The Maison Dieu

31 March, 2024 – 11:33 am

I had a wonderful tour of the building works at the Maison Dieu in Dover a few weeks ago.

As their stonemason in residence I feel an attachment to this wonderful historic building and I am looking forward to seeing it restored to it’s former glory.

There are gaol cells beneath the stone hall, when they were being cleared out a medieval tomb was discovered. At the entrance to each cell is some beautiful letter carving, describing what the cells were used for, dark and black they are foreboding, a lady that used to work in the building said it’s very haunted…I’m sure there will be some events and tours focusing on this macabre past.

The last picture interested me as the wear in the paving stone shows how many people, young and old have walked here, wearing the stones down. What stories these walls could tell, if they could talk.

As we walked through the tunnels, the beautiful copper pipes caught my eyes, the next phase of this building’s history, bringing it back into use. As we went through the original medieval archway, evidence of the fragility of the fabric of the building is apparent, thank goodness they are restoring and protecting this now.

We went upstairs into the stone hall, here you will find the original of my grotesque carving. The paintings, wall hangings and historic coats of armour and weapons are all packed away safely or away being carefully restored.

The military banners, so lovingly stitched, traditionally they are left up and allowed to disintegrate naturally. The Maison Dieu have been given special permission to have them conserved and then they will be put back on display in glass cabinets.

This wooden plaque caught my eye.

The Connaught Hall is being given the full treatment, the beautiful paint work of William Burges’ time has been uncovered in places, recorded and protected. Using this information, it will be re-produced.
It would be too costly to uncover all of it, however in the Mayor’s parlour it has been. Unfortunately we couldn’t go into this area as it is being restored and conserved. Eventually, it will be a place for visiting pilgrims, wedding guests and families to stay, sleeping up to 7 it will be a wonderful place to have a short break.

Scaffolding from floor to ceiling allows access to details of the stained glass and architectural features.

Climbing the scaffolding stairs took us up into the ceiling, seeing the beautiful stained glass, original light fitting, once gas but now electric.

The amazing ventilation system so beautiful in it’s form yet functional as an early form of air conditioning.

I asked permission to touch the ceiling, knowing I will never have the opportunity again.

As we came back down the stairs, the beautiful stained glass with the original dedication.

I am truly grateful to be able to see this wonderful building at this stage and to know that I am forever part of it’s history.

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Glass Jewellery.

15 March, 2024 – 8:48 am

Before Christmas I bought some beautiful torch-work glass beads from a skilled craftsman. He creates the beads by melting glass rods together and the result is magical.

Due to my workload I haven’t had a chance to start creating with them…until now.

This beautiful ring made with a cabochon bead, it reminds me of the Cat’s Eye Nebula. (size S, £65).

I also have two more new pairs of earring made using simple glass beads, the orange ones feature torch-work beads in the middle. (£40)

I use sterling silver to make my findings on the beads and earrings and use a special paste to protect them from the heat while I am soldering the joins.

The pendants are £28-£32 each.

Silver soldering was a skill that my Dad taught me, he used to repair clocks and watches.

I have some more lovely glass beads, but I need to get some stone carving done so I have put my equipment away for now.

If you would like to commission a unique piece of jewellery, please get in touch.

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The Worshipful Company of Founders.

12 March, 2024 – 11:51 am

Last year I was engaged as the official letter cutter for the Founder’s livery company.

On Monday, I caught an early train and headed up to London.

It was a gloomy day, the Thames was swathed in mist and the skyscrapers disappeared into the fog.

As we pulled into Cannon street, I got the tube round to the Barbican station just round the corner from the Founder’s hall. Their 5th building, built in the mid eighties but styled in the arts and crafts movement.

My work for them consists of painting the most recent master’s name onto a gilded board with their shield on, historically the shield would have been the family crest but in this day and age the shields are painted with something relevant to each Master.

In order to get the right coloured paint I did a rough test on some gold leaf.

I had spent some time in my studio drawing the names out so that I was prepared before I arrived.

There are a number of stone plaques on the walls in the entrance hall, carved with previous masters names by different stonemasons throughout the years, and now it’s my time.

This is the second year and it is going to get physically harder each year as the names get closer to the bottom of the current plaque.

I’ll need to work harder on my yoga over the coming year as the lower the names the lower I’ll need to work.

I decided to walk back to Cannon Street station, there is so much beautiful and breath-taking stone carvings on the magnificent Portland limestone buildings.

St Paul’s Cathedral is a building that I have seen from the outside, but as yet to go inside.

Watling Street was lovely and seemed out of place in the sprawling metropolis that is London today.

On the way out of London I got a fuzzy shot of Tower Bridge and then settled in to draw before the train became too busy.

I’m looking forward to my next trip to London, I’ll make time to go inside St Paul’s Cathedral and hopefully the weather will be nice enough to sit down and draw some of the wonderful buildings and sculptures.

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St James the Great in Staple.

12 February, 2024 – 3:45 pm

My job takes me out and about.
Today, I went to my village church to look at a potential commission. I’ve been asked to clean and re-carve some memorial tablets.

While there, I decided to have a look around, something that I haven’t done since I was much younger,

There are some great slate notices explaining why things have been left or what is going on to help nature and the churchyard.

There are alot of old beautiful carved tablets and tombs, some have been laid down before they fall down.

I rather like this carving next to this wonderful drainage hopper.

Don’t forget the wonderful things that are on your doorstep, read the memorials, look at the carvings and wonder at who came before us.

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Creative Careers Day.

28 January, 2024 – 8:33 pm

I spent Friday inspiring young adults with stonemasonry.

East Kent College in Dover in conjunction with the Maison Dieu ran a creative careers café, the students could choose which activity they would participate in and there were also tours of the college.

I was invited to run stonemasonry activities and decided to give a basic introduction to the fundamental tools used.

I took my tools, stone, drawings, photos and my old course notes.
There were four sessions of 45 minutes and each group had a go at the basics of stonemasonry, I also showed them how to draw an Ellipse using the trammel method, this is a great introduction to technical drawing as you only need paper, a ruler and a pencil.

I demonstrated the basics of stonemasonry, using draft, claw and bolster chisels and then they all got to try their hand. Each group was split in two so they had roughly 15 minutes on each activity.

The morning was two groups of school children and in the afternoon I had two groups from the college. They were all studying different subjects, but being given the opportunity to share my career story and my passion for stonemasonry was fantastic.

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