I often work with Welsh slate as it is beautiful to carve and takes an edge wonderfully. It also has such a depth of colour from plum to grey to almost black. What is also great about slate to work is that as soon as you make a chisel mark or a scratch onto the surface there is such a distinct contrast between the original surface and the tooled finish. This lends itself well to creating various designs and textures whereby you are not relying on light, shade and shadows to assist the effect, as you would on other stones.
Following a chance meeting at Stansted Garden Show, where I was exhibiting my collection and demonstrating on Welsh Slate, I was approached by Welsh Slate Water Features for a collaboration. The Brief was to create a monolith in Welsh Slate as a water feature and hand-carved with a depiction of the four seasons in Alchemist symbols.
Sourcing the right Monolith
Ioan from Welsh Slate Water Features had sourced a lot of big slate pieces from the North Wales Quarries and core drilled through their lengths. The pieces ranged in size, colour and texture so we had quite a few to choose from when we were happy to proceed with the design.
The Design Process
Ideas were discussed and sketches made until the 4 Seasons Alchemy Symbols were agreed upon. I love symbolic art and there is a lot of interesting, insightful history behind the subject. I then went through the process of looking at how these would carve onto Slate and made a series of trials to assess what could work. When I was happy with the trials I had a series of individual 1:1 size sketches, a series of 4 Alchemy Symbols carved on a 300mm length piece of slate tile and a series of 4 x 100mm slate (coaster Size) pieces.
We then chose the monolith we wanted to carve with a lovely riven weathered top and a fairly flat side to it. The side we wanted was the end grain which can be a bit tricky to carve but was worth it as the top was beautifully textured and would look great with water pouring over it. We looked at how the trial pieces looked on each side of the monolith as individual elements but decided that 4 elements on 1 side was the best option. We used the trial piece to assess the size and spacing and depths of the cutting for the symbols and were happy with the design process…..now it was carving time.
Carving the Alchemy Symbols
Fortunately, I had 2 days of sunshine while I was carving the alchemy symbols in the yard of Welsh Slate Water Features. It was a fairly standard process of production 1) transferring the design sketches using carbon paper 2) scribing the outlines 3) carving the symbol 4) texturing the background 5) final rub down. The finished symbols looked great on the monolith and despite a few tricky moments cutting into the end grain of the slate, everything went according to plan. The main problem was that there were so many beautiful pieces of slate in the yard asking to be carved it was a bit tricky to concentrate at times. I’m looking forward to seeing this piece take centre stage in someone’s garden….its certainly been carved with a lot of love & care!
Buy ‘The 4 Season Collection’
The Alchemist Symbols
Alchemy encompasses several philosophies and spans over 4 millennia and 3 continents. It is seen as a medieval chemical science, a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy that had 3 main aims – to turn ordinary materials into gold, to create a cure for all disease and to extend life. The symbols were used as a secret form of communication which was needed at a time when science was seen as devil work in a strongly religious society. The symbols included the 4 basic elements of fire, earth, wind and water as well as celestial planets, compounds and the seasons displayed here.
Buy ‘The 4 Seasons Monolith’
This completely unique garden water feature has been crafted from real Welsh Slate, with the Alchemist symbols for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter hand carved down the front face. The standing stone has also been core drilled to allow water flow and has a flat sawn base for stability. The package includes a water reservoir, pump, hose and clips.
Dimensions: 300 × 300 × 1380 mm
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