real time Sisters

(Samhain) 311017


today time returns

and darkness drags us home, amidst swirling russet leaves,

to its familiar solstice resting place

as another year quietly slips away.


shadows lengthen

losing their resemblance to matter

and we descend into that underworld

of ancestors and past deities,


to industry and wonder,

to miraculous machines

and steam and noise –

hell for some, power for others –


weaving what was once made by hand

beneath clear open skies lit by a million stars,

connecting us to all that has been

and will ever be.


and the Sisters still sit

sharing their charms,

weaving mystery and fate

beyond our control or simple understanding.


tall chimney, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

engine houses, bobbins and spinning machines , Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

skein maker, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

threading the loom, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

water wheel, Coldharbour Woollen Mill, Uffculme, Devon © p ward 2017

Last weekend I visited Dunster, a charming Medieval village in West Somerset with my family. We ‘watched’ stars inside an inflatable dome as part of Exmoor National Park’s Dark Skies program celebrating the unpolluted ‘darkness’ of the area and stayed at my brother’s cottage amongst the massive oaks and rich red soils of the Brendon Hills. On our way home we stopped off at Coldharbour Mill Museum in Uffculme, Devon, for one of their regular ‘Steam Up Days’. This restored working woollen mill is powered by water and steam engines (and electricity) and gives a fascinating insight into the ingenuity and industry involved in the production of wool and woven cloth over the last few centuries when Devon and Exmoor were one of the main centres for the wool trade in Britain. And all this on the days the clocks are turned back to solar time again and the Celtic New year begins – quite a brew for the imagination…

dunster, west somerset © p ward 2017

nettlecombe, west somerset © p ward 2017

© P Ward 2017


garden waste, woodford 161214

spotted flycatcher bundle, woodford © p ward 2014spotted flycatcher bundle, woodford © p ward 2014

a pleasant few days break in west somerset

after a week of hard work inside the studio.

despite a forecast of persistent heavy rain

and a recurrent mechanical inconvenience

there was sunshine

a chance to tidy the garden

to the sound of wind shaking the trees and familiar birdsong

inspiring peace of mind and a few life-art works

to celebrate the simplicity, beauty and creativity of nature

reflections of place and time and relationship

with thanks…

garden waste, woodford 161214garden waste, woodford © p ward 2014

Waste and wastes implies unwanted or unusable materials. The term is often subjective (because waste to one person is not necessarily waste to another) and sometimes objectively inaccurate…[i]

another line made by walking, woodford © p ward 2014another line made by walking, woodford © p ward 2014

In preparation for a local school’s artsweek I will be leading at the end of January I have been researching some very basic materials such as sticks and leaves and mud, and wheelbarrows… I have been invited, as an environmental artist, to develop a series of activities to engage 500 children between the ages of 4 and 12, and their teachers, with ideas of local ecology, its influence on the region’s historical development and our current relationship with it. 2015 being the UN International Year of Soils, and being one of my own specialisms, I have chosen the theme of SOIL. The activities will allow children and teachers to explore and hopefully learn something about the nature of soil and its importance in all our lives. The activities, designed to be starting points for creative journeys for teachers to explore with their classes, will also lead to an end of week environmental art exhibition including work made by every child in the school. The centrepiece will be a large earth pigment painting built up during the week by the children and finished by a group of ‘gifted and talented’ students who have shown a particular aptitude and interest in the arts. The painting will be left as a legacy for the school and acknowledgement of the hard work accomplished during the week. Hopefully the children and teachers will have an enjoyable and memorable time.

© p ward 2014



an interlude

Many apologies for my recent lack of posts – I have been rather busy and somewhat otherwise engaged of late. Here are a few pictures and words to fill the gap. Many thanks for your continuing audience and support…

welcome noah! (p ward and f owen 2014)welcome noah! (p ward and f owen 2014)


after the storms

after the spring has sprung

we may begin our gathering

of old and new

to make way for,

in preparation for




how different is this world

from one place to the next

from one day to another

holding hands with you…


car park graffiti; squid ink bowl drawing ( pward 2014)car park graffiti; squid ink bowl drawing ( pward 2014)

afternoon storm, torquay, and storm watchers, westward ho! (p ward 2014)afternoon storm, torquay, and storm watchers, westward ho! (p ward 2014)

gathering firewood, westward ho!, and perusing bundles in ikea, bristol!? (p ward and f owen 2014)gathering firewood, westward ho!, and perusing bundles in ikea, bristol!? (p ward and f owen 2014)

