Tintern Abbey

What a lovely weekend I have just had.  Tintern Abbey near Chepstow in the Welsh borders was the venue for 2 days of Friendly Plastic creativity.  The weather was fantastic, the only time I have EVER been to Wales when it has not rained!  The Abbey glowed in the sunshine; nestling in a natural curve of the river with deeply wooded hills all around, it was a tranquil and inspirational surrounding in which to work.


10 delightful ladies arrived laden down with stuff to experiment with, plus cameras, sketch books and above all, enthusiasm.  Although the room was small, we still managed to squeeze everyone in, so we all got to know each other pretty quickly!  Adrienne Goodenough who is the Life Long Learning Manager for Cadw (Welsh version of English Heritage) organised everything, brought tea and coffee, lunches and way too much cake than was good for us.  Without Adrienne’s excellent organisation the weekend would not have happened, so I want to say a very big thank you to you Adrienne.


Louisa, Liz, Carolyn, Pauline, Adrienne, Annie, Shelagh, Wendy, Rose, Liz, and a space for Rachel who could only be with us on the Saturday.  On the table is a small selection of the creative endeavours of the group

We spent the first part of the morning wandering around the Abbey, taking in the atmosphere, admiring the stonework, sketching and recording ideas, shapes and textures that appealed.  Although for some, this was not their usual route in to their creative work, but everyone got something from the time spent looking, thinking and absorbing.

Back in our bijou room we got stuck in to learning techniques that could help to translate the textures and forms into Friendly Plastic.  Although the peg we hung the weekend on was jewellery, most people were looking to interpret their ideas in other ways!  Consequently we looked at a variety of ideas for developing the initial sampling of techniques – applying textured tiles to textiles, constructing book covers, incorporating in altered art projects, as well as jewellery.  The ability to take Friendly Plastic in almost any direction you choose is probably the most exciting aspect of the product.

We covered Impressions, Oooze, Lacework, foiling, colouring (alcohol inks and Pigment Powders, beads, Friendly Plastic Pellets, moulding, modelling, piecing, and goodness knows what else.)  It was an action packed weekend with everyone achieving a myriad of pieces to further wrk with.


In this example of work by Rose, filigree metal was used to Oooze through, and the textures and shapes are so reminiscent of some of the carvings and window shapes, as well as the lichen on the ancient stones.




These wonderful shapes created by Shelagh were inspired by the windows at Tintern, and are destined to be applied to fabric, stitched into and knocked back with sheer fabrics and paint (if I remember correctly)


tintern07Jewellery was on Louisa’s mind and she likes bold statement pieces and was taken with the idea of large cylinder beads wrapped with fabric.  She interpreted the pillars of the Abbey into mixed media and gave it a modern oriental twist.  The muted colours of the stonework are reflected in her choice of Flat Gold for the Friendly Plastic elements of the design.




Wendy was looking at textures and motifs at the Abbey, and interpreted them with stamps, lacework and Oooze.  I can’t remember where these were destined for Wendy, but I think you were planning on joining them together in some way.




Carolyn used a number of architectural stamps to create some lovely muted tiles that she plans to attach together with jump rings and then apply to fabric


Apologies, I can’t remember whose work this was, but it was lovely.  Various moulds from Krafty Lady were used as well as 3D Oooze to interpret the textures and carvings of the stonework, I think these were destined either for Altered Art and ATCs or jewellery, but as I can’t remember who made them all it is a bit presumptuous to assume anything!  (Rose has just told me that it is her work)


Liz (there were 3 Liz’s in the room) was also looking at textures and carvings (and the odd lizard!)  and she experimented with some Magic Glos as well.  It looked absolutely wonderful, but was not entirely in keeping with the soft, muted rough stonework of the Abbey.  However, it is a very good way of quickly sealing under a thick glossy coat your precious colours and textures of FP.  Liz planned to make a book cover with her tiles; Liz is in to books, she showed us a wonderful paper bag book that she had made – more inspiration for us all.


 One of the things I liked about Liz’s Ooozed piece (bottom second from the right, orange square), was that her experiments with Oooze had led her to “over Oooze” and the beaded effect blurred into one irregular area.  This was particularly appealing as it reminded me of carvings that were eroded and only partially visible.  Besides which she managed to use one of my least favourite colours of FP in such a way that I actually might consider buying some orange Mother of Pearl for the first time ever! 


If I carry on showing you everything that everyone made, then this post will become 6 miles long, and I have not got the time to do that today as I am trying to prepare for my trip to the States for Jen Lowes Starving Artists Playground (read Friendly Plastic and generally Creative Retreat) which is coming up shortly. So I will end this post by saying that although no one finished a particular piece of work, everyone became much more familiar with how to use Friendly Plastic and make it do what they want it to do.  Ultimately that was my aim for the course – to teach everyone some techniques appropriate to interpreting the inspirational surroundings of the Abbey so that they could master the material and begin to take it in their own direction;  make it truly work for them and their particular areas of interest.

I know I enjoyed every minute of the weekend (including some very idiosyncratic behaviour by my B&B hosts and their neighbours), but most of all I thoroughly enjoyed working with such a lively, entertaining, interesting and talented group of people.  I hope we can meet up again next year.