Carol Peace – a quiet space

Block People1 &copy CarolPeaceThere’s an unexpected sense of lightness to Carol Peace’s work. Her figures float, soar, skim – sometimes suspended from giant fish, occasionally riding personal balloons, or just  gazing outwards – mind apparently occupied elsewhere.

Yet her materials are decidedly solid in nature – gleaming bronze or earthy clay – fixing her sculptures well and truly to the ground. It’s a juxtaposition I enjoy, and connects in a way to Carol’s thoughts about herself.

“I don’t remember much from early childhood,” she says. “I know I also liked cooking and horse riding so it could have been either of those instead of art. Sometimes I think I should have been a farmer, being out in nature all the time. My granddad and uncle were farmers and I did work on a farm after college and went from rougher (basically wedding in a massive field) to ploughing in one job… Perhaps I’ve missed my vocation!”

However, it was art that eventually stole her heart. “I remember copying drawings out of books a lot when I was little – I was always drawing,” she comments. “Later I spent a lot of time in the art room at school – it may have been because the teacher was good and very encouraging and the fact that is was a quiet space. I don’t remember feeling lonely or bored as a child so that’s probably a sign that I was quite self sufficient.”

Reading_Figure © Carol Peace

She continues to relish the psychological aspects of sculpting, painting and drawing,

“There is quietness and space,” she says. “It can be fairly tough on the emotions – I always work honestly so it’s brutally direct sometimes, but I don’t mind. People often think the work is very calm and peaceful – I think they see the feeling I experience when making, but not the difficult starting points.”

On a tactile level, it’s the clay that Carol loves, “together with the process of changing something so fluid and fragile into bronze, something that will last forever. I am quite practical so I like the physical nature of sculpture, but I have a growing lust for painting as well.”

Carol draws inspiration from a wide range of sources, including travel, which she says helps her see things far more clearly. “It’s like when you start looking, your receptors open up. You can’t expect to make art unless you are really looking all the time. You can’t make art in isolation. To live life as a tourist, even at home, enables you to see things. Through time, familiarity and repetition a new place can become home but it’s good to keep wide-eyed.”

Nature plays a distinct role in this, particularly trees and leaves. “There’s that moment when the first red is coming into the trees and the lime green is leaving. You can’t just be busy, busy, busy all the time. You need moments in normal days to appreciate things.”


Carol continually seeks the stimulus beyond the habits of everyday life. “I’m not very good a routine,” she says. “I find no comfort in it at all, I like contrast. At the moment we (Carol and husband Graham) are experimenting by living half urban with the hub of traffic and distant train noises and the sound of screeching skips being dragged across yards and half in the middle of nowhere on a hill, in a field…it’s magic. Each time I go to the other place it is new and exciting, and I can see it afresh.”

Increasingly, Carol has been finding herself creating art with family at its core. “I see my ‘Family Tree’ painting (above) and realise its not a family tree at all its just about parents and me. The orange pair of leaves is them, as strong and intense in colour as the land. But I am a leaf. They are leaves.”


“I made Family (in full above, detail below) after seeing a cormorant diving in the river, he was gone for a long time but his ripples remained,” she says. “It’s part of a series of works in steel and bronze based on the family, for me it’s about support. Each circle represents an element of the family, some peoples circles are broken some a full circle. The ripples, while suggesting the smallness of ourselves within the world, are also about the hugeness of giving life. It is about how two people can influence an ever increasing circle that gets bigger and bigger, long after you’ve dived into the water.”


When asked to define her style, Carol says:I work clay like I would a charcoal drawing, the texture is often defined by the pace of working, there are areas of focus and areas that fade or are less detailed. I put bits on and take them off all the time. I could never be a stone carver.”

She adds: “Sometimes there are marks over the work from the tools I use – they show direction of movement, and sometimes they are like deep scars. The way I work is a response to being alive, from the basics of the blood pumping round inside you. Like drawing form observation it is a direct and intuitive response so I don’t feel it’s a style its just how it comes out!”

Carol is opening up her artist’s studio (Unit 5.3 Paintworks, Bath Road, Bristol, BS4 3EH) to the public from 6-16th November 2014, with a Private View on Thursday 6th November 6-9pm. On Friday 7th November, her studio will be the setting of a special literary night, ‘Travel, Identity and Home’. Find out more here.

The writing workshop Writing From Art takes place in Carol’s studio on Wednesday 12 November. Find details here.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley (at) I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)

Midweek writing prompt – outside in

dandelions © Soraya Schofield

The above image has been supplied by Soraya Scholfield, who I featured last week in SkyLightRain’s Inspiration slot. The story about Soraya’s Mendips House series of images of her childhood home set my imagination whirring.

