Fabulous Folk from The Contemporary Craft Festival, Bovey Tracey

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I only had a few hours last Saturday to visit the Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey, but what a fantastic few hours it was. The work and people that I met there exceeded my expectations; there was such originality, commitment and true skill on every corner.

Visiting last weekend really confirmed to me my love for work made by hand, and the magic invisibly imbued into something that has taken time and physical effort to create. A spoon that has taken five or more hours to carve from a single piece of wood, a pot formed from clay collected on the hillsides, caressed and moved into achingly beautiful shapes, a lampshade decorated with wrap after wrap of a single piece of thread, tucked so gently into the other side. These skills and actions have value and meaning and feeling, and they must be maintained and supported. This is so important.

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JULIA JOWETT

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Julia was one of the first people that I met on Saturday, in the “one year on” tent, showcasing artists and craftspeople who were one year into their new businesses.

Julia works dense hand embroidery into metal gauzes and figuratively manipulated wire lines, before combining them with drawing and screen printing onto fabric and paper. This combination of sculpture and drawn elements, sometimes also incorporating words and phrases, made for a really engaging series of work that I was really drawn into. Each one feels a little like a keepsake box, a collection of memories or stories.

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You can make contact with Julia on her blog, here.

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ADAM BUICK

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 I felt an instant connection to Adam’s work, as I wandered into his small space in the corner of the tent. Something wonderfully quiet, natural and peaceful sang out into the surrounding crowds.

Looking on his work, I felt a strong sense of the sea and the landscape, something very close to nature. I later learned that Adam lives and works by the coast in West Wales.

Once home, I was fascinated to read more about his work, and took a look at his website and blog. I spent a good while reading there, and found him to be not only an intriguing artist but also an engaging writer and thinker.

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Adam has been recently involved in a self directed project entitled “Earth to Earth” . He placed an unfired clay jar onto a coastal hill at Carn Treliwyd, Pembrokeshire, Wales, and recorded its gradual weathering away to the environment as a series of photographs, one taken every 33 seconds. On his blog he makes comparisons to his process of firing in the studio, to the effects of the weather on his work. As he says “I am still committing the jar to the elements, air and water instead of fire and there is still a transformation.”

The end result is a moving and dreamlike time lapse film, showing not only the gradual disintegration of the jar, but the changing wild landscape, sea, movement of animals, and the sky and stars. It spoke to me of many things, of resilience, of fragility, and the power of the natural world.

The film was shown at an outdoor event in the centre of Buenos Aires on the 17th of May. You can watch a small portion of the film here.

I really encourage you to read more about this project, it is so fascinating and uplifting, and to look more closely at Adam’s beautiful work on his site.

It made complete sense as to why his work has such a quality, why it holds something of that passionate connection to nature, even in that crowded, noisy space.

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JANE BLEASE

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A warm and Autumnal hued space welcomed me in to Jane’s beautifully arranged collection of handmade lampshades, framed pictures, bookmarks and jewellery.

I was really taken by the absolute precision and care it must take to wrap each single piece of thread round and through the wood burned holes that decorate each handcrafted piece that she works on. The shades give a beautifully warm light, and are totally unique.

Jane is based in her studio/shop at The Manchester Craft and Design Centre. You can also see more and buy her work from her website here.

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CLAIRE ARMITAGE

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Claire’s fantastic energy buzzed all about her space as I stepped in to admire her collection of handmade silk scarves. She was dressed beautifully in her own handmade dress from her own line. Once I looked more closely at the designs on each scarf, I was struck by their intricacy and individuality. Each piece of work is finished with delicately layered edgings and hand-embroidered details, and each one seems to tell some story, of the sea, the landscape and environment. They are truly original and stunningly beautiful – you really have to see them in real life to truly appreciate them.

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Claire designs and hand prints her scarves and dresses, plus undertakes work as a costume designer and illustrator from her birthplace in Cornwall. You can visit her site here.

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NIC WEBB

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Nic was the last person that I met as I made my way out from the crowds. His calm manner and friendliness drew me in to his space, filled with carefully arranged displays of hand carved, traditionally made spoons, ladles and bowls. I really enjoyed the feeling of slow moving time and focus that seemed to fall from the displays and his way of working, there was a quiet honour to each piece of work.

I love that each spoon, each bowl that he creates is slightly different, and is worked with the wood not against it, enhancing each grain and knot and forming it into something original and full of spirit and life.

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You can visit Nic’s site here.

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I hope that I have shared with you a little of the warmth and originality that I found at Bovey Tracey. If you are near at the next event I really encourage you to visit. You can read more about the festival at their website here.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to let me into their space and take photographs.

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Alison Britton

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Alison Britton, ‘Influx’ (2012)

photo © Philip Sayer courtesy of Marsden Woo Gallery

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Alison Britton, ‘Tall Scrawl’ (2009) ceramic

photo © Philip Sayer courtesy of Marsden Woo Gallery

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Alison Britton, ‘Cave’ (2012)

photo © Philip Sayer courtesy of Marsden Woo Gallery

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Alison Britton, ‘Runnell’ (2012)

photo © Philip Sayer courtesy of Marsden Woo Gallery

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Alison Britton, ‘Standing and Running’, installation shot 2012

© Philip Sayer courtesy of Marsden Woo Gallery

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Alison Britton is part of the generation of innovative British ceramicists that emerged during the 1970s, whose work laid the foundations for what became known as ‘The New Ceramics’. She studied at the Central School of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, and is highly regarded as a writer, curator and lecturer, as well as a ceramicist. Her work has been exhibited internationally, and can be seen in major public and private collections worldwide,including the V&A, London, Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. She was awarded an OBE in 1990 for her services to the applied arts, and is a senior tutor at the RCA.

