Commissioned by Livingwell Ltd to celebrate the opening, by the Duchess of York, of the Milton Keynes Winter Gardens in 1989. Christine Tacq, printmaker, was invited to design a commemorative plaque for this event. More used to small etching plates, she called me in to help when told how big they wanted it to be and that it was to be wrapped around four walls of a pillar. With the help of Mark Adams, cabinet maker, we had just less than six weeks from Christmas 1988 to 30th January to design the panels, do all the drawing, the carving, painting and the installing. I recall we went home at about 4 am to get some sleep before the official opening at 11 am on the day.
Made from sycamore wood, the panels were carved following Christine's designs and drawing style. She wanted me to carve them as if they were prints taken from a wood-cut printing block. To achieve this, I had to indicate shade and shadow, not by carved modelling, but by incised lines, and to leave the top surfaces flat and untextured as if they were to be inked up for the printing and the lower surfaces cut away as if they were areas that would not take ink.
The Duchess, possibly expecting something small, engraved and brass, looked totally gobsmacked when she let the concealing curtain fall, and stared up at the eight foot high carved wood panels.
Photographed in February 2013 the panels are showing twenty four years worth of wear and tear. Looking a bit scuffed, with cracks in some of the panels where the gluing has failed, they nevertheless still look bright and colourful. The water colour remains unfaded and strong. The pillar stood once in the path way to an American-style restaurant called Huston's situated behind the pillar. This is gone now and replaced by the black wall and anonymous door : some of the imagery in the panels refers to the decor once inside the defunct restaurant.