Magpie Mine – Derbyshire

During a recent visit to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire, England, we went to the Mining Museum. I’m not usually a fan of museums, but there is something very personal and quite intimate about many of the items exhibited there. Amongst all the machinery on display, there are things such as old leather shoes and clay pipes found in the long-since deserted mine shafts. These items just feel like they have a story to tell and they look quite poignant in their glass cases. One of the displays tells the story of the events at the nearby Magpie Mine, where there were many disputes, one of which even ended with three miners being murdered down in the mine and a curse apparently being put upon the mine by the dead men’s relatives. We decided to visit the site, which is one of the best preserved lead mines in the country. There is certainly a slightly eerie atmosphere at the site, and it is that atmosphere that I tried to capture in my print. I decided to have a go at a collagraph print (as well as a lino print) to see if it would be better at conveying the correct ‘feeling’. Unfortunately, I don’t really know how to do a collagraph print, so, after watching a few videos on YouTube, I gave it a go. Whilst technically the images didn’t really ‘work’ as they do in the tutorials I watched, the two prints (seen below) did have an atmosphere that I was really happy with. The final image (top) was created by loading both prints into a drawing software programme on my iPad, before combining and tweaking them into one image I was happy with. Is that cheating? I don’t think so, though I will be struggling with it mentally for a few weeks yet! The lino print is still being made. All the time we were at the mine, and whilst I was making the image, I have had the song ‘The Mountain’ by Steve Earle going around in my head. The last verse in particular is appropriate:

There’s a hole in this mountain, it’s dark and it’s deep, And God only knows all the secrets it keeps. There’s a chill in the air only miners can feel, And there’s ghosts in the tunnels, the company sealed.

Figurehead

Despite being possibly the absolute epitome of a ‘landlubber’ (I feel seasick when I’m on a peddlo!) and being born and bred in as land-locked a place as you can imagine (Sheffield, England), there is something about the figureheads found on the front of old ships, that fascinates me. There seems to be a certain mythology associated with them, and apparently the ship’s crew used to take extremely good care of them, feeling that they embodied the spirit of a ship. The image that I came up with, actually started life as a figure that I ‘saw’ being made by the branches of an oak tree, that I knew I wanted to do something with. The recent visit to Whitby gave me the idea to do something more in keeping with maritime mythology than a woodland figure, and the position of the ‘figure’ in the tree lent itself to being placed as a ship’s figurehead. I wanted to keep it simple to keep me sane whilst planning and working on a multi-block, multi-colour print at the same time.

Whitby 2

Continuing on from the last post, I have recently completed two more prints inspired by my most recent visit to Whitby on the east coast of Yorkshire. The first (above) is the ‘classic’ view of the Abbey, seen from the road leading up to the site, and including the small expanse of water in front of it. My original photograph was taken in the early evening during March.

The second image (below) is of the feature known as ‘Black Nab’, seen from the beach at Saltwick Bay, just around the headland from the Abbey. There is a legend, known as ‘The Submerged Bells’, which tells of how, during the reformation instigated by Henry VIII, his men took the bells from the Abbey and put them aboard a ship harboured at Tate Hill Pier, ready to take to London. The local people begged them not to take the bells from such a Holy site, but to no avail. So it was that on a beautifully clear, warm Summer evening, the ship set sail on a perfectly still sea, only to sink without warning, straight to the bottom of the ocean as it neared Black nab. It is clear then, that the locals got their way, and the bells were never taken from the Holy site. It is said that if you sail close to the Nab, or listen on windy nights, the tolling of the submerged bells can be heard to this day. My image attempts to capture the essence of the legend.

Whitby

Over the years, I have taken children to Whitby many times and have always considered it to be a very special place, with a charm all its own. We have often tramped up and down (and sometimes up and down again!) the 199 Steps to the Abbey and St Mary’s Church. The image I will forever hold in my mind, is of the terracotta-coloured roof tiles on the higgledy-piggledy rooftops pictured here. I intentionally left out the harbour and the rest of the town that can be seen in the distance from this view point on the aforementioned steps. It is worth mentioning that at the top of the steps, in the graveyard of St Mary’s, is Caedmon’s Cross, a memorial to the so-called ‘Father of English Sacred Song’ and with Cadman being my surname, I’ve always had a certain affinity with the area.

This is a simple one colour print from a photograph that I took two weeks ago, standing on Tate Hill Pier, looking up towards St Mary’s Church.

