On 21st April I flew into Seville Aiport in Spain. Aisling’s house is in a village in the Spanish mountains called, Jubrique, this village is very remote. Just like everywhere in these mountains just getting there is an adventure in itself. From the car rental place it took two and half hours to get to our apartment in the village. Stopping at a supermarket in the village just before it; the only supermarket in approximately a one-hour radius of where we were staying. After arriving Aisling showed us around the village and took us to a bar there telling us about the village and discussing life, her practice, my work and what we might be doing throughout the week.
Aisling met us at the hotel after breakfast and drove up the dirt track to her family’s house on the mountain side. She showed us around her house, specifically her studio and workshop. In her workshop she had a selection of wax pieces to be cast into bronze and some sculptures she had made. She talked about how she used to use a lot of polystyrene balls in her work. But as they’re not environmentally friendly she found that in the mountains she has a lot of natural cork from the trees readily available that gives a similar effect to the polystyrene. She showed us her experiments and sculptures she had made using the more natural material which gave a beautiful structure and texture in the plaster. In her studio she talked me through her large-scale drawings she’d done on plaster board. She had observed the geometric but natural textures and shapes within plants in her environment there and used bright colours to create these drawings. She spoke about how in the past she had combined drawing and sculpture within her practice and wanted to return to this in a new way using these drawings. This is where our first task and experiment came in.
Aisling had made a maquette of the idea she had but didn’t know if it would work with the plaster board. Using paper, she had made a twisted cuboid shape and poured plaster in and wanted to replicate this on a larger scale with a drawing. As she was unsure of the success we would have she didn’t want to cut up a drawing she was happy with and put a lot of effort into. So, we went ahead with a rough, unfinished and unset drawing that she wasn’t so precious about. We did some calculation and cut it into eight triangles, each with a base length of thirty centimeters. Once these were cut, we spent some time figuring out how to fix them all together while getting the angles correct. This turned out to be much trickier than originally anticipated. We decided to just roughly fix them in place just to see if the shape and structure would actually work. So, we screwed them together using metal angle beading, used for cornering walls during plastering. This meant the structure was very precarious until we added in strengthening materials and the screws could be pulled out without too much pull or pressure. Despite that, we decided to leave it at that for the day as it was getting into the evening. We hoped it didn’t collapse on itself over night!
We first joined Aishling at her yoga class then after lunch got back to work. Before we continued with the sculpture from the previous day we talked about theory within our work, how the body is prevalent in mine and how it used to be in hers. She talked to me about the Alexander Method. An old way of teaching posture and a positive way to stand and lie down which benefits your body. This was interesting to hear about, especially when it comes to your body and your posture whilst creating sculpture. We then continued on the plaster board structure we had made the previous day. Working today on strengthening the structure. We had to move it outside as we were going to use plaster on it and Aisling doesn’t like doing this is the studio. We were very nervous to move it even the slightest as too much movement, especially in the joins would pull the screws out of place and potentially dislodge the whole shape of the structure. After repairing it a little in the studio we successfully moved it outside without any breakages. From here we needed to make it a strong structure. We planned to fill the inside with plaster and scrim but there were wide gaps along the top and bottom. To fix this I filled it with expanding foam, just as a filler to make the next step easier. Aisling wasn’t best pleased about having to use it because of the environmental impact of using this material, but she struggled to find something that would work better, quicker and that she had easy access to. This is especially a big deal out in the mountains as getting materials and resources isn’t easy in the slightest. Shops for more specific materials are in the bigger towns and cities and the closest ones can be one and a half hour to two hour drive away. So, you have to plan ahead and make sure you’ve always got the right materials for the jobs you will potentially want to do.
Once the expanding foam was set, we got on with the plaster work inside the structure. For this Aisling uses a different kind of scrim than here in England. It is made from local grass simply dried out and bound together in a roll. I fell in love with this material as it was so much easier and quicker to use than the wide mesh scrim sold in England. You simply pull it apart, soak it in the plaster and slap it on wherever needed. I would choose this over the artificial manufactured scrim here any day. Laying the sculpture down we worked from each end, meeting in the middle and turning it to get every angle. When we got every angle, we left it to set and called it a day.
for today we had made specific plans to do wax work in the morning then drive out into the mountains to do drawing and then visit a cave that we’d booked. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t good enough to sit outside and draw so it gave us extra time on the wax before heading out to Cueva de la Pileta. Before I had arrived in Spain Aisling had been working on experimenting in various techniques with green winter wax, creating different shapes to be later turned into bronze. She had picked up a small extrusion pen initially designed for clay. However, she’d repurposed it for wax, trying out the different shapes it came with. We began with a tear drop shape. This was a fun experiment as throughout it we learned how to create the perfect temperature in the wax for it to come of smooth and straight; just before it completely cools. When the wax is still fairly warm it comes out grainy and mushy, not picking up the shape or being straight. We tried this a few times with this shape and another. Making straight tear drop and twisted ribbon.
