Saturday, 28 September 2013

Ancient Oaks and Art in Somerset

Every year, Somerset Art Weeks Festival straddles the end of September into October, and for local lovers of art it is fast becoming as intrinsic a part of autumn as Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night.  Organised by Somerset Art Works, an artist-led organisation with more than 400 members, the festival this year totals 109 exhibitions, events and artist-led projects at venues scattered over the county.  'Er-Over-The-Road (aka Cathy) wanted to go to North Wootton to view Tamsin Abbott's beautiful sgraffitoed glass panels, I still had a third of a box of Bristol Poetry Festival brochures to distribute, and Dru had cards to waft invitingly under the noses of arty shop owners, so we decided a jaunt was in order.  

After stopping off at Warm Glass at Wrington to stock up on some bullseye fusing glass for our own creative efforts, we duly headed for North Wootton, where we found blackberries, strawberries and walnuts in the village hall car park ... 

... and beauty inside also. 

Although familiar with them through photographs online, I was stunned by the delicacy of Tamsin's work, which really comes into its own when you see it with antural light streaming through the glass.  A badger sgraffitoes onto sunset coloured art glass was a particularly poignant exhibit, given the destruction currently being visited on this most noble and playful of creatures and the proximity of the venue to the cull zone.
                                                                                    Exhibited alongside Tamsin's panels were some very sympathetic paintings and prints and exquisitie jewellery, again all on a wildlife theme, by Hannah Willow, felt pictures by Vanda Athay, and some beautifully lit landscapes by Angie Rooke, as well as folk pottery by Sheena Spacey and paintings by Alison Jacobs.

I wished I had the money to buy just a small example of Tamsin's glasswork or a pair of Hannah's highly covetable earrings, but with something liquidy dripping from under my car, I had to desist. 

Then it was off to Glastonbury for lunch, with lovely misty views over to the Tor on the way.

After I'd distributed the last of the brochures and Dru persuaded one of the Glastonbury shops to take no less than four of her beautiful cards, we revisited two ancient and venerable friends, Gog and Magog, who are believed to be the last remnants of a Druidical avenue of oaks leading up to the Tor.  (Their peers were felled in 1906, and reputedly more than 2000 age rings were counted on the stumps.)

Gog has been - whisper it - dead for some time but we try not to mention that in front of him as I'm not sure he realises.

Magog is still going strong, however. 

Both trees are liberally adorned with votive offerings. I left a feather and some blackberries.

Then on to Hornblotton and St Peter's, its remarkable Grade 1-listed Arts and Crafts Church.  It was a return visit for me and Cathy, but new to Dru, who was mightily impressed.  And how could she not be? 

It was a little concerning to see that the interior of what Pevsner described as 'a really important little church' has suffered a fair bit since we saw it last, the sgraffito plasterwork being considerably more cracked than it was.  

Our final stop was Pilton Tithe Barn which was also part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival, hosting a variety of embroidered textiles, many on a mediaeval theme, by seven local stitchers. 

Embroidered mediaeval footwear by Thelma Masters 

It was hard to imagine a better setting for their exquisite, Klimtian works than the austere interior of this Grade 1-listed barn with its spectacular timber roof, restored several years ago, thanks to the intervention of Michael Eavis, following a disastrous fire in the 1960s. 

And home, my emptied carrier bag of poetry festival brochures now filled with inspiration.  

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