Search This Blog


Send Davina your news and comments

29 September 2013

The Horn of Plenty

We didn't drive straight home to dream of Corvids...

Our energies restored after tea and cake at the Seven Sisters we headed to see Gillian and the Horn of Plenty at Little Yarford Farmhouse. Dilly Bradley, owner of the garden and also one of the key organisers when it came to finding suitable gardens when planning the Abundance Garden Trail, had organised a special preview of Gillian's Installation to raise money for the National Gardens Scheme.

Dilly explained that it had been quite a task, when alongside SAW's Carol Carey and Zoe Li, they had visited various NGS gardens in the early spring scouting possible locations. They had to choose venues that would still provide a 'hotrticultural display' in September, appealing to visitors whose main interest would be in viewing the garden as well as the Abundance Art. It will be interesting to know at the end of the exhibition what has been the main draw for visitors - art or garden, garden or art?

Gillian was pretty exhausted, it had been a tight deadline finishing the Horn of Plenty, working to any deadline is tiring mentally and physically and it takes awhile to be able to relax, step back and take stock that an all consuming project is finally complete. Gillian's progress was closely tied in with nature. The reeds that she used could not be harvested until the nesting season had finished, due to the unusually cold Spring this had been later than normal. Expecting to harvest them in mid august this transpired into late August early September...

To follow Gillian's project in more detail do visit her Abundance blog here.

On entering the garden the installation is not directly visible. When you do approach it, it can be seen from across one of the garden's three ponds, sitting on the Tump, you then need to venture through a 'woodland' track before you can view close to.

From a distance the scale can be quite misleading - once close up I loved the colour and contrast of texture.

Dilly had also found her artistic side; although to be a gardener surely this is already inbuilt. Around the garden there were small displays of abundance and harvest. Piles of apples, wonderful squashes and these blackberries delicately balanced amongst the rose hips - a small, secret detail that could so easily have been missed but a joy to discover.

Gillian welcomed guests and explained the thought process and construction of her Abundance installation and of course the question arose as to why is it empty? 

From the very beginning Gillian had planned not to fill the void, however when nearing completion she had been tempted to fill it but decided to stick to her original intentions. The black void symbolising how we live in such abundant times. We live in a society where we can eat Christmas dinner any day of the year, we have grown  blasé about seasonal fruit and vegetables when they are available all year from our supermarkets and sadly often neglect to harvest the apples that may grow in our own gardens...

The garden at Little Yarford Farmhouse is open this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 11am and 5pm and is SAW Venue 34. There is an admission fee of £4.00, children are free.

Now did we all listen and pay attention to the message from the horn?

25 September 2013

On The Road

Our SAW venue was closed on Sunday which gave us the perfect opportunity to go exploring, so with map and brochure in hand we headed Chard way...

The first exhibition we called into was that of the Blackdown Hills Artists and Makers, BHAMM, at Cotley Tithe Barn. 'Skills Unearthed' explores the crafts and industry of the Blackdown Hills, for some of the artists involved this marks the end of a two year project and they have drawn inspiration from themes as diverse as corn dolly making to the World War Two airfields nearby. 

This is an exhibition that requires the visitor to invest a little time in drawing out and understanding the history, background and research that has gone into the final work. I was particularly intrigued to visit having followed Gillian Widden's progress with her teasel sculpture and wished to see the finished structure in situ, you can read more about her project on an earlier post here

Alongside sculpture there is weaving, film making, photography and sound installations - a good mix of media. Ruth Bell's dance and film piece Sky Dancing explores the history and character of Dunkeswell, based on interviews of people who remember the dances at the airfields during WW2, the film brings their memories to life alongside conversations with current skydivers and pilots.

On Friday 4th October at 7pm there will be a dance performance by Ruth followed by Jive lessons so you too can have a go and take your own memories home of dancing in the Blackdowns.

Those that live and have lived in the area will no doubt resonate with the history that these projects celebrate and remember, and will hopefully leave with an enhanced outlook on their familiar local landscape. It is poignant that these memories have been captured before they truly disappear. The black and white portraits of the surviving American war veterans who were based on the airfields nearby are not sweetly nostalgic but quite disturbing and beguiling. It is a fitting reminder not to take people at face value - it is all too easy to dismiss a stranger's story filled past and realise that we must converse more to truly understand and appreciate the person within.

This is thought provoking exhibition by a professional group of artists and well worth a visit.

It was time to head on to our next port of call, Venue 67, Corvids at the Jackdaw Studio, so we followed red signs and yellow signs and were delighted to find a marvellous pub for Sunday lunch!

Tummies full, the flock of birds outside welcomed us to The Jackdaw Gallery, their poetic entry in the SAW brochure had stood out in the listings and I too am fascinated by these intelligent birds.

