Collage and a Celtic twist

13Collage has always been one of my favourite methods of working. It gives me plenty of scope to develop both fine detail and large scaled subjects. My intention since focusing on this field has always been to study design through the eyes of archaeology, but to rethink and interpret through the eyes of an artist. The collages are created on fine cotton canvas, and I work with Japanese Washi, natural Asian and modern papers, and some I prepare myself. Other materials such as pastels, acrylics, inks and watercolour may be used in a variety of techniques. They are carefully sealed.

I think of them without frames. They are light and are easy to hang, but metal plates can be added to the wood for extra security. Each has my personal stamp and comes with some information about the contents. These follow themes which focus on aspects of found artefacts from particular sites. My main interests are in Iron Age metals, but if the subject appeals then the work may be about other materials.6

The metamorphosis of metal ores using fire, water and air is very complex. The processes required to see a design through to finished object, always fascinate me.

The colours of metal ores, their chemical structure, location and ultimate form are all considered, and appear in my sketchbooks, but this is only the beginning and a great deal of study, museum visits, and travel take place. The combination of metals to make alloys, the chemical changes which take place when the object is found in the soil affect colours, shapes, textures, and conservation techniques can alter the picture yet again.

In this sense a collage is an ideal medium, but it is a subtle minefield to search for focal point, to select relevant subject matter and to put it into an appropriate context. This is when it really gets interesting!

Romano-British dig at Whirlow Hall Farm, Sheffield  


The dig will begin on June 20th 2016 for 3 weeks followed by various events.

My metalwork study began as a direct result of joining Time Travellers archaeology group based in Dore in 2011.

The Romano British site at Whirlow was being excavated for the first time in 2011, and some significant finds were made. New lottery funding has made another dig possible, from June 20th 2016 with activities relating to Whirlow and the dig continuing for 18 months or longer. To complement the archaeology, four members of Time Travellers began an ongoing study of  the Brigantes, the largest British Iron Age tribe which covered an area from South Yorkshire to the Scottish Borders, each of us exploring a different aspect of life from this time.

New methods of analysis are revealing so much more about this early history and finds are still being made, but piecing together the evidence requires time, training and funding. The North of Britain has never had quite the same attention as the South, which has possibly skewed some of the evidence. Methods of interpretation have also changed over the years, with much discussion and disagreement in the academic world about Celts.  Also Rome, however great its achievements, was always going to put its own spin on events! Our study is revealing how climate change and migration can affect society, themes that are still very relevant today.


Ice Age – mammoth bone pendants  40,000 to 20,000 years BC


Flight – collage on fine cotton canvas with Japanese, mixed papers, materials and lino prints. 2015

Detail of Flight collage

Lake Baikal in Siberia is frozen for six or seven months over winter. In spring millions of waterbirds and waders arrive from Europe, South Asia and Australia to breed. Migrants herald the change of seasons and bring a sudden glut of easily obtained meat and eggs that may give rise to feasts and ceremonies.

Thirteen Ice Age mammoth ivory bird pendants have been found at the open archaeology site at Mal’ta in Siberia. They are waterfowl, possibly geese and swan depicted in flight with wings and necks outstretched. Another two appear to be ducks on water and a third is wading. Some pendants are perforated at the end of the body for suspension. They have been found with beads, and carved plaques, perhaps to fasten clothing. Sizes vary, but are usually between 8.3cms and 11.9cms.

This is detail of a collage of Stadel Cave (not featured)

Another bird pendant, is possibly a cormorant with narrow beak, wings and legs; curving lines on the back may indicate feathers. This was excavated in Stadel Cave, South West Germany.

Birds may be regarded as spirit helpers, inbred with supernatural qualities being able to fly to the Upper World, down through water to the Lower World, and exist on land in the Middle World. At the Mal’ta site in Siberia, a number of small mammoth sculptures The excavated sculptures may have been talisman or made purely for pleasure, we can only guess.


Conversations at Valhalla, Tresco, Isles of Scilly

Within the exotic gardens at Tresco is Valhalla. This is an area covered from the elements but open at the front, and is used to display ships figureheads mainly found wrecked nearby.

I first met the figures when there were no visitors. It was a grey day, which emphasised both the scale and bright heritage paints. It must be an eerie place at night, with moonlight catching on varnished lips or blue eye.

On my second visit the conservators were stretching from ladders to rub, caress and check painted cheek, curve, and gilded scroll. Talk was of paint numbers and lunch.

The workmen were warmly clad in practical paint daubed clothing, in stark contrast to the brightly painted and carefully crafted figures and fish. Although made of wood these figureheads embodied the religious beliefs, family loyalties and maritime[ heritage over centuries.The hopes and fortunes of captains and investors, dashed on hidden rocky ledges.

Ships spirits, – or what happened next!

Rosa Tacchini

Rosa Tacchini

Ships figureheads were used as religious symbols for protection. Sailors believed that the ship was a living thing, and if it needed to find it’s own way it would need eyes.

This figurehead has been deliberately left unrestored, giving her a ghostly appearance. She was returned to Tresco from the Royal Maritime Museum, she is from an Italian Barque sailing from Buenos Aires to Antwerp in November 1872 with a cargo of hides horns, hooves, tallow and wool. She ran aground off the island and was was wrecked on Tresco Flats

Rosa Tacchini

Rosa Tacchini

Roman Soldier, 19C no provenance, but possibly from a small merchant vessel from the Mediterranean


Roman soldier


Sally Simpkin’s Lament 

Oh! what is that comes gliding in,

And quite in middling haste?
It is the picture of my Jones,
And painted to the waist.