CP Studio Exhibition

My most recent commission was working with a group of 6 other artists, providing pieces based around the vast collection of artefacts held by the Clifton Park Museum in Rotherham. ‘CP Studio’ was set up by artist Paul Evans, and features five ‘Cabinets of Curiosity’ – along the Iines of the so-called ‘cabinets’ (though they were often actually whole rooms) which generally housed “rarities and curious objects from natural history”, started around the 1500s and continuing in popularity until the early 1800s.

As a group, we visited the museum a few times and had a number of ‘Ideas Jams’ before going away to work on our interpretations of the theme. I played with the idea of scale and weight, producing the pieces seen above, based on fossils, Neolithic finds and a Green Man mask. All the pieces were made to look like stone using Modroc and stone-effect spray paint. A phrase used as the title of a film made by artist Neath Champion-Shorr was “False Narratives” and it was this that largely informed my work – trying to keep the viewer guessing about whether the objects were real or false. Two of the pieces give the game away (if you know how to read Oghams) with inscriptions actually stating ‘This is fake’. It was such a pleasure for me, not only to work with other artists for a change, but also to move completely away from printing for a while, and get back to sculpture.

The exhibition is housed in the Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham and runs until the middle of May.

Orkney 3 – Stromness

Although it was the ancient sites on Orkney that we initially went to see (along with the Northern Lights, of course) one of my abiding memories of the visit, was the first Saturday we were there and went to see the town of Stromness. We were genuinely shocked that in the week before Christmas, we were walking down the main High Street in town, on a Saturday lunch time and saw just three other people. Two of them were ladies, standing outside the church gates, giving out sweets to children who may be passing – I’m sure there had been others, but we had the only child on the street at the time! Looking down (or up?) the street, I took this as a photograph, knowing that it would make a good, single colour print. It is such a pretty town with cobbled streets and little alleyways and ginnels (or is that just a Sheffield/North of England word?) but has a very definite ‘arty’ feel to the place with a couple of beautiful galleries and an annual folk festival. We are longing to go back there sometime, and as soon as possible.

Orkney 2 – The Stones of Stennes

This is the second image from our trip to Orkney – the magnificent Stones of Stennes. As with at The Ring of Brodgar, we were completely on our own whenever we visited the stones, again, even at the Solstice. They are in such a beautiful setting, which I’m not sure I’ve managed to capture here, but it acts as a vivid reminder to me.

Landscape

Really, the main reason for this landscape print was that it took me ages to carve the tree for a previous print (Sleeping Dragon) and it seemed a shame to not use it again for a perhaps more ‘conventional’ image. So, I re-carved the tree, added it to a new foreground and used another block of Lino for a fairly generic background that isn’t based on anything in reality but that appealed to me. However, when I inked up and printed the background, I was quite taken with how serene it looked, to the point where I wasn’t sure whether I should put the tree on or not. In the end, I left half the prints with no tree and printed up the others with a tree. There are also a number of different background colours too. I am intending to make both available in my Etsy shop later this week.

Orkney 1 – The Ring of Brodgar

The week before Christmas 2021, we visited Orkney. It was a last minute decision, but to a place I’ve wanted to go for many years; I have always wanted to see the majestic Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stennes, amongst many other ancient and magical sites that I’ve read about for so long. It certainly didn’t disappoint and we picked the perfect week – not too cold, no rain to speak of and very few other visitors. I imagine that during the Summer months it gets pretty crowded, but for us it was ideal. I knew I would get some photographs from which I would be able to make some good prints, but what I didn’t account for was a visit to The Vintage Paper Company in Stromness, where I bought some superb, 1957 Whatman paper. It was thrilling to chat to the owner, a person so passionate about paper, and to look at some of what they have there – sheets of paper from 1785 and even from the 1600s!

This print of The Ring of Brodgar is on the 1957 paper which is such a joy to use and takes the ink so well. It’s a two block print and it’s come out pretty much as I anticipated, hopefully capturing some of the atmosphere we experienced. We were there for the Winter Solstice and found ourselves alone.

Hard Man, Lover

Sometimes I know where the inspiration for an image comes from, and sometimes I have absolutely no idea. This is one of the ones that I have no idea about. It could be something I heard someone say, something I’ve read, something I’ve seen – I just don’t know. I did once write a song called “Fifteen Feet” (to be found on the ‘Music’ page of this site) that has a chorus with the lines, “Well it’s knuckles that say Love, and a heart that’s full of hate” so perhaps it was remembering that which sparked off the idea. Either way, I quite like it. It’s a nice change to do a simple, one colour print. It’s also available in my Etsy shop.