Design - Water Sculpture

Much of the weathering and shaping of the limestone landscape in Ireland occurs through acid acting on carboniferous limestone. Rainwater is naturally very weakly acidic, and dissolves stone over time (a process called dissolution). This relentless process both shapes the landscape and also weathers much of our built environment. The Aillwee Caves and the Burren karst landscape are clear examples of this.

In line with my own practice of using both traditional and modern techniques, I consider acid to be one of the oldest, most 'traditional' stone sculpting tools.

A commission to create a stone water sculpture as part of a new courtyard setting by Formality Design recently gave me the opportunity to explore the use of acid further.

I chose stone from the 'O' bed of the Kilkenny Blue limestone quarry, which is is laden with large fossilised oyster shells. I cut the subtle form of the piece with a CNC machine and then dissolved the surface with acid. The embedded oyster shells do not dissolve in acid, and remained intact and in place while the rest of the surface receded around them.

In the finished water sculpture, the oyster shells, standing proud of the surface, flick the water into life as it flows down the surface, creating a magical shimmer.

At night, the sculpture is lit by submerged lights in the pond. As the surface is disturbed by the flowing water, the light passing through the pond shimmers like candlelight flicking around the courtyard.

The acid allowed the stone reveal its 350-million-year-old qualities, bringing the long-dead, long-buried oysters back into the sparkling, flowing water in which they once lived.


Water sculpture

Water sculpture