A summer of workshop changes: reconciling lettercutting and nomadic life

During 2005, I had many stone yards, starting the year at the Dencol yard in Orange, exposed to the wind and dust, but so convenient, doing large monolithic works, and with the yard's forklift at my disposal: but a business teaching truck drivers needed the space.

In Glebe, in inner city Sydney, I had been working in the overgrown garden of an abandoned convent. The sisters had lived there, in a Victorian mansion, until the early 1980s. Over the years since, squatters had occasionally moved in, and following their own dreams, moved out. The parish priest and his assistant, Father Ephraim Chifley, graciously let me use the yard for nearly two years. Here I was able to carve texts from St Francis (on fire and water) and Corinthians ('the greatest of these is love'). I will still have a show of work from this period, called 'From a convent garden', using fragments from sacred music, and carved trees.The great tall jacaranda overshadowing the garden proved a problem - the purple blossoms are deeply staining to both slate and sandstone, leaving almost black imprints. The other trees were wonderful! - oak and ivy, beeches suckering up, Kentia palms and banks of Monsteriosa deliciosa - damp, intense, subtropical Sydney, full of spiderwebs.

From November 2005 until April 2006, I had a splendid space in the old Eveleigh railway yards in Wilson Street, Newtown. This space was the old sleeper drying shed, a wood and iron cathedral, a superb workspace. It had been used for years by Billy Hughes, a railway man who slated and shingled roofs in Sydney. The shingles were split from she-oak (casuarina) but it had become increasingly difficult to find a source for the timber, a species which grows along watercourses. This workshop allowed me to complete the Mother Language Day memorial for the Ekushe Academy and a Rosetta Stone for Pratten Park in Ashfield.

Change and decay, in all around I see ...

The pressure of development constantly challenges artists' use of inner city spaces in Sydney. Blackwattle studios in Glebe, the Scots Church studios near Wynyard ... each one, replaced by luxury apartments. So it proved with the railway workshop. It was very hard to communicate with State Rail and we heard that the new Redfern Waterloo Authority, which has been given draconian powers by the NSW government, wanted vacant possession at the end of March.

This story has a happy ending.

In Rozelle, there was a ship repair and refit business from the early twentieth century, Storey & Keers. Part of their old yard sits on a bluff or sandstone from where stretches the blue water of While Bay, the silos of Glebe Island, and Blackwattle Bay beyond. (Before European settlement, Blackwattle Bay was a nursery ground for whales; a deep channel led to an inner basin, a channel which the adult whales could guard against sharks.)

The Storey & Keers yard will be redeveloped soon, but for now it is a great, sociable, airy site for insciptions. Fifity metres across Mansfield street is the Bald Rock Hotel, a Victorian sandstone hotel three stories tall, with the intimate qualities of some Irish bars, with their 'snugs'.

The owner of the site is a collector, already involved with the creation and commissioning of sculptural works which describe the site's history. Three months is a good reprieve, and the work goes on.