During Artweeks the visiting public are asked to vote for their favourite venue. When the Saw team collated the results for 2013 there were three firm favourites - 'Pylle Painters Plus' Venue 107, 'Three P's and A Weave' Venue 69, who incidentally also won in 2012 and 'Shakespeare Glass and Gallery' Venue 48.
Kate and Will Shakespeare launched their new Langport Gallery during Artweek 2013, they registered the venue this time last year not knowing even if they would be successful in their bids to gain the new lease. The gamble obviously paid off and they welcomed 2,000 visitors through the doors during those two intense, mad weeks. I was unable to be amidst those many visitors and so last week I went to see the lay of the land or the height of the water as the gallery is literally on the banks of the River Parrett.
Will was not able to be there, he was off on an errand in Devon, but Kate made me very welcome explaining that Wednesday was a non glass blowing day. Coffee was made at their little cafe counter and a delicious selection of homemade cakes were delivered whilst I was there. On warmer days there is a fantastic balcony on which to sit, to soak up the sun and watch the river.
The proximity to the river fills the gallery with wonderful light reflected from the water. The space is light and airy and the windows ideal for displaying Will's famous glass baubles - a kaleidoscope of jewel colours caught the Spring sunshine.
Will's glass obviously dominates the work for sale but there is also a selection of work by other Somerset and Devon based artists including paintings, ceramics and jewellery. I hold a fascination for mosaic work and the toffee wrapper colours of Linda Green's work particularly caught my eye. Kate explained that seeking artists just from these areas had not been intentional, they may gradually represent artists from further afield and they are planning a programme of exhibitions throughout the year.
The gallery area and Will's workshop mirror one another and yet contrast one another also. The workshop being quite dark in comparison. Despite the glory holes not glowing on the day I visited, the furnaces ticked away adding an all embracing warmth to the room. Stacked on industrial metal shelves are Will's latest orders waiting to packed and parcelled off to the many shops and galleries that he stocks throughout the UK. Will has been a regular, familiar Somerset face at the many trade fairs I have visited over the years, building up his customer base and he has obviously grown out of the small workshop where he began in Taunton in the late 1980's, in fact the premises in Riverside place are now purely a gallery space.
It would seem Will has been drawn to riverside locations but how has he fared with the recent flooding on the Somerset Levels? The media would have us believe that the whole of Somerset has been flooded and yes the Parrett was precariously high outside the gallery windows and the fields beyond were flooded. Kate did explain that the media had been literally watching and waiting outside with floodlights one night expecting the river to burst it's banks - fortunately the gallery has remained safe and dry.
Welly boots are still a must though when visiting many parts of the Levels and some keen walkers came in for coffee conscious of their muddy boots, but here is a gallery, a working environment also, the concrete floors can take it and this is Somerset, we are used to mud.
Langport is a great destination if you fancy a drive out, the town itself seems to be quite a vibrant hub at the moment, with it's independent shops and cafes. The Creative Somerset office is located upstairs in the same building as Shakespeare Glass, and the gallery is to be the latest venue for the Creatives Clubs that are popping up in Somerset.
The Old Town Hall is of course home to the SAW office so I popped into to say hello and have a quick cup tea and managed to get talked into all kinds of projects for the forthcoming SAW festival. The energy in the office is quite infectious and I am sure when the plans come to fruition I shall keep you all posted.