Iain Cotton - Stories in Stone

Stone carver and sculptor, Iain Cotton, often uses foraged stones for his work. Using exquisitely crafted and minimalist interventions, he tells a story in the stone. The results are sensitive and beautiful, both to the eye and to the touch and I wanted to know more about Iain's sculptural process and the meanings within his work. This is what he said:


'Behind my studio is an ancient holloway track which climbs the hill to the neighbouring village.

It has been cut by generations of footsteps and the rain washing down towards Cam Brook. It is a

deep shaded path two meters below the adjacent fields.

I have foraged a piece of eroded White Lias stone in to which I have carved a ‘v’ shaped line representing the path and my walk up and down the hill.


Stones are the bones of the earth. The underlying geology is responsible for the landscape above - the lay of the land - and also the flora and fauna of a place and its vernacular architecture.


Stones foraged from the landscape are often my source material; fragments of the larger world.

My interventions are often simple. Towards minimalist. A gestural line painted with a chisel edged

brush or a ‘v’ cut line. The feeling is often calligraphic, evoking a mysterious expressive language

and making connections with my practice as a maker of inscriptions in stone.


I am a habitual collector of stones; field stones, river stones, pebbles from the beach. Souvenirs

from micro-adventures. Often wild swims in the Brecon Beacons or the Jurassic coast or wild

Cornish coves. They become talismans for an experience of connection and intimacy with the

natural world.

The Path to Kynance is about the spectacular beach on the wild Lizard peninsular in Cornwall. It is remote, romantic and astonishingly beautiful. The silvery path winds its way down the serpentine hill. Serpentine is the name of the iridescent stone responsible for the colour and character of the land here. The path carries the anticipation of a swim in the wild Atlantic ocean.


In my sculpture, the meandering path is gilded with palladium leaf. The precious metal offers a kind of hallowing, evoking what the Celtic saints call a Thin Place - where the veil between heaven and earth is particularly porous.


My work is concerned with the environment and how we might move towards better care and

stewardship of the natural world. My strategy is to focus on representing moments of connection

and intimacy. Roads, paths and journeys offer pilgrimage themes. I hope to kindle a greater

love for our wild and precious world.

Occasionally, my work is more provocative: Sixty Harvests is carved in a field stone foraged from the organic Radford Mill Farm, where I have my studio. It is honed smooth to a flesh like finish and incised with sixty lines - half ‘v’cuts like the furrows in a ploughed field. Each line represents a harvest. I was responding to a 2020 UN report on global soil health. Soils are a nonrenewable finite resource and are diminishing at an alarming rate. If we don’t radically change how we do agriculture we may only have sixty harvests remaining.


In a world of noise, my work offers a quiet and meditative presence. Stones contain deep time and the chatter of chisel marks witness the rhythm of carving and the focused attention of making in the moment.


I hope that an ephemeral experience of being human in the world is captured in the most concrete way possible - carved in stone.'


Throughout history, humans have been carving their most important stories, beliefs and journeys into stone. I find Iain's descriptions of his method and his relationship to the stone that he carves, fascinating and moving - both in his act as a living artist and in his sense of place in the history of this ancient craft.