresses, and beach covers along with all manner of scarves and soft toys.   They are truly local – nothing is made in China but sold as being Grenadian.  You will be so happy that you did.  Their large batik wall hangings are magnificent and have won awards internationally.  If you are in Grenada long enough they might be able to whip something up especially for you.

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Other local items to take home are the local organic cocoa.  There are now five cocoa processing companies on the island.  You can buy their products at the Chocolate Shop across from Art Fabrik or any of the tourist shops.  Some are available in the grocery stores and are often less expensive for the same item.  Nutmeg is another local crop and if you have lots of uses for it or need unique gifts for your friends, you can go to the Nutmeg Corporation and buy ten pounds of the latest crop.  The nutmegs that I bought five years ago are still good!  And if you learn to love the local nutmeg ice cream a quick way to make it is to take a vanilla ice cream, let it soften and add 1-2 nutmegs grated to a half gallon and let the ice cream re-harden.  Of course, you can make your nutmeg ice cream from scratch using a vanilla recipe and adding 1 grated nutmeg to a batch.  And then there is the rum.  Lots of rum ranging from average to outstanding.  Westerhall is one of the local ones but you can also pick up the award-winning El Dorado Rum from Guyana.

 

As the sun sets over London, I am packing my bags and getting ready to say farewell

It has been an incredible time in the United Kingdom.  The Residency at Hospitalfield was inspirational, and my attitudes towards ceramics have been permanently altered in new and exciting ways.  I made good friends, ate beautiful food, slept in a historic room in an ancient house, learned about tweed, devoured the best cod and chips in Arbroath, and saw amazing scenery.  The time in London, a 180 degree turn around from the rural countryside of Scotland, has been just as enjoyable.   So what did I learn that I could pass on to you?

First, in London, do your homework.  Get a hotel or a Bed and Breakfast near to the sights that you want to see.  There are many ways of travelling in this well laid out city.  You can take the London Underground.  An off-peak day ticket is around 134 GBP or $26 CDN$.  This means you can ride the tube as much as you want and there are underground stations all over the place.  You can take one of the red double-decker buses.  Your tube ticket allows you to switch between them.  Alternatively, you can catch a black taxi. They take credit cards so no need to worry about exchanging money or running short.  The machine is in the back with you, not upfront with the driver.  Very easy.

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An excellent example of the cost is that it is about 25 GBP from London King’s Cross to Hyde Park in a cab whereas it is less than 6 GBP on a single tube ticket.  When you arrive, the amount of luggage that you have will really impact the transport that you need to get to your hotel.  One other word of warning, if you have a considerable suitcase like I do with all of its ceramic supplies and a plaster mould inside, you do not want to book yourself into a B & B and be staying on the top floor unless you have Hercules with you to carry that suitcase up those stairs!  OK.  Maybe you are 20something and reading this but seriously, try not to pack your entire house if you can. You will have many more options.  Once you get settled in you can take the tube, take a taxi, rent an electric bicycle for 2 GBP a day, or you can walk.

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Many of the sights are actually close together, and you can get some good exercise in.  It is also good to ‘get lost’ and discover places you might not otherwise see.  There is history in every corner of London!

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I chose to stay right across from Hyde Park because I was going to meet a long time friend and co-author, Richard Barnes, at the Albert Memorial.

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Richard and I agreed to meet at the ‘America’ corner which his relative had carved out of gorgeous marble, John Bell.  Each corner was designed to represent the four corners of the globe with America being represented by the bison.  Canada is on the left looking on as the United States is on the right.  Some of Britain’s finest Victorian sculptors have their work on this grandiose memorial.

The Albert Memorial has Prince Albert, Consort to Queen Victoria looking over to the Royal Albert Hall and the Science Museum.  That is another attraction in the area which is really a ‘must see’.  Of course, he is also looking towards the Victoria & Albert Museum (assuming his eyesight is better than mine!).  You can easily spend an entire day at the Museum.  Their blockbuster exhibition, Dior, has been extended and do not get distressed if you see the ‘sold out’ sign and don’t have a ticket.  If you really want to see this comprehensive exhibition of one of the world’s great 20th century designers then go over and purchase yourself a membership to the museum.  I promise you will get a ticket to the show!  Inside there is the new Cast Court exhibition area.  Richard told me that people went all over taking casts and bringing them back.  The Museum has art from all over the world including an excellent Asian section.

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And they also have ‘the’ Moon Jar.

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The Victoria and Albert Museum has a cafe where you can get salads, sandwiches, hot meals, cakes, tea, or other drinks.  On a sunny day, you can sit outside, or you can relax in the William Morris room.  It was a sad day for me.  My old friend, Pauline Rohatgi and I, used to meet to have lunch in the William Morris room or sitting outside on a bench every time I was in London.  Pauline was the Keeper of the Prints and Drawings for the India Office Library.  That was how I met her.   Over the years we worked on publications and exchanged information on British sculpture sent to India.  Pauline has health issues and now lives permanently in India.  I hope that we can have tea there soon!  But she was very much missed.