We then got ourselves together to take the drive further into the mountains to the cave. This was incredibly fascinating. Being discovered in 1905 by a farmer, now still owned by the same family. Inside it had cave paintings dating back as far as thirty-two thousand BC. It was also filled with stunning stalagmites and stalactites, some being chipped or broken open you were able to see beautiful crystal inside the rock. We were on the tour for nearly two hours and it was an overwhelmingly powerful experience. The spectacular rock having been formed for hundreds of thousands of years and a sublime spiritual energy and awe you feel inside the cave. I felt very lucky to experience it. Visiting this cave, I realized that not only inside but also the stunning rock formations outside, surrounding the cave was a great source of visual research and inspiration for me within my practice. To be able to see the varying ground among the land in person gave my mind a wealth of ideas and knowledge for the reality of the geology of the land.
I was limited with taking pictures inside the cave due to cameras and the use of phones negatively affecting the bats that lived inside.
On my final day working with Aisling we had originally discussed making a fiberglass mould she’d been wanting to make. However, when I arrived, she had realized not only that it would be more than a one-day job but also she wasn’t sure she had all the materials to hand that we would need for it. Instead of this we played around with mould making and using pigment in plaster. Aisling had wanted to try making a plaster two-piece mould of a hand-blown glass droplet she had and two glass beads. While making the mould I learned how to measure and cut out a moulding box and also a little trick with creating the key locator within the mould; to simply scrape it out using the edge of a coin and slowly twisting it into the damp plaster. Unfortunately, we thought we had finished the mould perfectly, but found the beads had come dislodged in the wet plaster while making the second half which meant the plaster seeped underneath them and damaged the surface of the first part. Luckily the beads were stuck in the second half of the mould so to remake the first half we knew this problem wouldn’t happen again. When we had successfully made the two-piece mould, we went ahead with melting the green winter wax to pour inside the mould. This is where it became even trickier. The space in which we were pouring the wax into was very thin. Very little wax went into the space at one time which meant it cooled very quickly, especially being surrounded by cold plaster. We did several attempts, the beads eventually worked but the droplet would not. So, we decided to scrape out the top half of the droplet so the wax would have a wider space to fall down and wouldn’t cool so quickly and hopefully would fill it out. On the first attempt after editing the mould it worked perfectly. The droplet filled nicely. Unfortunately, it was at the sacrifice of the length of the droplet. But we were just glad we got it to work.
When It came to the beads though, we found that on one side of the mould it had been contaminated and didn’t pick up the faceted shape smoothly enough and had an odd texture. This meant the mould for this was permanently damaged and unusable. Aisling did say she ideally would have liked to have done the mould in silicone, but she didn’t have any to hand and getting some would take several hours of driving. So, we had to make do with experimenting with plaster.
As well as experimenting with wax aisling had a 3D map of the mountains she wanted to pour plaster in, playing with pigments in the plaster. This was an entertaining experiment. First boxing in the map upside down so the plaster wouldn’t spill out. We added pigments such as ochre and red ochre, this was because they were the pigments used in the cave paintings we saw the day before; we saw this as prominent not just because we had just seen these historic paintings but also because we were casting the map of the area which these pigments are sourced. There was no specific plan for the composition or colours within this experiment, this was half the fun. Just adding pigment and pouring it in, deciding in the moment. Not mixing it by hand just letting it go wherever it naturally would, just having fun with it. It was great fun and exciting watching the colours marble among each other. Once we were happy with the colour, we added plaster on the back to thicken and strengthen it. In this we also used the scrim we had used earlier in the week. When taking this out it was really exciting, seeing the swirling and marbled colour, the shape and contours of the mountains. A fun representation of where we were and final piece to show off my experience there.
This experience felt like a once in a life time. It didn’t even feel like work, I learned so much, about sculpture, selling yourself and your work. The experience really fed my mind. I got a wealth of inspiration on what I can potentially make and how. The land was incredibly inspiring and felt beautiful being there. A refreshing experience where both me and Aishling learnt so much and I am incredibly grateful to her to have been able to make the experience possible.