First up (or down) yesterday were the Main Frame Foundations. Jim is hugely excited by the possibilities of Surefoot Foundations; a radical (yes indeed) new system that operates like roots, is reversible, and uses no concrete. So in a way, our main frame is a quartet of trees, and yesterday they were rooted into the earth, in the space of an hour and with relatively simple equipment. It may not look pretty, but it does the job, and stability is hugely important for what will go on above.  And from certain angles, the whole thing looks like it hasn’t quite landed (as does everyone else in this photo)

Balustrade Day 25

After the relief of getting this done so efficiently and with so little disturbance to the ground, everything quietened down: more shingles were made and for the rest of the day we worked on joists, floorboards and the curvy front balustrade.

Balustrade Day 24

Looking down

And then everyone went home, after nearly 10 hours work. As the sun set in a pink sky, I wandered over to the site, and this is what was happening: the structure and the trees were almost indistinguishable from one another.

Balustrade Day 20

Last light

You can see this even better in this photo I took this morning.

Balustrade Day 23

First light – It’s SO beautiful!


Last year I went to New Mexico and became entranced by the pit fired work of the Pueblo potters in the area around Albuquerque.

Pueblo pottery 1

Katherine Wall working on a clay mask at her studio in Jemez Pueblo, 20

Pueblo pottery 3

Elizabeth Medina removing her Zia pots from a successful firing, 1986

I posted about this on my personal blog, and began to think we could do something similar here at the Dove. Since we have 3 very good past and present Dove Potters: Pauline Watson, Paul Stubbs and Mike Dodd, I decided to ask them help me run a family workshop this summer. We didn’t attempt the fine painting and carving techniques of the Pueblo potters; we made simple clay pots, some with slip added, some burnished. Here is the story of our playing with the clay.

While the pit firing was underway we had a barbecue (any excuse for a party). The fire smoked through the night until about 5 am, so for about 12 hours. It didn’t reach a very hot temperature, but was enough to give us interesting results, some of which will be shown in our Amazing Space II exhibition later in September.

Ash fired pots 3 for email

Sneak Preview

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Myfanwy Morris, photo: Faye Suzannah

This year for Somerset Art Weeks we are not having a preview – instead I’m showing a preview of works on WordPress and Facebook as they arrive, as a flavour of things to come. This time it’s Myfanwy Morris’s photos from New Zealand. Myfanwy is one of the artists invited to create work for Amazing Space II – her line of work is darkroom photography. The plan was that she would spend part of the summer in the darkroom here, making images of people who live and work in and around the Dove. That plan was horribly upset by HM Border Control at Bristol airport, who decided to deport Myfanwy back to New Zealand, instead of granting her a six month tourist visa which she had hoped to receive. She had been here for a couple of years on a young person’s work and travel visa which ran out at the end of April. Myf was grudgingly granted 5 days to pack her bags and fly back to NZ, during which time she raced around shooting 9 reels of film – an extraordinary achievement for someone in a traumatised state, but then Myf is an extraordinary person, and utterly committed to the Dove project. So, yesterday, less than 4 months later, a parcel arrived. So exciting – here is the unpacking.

And after that were the dozen or so mounted images that we will be showing in SAW 17. As I said, this is the preview….

This weekend just past has to count among the more extraordinary times in my life. Not just because we raised the treehouse platform, though we did that. Not just because the weather was beautiful and the meadow and trees were in their prime. But because around 20 people, from the age of 11 to 92 (yes, 92, albeit briefly in this case) had a daylong, muscle straining, totally focused, axe wielding go at the ancient craft of riving: that of splitting a huge, green oak butt into shingles, laths (strips, essentially), and pegs, all destined for the tree house. All this under the watchful eye of Richard Archard, expert lath, shingle and peg maker. Here is the story of the oak butt, and what happened to it, in photos.

The oak tree was struck by lightning a year or so ago, and its owners, Sue and Tubby Peto, had to have it felled. They very generously donated it to us – it is a lot of oak!

Meanwhile, over in the treehouse corner, the Dove carpenters were preparing – joining and pegging – and then raising the main frame that they have been making over the summer months.

While this was happening, the barbecue was on its way.

Treehouse 8

There followed a classic night of human activity after a hard working day: songs, laughs, bonfire and booze. When the stars came out they were stunningly bright, and framed by the trees around. There were even some of the shooting stars we had been promised (more a trickle than a shower, I have to say). A late night for some.

Treehouse 11

Sunday morning, and the rivers gathered, the carpenters made new joints, Jim extracted 4 curved handrails from a huge, unstraight piece of oak he had had for a while, and at the end of the day the laths (strips) became balusters (uprights between the newel posts) and we could start to imagine the full beauty of what was being coaxed into being. But how that will look is for another day: we ran out of time and couldn’t join the pieces just made, to the frame. Next time.

Treehouse 10

Morning light on the frame

Treehouse 17

New joints

Treehouse 9

Curving handrail to be

Treehouse 15

Laths loosely attached. Josh checks the gap.


People keep asking me: is the tree house up? and I reply, not yet, it’s still very horizontal. Timber framing seems to me a lot like lego. You select the pieces, or in the case of timber framing, you actually MAKE the bricks, and then you join them together, which happens very fast. Our treehouse is at the ‘making the bricks’ stage, and believe me, it’s hard work, but there’s a lot of learning in it, and this knowledge can be used in every area of woodwork. Take mortise and tenon joints, for instance. The classic, simple yet strong way of creating a join between two bits of timber. Here’s one that Josh is tapping together.22.7..14


22.7..9Here’s a beautiful mortise that someone in the women’s’ team has completed (Clare?). All accomplished with a bit of power drilling and then accurate chisel work.

22.7..6And here (at the front) is Bethan’s tenon.


22.7..4Jim has decided to create two ‘teams’ for this stage: female and male. This is to do with confidence building, but also because he has observed that the sexes co-operate differently. For instance, women ‘huddle’, he tells me.


22.7..5A similar situation with men: no huddle.

At the end of another immensely hard working day we have this, in the men’s corner


And this in the women’s22.7..13

I can start to see how this is all going to end up (‘up’ being the operative word) like the design that Jim drew up from last time’s direct design in the treehouse corner. No ‘house’ yet (that’s the easy bit, Jim assures us); but a strong, sturdy platform for whatever we choose to build on it. The surrounding trees will not be used structurally as they are too young, but will enclose the space, and may well get partially incorporated into the build.22.7..3


The end of the day


Our cook today was Faye Suzannah, who produced a great Mexican lunch and lots of cakes, and even found time to do some screenprinting in the studio in between.

Faye 1

Faye 3

Faye’s drawing

Faye 2

The photographic screen she has created from the drawing,  through which the colour is pressed

Faye 4

The printed flowers (first colour of the print)

Faye 6

hung up to dry

Faye 7

And here’s a finished screenprint of the White Field that she did a couple of weeks ago.