In 2015, Literature Wales received a generous capital grant from Arts Council Wales to renovate Tŷ Newydd. As part of the work, new art installations were commissioned.
The first commision, a coffee table for the Glyn Jones Library, has been installed. Local artist Miriam Jones writes about the process of creating the table below. The blogpost was first published on Miriam’s own website: www.miriamjones.co.uk. Visit the website for more images of the process of making the table, and to find our more about Miriam’s work.
Recently I was selected to create a bespoke coffee table to be placed in Glyn Jones library at Tŷ Newydd, Llanystumdwy.
Tŷ Newydd is a literature Centre at Llanystumdwy. Tŷ Newydd was also home to David Lloyd George, prime minister during the First World War. It is believed that the library is where Lloyd George spent his final days sat in his chair overlooking Cardigan Bay.
The brief for this commission was to respond to Gillian Clarke’s poem about Tŷ Newydd and Guto Dafydd’s poem ‘Hiraeth am Dŷ Newydd’.
Both poems describe Tŷ Newydd as a special place for writers, a place that allows words to pour out onto a page, where stories are discovered within the silence of the white walls of the house. It’s a place where writers can identify with each other.
Couplets from both poems will be inserted into the surface of the coffee table to create the imagery of ‘flowing’ or journey, as Guto Dafydd’s poem speaks of traveling to Tŷ Newydd and Gillian Clarke talks about words flowing and stories being found and starting to sing. Therefore the words will be placed as though they are ‘flowing’ through the middle of the coffee table like a song.
The coffee table is made from Beech wood, as a lot of Beech trees are planted on the grounds of Tŷ Newydd at the order of Lloyd George when he worked with architect Sir Clough Williams Ellis to renovate the house.
The other reason the table is made from Beech is that it’s a rather light coloured wood, and shall symbolize Tŷ Newydd as a building, while the discs with couplets of the poems etched on the surface will be made from Sapele, a red wood to symbolize the heart and soul of Tŷ Newydd and the special atmosphere that flows within the walls of the building, and seeps into the soul of each person who visits the place.
The shape and form of the table is round to reflect the bay window it is situated in, and the teal thread at the base of the legs is to correspond with the distinct colours of the Clough Williams-Ellis Portmeirion blue windows at the house.
This has been the biggest commission I have done so far, and the most challenging and rewarding one too. It is a privilege to create something that will be part of this very special house’s history. Having worked at Lloyd George’s Museum over the Summer of 2014 , I learnt a lot about him, and came to admire him. It is overwhelming to know that something I have created will be situated in the same room where one of Britain’s greatest statesmen sat to admire the view through the window.
I hope the residents at Tŷ Newydd will enjoy the table as much as I enjoyed creating it. I have never worked on a product of such scale before and learnt a lot about the process of making. For some methods I was fortunate enough to have the help and assistance of my uncle who is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced carpenter, and had appropriate tools to cut and glue the top of the table. My little workshop in the garage wasn’t quite equipped enough to carry out the work from start to finish. I am so grateful that my uncle allowed me to work at his workshop for gluing the top of the table and legs together. As the table’s components came together the weight of the table also increased!
Here are a copy of the poems:
Tŷ Newydd – Gillian Clarke
Before we came, the house was a shell
with the sea-winds in it. Sometimes now,
gathered in silence here at the table
under the beams, where long ago
hens clucked, and clogs and buckets clattered,
your pen might suddenly touch a wire
in your mind, and an image fire
the dark, and nothing has ever mattered
as much as this connection between mind
and pen, lines unreeling from your human hand,
your story found, and told, and heard,
started from silence by a single word,
the truth, word-music, the real thing.
Let it sing.
Hiraeth am Dŷ Newydd – Guto Dafydd
Nos Fawrth yn gur pen o law,
weipars yn gwrthod ymlid y diflastod
a’r clociau ‘di troi’r flwyddyn yn wyll;
yr awen yn pydru fel talp o hydref,
dail tamp yn blocio ‘mhen
a realiti’n glynu’n bowdwr yn fy ngwddf
nes methu llyncu:
i’r Tŷ Newydd yn fy enaid
at y rhai sy’n meddwl fel fi,
i gladdu gwleddoedd yn sŵn
a cherdded drwy goed tywyll
dan awyr amhosib o sêr.
Pan fydd galar yn brifo’n slei
fel pinnau mewn panad
cawn gamu i’r golau yn y muriau gwyn,
yn llyfrgell ein profiad a’n dyheadau;
cadw gwylnos yng nghysgodion canhwyllau;
agor potel newydd toc ‘di tri
a thollti dealltwriaeth i wydrau’n gilydd;
meddyliau’n chware mig cyn cynganeddu.
Af yno yn fy enaid.