The Barony Art Centre, West Kilbride KA23 9AR, Scotland
This has just finished but you can see lots of images here, on the Gallery web site and others. I enjoyed being part of it very much and had a delightful week up there with a variety of events. Very interesting and varied, and very good company.
The title came from a poem of Denise Levertov’s that Joe Hogan knew, ‘For Instance’, which set the theme for the works. Joe is very exercised about climate change and why we cannot all act quickly enough and I am very exercised about habitat destruction and species decline, and all of us are environmentally aware. We were seven, Ewen Balfour, Lise Bech, Mary Butcher, Carlos Fontales, Joe Hogan, Barbara Ridland, Lois Walpole, all working with out own ideas, materials and techniques.
‘Willow Scribble’ clouds
Bowls of vellum
Seven nets, all strung to willow poles and off different threads, mostly natural, which roll up and go into a tube, so practical too!
These were made with the decline in songbird populations in Europe in mind. It is drastic, and a lot of damage is done when catching these birds in nets on their migration routes across Europe, for use as luxury food, Lark pate and such.
Nets are a necessity for food in many cultures, for bird ringing for research, against animal attack. They are also used for many other non-essential purposes and so the nets may be scarlet and bloodied.
I also made one of my now familiar ‘Sea Creatures’ as I always enjoy doing them, enjoy playing with the lines and stretching the willow, usually dry, as far as I dare. They take a long time, all that binding but the moiré effects as you move passed are intriguing to me. I called it ‘Now known only as a fossil.
I was thinking about the grandson of a long-term friend who lives here in Kent by the sea and who, aged 5, is not obsessed with dinosaurs but with sea creatures. When I first came here and our children were small we found all sorts of things along the tide line. Once there was an influx of Sea Gooseberries, jelly balls with waves of hair-like cilia rippling along, so small so delicate, hard to spot on the beach. And I doubt if we would see such a thing now as many of our beaches are polluted and do not pass the present standard. After I had finished this piece for the exhibition I turned to the newspaper, by chance to read of the drastic decline of the moose population in North America. A parent expressed her concern that her child, with an obsessive desire to see one, might never have that opportunity when, in her own childhood, they had been common.
Seven Plant Strings
Olive Leaves, olive stems, acorns, oak galls, Acer fruits, Cypress cones, pine needles, linen threads.
I have been making these for a year or two, wherever I have been, but they have been private things, somehow, made to celebrate what I have seen and enjoyed and places I have been. All come from fallen fruits and seeds, stems that have been pruned or are to be used in some way, like vine ties. It takes a while to choose the threads, the spacings and to string them. They were beautifully hung in the Gallery. Maggie Broadley, the Curator, had spent thoughtful time on them, with spacing depending on the width of the shadows they each cast. I was delighted and specially by Joe’s comment which I think I am right in saying was ‘Blooming marvelous!’ They will be trademark pieces for me and I will continue with them wherever I am. They reflect all that childhood rambling I did as a child, out with bike and apple and plant spotting. I was mad on wildflowers at that time. Still am, really, but have forgotten a lot!
We are lucky to have this and I like the way it is arranged, each of us with 4 pages and 4 images, one of us working, one of our materials, one of a piece of work and the last a wild place that is important to us, an good idea. That last was hard, as we had very short notice and my local wild places, in Blean Woods, parts of which are ancient woodland and familiar from many walks but I didn’t have images or time to get them. I used my desktop image of the sand causeway over to St Ninian’s Isle in Shetland, where I spent a day and didn’t see another sole. Rare. It is covered with footpaths so not wild to Shetlanders but wild to me. We each wrote a piece, too.
There are essays from Maggie Broadley, about the origin of the Gallery and CraftownScotland, a great innovation for the town as well as thoughtful comments on the exhibition. Barbara Ridland, from Shetland and who got us all together in the first place for a few fascinating days a couple of years ago, has written about the way the show was set up and our email conversations about our ideas.
I haven’t talked about everyone else’s’ work but it is varied and intriguing and beautiful, from Barbara’s fine, fine ‘Natural Flags’, of grasses and stems, plus some green wire thread I gave her at our first meeting 2 years ago (a nice echo), to Joe’s robust yet delicately constructed combinations of willow and wood, to Lise’s celebrations of willow, the garland, the colours of her homegrown material, and those lovely developments of the Catalan basket technique. Lois has gathered all sorts of waste plastics and ropes round the coast of Yell, the Shetland Isle where she is at home, brilliant colours with coiled edges and arranged as a careful installation. Carlos had developed the esparto technique of a spiral plait, and combined it with Rumex stems, rich burgundy color, and Ewen has extended his work of 2 years ago when he made a ceremonial ‘hat’ using his extensive knowledge of Shetland materials, rushes and seaweeds as there are no trees.
I don’t know if there are catalogues left, but they can’t be sold because of copyright issues connected with the poem. If you sent a good donation and covered postage (check with the web site first), say £5 plus, you might be lucky.
Next Year at The Barony
The Scottish Basketmakers Circle will be having an exhibition there so that is worth factoring in to any travel to Scotland you may plan.
Selection is in the New Year.
Look at www.scottishbasketmakerscircle.org for information