It is not painted to the life,
For where’s the trousers blue?
Oh Jones, my dear! – Oh dear! my Jones,
What is become of you?
– Thomas Hood 19C

Lesser octopus, Anglesey Sea Zoo

Water is a magic medium and re-reading these fun sea shanties by Thomas hood gave me the idea to make small spirit models.  I was studying and drawing fish moving at Anglesey Sea Aquarium from 1996-8

It is more likely that ships would be anchored and sheltering together during a storm. The shock of twisting cables and hulls being pounded on ledges of rocks would be an additional soundscape. A possible rescue? No one knows yet.

Splintered painted woods, floating fragments or hidden events unfolding.

I will leave that to your imagination!

Roman Soldier, 19C no provenance, but possibly from a small merchant vessel from the Mediterranean.Paper and mixed materials collage, Crab environment at Anglesey Sea Zoo


Open Up Sheffield 2015 – it’s here again

My studio will be open once again over two weekends

Saturday 2nd, Sunday 3rd, and Monday 4th May bank holiday,


Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th May

Opening times 11 am to 5 pm

Check the brochure for the address.

I’m hoping  you will put these dates in your family diary, and I really  look forward to meeting you again!


Travels and inspiration in 2014


Gateway Calver ancient edges

After another very enjoyable Open Studio at the beginning of May, the weather continued to work in my favour for travelling. July saw sunny skies for nine days out of ten on North Ronaldsay, Sanday and Eday in Orkney. We stayed on the first two islands. This was mainly a working holiday with plenty of walking, crawling into some smaller chambered tombs, drawing and photographing. We flew over the archipelago this year rather than using the ferries. Islands we visited in 2012 were very different, due in part to the geography, economy and connections with Kirkwall on Main Island.


Barbrook- entrance to the stone landscape

Three years ago I joined Time Travellers Archaeology group in Dore. With friends I began to investigate the history of Brigantia, the largest of the Iron Age tribes in Britain which stretched northwards from what is now South Yorkshire. This started my personal study of early Metalworking, and now goes hand in hand with coastal exploration and landscape painting, and will be included in my Open studio this year.

Open Studios 2014

Time has flown since the 2013 Open Studio! Last year I had plenty of visitors over the 5 days, and I had lots of great feedback, and I’m looking forward to more of the same this year. Open Studio 2013 So the dates  for 2014 are:

  • Sat 3rd May
  • Sun 4th May
  • Mon 5th May (Bank holiday)
  • Sat 10th May
  • Sun 11th May
and I’m expecting to be open from 11am to 5 pm on each of those days.
If you can’t make those dates but you’d like to come and see my studio anyway, just send me a message.
For more information about the event, please follow the link to

Westray Orkney July 2013

This year we travelled via mainland Kirkwall to Westray and Papa Westray. Although we did not experience the exceptional heatwave, there were very blue skies, some drizzle, moderate winds and mist. All very comfortable for walking and sketching.
These islands were lush with fairly natural meadows,cattle, spectacular cliffs and sea life. It is a landscape which exposes its previous history in abundance; slipping and sliding into the sea, and in dramatic stone splendour.
The shape, texture and colour of rock and it mineral contents define the islands. Its bones are laid bare on the archaeological sites.
From the sketch books of this trip, I have started some new work

Exploring aspects of Iceland

September 2012 and MAY 2013

Like many people I am fascinated by ice and fire. The fact that birds could accommodate and nest in such extreme conditions was a real surprise. I joined two small Naturetrek groups, because I was interested in habitat and the environment. I have no experience of regular bird watching or photographing them. I took small sketchbooks on both occasions. The company was good, and with a sympathetic leader I was able to achieve the first part of my exploration. We travelled by small mini bus, stopping at significant bird, geological, and historical sites. My sketchbooks had to be small and usable in all weather conditions and capable of inspiring further work and investigation.

The highlights of the September visit to Southern Iceland were the excellent weather, viewing the northern lights on four different nights and seeing a new country as it unfolded in autumn colour. Birds were an integral part of this experience as they have been for thousands of years. They were migrating.

The following May I booked again – with the same experienced leader but a different group, and flew to Northern Iceland where the geology is even more significant. This time the weather was very cold and spring was late as in the UK but this did not deter the birds or animals. The sounds of bird calls was overwhelming. Nest sites were very imaginative, utilising the edges of shallow lakes to gain warmth from sun and thermal activity. The larval landscape  provided shelter in the form of natural and artificial walls, the latter made with holes to break the force of the wind for young lambs. Rivers, fast flowing and still, provided food and sport for a large variety of ducks and small birds.

Godafoss North Iceland

rescanned iceland May_0001

Laka River North Iceland

rescanned iceland May_0002-1

Dimmuborgir North Icelandrescanned iceland May_0004


This time the weather varied from strong sparkling sunlight to horizontal rain, strong winds and snow showers. Some bird flocks, just balls of feathers landed and sat in pools of sunshine in the most sheltered places they could find.

This time the highlights were of a geological landscape seen in stunning contrasting colours and  varied weather conditions  as  our trip progressed west, then south to some areas we had seen in September, this was in contrast to the autumnal plant colour.

Tourism had barely started and the birds seemed oblivious of humans and got on with courting and nesting; waterfalls with their spectacular energy, the underlying thermal activity erupting, and huge power stations sited in the lava fields. Strange and dream like, this landscape seemed on the one hand very primeval and strong, and on the other like eggshell, very fragile. Myths, legends and the twenty first  century all collide.

My two visits showed an island full of contrasts.  I hope this is captured in my sketchbooks and subsequent acrylics.