This newsletter was originally published September 9, 2005 in conjunction with a story I wrote for the September 2005 issue of House & Garden magazine.
In this issue of the newsletter, I encourage you to stretch your wings when it comes to choosing art/ornaments for your garden, to look beyond the familiar cast-concrete figures seen at garden centers. Search instead for unique items to include in your landscape, whether it is a lovely piece of sculpture created by a local artist or some whimsical “found-object” that you feel enhances your living creation.
The gargoyles in my garden (pictured above and again in the newsletter below) look like priceless antiques, but they are, in fact, marvelous reproductions from the originals at Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland (yes, that is the location for the climactic scenes from the book The Da Vinci Code). I wrote about Jon Stogner, the artisan who cast them, in the September, 2005 issue of House and Garden magazine, which is available on newsstands for just a few more weeks.
Jon Stogner’s wholesale factory, Vessels, in Birmingham, Alabama is a treasure trove of architectural ornaments, sculpture and statuary for the garden. Stogner has the eye of an artist but prefers to describe himself as “the ornament equivalent of a plantsman.” I hope you enjoy the magazine article and that you will also visit his web site where you will find many more examples of his work.
You can reach Jon at:
901 33rd Street North
photos below: Jon Stogner and examples of his work.
ORNAMENTS AS UNIQUE AS THE GARDEN
Gardens are works of art, living sculpture, if you will. And traditional, “solid” forms of sculpture have been used in gardens from the very beginning. Every self-respecting Roman patrician commissioned his share of two-ton bric-a-brac. Inspired by the Ancients, the British began filling their grand landscapes with classical ornament. Some of these were the real things, bought while taking in the sights on the “Grand Tour” of the Continent, but most were recreations. After all, the Romans were copying the Greeks. Aristocrats went so far as to produce instant marble ruins recalling the decrepit monuments of the Roman Forum. These somewhat frivolous garden shelters--aptly named “follies”--were built to punctuate instant rolling hills and beside freshly dug lakes created during the Romantic Landscape Movement of the 18th Century.
Art in the garden takes many forms and I am intrigued by the ingenuity, skill and risk that many gardeners are willing to take. Because creating is a very personal process and every time we invite visitors into our gardens we open ourselves up to evaluation from another’s point of view and sense of taste.
I encourage you to have confidence in your own likes and dislikes, your own personal style. Be open to new possibilities and willing to experiment with those objects that please your eye and delight you.
Whimsical “found” objects are in my garden along with the beautifully crafted, antique-looking gargoyles (pictured at the top of the newsletter and in a close up down below). Others may not always appreciate my taste, but a beautiful or interesting object has intrinsic value apart from its utility.
This unique “species” of bamboo was created by my friend, sculptor and ceramic artist Marcia Donahue. Although they are completely fanciful, people often have to walk up and touch them before they know for sure that they are not living plants. Marcia even included a little runaway sprout some three feet from the clump. Even Bambusa ceramica is invasive, it seems.
Marcia Donahue is a gifted gardener as well. You can read a 1999 interview of Marcia in the online journal Works & Conversations.
The exquisite carved face by Marcia lies peacefully beside one of the Rosslyn gargoyles from Stogner. What most people may not realize is that the word gargoyle shares the same root as gargle: an Old French word gargouille meaning throat or gullet. Since gargoyles were, in fact, architectural features along the roofline of buildings specifically designed for directing rainwater out and away from the building, all gargoyles feature gaping mouths. Other carved creatures used as architectural ornament or symbolism are properly labeled grotesques.
Our Own Stuff Gallery
3017 Wheeler St.
Berkeley, CA 94705
I often find myself moving objects around in my garden the way others feel the need to rearrange a living room until it feels “just right”. One nice thing about garden ornaments is that even if they are very heavy they don’t throw down roots and are more easily moved than most plants.
I love making sculpture as much as gardening. I created my sculpted head of the demigod Pan for a specific spot in my garden. It was to go in a green niche so that as you walked over the stone bridge, you would be eye to eye with him. However, when I finished the sculpture I got derailed and he ended up in a different spot altogether: atop a tall plinth, out in the open. But propping him there just didn’t seem right; I didn’t think the effect was subtle enough and moved him twice (at least) before he ended up in his current location. Ironically, the resting place, if not final, turned out to be much more prominent—and just about where I had planned to put him in the first place.
Ken's Design for Seibert & Rice
I am pleased to announce that my first design for the company Seibert & Rice will be available this winter. I call it “Pepper Pot” and it stands over thirty inches tall. For a copy of their catalog you can go to their web site, www.seibertandrice.com
Seibert & Rice
P.O. Box 365
Short Hills, NJ 07078