An image of A-Fu and David Clarke setting up the exhibition in Taipei after there 5 day residency at NTCRI
An image of A-Fu and David Clarke starting a residency at NTCRI, a large cut stone between each others feet.

Over the years, I have had the incredible good fortune to be invited to deliver challenging and provocative workshops because of the work I make. I’ve received invitations from a range of institutions from Australia and New Zealand to China and Japan, the USA and many parts of Europe. These have allowed me to experience diverse cultures and activate and engage others through thoughtful, creative hands-on practice.

In 2019, I returned to the National Taiwan Craft Research Insitute’s Stone Department to offer another workshop. As part of this trip, I was also invited to spend an additional five days with A-Fu, a master of all things stone. Each day we set ourselves a different making challenge that included taking each other’s work and reusing it as material. We developed many pieces and showed them together in an exhibition in Taipei.




The luxury of five, uninterrupted days working together seemed like five minutes. So sharing space and time with another maker from such a different discipline was energising and inspiring.

The Stone Department itself was also a radically different working environment, with its electrical cutters and water working together. This took some time to get used to, as all I could see was the potential for electrocution.

Image of a small ceramic cup with a new mother of pearl lid made of 3 pieces
Image of a large stonecracked open and posished, put together with fragile stickers from the local post office in Nantou Taiwan
This piece took two hours to cut, two hours to polish and a whole two seconds to break!

As a silversmith, it was essential for me to find relevant ways to bring metal into the project. Here I repurposed spare coins that were left on the table. By simply drilling and sawing the coins, it was possible to enable the two materials to be brought together in different ways.


Image of a collection of stone and coins that link together in different formations by A-Fu and David Clarke at NTCRI Taiwan.
Image of a bird like sculpture by A-Fu at NTCRI
Image of burnt bird sculpture made by A-Fu. David Clarke reconfigures and keeps only the birds beak made from a brick. The rest is burnt.

During our time together, A-Fu presented me with a hand-carved bird-thing! What I loved and the only part that stayed unchanged was the beak that was made from brick.

The rest went up in flames …

Learning by quietly but rigorously observing how A-Fu works material, I had so many questions! Watching someone with his skill and years of experience handle stone was a privilege. It helped me see first hand the potential of the material when worked by a master.

Image of A-Fu working at a machine to grind stone. Stone residency NTCRI Taiwan.
A-Fu eating lunch, sitting at a table with many dishes of food for hot pot.

Of course, there had to be time away from the workshop, spent eating the best street food, relaxing and refuelling our batteries.

Image of a stone staute made by A-Fu and a pewter bunny by David Clarke. These become material for the other artist.
Image of statue and bunny after artists have altered each others work. A-Fu and David Clarke NTCRI Taiwan.

It was an extraordinary moment when we saw what we had achieved together.
The absolute willingness to exchange finished works, no rules applied and mutually happy to treat our work as raw material was liberating. We both realised our five days were more than complete. When thinking on, I see this was a unique opportunity to learn from such a brilliant and generous fellow human being.


A final memory from this adventure…
When you are in Asia, you can’t miss the enthusiasm for karaoke. I’m a terrible singer, but I totally love the idea of cracking into song at any opportunity. We were visiting a market at the weekend, and I found these two songbirds in the corner of the bar, crooning away. This was the best find of the day.
Image of A-fu and David Clarke working together both cutting stone on different machines. in the stone department NTCRI
Photo: W Yeh