Visiting Ty Isaf

Ty Isaf front view

Ty Isaf is not merely a postal address and a property of moderate grandeur and repute; it is also a work in progress, a collaboration between Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Peter Wakelin, their team of highly skilled workmen, and the various wild and domesticated beings they share the property with, including a small colony of pipistrelle bats in the attic and a noisy rookery in the treetops adjacent to the house.

Ty Isaf rookery

I stayed there three of my six nights in Wales, and looking back through my photos of the trip, it’s obvious that Ty Isaf is the only Welsh place I got to know passably well. I’m somewhat ashamed of the photos I took elsewhere, which reveal a superficial engagement with a land and people typical of the tourist experience. The great Welsh poet (and believer in the via negativa) R. S. Thomas fulminated about the effect tourism can have on the betoured:

The serenity of their expression
revolts me, it is a pose
for strangers, a watercolor’s appeal
to the mass, instead of the poem’s
harsher conditions.
“Reservoirs”

The fact that I chose not to rush about and see still more things while I was in Wales, in favor of (for example) taking naps so I’d better be able to appreciate what I did see, now strikes me as a wise strategy. Almost all the photos in this post were taken after one such afternoon nap.

six views of Wales

Through the window in the second floor landing, it’s possible to see at least six different, iconic views of Wales: slate roof, garden, pasture, village, hill and pine.

buzzard in the hall

A stuffed buzzard graces the landing, a former inhabitant of Ty Isaf who came a cropper of a power line.

danger of death

The danger is clearly spelled out in two languages and a pictograph, but alas, nothing in the language of buzzards.

Ty Isaf studio door

Horses are a presence inside and out, from the artist’s attic studio to the paddock and beyond.

Basil

A Shetland pony named Basil has wild blue eyes and an ungovernable hunger for things like the rear-view mirrors on automobiles. His access to the pasture must be carefully regulated lest he grow obese.

Meri Wells sculpture at Ty Isaf

The pasture is guarded by an anthropomorphic horned figure, a gift from the sculptor Meri Wells.

Ty Isaf back door

The windows are aligned so that from the back of the house one can see clear through the front. But one may also be startled by the ghostly apparition of one’s own reflection emerging from the garden like some kind of Green Man figure.

Ty Isaf rear

Ty Isaf from behind is a complex marriage of angles, styles, and materials. Half hidden by the hill, the house seems nearly chthonic,

Ty Isaf side

in contrast to the impression given by the blank canvasses of its front and side walls — its public face.

Ty Isaf kitchen window

As one might expect, the interior spaces are inhabited by beautiful objects and works of art, but everywhere too the windows draw the visitor’s gaze to the world outside. I have no good photos of the extensive gardens, but suffice it to say that the boundary between art and nature at Ty Isaf is exceedingly permeable.

The artist and his dog at table

13 Comments


  1. These are terrific, Dave! Wow! BTW whose photo is the Rembrantesque one at the bottom with pup? Is that Clive?

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  2. It seems like the kind of property that can work inside an appreciative visitor for a long time.

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  3. Chthonic. Awesome. As are Clive and Jack. With extra aaaaaaw.

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  4. Interesting to see Ty isaf through other eyes. Love your conjuring of place Dave. And I’m envious that I didn’t think of the great combination of taxidermy and the power line warning!

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  5. Having read Marly’s notes on her visit to Ty isaf, I read with interest your comments. The photographs are wonderful, so green, and they give me a background on the birds I heard on the documentary Marly appended to her blog entry on the place.
    Altogether a window on another life.

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  6. Funny! Several of my pictures look precisely like yours–the kitchen window scene, the view out my bedroom windowpanes. Only you have a better camera; I’m so glad you managed to get the rook colonies.

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    1. I did, but alas without the rooks. I didn’t have the patience to sit down on the hillside and wait for them to return to the nests.

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      1. And there we all thought you had the patience of a stone when it came to nature photographs! I did get some, but the rooks were about as big as house flies… might have even deleted them.

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  7. these are wonderful Dave… especially the second.

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  8. I quietly visit Ty Isaf through the magic of the interwebs, and so enjoy Clive’s artistry and writings. This was another kind of window into his world. Beautiful pictures and descriptions, Dave.

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