Kelsae - Update
On 31st December following fumigation of the crated and tarpaulin-wrapped Kelsae, the block was craned into an open top container and lifted to the deck of the Nicoline Maersk for onward shipping to Felixstowe. The stone left Chennai on Wednesday 1st January. By way of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean, Bay of Biscay, then through the English Channel and finally into the North Sea, Kelsae arrived in Felixstowe on 26th January. The container was then transferred to a local ship that sailed up the East Coast to dock in Grangemouth on Friday 31st January.
Following dock crane lift from the Nicoline Maersk and transfer to a temporary holding zone Kelsae underwent customs clearance and was de-vanned from its container. It was then forklifted to a 40-foot J.S. Hislop lorry and delivered to Kelso Square on Monday 17th February.
On site the stone’s protective wooden cradle was unbolted and removed before a 50 tonnes Rodger (Builders) Ltd crane lifted Kelsae to its pre-prepared sub-surface concrete pad within the Town Square. The delivery and installation process was efficiently undertaken and was an imposing event. Witnessed by a relatively small gathering of around 50 people, I was a little disappointed that more Kelso folk didn’t have fore knowledge of the stone’s arrival to see the delivery and craning operation.
Health and Safety concerns about controlling a potentially much larger group of people were the deciding factor in not pre-advertising the event. Recordings by local television and newspaper coverage incorporating comment from myself and from randomly selected locals were broadcast a few days later to a more extensive Borders audience.
During this period the lengthy process of visiting over 200 places to meet with people and collect place names for the stone took place. I handed out a signed letter describing the concept of Kelsae and invited people to provide a sample of their hand written place name.
Contributors wrote their place name in upper and lower case and added their contact details on a prepared form. With two format examples available I could select either the upper or lower case version when inscribing into the stone. Assisted by Kelso’s Stakeholder Group and others when collecting the place names many long hours were needed to collate the required data. Former provost Margaret Riddle advised which areas of the perimeter of Kelso should to be incorporated on the stone, and selected appropriate place name providers within these sectors. I’m grateful to all those who helped during this information gathering time.
There are many interesting characters in and around Kelso and meeting these folk to collect the required text was both inspirational and enjoyable. In a small handful of cases skepticism or gentle criticism about the Kelsae idea was encountered. After reading the concept letter and conversing to gain a more thorough understanding of the project initial concerns were invariably replaced with a genuine interest and enthusiastic involvement to help make the Kelsae Stane.
On 4th March I began working on the sculpture by inserting stone pegs into pre-existing drill holes. Already in the 33 tonnes basalt block when it was purchased from the Indian quarry a system of plugs and feathers would normally have been inserted into these holes as a means of splitting the large block into two more manageable proportions. During the carving process in India I removed most of the drill holes but chose to retain a short line as a feature for Kelsae.
I’ve pegged a few stone sculptures in the past. In this respect, the decision to retain and use them is partly a signature act. As well as referencing a street sett/cobble Kelsae is a fragment of the landscape. Therefore, in a landscape context where boundaries proliferate, for example, hedges, walls and fences etc., I think of the pegged line as a definition of a boundary. From a formal perspective, this element also creates another aspect of visual interest to the sculpture.
In late April the process of plotting compass points on Kelsae and devising a way of accurately locating the names in relation to each other on the stone’s flanks took place. Firstly, the centre point of Kelso Square (centre point of the stone) was established on an Ordinance Survey Map. From that coordinate, twelve radius circles were drawn through the intersection points of the light blue 1km grid on the map. The centres of all towns, villages and farm steadings encircling Kelso were marked. A sheet of tracing paper was placed on the map.
With a steel rule I drew lines traversing all the dot-marked places and projected these to the edge of the tracing paper. Traversed place names were written on each line at the edge of the paper. Cardinal compass points were established with white tape on the stone’s topmost plane and tape applied around its perimeter. The tracing paper drawing with its radiating lines was then affixed to synchronise with the compass points tape-marked on the top of the stone.
