The West Dorset Walkers Welcome project is part of the Dorset Coastal Connections portfolio of 18 projects along the Dorset Coast which aim to support and boost the economies of Dorset’s coastal areas. The portfolio is funded by a grant from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund and partner organisations and coordinated by Dorset Coast Forum. This project was curated by is Dorset Council’s Countryside & Greenspace Team and the Arts Development Company and Dorset Council’s Countryside & Greenspace Team
The Making of a Sculpture.
It is almost impossible to say where an idea comes from as it is often a confluence of threads developed over years from personal and global experiences and happenings.
But Mary Anning had been lying fallow in my mind for 3 decades since being invited, by the then curator of the museum, to discuss a sculpture to celebrate MA.
I looked at the images of MA, paintings. But none of then excited me, shrouded, as she was shown, in cloaks and bonnets and carrying a basket.
I thought that she must have been a tenacious woman, single minded and strong. In fossils we can only wonder at the creatures of long ago, so for her to be the first person to find an Ichthyosaurus and others it must have blown her mind.
As a free standing sculpture there would be no cliff-face to climb and I did not want a basket full of bones.
I wanted a kind of madness in the sculpture and put a fossil on her head. And she extending one had towards it as if in commune.. the continuity of life and death, reflexions on mortality.
In her hand she is wielding a hammer, the head of which I found on Lyme Regis’ East Beach where an old municipal dump is falling out of the cliff. And, in my more whimsical moments, think it might even have been MA’s hammer.
So; to begin a sculpture one has to get the feet right and the leg angles. Throughout the making there is a good deal of putting my body in the position I am after in order to ‘feel’ it. There is much cutting, welding, cutting and re-welding during the construction of the armature. The armature is not only the bones of the finished piece but also I have to think of the engineering, of balance, of weight distribution, strengthening bars and that everything to connected to everything else with out it being obvious in the finished piece.
The armature then has to go off to the galvaizers and this will make it rust-proof, but can no longer be altered!
The frame of the figure is then covered with wire mesh. Then a first layer of scrim (fibre glass fabric) soaked in a thin mix of Jesmonite and laid over the mesh. Next a final, thick mix of Jesmonite to get the required surface. This has to be applied with the figure lying down . When finished, the figure is water proofed and stained black with a sealant. The fossil remains silver.
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