‘the story of bideford black’ display case and ‘pots, fish and ships’ exhibition at the burton gallery, bideford (p ward 2014)‘the story of bideford black’ display case and ‘pots, fish and ships’ exhibition at the burton gallery, bideford (p ward 2014)

how different this soil, how different this place… cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)how different this soil, how different this place… cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)

woodland stairway, cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)woodland stairway, cheddar gorge (p ward 2014)

indigenous spirit – art:cycling:mapping:earth pigment:drawing process project (p ward 2014)indigenous spirit – art/cycling/mapping/earth pigment/drawing process project (p ward 2014)

bir! bir! bir! bir! – invitation to exhibit some old work in manchester, june 2014 (paintings p ward 1993)bir! bir! bir! bir! – invitation to exhibit some old work in manchester, june 2014 (paintings p ward 1993)

local earth pigments used on historic roodscreen, st peter and vincula church, combe martin, north devon (p ward 2014)local earth pigments used on historic roodscreen, st peter and vincula church, combe martin, north devon (p ward 2014)

st audries bay and porlock weir, west somerset (p ward 2014)st audries bay and porlock weir, west somerset (p ward 2014)

home life, old and new, westward ho! and ilfracombe, north devon (p ward 2014)home life, old and new, westward ho! and ilfracombe, north devon (p ward 2014)

materials for an ark (p ward 2014)materials for an ark (p ward 2014)

with love to Francesca, Noah and all my family

P Ward 2014

i walk this earth 2214 (f owen, p ward)

a simple film about connecting with the earth – just walking barefoot along a muddy track in west somerset. the film was made with francesca owen as part of our ongoing collaboration and research towards the SOIL CULTURE project 2013-17 led by CCANW and RANE ( the images were captured on continuous shooting mode and edited using i-movie. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAi walk this earth – cold feet (video still; f owen/p ward 2014)

© Francesca Owen & Peter Ward 2014

for love of soil

“Everywhere science is enriched by unscientific methods and unscientific results, while procedures which have often been regarded as essential parts of science are quietly suspended or circumvented.” Paul Feyerabend, AGAINST METHOD

Does not the science of soil, the chasing of numbers and factors in the name of human value, merely further commodify that which is magic, mystery and worthy of worship, (despite its heady fascinations)? This is not to diminish or undervalue technology – the application of disciplined research – nor the multi-disciplined experiential processes of our enquiry.

Are not those things that we do not know those things that make it all so wonderful, and that lead us to further investigate or invest most heartily? Like the questionable possibilities of ecosystem services, is it possible to measure the fullness that is life? Those in power, or with power, more often do not act favourably beyond their purse strings, despite the truth and compassion of our already excessive and rigourously construed perceptions.

The soil in miraculous evolving living entity – like the shifting, pounding, endless sea – in awe and full of inspiration, of factors beyond our forever faltering, non-sensical, empirical economic motive,

Like culture

Like identity,

Like society

Like life…

the earth bleeding, west somerset (p ward 2014)the earth bleeding, west somerset (p ward 2014)

I watch the fields wash away across the carbon-fuelled tarmac of haste

The ocean muddied with fluvial fertile red earth

Homes fill with the turmoil of our greed, ignorance and waste

The innocent mole drowning forever in its tunnel-tomb populace

human intervention, west somerset (p ward 2014)human intervention, west somerset (p ward 2014) 

There is a popular belief amongst the current ecological art* movement, and other environmentalist groups and individuals, that artful communication of scientific data will sway political opinion and action in favour of more sensible behaviours. However, I personally question the logic that empirical evidence, however true, can transform our hearts and minds due to the very nature of its original form. Our hearts are not numbers – they are beyond measure. The established Cartesian scientific methodology is by its nature divorced from our souls and thus will not affect them. Maybe only through reflective acts and spaces of direct personal relationship can we truly re-evaluate and heal our behaviours. Only through acts of mystery and magic may spirit be experienced and unbound. If we are not willing to get our hands dirty, we will not have dirty hands after all!

