I was fortunate to have been raised in the North Wiltshire countryside – a land of open rolling downland, ridgeways, escarpments, fertile vales, forests and chalk streams – a far cry from the more intimate ‘basket of eggs’ drumlin country in which I now live. Farming during breas from school and university one saw the seasons come and go, the early morning sunrise and the day’s end, the ever changing landscape crafted like some giant abstract by maturing crops and the plough. It was at times arresting in its beauty.
The area was dotted with ancient and prehistoric sites – Neolithic settlements and flint mines, stone circles, long barrows, iron age forts, white horses – tumuli everywhere and even a Roman mint. Avebury, Martinsell, West Kennet Long Barrow, Silbury Hill, Overton Down and further away Stonehenge, a 2 hour bike ride.
Exploring was a staple pastime of youth for we saw ourselves as latterday hunter gatherers – searching for flint artifacts, roman coins, fossils or unusually coloured stones; carving things from bits of wood. Observing the colouration of flint in firebeds on bronze and iron age sites, oranges through reds. All fuel to the fire of our collective youthful imaginations. Man and stone – connected. And wood of course – happy days. So it might not come as a surprise that I felt an immensely deep sense of belonging when I returned after many years of absence. The thrill of rediscovering sensations – the warm, earthy scent of summer rain on sun baked chalky soil, the smell of the local ale. The re-awakening of that youthful imagination and curiosity albeit tempered with broader knowledge, a greater sense of context and a few miles on the clock. And an even greater interest in stone.
Flint nodules as if from the hand of Moore himself, the beauty of its hidden colour made all the greater for the difficulty in finding unblemished material. The realisation that in prehistoric times a simple adornment painstakingly made was a true measure of reverence or love.
Given a long held interest in the visual and creative arts it was perhaps unsurprising that this rekindled interest in stone would be as warm water on the little seed I mentioned in the last blog. I became determined to make something – and it had to be from flint, the stone of our primitive forefathers. Perhaps a contemporary take on an ancient tool – in one of a million shades of grey.
Determined to learn the skills and do it with my own hands the next stage of the journey began and over the following couple of years working with pieces of rough stone from all over the world the realisation soon dawned on me that the true beauty of nature was in it’s wonderful imperfection. Maybe some more about that next time.