New bathroom; a time to be creative

It isn’t everyday you can make a splashback just for you. And it isn’t everyday I have tiles arrive on my doorstep deposited by tile fairies. It makes me happy!

So to set the scene, we have sat in our front room for over a year in lockdown with a spanking new bath behind the sofa! Yes, really! You see, we had to await for the planets to align; getting a plasterer, plumber, electrician and builder together in one spot and agree to our whacky concept…to make a bath bedroom using as much recycled pieces as possible. Simon chose an industrial look. The original concept, a bath under the stars, and wow was it worth the wait.

Time for me to include more upcycling… a recycled old butler’s sink and old tiles behind the revamped sink taps. What was my inspiration? The swirling eddies the sea makes as it washes and retreats back to the abyss. Big Bertha was used to help make this and make a range of different tile sizes plus a scallop shell for good measure. I have used mirror, old kitchen tiles, cinca, smalti, vitreous tiles and florist beads; as I move around and see it from different angles, it winks at me. I love the dab of iridescent gleaming from the florist beads, juxtaposed next to matt and shiny tiles. – a very satisfying job, who wants something similar? Not available on the High street!


My ‘side-hustle’ has been recognised!

An acknowledgment for eco status -Yeah

Right from its inception, I wanted to be a business with a zero carbon footprint. I haven’t achieved that completely, but my walks have. I call my burgeoning business a side-hustle, as it starts to build. May I say a big thanks to Foxhill Preserves for supplying me with locally produced elderflower and ginger cordials to give to my guests. This is always received well and because I wheel my trolley around like an old lady; and walk to the venue, I am completely zero baby! I am closer than I think to zero carbon footprint though. My mosaics commissions, when working for schools start with gathering from the community to see what we all have before considering purchasing anything. I use no mechanical machines or electricity as I prefer to work in daylight; you see the colours better. I do have a new weapon though, thanks to the award, a new industrial hand tile cutter with a laser beam for accuracy. I feel like I am in Star Trek. She been knick-named already; Big Bertha.

In early October I was recognised with a Green Goal Award from Focus Futures (Dyfnodol Ffocws); one of 14 businesses in Wales to receive a monetary award and free business advice for a whole year. It was a bit of an odd event drinking a chilled glass of chardy on my own in front of a computer screen, but us all travelling would have been a bit of an irony considering it was all about being sustainable and sensitive to the environment.

Walks have quietened now the season has ended and the weather has been unkind to us. If you haven’t come on a walk, I will start them up again next season.

Post Script: What appealed while I was sitting there was was the blue and orange! AND… a very rare happening; I was wearing lippy! Nice image even though the computer is propped up with cook books. This girl knows how to have fun!


He called me his girl

A true love story set during World War 2 of the early part of my Mum’s life in Ceredigion. This is being serialised by Ego magazine, for those who want to hear more, I have made a 45 minute audio recording in five parts of the story from letters by airman Fred Lloyd. This is supported by Anchor. https://anchor.fm/alison-pierse9

Have some tissues handy.

Sunbathing on the roof of the Grand Hotel Borth. 1941 Rosemary is in the middle.

What is the collective noun for a group of old girls? The reunion.

The instant reply, of course, would be a ‘Cackle of Castertonians’, and yes, we cackled, but I would like to put it out there that it was more like a ‘Care of Castertonians’.

On the weekend of the film ‘Emily’ screening in most local cinemas, a group of ladies on the mature side of the fence (should I say) gathered in the village of their school for a reunion after 45 years and to see Bronte house. Why leave it so long you might ask? We’ve all been busy bringing up families and living all over the world!

What goes on in the mind before these occasions? Don’t do it; Is it useful raking up the past? Will I remember anyone?  We all think it. And yes, there were fleeting moments of those thoughts, but just look at the eyes- the eyes never change and as we laughed and cried, great compassion and care rested beneath us like a hammock.

It was a poignant time really; our school has been taken over by boys and our house name has been changed- that’s a shock for school that was founded for clergy daughters; for ‘two-pins’ Mrs. Garner would turn in her grave.

