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Artist responds to plan to remove Dylan Thomas-inspired sculpture from Swansea’s Castle Square

31 Jan 2022 4 minute read
The Leaf Boat, Castle Square, as it looks today (pic by Richard Youle)

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

An artist has responded to plans to move her Dylan Thomas-inspired sculpture from Swansea’s Castle Square.

Amber Hiscott, whose glass and steel structure has taken pride of place in the square, said she hopes a good home can be found for it when the square is redeveloped.

The Leaf Boat sculpture was inspired by lines of Dylan Thomas poetry and the way light reflects off Swansea Bay.

The Leaf Boat sculpture, as it looked at night (pic courtesy of Amber Hiscott)

Swansea Council expects to appoint a contractor this year to transform the square. Two cafe-restaurant pavilions with outdoor seating, and more trees and greenery, are proposed.

A new water jet with mini-fountains will replace the existing fountain, in which Ms Hiscott’s sculpture stands.

“It’s important that it finds a good home in Swansea,” she said. “I would like to encourage some public input about where it might go.”

She said she would like the Leaf Boat to be relocated to a natural pool or, if not moved to a watery venue, to be surrounded by wildflowers.

She added: “It’s important to give it a sense of being loved, which is true of everything.”

Ms Hiscott recalled winning a council competition in the 1990s to create a work of art for the new square, which was formerly Castle Gardens.

Her idea took root from the lines: “We sail a boat upon the path / Paddle with leaves / Down an ecstatic line of light” from Thomas’s poem Rain Cuts the Place We Tread. It is said to refer to childhood games in Cwmdonkin Park, where he grew up.

Ms Hiscott said she liked the idea of a child bending the twig part of a leaf into a mast and pushing it out on a pond, imagining it was travelling out to sea.

She also drew upon things she had missed when she left Swansea to live in Toronto, Canada, for a couple of years.

‘The way light bounces off it’

“I enjoyed it there, but I missed the bay in Swansea and the way light bounces off it,” she said.

Ms Hiscott said no one thought outdoor glass sculptures would work when she designed hers and began creating it in about 1995.

“It’s thick planks of glass, which I spread out at the studios I had in Gloucester Place,” she said. “I stained them with silver stain recipes developed in the 14th and 15th centuries, and the glass was then toughened by a company in England.”

The Leaf Boat sculpture when it was first installed at Castle Square, Swansea (pic courtesy of Amber Hiscott a

The stainless steel base, meanwhile, was forged by hand in Cumbria.

“The sculpture took me about a year to finish, but I wasn’t working on it every day,” said Ms Hiscott.

‘Like harp strings’

Once set in the fountain, she said water jets shot out “like harp strings”.

Ms Hiscott, a grandmother-of-one, trained at Swansea College of Art’s architectural glass department, which included experimental techniques.

She now lives in north Wales but has a studio in Sketty, Swansea, and recalled the Leaf Boat commission being about £30,000.

“Some people say, ‘Oh, works of art are a waste of public money’, but there was a groundswell of people who really liked it,” she said.

“But the big thing about public art is that you maintain it.”

A council spokesman said the new-look Castle Square could open late in 2023.

“Together with the sculptor, we’re discussing options for the possibility of relocating the Leaf Boat to an alternative Swansea setting,” he said.

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Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
2 years ago

Singleton Park lake but if I win Euromillions I want it.

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