King of Dust
Adventures in Forgotten Sculpture
(Little Toller, 2019)
Written with the tactility and insight of a craftsman and the effortless erudition of a scholar, King of Dust is a passionate and warm meditation on time, on stone and its shaping, on the place of mystery in the everyday. It acknowledges and celebrates change and continuity, restoration and ruin, the poetics of failure and of perpetual transformation
Amy Sackville (Painter to the King, Orkney, The Still Point)
King of Dust is art history gone rogue: part exploration of the Romanesque sculpture of the southwest of England, part memoir about learning to become a cathedral stonemason. Along the way I consider the power of ineptness, sculpture as a calling and a curse, landscape and the presence of long gone voices in stone. I speak with the dead, some of them famous (such as the artist John Piper); some of them less known (such as the architect Edmund Sedding). There are bus journeys and crows and clifftops. I think about memory and art and rediscover my place in the world through the making and repairing of things.
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More lovely things that people have said about it:
King of Dust is both a literal journey around Romanesque carvings in South West England and an interior journey exploring how we mortals live beyond our years and heal ourselves through art. It is deeply knowledgeable—Woodcock knows his way around both stone carving technique and medieval sculpture—yet also richly sensitive to feeling and impression. I’m not ashamed to say that my copy—its arrestingly beautiful cover worn like ancient stone along the edges—is so thickly dog-eared and underlined that my annotations are the rule not the exception! I cannot recommend it too highly
Pamela Petro (The Long Field, The Slow Breath of Stone)
In Alex Woodcock's meditative journey around the ancient churches of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall something wonderful is achieved. The centuries in-between drift away as he evocatively connects with the carvers of the Romanesque sculpture that he has sought out. To this landscape, history and geology add to a tale well told
Andrew Ziminski (The Stonemason)
A story of deep knowledge, self-discovery, mark-making and deft articulation, King of Dust is a masonic portal through which Alex Woodcock explores humankind’s relationship with stone
Dan Richards (Outpost, Climbing Days)
Woodcock’s book follows a traditional path – the author embarking on a journey to cure their soul. What makes it so wonderful is the originality of the subject matter and the clarity and honesty with which he approaches it.
Mathew Clayton (Caught by the River)