“Man takes root at his feet, and at best he is no more than a potted plant in his house or carriage till he has established communication with the soil by the loving and magnetic touch of his soles to it.” ― John Burroughs

source, west somerset (p ward 2014)source, west somerset (p ward 2014)

*For me ecological art is an acknowledgement that by their very nature all our actions, artistic or otherwise, may be seen as affective within the totality as well as affective within themselves. It is an admittance of our responsibility to ourselves and others. It is ownership of our actions. Ecology studies the relationships between entities and actions, how the action of a part may affect the whole…)

reclaimed land, langport, somerset (p ward 2014) reclaimed land, langport, somerset (p ward 2014)

“We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” Werner Heisenberg

© P Ward 2014

the weight of this time passing

Doniford, West Somerset 291113

This day, I was sent two disturbing articles relating to the research I am presently doing about soil. One, posted by the Soil Association on Facebook from the Ecologist magazine, stated how the majority of meat sold and consumed in the UK is now fed with Genetically Modified products, which has led to sickness in the animals and in turn is passing such illness onto humans who (choose to) eat the products[i]. The other, published in the Telegraph was sent by a fellow artist, and expressed the realization by American soil scientists that the biological life and energy in a great deal of US soil may have been irreversibly degraded by continued intensive farming methods similar to those employed in the UK[ii]. The articles unfortunately did not surprise or shock me, but both left me feeling, yet again, utterly helpless and frustrated in the face of such odds. What, as an artist or otherwise, can I do to change or shift human attitudes and behaviour? Why do big companies, governments and the majority of the population continue to adopt, support and employ technologies that have been proven without doubt to be for the good of no one, let alone the few? Just where is the sense in a world motivated solely by power over, by profit and material gain? Is it small wonder that many of us chose to bury our heads in the sand, or to numb our senses to the facts? Just how can we expect to cope not only with the constant barrage of distressing information but also the even more distressing reality?

doniford cliff, west somerset (p ward 2013) doniford cliff, west somerset (p ward 2013)

More recently, with the immanent prospect of my second child, such information leaves me utterly terrified at what the future may hold. While I may personally accept, with much difficulty, the debilitating truth of this present ecocidal reality in which we live, I still have not fully realized the power or belief within myself to confront or even challenge it. Over the last few years my previous optimism and enthusiasm has been sorely tested by the constant exposure through social media and the internet to the cumulative implications of our self-imposed abuse. Can my own chosen vocation as an artist really affect the world, as I once believed, beyond simple and crude awareness-raising? Can it truly reach people who really don’t want to hear? And even if it can, how can I financially sustain my work as an artist? In the current political climate many aspects of the cultural sector, including education, seem to have been deemed such a threat to the status quo that artists are finding it harder and harder to find support for our work beyond the stultifying and questionable confines of academia or, if we are ‘lucky’, the morally spurious world of commerce. How in such a time can we find the strength to pick up our pens, our brushes or our cameras, to stretch and flex our aesthetic and intuitive muscles, to squeeze more paint from the tube, so to speak? What drives us on and inspires us to arrange, compose and juxtapose; to experiment, investigate and perform our plethora of creative maneuvers and how can we not respond to the situation in which we find ourselves wholly immersed?

prehistoric form 1, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013) prehistoric form 1, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)

My own interest in art and my resulting practice as an artist was born out of a desire and an aptitude to observe, manipulate and record the processes and materials of the world – in other words to enjoy and share the process of making things. Alongside this I have had a lifelong fascination and sense of wonder with the other creatures and life forms that share this world. At some point these interests (and every other aspect of my life) merged to create the art practice that I share today. At no point did I consciously decide to make my work political. By Nature it simply is. To make good and affective art, to interact fully and with energy in the world I must allow myself to become utterly absorbed in the processes of creativity and the materials and subject matter that fascinate me. To do this, artists must be fully supported in their role. I find it difficult to tailor my work in response to ecological crisis or to any economic or intellectual climate. My tendency, based most likely in mental and physical self-preservation, is to turn away from suffering and trauma and to make things that bring myself and hopefully others joy – to celebrate the privilege of being alive. This is not to say that I am not willing to accept the facts or implications of the present ecological crisis, nor that I cannot deal with the sorrow and grieving that such suffering entails. It is more that to celebrate existence, to engage with it in all its gory detail – its birth, its life, its destruction and decomposition, its ignorance, helplessness and despair, its beauty and magnificence – is my way of responding. This may not be obvious or directly related to the more empirical evidence that science relies upon as proof; it is more simply an act of defiance! My way of saying my energy will not be subdued! I am not ready to roll over and die just yet…

tribute to ana medieta 1, doniford, west somerset (p ward + f owen 2013) tribute to ana medieta 1, doniford, west somerset (p ward + f owen 2013)[iii]