We met by the Blue Door and were given a grand tour of the school by Arabella and Daisy; adorable girls proudly sporting their prefects’ badges – ahem, some of us didn’t stay prefects very long! What a change; we all hunted for symbols of our past, the grandfather clock where we were told to stand next to at night as a punishment for talking at night; yes, it was still there; the carols in the front hall, the red corridor, and the blue door.  The sticky buns and hot chocolate at break time- that draughty lean-to conservatory and it is still as draughty! The entry into the dinning room brought back food horrors! Best move on with that, sausages and marmalade were mentioned many times.

Conversation turned from Guinness posters adorning the dorm walls to wrapping a mars bar in a wet cloth to make it go moldy so it could be sent back to Cadburys for a free box of choccies, to writing to double glazing businesses so that we could get more post.  The conversation flowed to Domestic Science, teachers, ‘did they really?’  and friends who are no longer with us; visiting the dorms and day rooms was particularly poignant. I am glad to say the school looks a healthy, thriving, happy school!

Three of us popped in the back of Pippa’s land Drover for a bumpy ride to Devil’s Bridge to join the others for a mug of builder’s tea in the sun and oh my, did the fells look beautiful. Aged 15, I scuba dived at Devil’s Bridge and found a shopping trolley under that deep dark ravine.

A walk up the back path into Kirkby-Lonsdale to find the sweet shop in the Square that we so looked forward to visiting with our meagre pocket money- it is still there! Midge bought a Lucky Dip bag! Conversations ebbed and flowed, we all listened to each others’ stories and appreciated the journeys we had all made; many difficult, but those girls of 15 were still there, still sparkling, and the years melted away.

Before supper, was like gathering back in the dorms, photographs splayed all over the bed and the long roll photo of the entire school was useful to paw over and reminisce, prompting stories, cackling, hilarity, gossip, and sadness. This was all fed with crisps and alcohol- midnight feasts came to mind. Supper ebbed and flowed and ebbed again and deep connections formed as friendships were rekindled and moved on. What a privilege it was and how sad that some of us who had planned to come, couldn’t make it.

On a stunning Lakeland autumnal sunny Sunday morning it all started again with walks around Old Hall, the Science labs and pitches and Tom Penny’s simple gravestone; inhaling the crisp fell air we realized how lucky we were. A two-minute silence and a visit to the church as part of Remembrance Day which had been so central to our lives, with Henry Holiday’s beautiful Arts and Crafts stained glass window.  We left our remembrance poppies in the Poppy Tree as part of the Remembrance weekend, just as we used to.

Aside of education, we all felt that Casterton really shaped us into who we are today; those really important formative years gave us resilience, tolerance, and comradeship, the values we share today. Perhaps the school motto of ‘One Heart, One Way’ did just that.  

Next year it is the schools 200th– do we acknowledge this and meet again?

Let me finish with a series of numbers –; those who know, will know! Thanks for the memories, ladies.

Thanks to those who supplied great photos, particularly Mandy. and thanks to The Pheasant Inn for being so patient.

In case you are wondering we are…Ali Hall, Ali Grey, Mandy Turner, Pippa Sedgewick, Claire Bromley, Jenny Smith, and Hazel Shaw

What is the Celtic Routes organisation?

I have been asked to join this group that celebrates everything Celtic…not just Wales. It is a group set u to strengthen collaboration between six counties and share learning. We will be exploring potential areas for joint promotional opportunities. They have a web site you can explore to find out ideas for trips, discover new areas and even discover films set in Ireland and mid Wales. A really useful web site for those of us who plan days out for visiting relatives and international guests.

I am really proud to be part of the team through being logged as a Celtic Experience and look forward to seeing where it takes me.

Why not follow us https://celticroutes/info

Eisteddfod 2022 – Tregaron

What a week! I am just surfacing. Here I am supplied with plenty of tea and coffee from Ceredigion stand in china cups, no less. Thanks to my fantastic friends Marc, Nia and Supersal for helping out gyda Cymraeg. I spoke with many new friends, we laughed, shared the cold wind but overall thoroughly enjoyed the experience. My hut was serenaded with harp music, male voice choirs, and clog dancing. I didn’t see much of the show ground but that is always the case. Diolch yn fawr for the opportunity. Ceredigion. I even surprised myself with how much Welsh I could understand.