With a fine string the lines were projected to the edges of the top plane and these marked on the perimeter edging tape. The stones flanks were divided into 12 units to correspond with the 1km grid lines on the Ordinance Survey Map. With a level a precise vertical from the edging tape name was established, and by counting the 1km grid units from the centre point on the map (centre of Kelso/Kelsae), it was possible to accurately position where each place name should be in relation to each other on the stone’s flanks. Each place name was affixed to the stone’s flanks with strips of gaffer tape carrying the written place name. Now plotted, the process of replacing the taped name with everyone’s hand written version and the carving of these into the stone could begin.
A continuous stream of people arrived to write their place name directly onto Kelsae’s flanks throughout the month. The choice of people to write their place name on the Stane is egalitarian in as much as contributions come from those very young and just beginning to write, to someone almost 102 years old. They come from the ‘weel kent’ and ‘weel heeled’ to the fairly obscure and ordinary local inhabitants.
I chose the location point of the place names on the stone and in each case, whether upper or lower case was to be replicated. All town and village names are inscribed with capitals. Choosing to use upper or lowercase writing elsewhere is a visual and formal decision or simply because the version chosen is more characterful. In no instance is upper case used to emphasise importance of place. When people arrived to write their name directly onto the stone they initially did so with white engineering chalk. Easily rubbed out, this enabled the writer to space the letters and adjust the form as required. For me, appropriate letter size and spacing was important for the carving process. Once established, a permanent black marker was used to make a precisely drawn line to accurately inscribe to.
I’ve used four carving techniques for the inscriptions. One is carving by hand with a standard tungsten carbide letter-cutting chisel. Three other methods utilise a rotary die grinder and various industrial diamond bits and wheels. I decide which method to use according to a person’s writing or for visual and formal reasons to create an interestingly varied and layered drawn surface on the Kelsae Stane.
Some place-name contributors develop a tendency to over carefully write on the stone with this leading to the loss of aspects of character and individuality in the natural writing style. With paper copy versions of writing available to refer to its been possible to point out and rectify situations where too adverse change has taken place. Some preferred that I write their place name on the stone. I’ve done this by replicating their handwriting from the paper copy provided. In the case of Primary School children I’ve found the best outcome is for me to first copy their hand written word in dot form onto the stone and then for the child to complete the drawn word form by joining up the dots. I much enjoy the tendency of those beginning to write and also of some adults to mix upper and lowercase letter forms in their words. In some cases this may be a sign of early stages of learning, dyslexic tendencies or simply an endearing habit developed over time. An instance of an apparent misspelling of Cauldron Brae (Caldronbrae) on the Ordinance Survey Map was revealed and in the case of Primsidemill the OSM calls the farm Primsidehill. Some places are not recorded at all.
Participators have enthusiastically engaged with writing their place name on Kelsae and many express disappointment when it’s not possible to add their place name also. I include what it’s possible to do, but space and distance from Kelso are the limiting factors. Many folk regularly return with pride to see their incised name and to view the overall development of the stone. There is a great deal of interest and continual flow of people who come to see the Kelsae Stane. They avidly watch the technical process of incising and read the About The Kelsae Stane text board that I hang on the Heras fencing each day. It’s enjoyable to talk with people I know but have not had the opportunity to meet with since High School days almost 50 years ago. Also, its a pleasure conversing with the literally hundreds of interested and enquiring visitors to the town and those local Kelso folk who express genuine admiration for the idea of the Kelsae Stane. The engagement of overseas visitors is particularly noticeable. In such cases, undertaking an education system that values and encourages visual and creative thinking and engagement with art is clearly beneficial. On most days the volume of interested and inquisitive onlookers makes it necessary to have an assistant to field the many questions aired or to allow people access to take photographs and view all flanks of the stone.
I have derived a great deal of pleasure from the opportunity to create this work of art for Kelso. A point in time has been established with the making of this sculpture. I anticipate that in due course, like myself, all the contributors and their forebears and those countless hundreds of interested observers will derive much pride from being involved with and witnessing the period of creating the Kelsae Stane.
The Kelsae Stane will be unveiled at 3.00pm on Monday 14th July 2014
Professor Jake Harvey