Confidently standing as part sculpture, part painting, part domestic vessel, this work states its presence in a firm tone in Alison’s most recent show, “Standing and Running”, at The Marsden Woo Gallery in London.

Alison works in an interesting way, by rolling out the clay and working on it as if it were a painting, applying various slip colours and designs, before using that design to suggest a final form. To me this helps to lend an unrestrained energy  – they are freed from the wheel. There’s an almost jazz-like sense of an improvised, “lets see what happens” spirit, within the framework of something structured and considered, and slightly hard to get inside of.

On reading some of the many words that have been written about Alison Britton’s work, the constantly returning theme is the vain attempt to be able to classify it. This is perhaps the mark of a true original, authoritatively embracing both art and craft, function and form, the abstract and the actual.

The Frank Lloyd Gallery leaves its final words on Alison’s work to Quentin Blake, who says, “the work may begin as a jug, but it becomes a free-standing story, a poem, a situation. Put in the position of reader, the viewer comes back again and again, each time finding a new word, line, or verse to fall in love with.”

Perfect.

There are some interesting discussions on a piece of Alison’s work in the V&A video archives, here

Find out about new exhibitions and other artists represented at the Marsden Woo Gallery site here.

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Maps of the Human Heart

I was led to these illustrations when I was reading Donna Seger’s wonderful blog Streets of Salem. I think they’re fascinating.

Supposedly created by “A Lady”, and published in 1830 by the Kellogg Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut, they are beautifully drawn, and very much reflect the times in terms of the social perceptions of men and women.

Apparently, the idealised view of “True Womanhood” was very much promoted to middle-class women at the time. Historian Barbara Welter wrote, “The attributes of True Womanhood, by which a woman judged herself and was judged by her husband, her neighbors, and her society, could be divided into four cardinal virtues—piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. … Without them … all was ashes. With them she was promised happiness and power.” 1

I’m intrigued by the outer edges – the “Country of Eligibleness”, and opposite, “The Land of Oblivion”…! (Click to enlarge)

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The man’s heart here seems mainly dominated by money, power and “The Dread of Matrimony”

You can see these, and other wonderful lithographs, at the online gallery of the Connecticut Historical Society and Museum.

Footnotes

1. Welter, Barbara. “The Cult of True Womanhood.” American Quarterly 18:2, Part I (Summer 1966), pp. 151-174.

Smooth..soft curves to caress..

Contact Elin direct for commissions, via her site.

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RIchard is represented by by the Medici Gallery in Cork Street, London and also the McGill Duncan Gallery in Castle Douglas.

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Visit Sylphs site for more information about her work, and a list of stockists.

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I hope that you enjoyed this moment of quiet gazing!

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Cut Art

There are some amazing papercut artists around at the moment… here are some of my favourites…

Papercut by Hina Aoyama

I have only just discovered Hina Aoyama, a Japanese artist living in France, and am just amazed at her work. The cuts are so fine and delicate, all cut with a tiny pair of scissors. They exude a certain stillness around them when you look at them – a similar example of what I was talking about last week, how somehow, the energy present in the making of something seems to be retained in the thing itself once made. Here are a couple more..

"La Femme" Hina Aoyama

"Binpapi" by Hina Aoyama

"Avion" by Hina Aoyama

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Another artist that I particularly admire is Beatrice Coron. Beatrice is a French artist, living and working in New York. Much of her work is made from Tyvek, a synthetic material, but she also makes site specific work in other materials such as aluminium. Her work is very different, almost storytelling, picture book like. Dive in here.

Beatrice Coron

Dont you just love these little scenes? They are so lively and energetic.

Beatrice Coron

Beatrice was recently involved in an interesting project, to create a series of decorative arts in metal, rubber, acrylic, papercutting and paints commissioned by Blue Sea Development Company for “The Melody”, a cooperative development of apartments in the South Bronx. The works aim to celebrate the areas musical legacy.

The Melody, stairs decoration, Beatrice Coron

The Melody, 2011, metal decorative works by Beatrice Coron, 853 Macy Place, The Bronx, commissioned by Blue Sea Development.

"The Melody" 2011, metal work for fences and balconies, Beatrice Coron

Rubber Mats, "The Melody" Beatrice Coron

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My brother and his wife are due to have their second baby this month, and so I thought I might use these inspirations and try to make a gift for them. When their first little girl was born, I made a papercut for her, and so I thought I’d do the same again.

I made a papercut for my partners birthday last year, using the lyrics from the song “Forever Young”, which I think was originally written by Bob Dylan. I love the line “May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung” and thought the words were a nice wish for a newborn baby..anyway so here is my effort – Please remember that I am just a beginner at this, and will never be as good as these people above…but I love experimenting! I’ve taken some photos along the way so you can see the stages. (You can see the pictures more clearly if you  click on them)

Stage one - drawing the template in reverse

Stage 2 - beginning to cut - I did the small feather details first before cutting out the bird, to keep the paper stable.

Stage 3 - getting there (shown here right way round) - the tension mounts, will I ruin it?!

The final picture!

Done! I may actually add her name and date of birth on the bottom when she is born..I hope that she will like it and be able to keep it throughout her life..

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