Imagine if somewhere dear to you was abandoned for several years, so that the cushions filled with field mice (think that may feature in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden), and dandelion-stippled lawns flourished in the floors. Picture wild flowers strewing the staircases, and trees sprouting through the walls. Then think about what might bring you home, and how you might respond to nature’s intrusions.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to share it on

Writing from Art workshop

Girl with Wings cr Carol PeaceSadly, due to a family emergency, Carol has needed to postpone this event. Details will follow.

Ever felt moved by the art you see around you, but not known quite how to capture it in words?

Spend an afternoon in a working sculptor’s studio with experienced creative writer and arts journalist Judy Darley, and find out how to turn what you see into fiction, poetry and journal entries.

The Writing From Art workshop takes place from 2-5pm on Wednesday 12th November 2014 at Studio 5.3, at Paintworks, Bristol. Book your place here.

Surrounded by the sculptures and drawings of internationally renowned artist Carol Peace, you’ll have the chance to engage with Carol’s work and with art in general, and use it as fuel for your own creative endeavors.

Come and write, learn, and feel inspired by art.

“I am very inspired and influenced by other creative forms, such as words and music, so it makes sense to me that it can work the other way round too.” Carol Peace.

Participating costs £12, which includes tea, coffee and biscuits. Please bring a pen and paper!

For more information on the workshop, feel free to contact me by sending an email to judy(at)

Writing competition – win a place on a writing workshop

Carol Peace sculptures

Win a place on the Writing from Art workshop taking place at sculptor Carol Peace’s Bristol studio this November.

To enter, all you need to do is write and submit a piece inspired by one of‘s  writing prompts. Entry is free of charge.

Your written piece can take the prompt in any direction, and either be prose up to 900 words long (shorter is fine) or poetry up to 40 lines in length.

The competition prize

The Writing From Art workshop takes place from 2-5pm on Wednesday 12th November 2014 at Studio 5.3, at Paintworks, Bristol.

Surrounded by the sculptures and drawings of renowned artist Carol Peace, you’ll have the chance to engage with Carol’s work and with art in general, and use it as fuel for your own creative endeavours.

The prize is worth £12, and includes tea, coffee and biscuits.

To enter, simply email your written piece to judy(at)socket Include your full contact details, and let me know which writing prompt inspired you. The deadline for submissions is midnight on Thursday 6th November 2014.

The winning submission will be published on All entries will be considered for publication on the site.


Length should be up to 900 words for prose, and up to 40 lines for poetry – no minimum. The title is not included in the word count.  Lines between text/stanzas are not counted.

All entries submitted can be on any subject, and written in any style or form, but must draw inspiration from one of SkyLightRain’s Writing Prompts.

You may submit up to five entries.

The Prize is open to writers of any nationality writing in English,  aged 18 years old or over at the time of the closing date. The Prize covers participation in the Writing from Art workshop, but not travel to or from the workshop.

Entries must be entirely the work of the entrant. By submitting you are confirming that the work is your own.

Entries must not have been published previously.

The filename of entries must be the title of the entry and it must be either a .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .txt file.

Entries will not be returned.

Worldwide copyright of each entry remains with the author.


For more information, feel free to contact me by sending an email to judy(at)

Soraya Schofield’s reclaimed home

come this way © Soraya SchofieldThere’s always something magical about encountering a ruin in the wilderness where nature is having its way with the walls and roof that once sheltered humans.

Soraya Schofield of The Drugstore Gallery took this idea to beautiful, fairytale-esque extremes with her project Mendip House – I looked back and you were gone. “This project came about after both my parents died within two years of one another,” she explains. “My childhood home was already very dilapidated by then, which is when I came up with the idea of the natural surrounding garden and woodlands creeping back to reclaim the house, which I tied in with mementos of my childhood and of my parents.”

Primrose wall © Soraya Schofield

She adds: “I wanted a strong sense of reality but with an aesthetic which alludes to dreams and memories. Although these images are personal to me I wanted the viewer to be drawn into the images and connect with them in their own personal way. It was a very cathartic experience.”

Rather than passively waiting to see what nature would do to the house, Soraya actively encouraged the plants to reclaim the rooms.

Peeping through © Soraya Schofield

“I filled an old wardrobe with soil and wild garlic, wild garlic being a distinctive smell from my youth. Also planting grass seed that ran out of the cupboard and over the floor of one of the bedrooms, these I tended to and encouraged them to grow inside for a time so they looked as if they had spread naturally into the rooms.”

It’s an immensely moving project, however much or little you know of the background story. I rather love that in a sense it brings Soraya’s artwork back home after several years of taking photographs in far distant lands.

“I had always like taking photos, but I spent four years out of England travelling through Asia and South America, and through this experience I really found a love of the photography,” she says. “When I returned I was milling around trying to find a creative direction and booked myself onto a City Guilds photography course.”