It is jellyfish time

Jellyfish are a Cardigan Bay visitor. I love to look at them but personally I am a bit freaky when I encounter them swimming. Most are completely harmless. This one is a compass jellyfish, as it has radiating lines come from it’s dish; like a compass. I stumbled across some lovely pink glittery tiles and I have wanted to make a mosaic with pinks, so the opportunity was looking me in the eyes. I have used blue ink to stain the grout to help unify the image.

A small painting first to work out flow and understand the creature better, and how I could create the flow.

Other Jellies in our seas are the barrel jellyfish; yes, it looks like a barrel or a mushroom. The moon jellyfish that has circles on it’s cap, and By The Wind Sailors wash up on the sea. This season we have had the odd Portuguese Man of War. The curious sail was the inspiration for my sail fish mosaic. This is made from vitreous tiles but the flag is part of a favourite mug I broke.

I’ve got merch!

It had to come to it, didn’t it? If I am at the Eisteddfod in August, I’ve got to have some low cost items to sell. So merchandise it is! I can’t believe I am saying this! On the 5th-6th August if you are visiting Tregaron, Eisteddfod, bring your purse. All merch is under a £10.

I will have mugs, drink coasters and cards available!!! Sws, a mug that gives a kiss from the drinker to the viewer and Night on the Tiles – Catenary.

Next mosaic walk is 30th July 11am. Spaces are being booked now. Weather forecast ok.

Hiraeth at Tregaron

In preparation for the Eisteddfod in Tregaron, my bunting is up outside the house and I have made a mosaic to acknowledge our nation. No dragons or red green and white though. This is my interpretation of a Welsh word that has no direct translated word. Hiraeth is the longing for home, the pull that brings you back to Wales. Having lived here in this beautiful country for twenty-six years now, I get this pull myself. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. I am a poor Welsh speaker, but feel part of this country and starting again to learn Welsh in lockdown sucked me in further into the culture. I chose swallows and swifts to represent this feeling of returning to the home country. They were made from a lovely, but broken mug form Gwili pottery by the very talented Pru Green who moved to Essex. I have created the letters using iridescent tiles so the whole thing sparkles when the light refracts on it. The land is created with Welsh sate picked up from my garden and the clouds are a very vague nod to the painters like Alexander Cozens and Richard Wilson who painted Wales in the middle of the 1700s. Romanticism in the Welsh Landscape that depicted the drama of the landscape, the majestic mountains and ever changing weather. One might describe it as broody.

This design has been made in to greetings cards. Come see my stall in Tregaron on 5th and 6th August in the craft village. I will be there demonstrating the art of mosaic. Swing by and say Sut mae!

#hiraeth #Tregaron Eisteddfod #Gwili pottery #Pru Green potter

The Knife Angel has flown

This week the Knife Angel departed our shores to move to the next town on the long tour to raise awareness of knife crime.

Even though it has left Aberystwyth, it is still ruminating in my thoughts. I first became aware of Alfie Bradley’s Knife Angel when three students and myself embarked upon an educational project under the banner of, ‘students as partners’, in late 2018. We had a frenzied and stimulating few months writing a Higher Education module called Figuratively Speaking. We were researching the development of the western interpretation of figurative sculpture. We divided the content between us, produced a scheme of work and designed activities and self-paced learning units around different themes. It was a very genuine collaboration, and we were acknowledged by the University and the University Association for Lifelong learning for this innovative way of approaching course development.

One unit was on angels and how they have been portrayed over the centuries. I do not want to give you chapter on verse on this unit, or the module, as you can take it as self-paced learning through Lifelong Learning; but needless to say, you are already probably thinking, ‘What about Gormley’s Angel of the North?’ When I wrote about Alfie Bradley’s piece for the course, the Knife Angel had just been created at the foundry in Oswestry. It was made from 100,000 confiscated and surrendered knives; many still bloody from the terrible crimes. It certainly piqued my curiosity.

