house and garden

Domestic 'Cabinet of Curiosities'

Unable to find clients for my experiments with ‘Data from Nature’, I decided to demonstrate their potential by using them to enrich my home. The living room walls were lined with an image from Italian paesina stone (top right) printed on linen and stretched over wooden frames to form a shallow storage zone whose presence was revealed at intervals by display- and bookshelves. The rug – seen here with the original Molly (whose fame, sadly, was to come posthumously!) – was digitally woven by Brinton’s of Kidderminster using a patented axminster loom that can insert up to twenty-four differently coloured threads at any point. The image used here is from a specimen of Australian variscite.

Reflections from the pond and shadows from trees and climbing plants can combine to effect magical transformations, as seen in this 4 second video.

Ceramic Tiles

The irregularly-shaped tiled tabletop in the living room was originally made as an exhibit for a friend who ran a small digital printing business. The shape and formations are from a 130mm-long specimen of Mexican crazy lace agate, a type that forms in cracks in rocks rather than as nodules in voids in volcanic rocks.

Early digitally-printed tiles could only be used decoratively but now they are safe underfoot or outdoors. My kitchen floor is printed with an image from a section of Jurassic-period sea-floor from the north Madagascan coast. It is filled with ammonites and ammonite-like ‘ammonoids’.

Staircase of curiosities

The only ‘wrong note’ in my house, designed by a fine local architect, Graham Brooks, in 1969, was the staircase: despite being an open-tread design, the use of very dark-coloured timber for the treads made it slightly oppressive. I decided to replace it with a birch-ply design that also provides storage for my mineral collection. The risers contain, alternately, shallow and deep drawers, and within them, two layers of trays. Below were cupboards, the largest high enough to enter, and a series of shallow display spaces. The stratification was intended to feel ‘geological’ and, as expected, my cats immediately took to its ‘perching possibilities’, the smaller, Susie, adopting a layer halfway-up as a feeding place. (The blue wall shown on the main picture remains, for now, a Photoshop experiment rather than a painted reality.)

Front garden

I have wanted a pond since childhood, but never got around to making one. I decided to startle my neighbours by creating one in the front, sunnier garden. The Close itself slopes gently upwards, and the houses are set 900mm below the pavement. The change of level with the neighbour is taken up by the lower section of the folded-and-slotted ‘Steel Cliff’, each layer of which turns at right angles to form shallow terraces stepping up to the pavement.

A square patio (shown below) is framed by an existing brick wall and a timber clad cloakroom, creating a sunny, private encave.

The planting, by an RHS Gold Medal-winning friend, Vicki Wade, favours predominantly green early successional plants with occasional seasonal splashes of colour from annuals and bulbs, yellow flag iris and marsh marigolds. The pond now houses around fifty goldfish, which are a total delight.

The steel is rusting mild steel, not Corten which is three times as expensive and whose artifical longevity seems out of place in a garden for someone in his late-sixties!

The ceramic ‘stepping tiles’ are printed with microscopic images from a Moroccan agate that suggest growth in water.

A garden of this size – smaller than it appears in photographs – is expanded by framed details, like the pockets for plants created by the intersecting planes of the ‘Steel Cliff’.

The intricate paving of the patio is framed by a shallow steel grid. The dominant infill is pebbles graded from large to small towards the water, as on a beach. An image from a Hungarian agate forms a ‘coastal’ edge next to the pond, and appears randomly on tiles throughout the patio. The angled concrete elements follow the shape of the calcite rhomboids that are the source of many images used in Molly’s World. I had thought of printing some of these onto the concrete – another recent development – but decided this would be an image too far...

The glass disks are a private ‘conceit’. They follow the locations of highmagnitude stars overhead on my birthday, and in low winter sun animate the living room ceiling by reflecting ‘constellations’ of sunspots.

Glass volcano

To oxygenate the water I decided to ask Rodney Bender – who made the dial for the slate sundial described in another section – to create a shallow ‘volcanic cone’ from whose centre water could flow out and down, creating a gentle white noise and animating the water surface. He used recyled glass shards, layering them over a sand cone in a kiln and then fusing them at 800 deg.C. The coast-like irregularity of the glass perimeter is magnified by the resuting variability in the way the water enters the pond