We created two Nature Tables, one dedicated to dawn and the other to dusk. The Tables represent the basic materials that Ruskin referenced throughout his life: clouds, rocks and trees. His many observational drawings are laced with visual reference, meaning and innuendo—both of his later chaotic state of mind, a kind of sublime fear. They seem to encompass life itself, and many wonderful examples are included in the exhibition in which this project sits.
This work articulates the idea of an education through making, reflecting the real ambition of the Arts and Crafts movement and Ruskin’s Lake District village version of that. The craft schools of the Coniston Institute aimed to create an education drawn from observation of nature and the requirements of making, technical, practical and emotional. The schools helped people to improve their own houses, generate an income and build a community. They remained amateur hobbies that sat alongside a working life.
The Dawn Nature Table contains three renderings of 'natural elements' drawn from our shared landscape around Ruskin’s Brantwood home above Coniston Water - a tree stump, a cloud and a rock. Although interpreted in the primitive material of clay, each has been acutely observed by the maker and translated as accurately as they were able.
The Dusk Nature Table contains the same three elements translated by industry into 'unnatural' material (cement / concrete) and made through mechanical process. They represent the world that Ruskin fought against: industrialised, mechanised, dehumanised, as he saw it.