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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!

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