The leniency of weed and wind

Blog post
Published: 31.07.2010

This morning I worked in the garden: raking leaves (again), clearing away broken branches (again), rooting out weeds (again).  That’s the thing about gardening: you never have complete control, never have to say: it’s finished; I made that; it’s my work. The day after tomorrow the wind will blow everything everywhere; the week after, the weeds will be back; in spring snails will chew patterns into the lettuce leaves and aphids will munch away at the rose buds and the bowerbirds will eat seedlings down to the roots the instant they’re planted.  Gardening is continuous, cumulative, collaborative. It is a collaboration between plants, insects, birds, gardener, helped or hindered by the weather. There are many circumstances over which I have no control:  the unrelenting will of weeds; the formidable power of the wind; an unseasonal frost nipping off sappy young shoots; torrential rain washing the ground away; a desiccating 44° scorcher turning all to dust.  

I see this sometimes destructive power as a kind of leniency — one which enables me to hold my hands up in surrender.  To give up, however momentarily.   

Not like feigning omnipotence in the studio.   
(Not even weeds grow there at present.)


At times the notion of total control, which in making work equates to the exacting nature of sole responsibility, is daunting.  Perhaps that’s why, since 1995 I have worked with stone and almost exclusively with it since 1997 — with marble, with basalt, with granite, with slate, even pumice.  Notice, I don’t say worked in stone. To work with stone is a uniquely collaborative venture.  Almost all other materials I’ve used have the potential to be controlled absolutely. (Whether or not I always have the necessary skill to fulfill that potential is another matter.)  As might be expected, I have other reasons for working with that obdurate and temperamental substance, simultaneously so adamant yet so fickle; unyielding, yet liable to crack without warning. I am drawn to the history it carries in its very atoms, not only the history of its role in the the formation of our own world — the solid world beneath our feet, but the history — perhaps romance is a better word — the romance of its use from human time immemorial, from the advent of the first use of stone tools by homer faber and since, from Paleolithic times to the present.  Stone is a venerable material.  One that elicits respect.  One that demands it.   

There are numerous adages spruiked at makers about respect for materials, and tools.  They are superfluous when confronted by a piece of stone.   

Of course, I have little or no control over Matilda. 
I can live with that.