Some time away is a mixed blessing: much needed and precious time with people I love and a chance to step back from the busy home/work life, have some breathing space; always entered into with the knowledge that there is so much to do back in the studio/office.
However, once I can relax into it of course there is so much rich experience to be had. Time in Somerset and Cumbria this Easter have given me all of these things. A visit to ‘Damson Country‘ and the Arts and Crafts House at Blackwell are particular highlights.
I’ve known about Blackwell House for years but hadn’t visited. It was the exhibition ‘Woven from Nature‘ that prompted this visit and, although I knew this was a special example of an Arts and Crafts House, I wasn’t quite prepared for how breathtaking it would be. You can’t photograph inside the house but you are encouraged to sit on the many cosy window seats and take your time. This was an absolutely necessary part of drinking the place and it’s stunning location in.
The exhibition is beautifully curated (on until 29th April so still over a week to see it). I’ve seen Jilly’s work before a number of times and seeing her colourful pieces in a new location felt like re-visiting old friends.
I was fascinated by the detail of Mary Butcher’s willow pieces; how a strip of willow can be so ribbon-like in the way it is wound and binds and catches the light as it does so:
What was really clear was the deep understanding of material in all four artists work. As Maggie Smith says:
“the themes of my work arise from the ebb and flow of natural cycles, the relationship between maker and materials and by a deep exploration of the materials themselves.”
Maggie‘s use of found objects, particularly beach-derived ones, had a special resonance for me and her use of seaweed as a basis for cording, twining, knitting, vessel-making was fascinating.
Once outside the house you discover Laura Ellen Bacon’s wierd installation, which emerges out of and oozes down the building and out into the landscape. If you stand in a particular place on the lawn the two pieces come together, appearing to flow from the roof, right over the wall to the lower terrace.
Whilst I was enjoying these forms in the spring sunshine (a gap between heavy April showers) I was quite shocked by some of the comments of other visitors; people who were so closed off to the possibilities, the craftsmanship and relevance of such art. It seems so right for work such as this to be installed at a building whose history is all about craftsmanship and design. You wonder why some people visit these places if they are going to dismiss something so quickly. It really made me think about how people might view my work, not that it is in any way approaching the league of what I saw here. How can you engage people in work that is not immediately ‘pretty’? Some people will ‘get’ it and some won’t, so is it worth trying? Even with sensitive and informative interpretation so many people seem to dismiss things without any thought. I’m afraid it gave me the blues!