Soraya first started taking photos due to “a desire to capture people and places new to me.” She visited Cuba in 2002 with her artist boyfriend Barry Cawston with whom she runs The Drugstore Gallery. “This is where Golden Doorway (above) and End of the Passageway (below) were shot,” she says.

passageway © Soraya Schofield“My practice has developed over the last six years as I completed an Art foundation course and now am finishing a degree at UWE in Drawing and Applied Arts. I use the layering of photographs over an image to create landscapes in which nature meets manmade structures, and am now beginning to experiment in combining screen-print and lithography with this as well.”

Her current project, however, is something of an attempt at reversal, as she and Barry now live in the Mendips house she grew up in.

“We realised that we had to save the building!” she exclaims.

Work to evict the natural elements she’d invited in began in April 2013, and brought with it a series of curious adventures. “In June 2013 we moved into a tent in the garden for seven weeks – the weather was great but sleeping was a bit tricky, we would be woken at 4am by the resident hedgehog and our dog growling at it, at 5am the cockerel would call and at 6am the plasterer showed up for work. Decamping onto the top floor in August, while building work continued downstairs, was a huge relief! We are not totally done but very close and very happy to be here!”

Soraya’s photography is currently on show in an exhibition called Emergence which is in The Paperplane Gallery, Bristol. Find more of Soraya’s work at The Drugstore Gallery, Somerset,

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley (at) I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)

Midweek writing prompt – street signs

Mardyke Ferry Road cr Judy DarleyHave you ever noticed how many street signs there are? All these indicators to inform us where we are, and in some cases, why. I took a stroll recently and snapped shots of a couple, the first because the place names are just so evocative – it’s almost like a found poem. The second caught my eye and made me smile because it prompted a vision of the poor disappointed person who’d mistakenly turned up with a tent and now had no idea what to do.

Sorry, no tents cr Judy Darley

I suggest that you pay attention to the signs you pass, and take note of any that provoke a response in you. Then imagine the place they lead to, and make that the setting for your tale. Alternatively, feel free to write something in response to either – or both – of the signs shown here.

Note: this definitely works best if you don’t know the street the sign leads to too well. A healthy quantity of ignorance can leave space for your imagination to unfurl!

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to share it on

Cox – a small poem

Cox apple cr Judy DarleyDid you know that today, October 21st 2014, is World Apple Day? Created to celebrate the riches and variety offered up by British orchards, it’s the perfect excuse to bite deep, crunch loudly and allow sweet juices to spill over your lips and run down your chin. Bliss!

To mark this day I’ve written a small, slightly sensual, somewhat sinister poem that tweeters on the brink of being a haiku.

With your knife I slice
it quite in half, revealing seeds
that resemble tears.

Midweek writing prompt – writing from art

Stargazer by Robert Llimos photo by Judy DarleyIn around a month’s time I’ll be leading a creative writing workshop at Carol Peace’s sculpture studio on writing from art, and I thought I’d give you a sneak preview.

The pictured sculpture is actually Stargazer by Robert Llimós, snapped in Barcelona when I visited in June. I chose it for this post because I know Carol retreats to the Catalan city at every opportunity to draw inspiration for her own art.

I also particularly love the contemplative quality of this piece – it makes me think of beautiful fantastical children’s books involving journeys across oceans and into the stars.

Consider what might be going through the mind of the boy, what his fears and hopes might be. Throw in a detail from a child you know or knew (yourself as a child, perhaps) – a passion such as playing football or eating popcorn – then turn your impressions into a prose poem. Discard any bits that seem trite or clichéd, and explore further the sections that ring particularly true. You might be surprised by what takes hold.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to share it on

Poetry – seen and heard

Speaker cr Judy DarleyWritten and performed poetry are often classified as completely separate genres, but until you start to place words on a page, or step onto a stage, how do you know which one you are creating? Here Joanna Butler attempts to untangle what it is that sets written and spoken poetry apart.

It’s possible to become a poet almost by accident

First things first, not every poet starts out by making it their life’s goal to become a poet, performance or otherwise.

“Writing and performing poetry was not my life’s ambition,” Joanna Butler say. “I always loved reading and listening to poetry when I was younger, and poetry and performance were always connected in my mind because of Shakepeare. But being a poet just never crossed my mind as being a career choice.”

Joanna comments that she “seriously underestimated poetry’s seductive power over the course of a life. I got to the age of thirty-five and poetry just fell out of me. It had slowly been creeping up on me all that time.”

Joanna began by writing poetry, but felt that “it just seemed like the words wanted to get out into the world and be heard – not just stay within the pages of a book.”

Let the poetry out

Of course, there is a distinct difference between poetry being read aloud, and poetry being performed, but in either of these instances the poet makes contact with their recipients that goes unnoticed when confined to the page.

