I have mentioned before that the sculptor Paul Harvey is someone I consider a friend first and
So when I learned that he had a couple of new sculptures ready for me
I couldn't wait to visit him.
I must add that there is also a little of a selfish element involved because his work has such a great appeal to many of our visitors.
So I decided to make a journey to see him as soon as I could.
Meanwhile, I have been receiving regular correspondence from a sculptor who is equally as professional.
That Is Blandine Anderson.
We will be exhibiting her sculptures in September but to my delight she has been putting me
What I really mean is that she has been supplying me with regular updates,
information and pictures of what she is creating for us.
So, looking at the map it seemed that I would only have another 3 hours driving to visit her
after I had collected new sculptures from Paul Harvey.
So that became the plan,
but in reverse.
A magazine [Uniquely Away] has expressed an interest in covering our exhibition with Blandine,
So a visit made a lot of sense as I could tell them "first hand" about her work.
It was a visit that I looked forward to but nothing had prepared me for the real delight of such a visit.
Blandine is a very private person and chooses to keep her location unknown,
So all that I can tell you is that after many hours of driving I arrived at her beautiful home.
Much of it is still under construction but what was obvious is that this is going to be a unique home in an amazing landscape.
On arrival I was invited to share in a wonderful meal.
I had been drinking water and eating sandwiches on route but they had still left me hungry
I am delighted to say.
The lunch that I was served was simple and wonderful, plus it helped me to relax while eating.
I say "relaxed", as before our first meeting I was definitely in "awe" of Blandine and her work,
this was something that made me nervous [it doesn't take much].
While eating with her and her partner Terry I calmed down considerably.
These were nice genuine people.
I eventually explained that I wanted to photograph Blandine in a landscape that inspired her sculptures
"Well it will have to be at the lake", she said.
So eventually she lead me on a walk though the countryside that inspires her.
Leaving behind her home filled with dogs cats and hens then though a field of her own rare sheep
we eventually came to a really wild area that is only kept in check by ponies, not hers but wild ponies.
It was here she relaxed and I was able to gain a little understanding of the sculptor.
We walked and talked
Well Blandine talked and I tried to listen.
She pointed out where wild animals had trodden and what new plants were growing.
She was so proud that different species of butterflies were returning and that rare flowers are growing.
I truly began to understand where her inspiration came from.
She talked of creating routes, paths and bridges where children could visit and discover a lost world,
or a world that has become lost to children of today,
A magical, beautiful yet wild location.
If I was in awe of the artist before my visit, I was even more so at the finish.
Eventually after of hours in the countryside I visited her studio.
Everything made sense.
Her studio has no widows but it doesn't need them, the work is created from the mind and observation.
Windows would only divert her attention.
Seeing sculptures under construction was a real delight.
Some just started, some part done, some on its third journey to the kiln,
It intrigued me and had me questioning how it was created.
I like to think that I learned a little more than most visitors, but still I was unprepared by the quantity
and quality that was produced by a woman who has to leave her bed in the middle of the night
to feed lambs.
Obviously it those events that make her creations so special.
I was surprised to hear her say
"I don't create as much as I used to".
I felt tired just looking at what she produces [animals and sculpture].
Before I left, Blandine asked would I like to see some of the sculptures she had produced with the carpenter Terry Sawle?
Of course I would.
As a result I was allowed to leave with a couple of collaborative pieces of sculpture.
Although they have a function I can only describe them as sculptures,
very powerful sculptures.
I have shown here a seat, I have labelled it as a "Throne" because it is that magnificent.
I was thrilled to depart with such pieces
So much so I forgot to take away some wild garlic that Blandine had promised me.
Still that is a good excuse to return soon.
After a few hours driving I settled down for the night in my hotel.
The idea was that it would shorten my drive by a few hours the next morning when I was to meet Paul.
"I will be here for you at 8am" he told me.
Something that made me feel slightly guilty when I departed from the hotel at that same time.
But that's what it is like when you work with friends.
The drive was through torrential rain and although I wanted to stop and photograph certain locations
it just didn't seem worth it, after all we all know what rain looks like in every country.
I did pause and take one quick snap,
that was at the entrance of the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber
which is close to Paul's workshop.
Across from his entrance was a sign directing people to Paul harvey's "open studio".
I did mention to Paul that "Andy" might not like this near his gate.
"That's OK he can't see it from his helicopter".
Unfortunately the constant heavy rain spoilt what would have been another wonderful visit to Paul's
The visit was really good but even with the classical music playing in his idyllic studio location
the view from the windows was not too good.
Maybe next visit.
By the time my van was loaded we were both soaked,
But in typical fashion Paul waived me away, calling out "good to see you".
That's exactly how I felt.
Here is one of his new sculptures that I retuned with.
Unfortunately it has now left us for a new home in Scotland as it sold immediately.
Of course this is the nature of having a gallery, you are meant to sell beautiful creations.
But, sometimes I wish that they would linger a little.
As with the next painting.
Minutes after arriving back at the gallery Irene told me
"you have a letter from Nom Kinnear".
"I can't have"I replied,
"she has gone to Italy never to return".
She has returned, and what is even better she had created a painting just for our gallery.
"I think it is right for your gallery", she explained in her letter.
What a lovely return present, I absolutely love it.
The painting arrived the next morning
I framed it immediately and placed it in the window.
This morning an old man came into the gallery
"I don't want to disturb you, but can I say that the painting in the window is the best I have ever seen".
He then asked would I mind if he visited again to look at it before it sold?
I understand what he was saying, it will sell very soon and like him I want to enjoy viewing it.
What a lovely return present.
Thank you Nom it is good to have you back
Even for a little while.
I have enjoyed a little break from the gallery, but returning it is so much richer.