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But that wasn’t the only reason.  Within walking distance, inside the park, you can tour Kensington Palace – the home of the Cambridges and the Sussexes.  You can tour their gardens.  You can visit Princess Diana’s children’s playground, go to the Serpentine Gallery, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, sit and eat ice cream by Princess Diana’s Memorial Fountain, or have tea by the Albert Memorial.  You can even feed the pigeons, crows, geese, and swans at the Round Pond.

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One of the things I wanted to do was to visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.  I am a bit curious.  When I was a teenager, everyone remembered where they were when President Kennedy was shot in Dallas.  I wonder how many people remember where they were when the news came of Diana’s death?

The fountain was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 6th July 2004.  Using contemporary technology, 545 pieces of Cornish granite were shaped and placed together using traditional masonry skills.  All of the information says:  “The design aims to reflect Diana’s life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London’s water table.”  It is a very quiet, contemplative memorial that sits in the landscape in the same way that Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial does.

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There are many reasons to visit London this time of year if you are from Canada.  The first is an escape from the last remnants of a long, snowy, cold Canadian winter.  The flowers are bursting forth.  The temperature is about 11-14 degrees Celsius.  You can get by with a lined windbreaker.  Hotel prices are more reasonable, and you can get special deals on air tickets.

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If you are flying in at either of the two main airports that serve London, London Heathrow or London Gatwick, there are reasonable ways of getting into the City and back out again.  If its Heathrow, you can take the London underground directly into the City.  Arriving at Gatwick presents several options.  One is the Thameslink train that will take you into the City.  Or you can take the National Express bus which will get you to London Victoria.  There are various limo services and flat rate taxes that cost around 62 GBP.  These could be helpful if you have too much luggage.

All of the museums in London are free except for their special exhibitions.  You could keep yourself busy, as I said, right here near to Hyde Park.  One other one I didn’t list is the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace.   If you want to have high tea, Harrod’s is in walking distance.  They will continue to refill the pot and the plates until you leave.  Down Exhibition Road into South Kensington, you can find some of the very smart places for meals all during the day.  If you are looking for Middle Eastern food, including Persian, try Queensway Road.

Happy travelling!

Ceramics Arts London

Serendipity.    The meaning is:  “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”  That is precisely what happened to me when I wound up leaving Scotland a couple of days early.  Yesterday was the last day of this major exhibition of the very best of British ceramics, 90 artists in one space, Granary Square, with select lectures along with workshops and firings at The Kiln House close by.  I could hardly believe my luck!  Several of the artists I have known for some time and was delighted that Lisa Hammond was there.  Hammond was the driving force behind Adopt a Potter and was one of the speakers on my panel talking about the need for training and apprenticeships at NCECA, 2014, in Milwaukee.  Since then she has been awarded an MBE in 2016 and took on the massive task of turning buildings at Stoke on Trent into Clay College.  She still maintains her studio, Mayes Hill Pottery, where she produces soda fired functional ware and beautiful shinos on traditional Japanese forms.   The wheel-thrown jugs, bakers, and mugs made at the Mayes Hill Pottery and soda fired are traditional British shapes.  From the crowds at her booth, they resonate entirely with the public in attendance.

 

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Ceramic Review recently contained an article on the work of Midori Takaki.  Midori says that her work is a reflection of her life experiences, real or fantasy – to this clay sculptor the difference is irrelevant.  Midori grew up in Japan but now maintains a studio in Canterbury.  She always believed that the things her mind imagined would mean she would become a writer but, instead, and lucky for us, she translates those images using clay to create intimate figurines and wall masks that are unmistakably hers.  In her blog, she says that she creates these fantasies in miniature at night in place of keeping a written journal.  I am happy to say that one of her delightful rabbits has now found a home in Canada!

 

Akiko Hirai’s booth was virtually empty Sunday morning.  Over the past year and a half, Hirai has received a lot of press being included in all of the significant exhibitions with articles focusing on her practice including Ceramic Review.  Her work encapsulates what is typically a Japanese vessel, imperfect, asymmetrical, and grounded in nature.

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Anna Silverton uses porcelain to focus on pure wheel thrown forms.  No decorative surfaces here!  One of the significant things about this exhibition is the variety of the work that was shown, the juxtaposition of the crustated surfaces like those of Hirai and the clean surfaces and perfect lines of Silverton.  There was something to please everyone who walked through the door.  What was evident in the ceramics of each of the artists was the verb:  crafted.  Regardless of the methods of creating the work or the surface decoration or not, every piece was meticulously made with great attention to detail.  Nothing sloppy here.