Art by its very nature is transformative. Our actions as artists do not need to be directed at any particular issue or thing, we must simply do! And the more we allow ourselves to do, the more we allow ourselves and are allowed to become emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually in the work that gives us joy then the more power and resonance that work may hold and convey. This is true of all things.

soft rock forms, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013) soft rock forms, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)

So everyday I continue to act in this world. To walk and observe, to interact with and explore the wonder that it continues to express through its very existence, and to share my own sense of wonder with it all. And this day – a dull grey day in late November – I visited a what-may-seem rather unimpressive stretch of coast along the Bristol Channel in West Somerset. I am presently reflecting upon how my work with earth pigments may engage audiences with contemporary issues relating to soil as part of the CCANW/RANE Soil Culture project[iv]. While there is an obvious relationship between what lies beneath the soil, the rocks and geological structures and their mineral content, and hence its ability to support flora and fauna specific to a particular geomorphological region and then whatever agri-industrial-cultural manifestation that may become evident, how may creative and intellectual engagement with such materials raise awareness about contemporary soil issues? So to follow my own lead, I must simply do and invite others to do the same. Stop the overly analytical head and partake in those things that give joy, that bring peace, and share with others. Maybe that way we will find a way…

fossils; tribute to ana mendieta 2; bird feeding constellation; doniford, west somerset (pward 2013) fossils; tribute to ana mendieta 2; bird feeding constellation; doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)

cave, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013) cave, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)

prehistoric forms 2, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)prehistoric forms 2, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)

a way up and a way down, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)a way up and a way down, doniford, west somerset (pward 2013)

matchbox collection, doniford, west somerset (f owen + p ward 2013)matchbox collection, doniford, west somerset (f owen + p ward 2013)

© P Ward 2013



[iii] Francesca’s work can be found at


an autumn walk through monksilver 281113


Despite my familiarity and frequency of visit to this tranquil rural area of West Somerset over the last 18 years I had never done this walk before, so close to my brother’s cottage.  From the back garden gate, across a country lane and a simple stile into a field of rich terracotta earth, we follow the crystal clear meandering stream, flanked by mature oak, maple, beech and holly, amongst others, holding stories from long before the motor car. As we immerse ourselves in the birdsong of buzzards, green woodpeckers, long-tailed tits and blackbirds, time’s influence loses its grasp. Returning along high-hedged lanes to a simple lunch and an afternoon spent pottering in the garden – raking leaves, weeding and chopping wood for the evening fire – until it was too dark to see what we were doing properly. A whole day busy outside, without driving, was enough to leave me somewhat lightheaded but deeply refreshed through nature…

woodford fields, west somerset (p ward 2013) woodford fields, west somerset (p ward 2013)

woodland walk, monksilver, west somerset (p ward 2013) woodland walk, monksilver, west somerset (p ward 2013)

tree trunks, monksilver, west somerset (p ward:f owen 2013) tree trunks, monksilver, west somerset (p ward/f owen 2013)

autumn walk, monksilver, west somerset (p ward 2013) autumn walk, monksilver, west somerset (p ward 2013)

nettlecombe fields, west somerset (p ward 2013) nettlecombe fields, west somerset (p ward 2013)

My own tendency, for whatever reason, is to seek comfort and depth in relationship to my environment through familiarity, through retracing my steps again and again to seek more and more subtle variation and diversity over time. But every so often it is necessary to change those sensible and safe patterns, to experience the world anew, to refresh our senses to other perspectives and possibilities. Blessed be boredom. Blessed be routine and blessed be temptation, inquisitiveness and bravery…

And many thanks again to Francesca for leading me astray!?!

© P Ward 2013