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The Seed of Life

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Art in the Park celebrates all that is art each year in Leamington Spa’s historic and beautiful Jephson Gardens. 2018 sees its fifth year with a spectacular array of over 180 stalls, 17 musicians and bands, exciting workshops and food and refreshments.

To represent this year’s theme ‘trees,’ and the part they play in our local heritage, Jay Partridge of Partridge Woodcraft was commissioned to make a sculpture which would remain in the park as a legacy for people to enjoy for prosperity.

The brief from Art in the Park was for a large acorn ‘The Seed of Life’ and the brief from the park manager was for something interactive and robust enough to withstand being climbed on. The locally-sourced timber was large enough for Jay to carve two complementary pieces.


The timber for the acorn was too large to be turned on a lathe so Jay shaped it into a cylinder first with a chainsaw and hatchet, then fashioned it into an acorn using a variety of chisels and a mallet. The symmetry of the design helped the grain pull in the same direction which reduced splitting. A series of V-shapes were carved into the cap which gave it an organic feel and a different texture from the seed for people to interact with it by touch. The timber for this sculpture was naturally stained and eaten into by decay which gave it varying colours and textures.

For the second sculpture Jay researched and collected a variety of oak leaves and acorns and came up with a design that would wrap itself around the log following its natural contours. Jay left some of the pronounced chisel marks to accentuate the hand carving and part of the bark for added interest. After sanding off any rough edges, Jay coated both sculptures with a homemade shellac varnish to bring out the features and grain in the timber and help preserve them.

The Seed of Life Sculptures can be found alongside the pathway between the Avery Tea Rooms and the home of Leamington Studio Artists at East Lodge.

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

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In 1839 the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined the well-known phrase ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ in his play Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy spoken by the character Cardinal Richelieu:

‘Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanter’s wand – itself is nothing,
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! Take away the sword
States can be saved without it!’

There have been several earlier references in literature to the power of words over violence including William Shakespeare who wrote, ‘many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come hither,’ Hamlet, 1602.

Great men and women in history have picked up their pen to write about love, practicalities and how to change the world. Napoleon, 1795 wrote many love letters to Josephine, ‘I awake full of you. Your image and the intoxication of last night give my senses no rest. 

Charles Darwin wrote a list weighing up the pros and cons of whether to marry. Marry; Children (if it please God), constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, object to be beloved & played with, better than a dog anyhow. Home, & someone to take care of house. Charms of music & female chit-chat. These things good for one’s health, but terrible loss of time. My God, it is intolerable to think of spending one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. No, no won’t do. Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps, compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St…. Not Marry; Freedom to go where one liked, choice of Society & little of it. Conversation of clever men at clubs. Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle, to have the expense and anxiety of children – perhaps quarrelling. Loss of time. Cannot read in the evenings, fatness and idleness, anxiety and responsibility, less money for books…(But then it is very bad for one’s health to work too much) Perhaps my wife won’t like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent…’

Words written and spoken have inspired nations. In 1971, Gloria Steinem gave a speech at The National Women’s Political Caucus which challenged division by sex, race and class; This is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race, because they are easy, visible differences, have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups, and into the cheap labour on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen, or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.’

Although we no longer write using goose quills, Jay at Partridge Woodcraft turns beautiful ink pens from old trees that have fallen by the roadside or sustainable exotic woods like the Zebrano pen above which can be adapted to write using ink cartridges or as an environmentally friendly fountain pen.  Writing with one of these pens turns an everyday task into something special.


A Special Gift for Christmas

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It’s a most wonderful time of the year! To celebrate the season, Jay at Partridge Woodcraft has turned beautiful bespoke oak Christmas baubles for you to enjoy. Each decoration is unique, there are acorns to celebrate the mighty English oak which is known as the ‘Tree of Life’ as its roots go deep into the earth and its branches climb to the sky and it is steeped in folklore. Acorns (not our decorations!) are edible once the tannic acid is leached out of them and they can be ground for flour. Our oak bells represents the sound of Christmas; church bells, sleigh bells, ‘Jingle Bells’ and Christmas Bells a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On the first day of Christmas my truelove sent to me….a turned pear from Partridge Woodcraft and you can find these and many of our beautiful baubles inspired by vintage decorations and toys for sale at the home of Leamington Studio Artists at East Lodge Gallery in the Jephson Gardens in the heart of Leamington Spa.  Leamington Studio Artists is run by volunteers, ‘its aim is to foster and increase public interest, awareness and appreciation of the visual arts’ and you will receive a warm welcome as you wander through the gallery viewing the paintings, ceramics and mixed media work for sale and meet some of the resident artists.

Partridge Woodcraft wishes you a wonderful Christmas, good health and happiness for the coming year. You can see what’s being created in our workshop and where we are exhibiting or contact us for commissions via our website, Facebook or Twitter @PartridgeWoodCo. We are already looking forward to being a part of  Warwickshire Open Studios and Art the Park 2018.




oak Standard lamp uplighter

Light Up Your Life With An Uplighter

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Craftsman and woodturner Jay Partridge loves a technical challenge, which is exactly what he had with this bespoke commission piece.

Inspired by a visit to the National Trust’s Upton House, this 1920’s design is full of charm and style. Standing two metres tall it comprises of several elements. The stem was created by planing six triangular segments in oak to the precise angle to form a hexagon. Incorporated in this was a central canal to feed the vintage cable. To add further visual interest, an octagonal base with a 30° rise was created with a series of complex mitres. Connecting the hexagonal stem to the octagonal base posed a conundrum solved by turning an oak ring to encase the join of the stem to the base.

To create the beautiful lampshade/uplighter a segmented bowl was made. Firstly, a series of octagonal rings were adhered together in a brick-bond pattern to form a block and attached to the lathe. This was turned to form a double-ogee shape bowl and attached to the stem with a hidden fixing covered by a hand-turned oak ring. Once finely hand-sanded and oiled the finished piece was complimented by an antique brass bulb holder, vintage brown twisted cable and a brown 3-pin plug.

This beautiful 1920’s inspired uplighter has a contemporary feel and works well with any interior decoration. It gives the room a wonderful ambience to fit any mood with the option of modern or vintage Edison bulbs.

Back to the 1920s

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The National Trust took us back in time to the 1920s when it transformed Upton House to the days of the Dappers and Flappers. Lord Bearstead was the chairman of Shell Oil and master of the house.  He was a collector of art and a philanthropist and a Trustee of Tate Gallery and the National Gallery. Amongst his collection you can see paintings by Canaletto, Rembrandt and Stubbs. Lady Bearstead’s flare for design can be seen throughout the house in the soft furnishings and the Art Deco bathroom with its silver-leafed tiles.

After perfecting our mess-around, black bottom and shoe shine at the Charleston taster class we went exploring around the house. The architect Percy Morley Horder was employed to transform the country house in to a ‘made-to-measure’ home. Inspired by the fabric of the building and the pieces of art and everyday belongings therein, we set about creating some new pieces of our own.

Pictured above is our latest commission, the 1920s Art Deco style picture frame, handcrafted in oak. It has simple, clean lines and is fixed without the use of frame clips or nails which creates a two-sided frame. Either choose two pictures and turn the frame to display the one of choice or place one picture in it and place it where the light can illuminate it.

How was it done? The hidden joints at the base created two oval-mitred upright sides. This inner section holds two panes of glass to hold one picture or two back-to-back. A series of inner and outer grooves enable the outer frame to move seamlessly over the base holding the pictures. Finally it was finished off with a radius edge and oiled.