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Hanna Tounsend combines printmaking and ceramics to create vessels that explore the layered landscapes, seascapes, and the weatherworn surfaces of the British coastline.  Tounsend has a studio in Leicester.

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Yuta Segawa creates miniature vessels.  Trained in Japan and China, Segawa now has his studio in Wimbledon.  Each of the tiny vessels is thrown on a wheel, a challenge that Segawa readily engages in to stretch the limits of “what a human body can make on such a small scale”.

 

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This has just been a teaser about the amazing ceramic talents of British ceramists.  I have wanted to attend this exhibition for a number of years and my wish came true this year.  For anyone wanting to catch next year’s show, Google Ceramic Art London for the dates.  You can order tickets online.  There are food and drink inside but with your wristband, you can come and go as you please.  It is a good opportunity to come in the morning, have lunch in one of the many restaurants in the Grange or the Coal Yard area.  The closest tube station is London King’s Cross.  It is about a five-minute walk.  I suggest coming early.  You will get a booklet with a short bio of each of the artists and the number of their booth.  The crowds are not so big around 10 am and this will give you an opportunity to talk to any of the artists whose work intrigues you.  As a result of my visit this year, I will travel to visit Midori next year in her studio in Canterbury!  I can’t wait.

 

Farewell Hospitalfield

I think that we all knew that saying goodbye after working, creating, laughing, eating, and exploring together for a fortnight was not going to be easy.  Friendships were formed, ideas exchanged and debated.  At the very beginning, it felt like there was a thread that had already woven the nine of us together.  Without exception, everyone is concerned about the environment, and our impact on it and all agreed, at one time or another, that the natural environment of Hospitalfield was having an effect on our work, intended or not.

Three highly intelligent and creative young women worked inside the historic house while the other six of us were in the historic studio.  I only wish there had been more time to get to know these young ladies a little bit more.  Ruby de Vos spent her time working on her dissertation for the University of Groningen inside the main house.  Her research examines the embodied temporalities of toxicity in contemporary art and literature.  Ruby had previously studied Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam, and we found ourselves at the dining room table talking about the work of Mieke Bal.  I wish that I had more time to talk to Ruby about her findings, but I am grateful for our discussions about climate change and how the young people in the Netherlands are protesting the impact of climate change.  We both smiles when the news reported about students around the world walking out of school to demonstrate how important it is to this generation to find a way to reverse the impact or at least halt in and the utter dismay in the politicians who are climate change deniers.

Emily Furneaux studied Critical Fine Art Practice at Brighton University.  She now lives and works in Glasgow where she uses video, sculpture, installation, and drawing to create narratives that weave together truth and fiction.  Emily’s work currently deals with her healing and the impact of mental health on a person.  She was busy working on a project that will be shown in Glasgow.  Emily is one of the bravest young women I have met, meeting her demons head-on, accepting the trauma that has occurred, and using it in a positive way for her art and for her reaching out to others who have been in similar situations.  “Place and environment” work to inspire this young artist and no doubt Hospitalfield will take its rightful place at one time or another.  I will always be grateful for our very candid conversations.  Emily’s work has screened across the UK and as far away as Lithuania.  Holly Argent is an artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne. She uses various materials, often looking for strategies to utilize the fragmentary nature of archives to tell and re-tell narratives of artistic legacies.  Emily has taken the lead on a project focused on ‘Women Artists of the North East Library’.  In doing so, she is creating a resource that will contribute much to the untold stories of the history working in that area of the UK.  I wish that I had more time to talk to Holly but was so glad that she ‘ran’ to get into the group photo before I had to leave.  Holly was the recipient of the Luby’s Legs Artist Bursary (2017-18) and the Forshaw Rome Residency from Newcastle University at The British School at Rome (2017).

 

The middle section of the main studio was shared by Katy West and Lizzie Watt, both from Glasgow (OK, Katy is originally from Dublin).  At the very beginning of our residency, Katy was supervising the delivery of her electric kiln which she promptly plugged in.  That is one of the great things about the UK – the voltage of the plugs easily accommodates a kiln!  Katy studied ceramics at The Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London.  Since her graduation, she has worked as a designer, and a curator propelled by her interest in the history and meaning of objects.  Katy is currently a Lecturer at Glasgow School of Art.  Her list of commissions and curatorial projects is impressive.  From the beginning, it felt like Katy was in a marathon race.  Little did I know (til later) that this was an exceptional time for this mom with children aged 5 and 7.  It was an opportunity for her to get back to her roots in ceramics, to have a period without the responsibilities of her family and away from her work.  She is currently working with the students and faculty of Glasgow School of Art to revitalise their first-year programme.  That is a big task!  Katy could have selfishly protected her time, but that doesn’t seem to be her way at all.  She has a beautiful sense of humour and is generous in sharing her knowledge.  A good example was her teaching Lizzie how to make moulds!  Here she is discovering that my new coat fit her perfectly!  Fantastic woman with great charm.