Cruciform against blue skies, soaring and tumbling, silent, raucous, always here or there, coming and going: crows, jackdaws, jays, magpies, rooks and ravens command attention and demand representation. As a group of five artists we celebrate the sound, sight, image, texture, and movement, shape, and character of these paradoxically ubiquitous but enigmatic birds. 

The gallery was small but perfectly formed and we spent a while appreciating the wok on display. The mix of ceramics, collage, painting and photography worked well with the theme gelling it all together. There was also a selection of Hilary Dixon's poetry and novels for sale and it had been her words published in the SAW guide that prompted our visit and we were pleased we had.

Unfortunately we were unable to make a larger purchase from The Jackdaw Gallery as there was no magic PDQ machine available. We didn't have enough cash between us and it is rare these days to carry a cheque book. So be prepared and do pack a cheque book so that you can make some pleasing impulse buys whilst on your art week travels as many of the venues will not have card payment facilities due to their temporary nature.

On the way home we saw more yellow signs tempting us down unknown lanes but they would have to wait for another day, it was time to head home and dream of Corvids.

En route this bus stop grabbed our attention and we just had to turn around, stop and take a picture, it's nothing to do with SAW 2013 that I know of, situated not far from the Holman Clavel can anyone explain it's origin? 

23 September 2013

The Abundant Feast

A celebration of all that is abundant in our county during the SAW Festival was celebrated on Friday at East Lambrook Manor Gardens, a celebration not only of all the art that is on show at present but the natural harvest of plentiful food currently ripe for the picking. Whilst seeking out those yellow signs you must surely have also noticed the rich crop of apples and the over sized chestnuts resembling woollen pompoms that line the Somerset lanes this September.

Now most private views offer their guest a drink with nibbles but this evening's offering was a true feast, an art performance for the taste buds. Artist Tasha Tucker - Vallecillo and professional chef Damon Palmer had collaborated to create a 'micro-tester' menu exploring a sustainable food supply. This meant that the majority of the menu was fabulously fresh, seasonal native produce - we were also informed that over 90% of the food was also prepared by hand without the use of fossil fuels.

 Artist Tasha Tucker- Vallecillo

On arrival at the gardens we were presented with the evening's menu which heralded a little foreboding with the words - 'You are likely to find some parts of this challenging, some informative and hopefully some enjoyable.'

The Menu

1.Plum and Apple Cider
Naturally fizzy and made with wild yeast

2. Wild Leaf, Mushroom & Seaweed Pocket
Made with Bladderwrack Seaweed from Dorset
wrapped in Tree Spinache 

3. Savoury Wild Seed Biscuit, Garlic Sauerkraut, no sugar
Plum Jam with Local Game
Made from Wild Plantain Seed and 
Elephant Organic Garlic

4. English Berry Apple Juice & Seabuckthorn
Health Tonic Fruit Cocktails

5. Fruit Leather & Raw Cheese Roulade
Fruit leather made with organic Raspberries &
Plums dried for 8 - 10 hours
Raw Cheese made from un-pasteurised milk.

The Plum and Apple Cider

 Meticulous preparations

The evening's organiser and Abundance X Curator  SAW's Zoe Li

The evening was very relaxed, the food was a wonderful topic of conversation as guests mingled and viewed the displays that Tasha had created to explain about the foraging, preserving and production processes involved in eating sustainably. To view some of Tasha's ideas and planning for the evening's feast do take a look at the SAW Abundance Blog.

Alongside enjoying the feast the evening was also a chance to view Abundance X Venue 61 and part of the Abundance Garden Trail. Organised by SAW's Zoe Li the exhibition is naturally all about gardens and features the following artists

Laura Pearcey
Chris Dunseath
Judy Willoughby
Emma Riley
Nadja McDevitt
Jan Ollis
Rachel Waldock
Sue Lowe
Margaret Wall
Linda Bristow

All the work is available to purchase and the commission from sales will be donated to the National Gardens Scheme.

 Judy Willoughby

Chris Dunseath

I realise there are many venues to visit during SAW, however this one may inspire you to harvest some of that fruit currently adorning the hedgerows and make some jam that can be enjoyed on a cold winter day - invigorating your culinary skills if pencil or paintbrush are not for you!

16 September 2013

Let the show begin!

With less than a week to go before SAW 2013 officially kicks off, some of the exhibitions have already opened and that means the private views have begun! Friday saw the National Trust at Barrington Court welcome visitors to the launch and preview of Make the Most - an ambitious exhibition curated by Deirfre Figueirdo, director of Craftspace. The exhibition brings together five British Contemporary makers who have each been paired with some of Somerset's finest suppliers and producers of willow, paper, wood, leather and stone. Also present to celebrate the opening were SAW patron Kevin McCloud and National Trust Director General Dame Helen Ghosh.