Joanna feels poetry as  “a physical impulse in my chest. A compulsion to capture something in words and share it with someone else – an aching to make a connection.”

And that’s all before the writing even happens. “It feels like something that has to get out,” she says. “Then my job is to craft it into a form that can then be given to someone else. To share moments that strike me as amazing.”

Don’t take yourself too seriously

Joanna sees herself as the audience when she’s writing poetry, as opposed to preparing to perform. “I’m more interested in how the words sound to me. I have my fantasy audience, of course, when the writing’s not going well. The audience are big, appreciative and have come specifically to hear my work. This usually allows my ego to have the free rein it wants, enables me to stop being too serious, laugh at myself and continue to play with the writing and avoid mentally stiffening up. “

Expect conflicts between the ‘writing poet’ and the ‘performing poet’

While for Joanna, the writing poet and the performance poet are both parts of her, she admits that she’s met poets who hate performers and performance poetry and performers who think poets are the dullest people on earth. Everyone has an opinion and they always will. I don’t worry about it too much. I just do what feels right to me.”

Embrace the fear

However experienced you are, getting up on stage to perform poetry can be terrifying.

“I’d worked as an actress and drama teacher so I had a personal history of performance, but you need a different kind of courage to take to the stage with something you’ve written yourself,” Joanna says. “Always the worst moments for me are when I realise I am performing after another poet whose words have just blown me away. That’s tough. There’s nothing else that makes me feel like my own work is suddenly inadequate, when half an hour before it seemed like it could stand up to anything.”

But, she adds, this fear can be useful too. “Afterwards, moments like that actually drive me forward in my own work. One of my best moments was when, six months after a reading I’d done in Bristol Central Library, I bumped into a guy who’d been in the audience. He told me he couldn’t get a couple of the poems I’d read out of his mind. He could recite some lines word for word. This was after one hearing. That was pretty special.”

Joanna ButlerAbout the author

Joanna Butler is a multi-disciplinary artist who produces poetry, prose, songs, sculptures, photographs, films and live performance. She has given poetry readings at Bristol Poetry Festival, The Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden, Bristol Folk Festival and Tate Modern. She has made spoken word recordings of her poems ‘twisted history’ and ‘Snowstorm’ with musicians Paul Nash (North Sea Navigator), Doug Bott (Angel Tech) and Ian Wood (Cubeshiner). Joanna is currently developing an inter-species performance art project with dancers and horses.

Joanna will be performing her poetry and short prose at Travel, Home & Identity on November 7th 2014. Get tickets here.

Roaming with Serena Curmi

According to Plan © Serena CurmiSerena Curmi’s paintings have a curious, nostalgic feel to them – it’s as though I’ve have seen them before, perhaps in my childhood, or someone else’s. She’s illustrating the Russian faerytales I was never told. I love the snowy, misty landscapes and uncanny encounters between girls and forest creatures, especially the way the wolf is just lurking in the background in the piece above. Friend or foe?

And yet, she says, her creative awakenings began as a merchild – or rather, as a small child roaming a sailing boat.

“I’ve always been a creative person of some description,” she says. “I grew up on a sailboat and I think being creative was an outlet for me during the many boring days at sea in a confined space with three other people. I was always coming up with great ideas that I would daydream about. Once I tried to make my own perfume by gathering a very small amount of rose petals together in a jar and adding some cooking oil. Needless to say it turned into a soggy mess.”

Brilliantly, on recalling this she adds: “I improved a little and went on to do a degree in Illustration at Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall.”

The first piece of art she remembers being proud of was “painting a picture of Minnie the Minx on the back of a white 80s cotton jacket that I was pretty pleased with” when she was aged about seven.

Today she draws inspiration from online sources including Pinterest. “I’m addicted. It’s a great tool for finding and compiling images. I look at a lot of surreal fashion photography actually, probably more than the work of other painters. But sometimes it’s something completely uncreative that sparks something in me. The other week I took a trip to Bethlem Royal Hospital (otherwise known as Bedlam) which I found incredibly inspiring.”

Italian Bathers © Serena CurmiIt’s true that her work exudes a sense of the unsettled and uncanny, but also, as her name befits, a great deal of serenity.

“I have quite a minimalist approach to life,” she tells me. “I don’t like clutter and I think this reflects in my paintings. My work is concerned with storytelling with a touch of the fairytale. Through a restrained technique, I try to focus the attention onto only the important elements in the painting which I hope helps to create a narrative which is sometimes peaceful and still, sometimes melancholy, and sometimes provoking a sense of unease of apprehension.”

Queen © Serena Curmi

And this ongoing narrative is evolving all the time, “which means that in a year or so, it might have gone a slightly different direction. I am getting very interested in social behaviours and norms (hence the trip to Bethlem) so I see my work going more towards this kind of thing in the future.”

Find out more at

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley (at) I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)