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Lizzie Watt has one of the most infectious laughs and like Katy, has boundless energy and curiosity.  She is a collector of ‘stuff’ and ideas all the while experimenting with the process.  At times her area of the studio looked like a debris field but, then again, so did Katy’s so busy were they with mixing plaster and dying materials.  Lizzie was particularly interested in making natural dyes.  She had borrowed a book from the library, The Wild Dyer, that led her to collect the pits and shells of our avocado salad one day.  Did you know that the combination of skins and seeds makes a stunning pink dye?  I didn’t either.

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Watt is known for her kitschy works in miniature.  Her bio in the Hospitalfield Residency list says that she:  “borrows imagery and ideas from archaeological and scientific discoveries to explore the messy intermingling of human and non-human timescales. Ideas about these relationships are manifested in Watts’ work, not through linear narratives, but instead in sculptural debris, fascinating objects, and in films and animations which focus upon isolated and enchanting behaviours”.  Like all of us, she drew inspiration from Hospitalfield and the stories and events that came up during our two weeks together.  This morning, she presented me with a “Dressed Herring” because of the story I had relayed to her after she had taken Lucy and me to the museums in Dundee.  It is an object that I will always treasure and encapsulates Watt’s playful attitude entirely.

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Kikki Ghezzi had the last studio in our building.  From Milan but now living in Brooklyn, she not only introduced me to various ways of working with a needle and thread to create imagery that was anything but simple but she also cooked a wicked Italian dinner for us one weekend.  In her studio at Hospitalfield, she sewed and dyed a body of work that will ultimately go to the National Museum of Women’s Art in Washington, DC.  Other pieces are destined for the Italian Consulate in DC where Kikki will also be blessing a tree as part of her artistic exchange.  Using only thread, silk, linen, and natural dyes, Ghezzi creates artist’s books with meticulous embroidery using beet dyes for the colour.  She was working on a larger piece, hanging in the wind to dry that is anchored in her experiences as a woman.

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It goes without saying that the two people who shared the end studio with me were the ones that I came to know the most.  Like all the others, Allan Whyte and Lucy Barlow are immensely talented.  Allan is heading off to Berlin for a three-month residency, and Lucy is shortlisted for the Olympic Park Public Art Competition.   Allan and I spent hours talking about everything, but the one thing he gleaned was how proud I am of my granddaughter, Elysha, and her principals about animal cruelty, Veganism, and the environment.  Allan works with deprived inner-city youth in Glasgow, and he sees first hand what poverty and a lack of love can do to children.  They are so lucky to have someone so empathetic to help them, those young men.

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Lucy has her interview this coming Thursday, and I cannot imagine a better artist to take that project on.  Lucy and I became fast friends, sharing many conversations on our evening walk about the garden about the challenges of being an artist, stopping to raise a family, and returning to one’s practice.  That is precisely what Lucy is doing, and she has many, many years to make even a more significant impact on the world of public art and installations.

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And last but never least, four individuals who worked very hard to make certain that our residencies were such a success:  Lucy Byatt, Director of Hospitalfield and her adorable Whippet; Scott Byrne, General Manager who wore so many hats I lost track; Cicely Farrer, Programme and Communications Officer who made sure on a daily basis both before and after our arrival that all was well; and Simon Brown who juggled Vegans, Vegetarians, and Carnivores, always smiling.  We thrived on the most amazing local food, still healthy and delicious.  All of their background work, devotion to the visual arts, and to Hospitalfield made this two weeks in Arbroath meaningful.  All of us were grateful for their care and attention.  As we depart, we join the illustrious artists who have come before us as Hospitalfield Alumni.

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Dunnottar Castle

I had written about Dunnottar Castle earlier in my blog when I planned to go and visit.  I did finally find the time today to take a run up the coast.  As I got closer and closer the skies opened and the rain began to fall.  Those clouds that look blue were actually black and the rain had made the trail to the castle – very steep in either direction – pretty much impossible unless you had really good hiking boots with grip.  The admission fee is 7 GBP and it appears the castle is open every day of the year from at least 10:00-16:00.  In the summer it is open longer.  I can only imagine the small car park filling up quite quickly.  The castle bulletin board actually suggests parking in Stonehaven and hiking up to the castle.  There is a caravan with tea and coffee and sweets before the path leading to the castle.

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The views from the hills around are absolutely breathtaking.

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I suggest that you take the A92 from Arbroath and drive through the scenic villages.  You could stop for lunch at Lunan and also take in the lovely beach area there on the same visit.  The fields between Montrose and Stonehaven are full of daffodils being grown for market and amazing sheep!

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