Exploring: Perrott’s Folly

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Last week, as part of the Hidden Spaces project (in conjunction with Two Towers Brewery), I got to go along to explore the inside of one of the city’s seldom seen historic buildings: Perrott’s Folly.

Originally built in 1758 it once stood in a country hunting park but now overlooks a mixture of Victorian and 20th century housing, within sight of Edgbaston reservoir. It’s a slightly strange sight, huddled on a suburban street but the crumbling interior still manages to evoke a sense of past grandeur.

Here’s what I saw:

Exploring: The Mineral Galleries

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Yesterday I went down to London, mainly to go to a lecture but also, as I was in the neighbourhood, to spend the day at the Natural History Museum, somewhere that I’ve never really lingered very much.

Mineral Galleries, Natural History Museum

I’m so glad that I did. It’s treasure trove of fascinating exhibits and, though I didn’t find as many fossils as I’d hoped for on display I did discover the Mineral Galleries, up in the roof, which yielded an astounding array of colourful textures and surfaces:

mineral Samples, Natural History Museum sm

Some of these macro shots are almost reminiscent of a coral reef, with the minerals forming either beautifully organic structures or some really rather mathematical constructs, all effortlessly intersecting angles and sharp lines.

Plus, tucked away up there, I found two whole cases of silver mineral samples, some of which reminded me very much of those that I saw in Edinburgh, in January, all long, coiling wires that occurred naturally as the silver formed:

Silver Mineral Samples, Natural History Museum, London 2015

The two samples on the plinth are particularly large examples of these natural wires and are still attached to the rocks upon which they grew. They were found in Norway in 1834 and 1886 respectively, they hail from the Kongsberg Silver mines and are now housed in the Museum’s Vault exhibition space.

Exploring: What I learned in the National Museum of Scotland

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The National Museum of Scotland, set in the heart of Edinburgh, is a veritable treasure trove of interesting objects and specimens from around the world.

Naional Museum of Scotland 2 copyHere’s what I learned when I visited last week:

– Silver, as a naturally occurring mineral, can grow into beautiful leafy dendritic crystal structures and coiling, wiry masses like this:

silver wire– In 1843 it was acceptable to ask Whalers to bring you back bone samples for your collections. But you had to remember to tell them not to carve things on them during the long voyage home:

Whale Jaw Bone with Scrimshaw, National Museum of Scotland– Birmingham was home to one of the country’s only specialists in lighthouse light construction: glassmakers Chance & Co

– The Museum houses a large collection of the internal workings from Lighthouses, and companies like Chance and Co made their construction into an art form:

ImageGen– The Flapjack Octopus is incredibly cute.

Lake District Lithographs – Alan Stones

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While in the Lake District last month I stumbled across the Mere Gallery, just above Lake Windermere. In their window and across their walls were a series of stark, black and white lithographs by local artist Alan Stones. I was very much taken in by their simple sense of space where swathes of blank, white paper are offset by comparatively tiny, delightfully detailed prints of birds and people, landscapes and activities, almost lost in the white space but, thankfully, not quite.

Here are a few favourites to enjoy:

Arc Alan StonesArc

Take Wing, Alan Stones Take WingSkein (vi) Alan Stones Skein (vi)Climb (ii)  Alan StonesClimb (ii)

Cornwall

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This summer I took my first trip to the Cornish seaside, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit but have never managed to – now that I have I think that it could now become a firm favourite of mine.

I spent a few days wandering around the local beaches, exploring the South Coast Path where it meandered by the campsite and generally soaking in the sound of the waves and the blue, blue sea. The landscape is certainly inspiring, at turns gentle then wild and I was so sad to come home!

Polly Joke Beach, Cornwall
Polly Joke Beach, Cornwall

Of course I didn’t spend the whole week wandering along the coastline (though that wouldn’t have been a challenge) I did venture down to St Ives to take in the light and explore the twisting streets of the town. It offers up a whole host of independent galleries filled with the work of local and international makers and artists, many of whom have been influenced by the beautiful local landscape.

Spread across two floors in the centre of St Ives is the New Craftsman Gallery which is currently hosting work by, among others, Neil Davis and Cornelius Jakob Van Dop.

Neil Davies, Indigo Skies over Sennen
Neil Davies, Indigo Skies over Sennen

Davies paints landscapes, with big, heavy brush strokes and expressive sweeps of colour that all build up on top of each other into some seriously captivating textures. Some of them are stormy, some a little serene as he reacts to the changes in the seasons around his home near St Ives.

Neil Davies, Reflections on the North Coast
Neil Davies, Reflections on the North Coast
Neil Davies, Watching the Crashing Waves at Boat Cove
Neil Davies, Watching the Crashing Waves at Boat Cove

Tucked away in a cabinet downstairs was the work of Cornelius Jakob Van Dop, a jeweller and metalsmith with a clear love for texture, line and the natural world. His small, palm sized boxes are decorated with beautiful illustrations of the coastal landscape and wildlife. There was something in them that reminded me of sailors scimshaw carvings, filled with the details that had been keenly observed during a life looking at the sea.

Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box

They were beautifully made, with neat hinges and simple dimple locking mechanisms that functioned neatly and really let the quality of the illustrations come across. Alongside these were a collection of animal and insect brooches, I particularly liked the whale, simply made in plain silver with more of that glorious fine detailing:

Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Box
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Brooch
Cornelius Jakob Van Dop Brooch

The Gallery is open all year round and details can be found here.

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