I had seen photos of it in various locations and times of the day, but I was not prepared to be so bowled over by the location of choice that Aberystwyth had chosen, in Llys-y Brenin square. What a backdrop! The ochre colour of the museum, the blue skies behind and overseeing the area, in a niche above the square at the top of the Phillip’s Arcade, an insignificant sculpture of the former King Edward VII. It was so much more powerful than I had seen photos of it outside Coventry cathedral, for instance.

i was thrilled that Ceredigion had decided to receive the Angel, here in my hometown. This coincided with the start of my new walking guided tour, Past Presences. The agreement is that any town that hosts the Angel, agree to host 28 days of workshops and awareness of the real issue of knife crime. Brilliant. My talk did not replicate what the police were delivering, but my slant was to see this from the perspective of the sculptor.

How are commissions made? What compromises does a sculptor have to make? How do you transport it? Can you transport something that is five tonnes? How do you make it safe? How do you make it resistant to wind? Which way do the knife handles go? How do you make the head, the hair? How do you keep it balanced? I am not going to answer these, as you can work these out, I am sure.

I would like to touch on why it was received so well. The square has never been so busy, it started conversations, brought back memories, fears and tears. It piqued people’s curiosity,]; mixed generations stared at it and talked; what a wonderful sight. Some people felt it was ugly, but if a piece of sculpture can achieve all those emotions, it is doing its job.

Many said the angel looked demonic. Yes, it did, but was Alfie referencing ancient bronze cast sculptures with empty eyes that we can now see today in museums? The empty socket can look very demonic. Lifeless. Those ancient pieces initially had eyes made from crystalline (a type of rock) and were decorated. See the Riace Bronzes found in the sea in 1972 and thought to have been on a boat, sunk form a storm (460-450 BC). Look them up, they are incredible. The fact that there were no eyes in the sockets made him more forlorn, desperate. His oversized hand gesturing hopelessness.

However, when he arrived on the flat bed lorry on his back with a steel bracket protecting his raven like feathers, all made from handle less knives, this piece took on a completely different message for me. The hands were raised to heaven, almost pitiful and so vulnerable. He was transported from the flatbed lorry with the crane, cocooned in a bed of feathers, helpless until he was erect, it was such a poignant site.

And then when this piece met the sunset of Aberystwyth, this figure took on another guise, with golden hands like a precious ancient sculpture. A Midas figure. Wow, I was bowled over.

Alfie would like this piece to be displayed on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar square, there was a petition of thousands of signatures to Sadiq Khan; I hope he manages it. However, London’s loss is the UK’s gain. The Knife Angel has now made his way to Birkenhead to spread his message to others and stimulate conversations around kitchen tables. Well done, Alfie, and a great insight, Clive, of Oswestry foundry.

Look up Alfie’s ‘Spoon Gorilla’ made from spoons sent by children from all over the world. This project was an idea suggested by Uri Geller. This piece tours children’s hospitals in the UK. Have you seen it?

I will be delivering other guided walks in Aberystwyth during the season. A Night in the Tiles – Mosaic Tour, Past Presences the sculpture tour. I am writing another tour called An Aberystwyth love story to launch at the end of the season. The walks are announced when I see pleasant weather on the long-term forecast. Walks are usually delivered on Fridays or Saturdays, but I can run a bespoke tours if you can gather six people together. £8 per head.

Past Presences- a new walk is being launched

What is this walk about? We will look at the figurative sculpture around the town, consider their influences, how sculptures are made, the problem-solving needed to create commissions, why sculptures are vandalised and the contentious issue of putting sculptures on pedestals. The walk will be delivered in Aberystwyth and will last just over 1hr 40min

You will walk @ 1.5 miles. Extra dates will be announced once I have consulted the long range weather forecast. The cost of the walk is £8 per person. Email me to reserve a place- pay on the day or book through PayPal.

Walk: 16th July times published in Walks section

‘I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the wonderful tour you gave us on Thursday! I really enjoyed it! I liked how you showed us how all those bits of arts connected to the story of Aberystwyth and other places, it was very interesting.’