Small commissions by three local artists have contributed to the commissions for the church. These include a candle stand by Christian Funnell, a birdbath by local ceramicist Sarah Walton and a sculpture “Family” by Christian Furner.
Candle Stand by Christian Funnell
The artist, Christian Funnell, was asked to base the candle stand design on a typical hawthorn or blackthorn bush found on the Downs and shaped by the prevailing southwest wind off the sea. It can also be related to a number of biblical texts, the most obvious being the ‘burning bush’ through which Moses encounters the Divine. It also evokes the ‘the crown of thorns’ which was plaited and placed in mockery on Jesus’ head at his crucifixion. His suffering stands for the darkness and suffering of human experience illuminated by the divine Spirit.
Genesis 22:9-14 – God provides a ram caught in a thicket for Abraham to sacrifice in place on his son.
Matthew 27:27-31 – a crown of thorns is placed on Jesus’ head.
John 3:7-8 – Jesus describes the Spirit as being like the wind, only its effects are seen.
The artist, Christian Funnell writes: “Much of my work has expressed a connection to the wind – a force that connects us to other lands but also gives this piece of Sussex a sense of place; with its prevailing south–westerlies and occasional scouring northeast blows.”
“Peter Blees’ idea of a local version of a burning bush seemed to me perfect for the location of Berwick Church.”
“The sacred flames contributed by the public will never turn the steel blackthorn into ash. The idea of a prevailing wind shaping the form of a living thing echoes the way we are formed by our particular orientation to the flow of life’s events.”
“I particularly enjoy making things that come to life through their interaction with people. The Shoal – a seating installation on the terminal groyne in Seaford grew to the length of 39 meters through people contributing their personal messages both happy and sad. The creation of a shared consciousness that is associated with a place and object can have a unifying influence on fragmented communities.”
Birdbath by Sarah Walton
Sarah Walton is an artist inspired by the form of the landscape. She works in ceramic, oak, lead and cast iron. Her studio is near Alciston, Lewes, East Sussex. Her ceramics are represented in fifteen UK museum collections and numerous private ones. Her work can be viewed at her studio.
The birdbaths comprise a frost-proof ceramic form on a green oak base. The design is such that its pool of water, should it freeze in winter, has room to expand both upwards and outwards. Though of different materials, base and birdbath have been worked to finally be one form. They often look their best in a dormant winter garden covered in frost when they become vehicles for light and shadow. Of these pieces, Sarah says, "From an early age I walked, drew and painted landscapes, those of the South Downs and Lake District making a special impact. I saw their thinness of soil as a beauty of spareness and it is that quality I've tried to bring to these pieces. I also saw tarns encircled by hills, in low light conditions, glistening silver".
This birdbath was sited in the churchyard to promote her work and was later purchased by a parishioner so that it could remain in place and became a memorial.
‘The Family’ by Christopher Furner
I am a mainly self-taught stone and timber sculptor but have been strongly influenced by inspirational teachers from part-time short courses, namely Helen Collis, Sylvia MacRae-Brown, working figuratively in clay, and Harvey Hood.
The process of design and drawing has always intrigued me, and I have now taken it a stage further, using my skills in the 3D form of architecture in a softer, humanistic, figurative way. My interest in working with my hand without machinery goes back to my childhood, and I still delight in the physical, if slow, process of hand carving and finishing, despite my children teasingly calling me a Luddite.
I wanted to change from the hard, angular practical discipline of architecture to the soft, rounded, emotional indiscipline of the human form, mixed with the influence of the rolling curving shapes of the Downs and sea that I have lived with all my life.
My intention is to show in visual form the expression of emotions and feelings as actions, shapes and movements caught in a moment. I believe it is unimportant to be anatomically correct in details and imperfections in the carved material may be left, especially in stone where unexpected hidden fossils and soft pockets are exposed. I also want to emphasise the fact that nobody is perfect, and everyone is capable of feeling good about themselves, sexual, loving and compassionate. In my pieces, I want to show the soft, slow, warm, gentle, loving, and passionate side of human nature in this more and more aggressive, fast, and often brutal world we live in.