Despite the heavy rain the evening was a wonderful success. Barrington Court lends itself beautifully as a gallery venue - it's understated rooms are generally empty and the magnificent void houses art naturally. Laura Ellen Bacon's willow installation has melded with the soft stone work and mellow walls of the old kitchen and appears as if it has been an integral part of this Elizabethan building for many years. It certainly has the wow factor and nearly everyone I saw enter gasped with delight and then commented on the wonderful smell of the willow. 

In contrast to this large scale installation Laura Youngson Coll's allium flower is a delicate small scale masterpiece crafted from fine white leather and draws the viewer to look very closely. Also exhibiting are Maeve Clancy - paper artist, Thomas Appleton - stone mason and Gary Allson wood sculptor. I don't wish to give too much away as I feel if you are only able to visit one SAW venue this year then this has to be one!

Kevin McCloud gave an invigorating speech celebrating the creativity and palpable energy of the artists involved with Make the Most; recognising how SAW celebrates the wealth of makers and diversity of skill base within the region. He also helped dispel a common misconception that just because something is handcrafted in the UK by an artisan does not necessarily mean that this makes it more expensive. After being disillusioned by what was on offer from mainstream retailers when attempting to purchase a new dinner service for his home - Kevin decided to commission his own to be made by a UK ceramicist. And the price for each plate? Well exactly the same as that of one being mass produced abroad... I know which I would prefer in my home.

Maeve Clancy, SAW's Beccy Swaine, Kevin McCloud, SAW's Carol Carey, Mathew Burfield,
Dame Helen Ghosh, Laura Youngson Coll, SAW Chair Richard Pomeroy, Deirdre Figueiredo,
Laura Ellen Bacon, Gary Allson, Tim Turner and Thomas Appleton.
Image courtesy of Nisha Haq

Alongside Make the Most there is also a selection of work by six Somerset makers whose work is not always seen in the county; Treasures of Somerset celebrates the work from Mike Dodd, James Horrobin, Tom Kealy, Caroline Lytton, Patrick Reyntiens and Jacy Wall. The atmosphere in this light airy interior was very different to that of the rest of the house - it's high ceiling and light blue walls were refreshing after walking along the dark wooden corridors. In this room there was also a very informative selection of short films documenting the creative process behind the collaborations of Make the Most.

Members of Friends of Somerset Art Works will no doubt have been receiving numerous invites to private views and exhibitions that are opening for SAW 2013. If you too would like to be on the mailing list it is very easy to become a Friend of SAW and costs as little as £25 a year. For further information about the friends scheme simply click here.

On Friday 4th October there is to be a lunchtime talk with Deirfre Figueirdo, curator of Make the Most, in discussion with two of the artists commissioned and the suppliers with whom they collaborated.

Tickets are £5.00 and I would recommend booking as spaces are limited, contact the SAW office for further details 01458 253800 or email

I look forward to meeting you there!

5 September 2013


The team behind Contains Art would like to invite you to their first Somerset Art Weeks exhibition. It has been a roller coaster of a ride for all those involved and it would seem that they have barely stopped to draw breath since opening in July. Hopefully all the artists involved have now been able to swap decorating tools for the true tools of their artist practice and create new work for you all to see and buy.

Moving into a new landscape, and quite an iconic one at that, on the Watchet harbour side, has already begun to influence their work -  in fact the nautical connotations have prompted the group to adopt the Beaufort Scale as a theme for each artist to produce a special piece of work for SAW. It has been noted that Contains Art seems to produce it's own weather system as the containers protect them from the elements, however the courtyard seems to form a strange sort of vortex, does Contains Art have its own strange Beaufort Scale. The artists will attempt to record and interpret their readings!

The team of 7 exhibiting are
angela wood
emma bradshaw
alison jacobs
jenny baron
victoria ward
sue lowe
tria raffield

open everyday except mondays 11am - 6pm

On Thursday 26th September at 7pm there will be a talk about Contains Art and it's creation by the Contains Art team, presenting an account of the triumphs, trials and tribulations along the journey to create this new and novel art space.  So if you have been following this project with great interest or think this is an idea that could be mirrored where you live then this a must see event - the evening is free and all are welcome.

When Art Week is all over I know that the decorating tools will have to be picked up once more as a whole ship load of paint has kindly been donated by International the marine paint specialists. So once more they are looking for volunteers to help swell the ranks and get those containers looking ship shape in time to face the winter elements. Contact the Contains Art team if you would like to help out -