Paralysed by a huge and complimentary commission recently I was advised by a wonderful friend to go and delve into something inspiring that wasn’t illustration. The illustration world can be a bit ‘cool’ sometimes and that’s the last thing you need when you’re already feeling daunted! I’ve always found the craft world an exciting place and there’s often lots of crossover with illustration, artists blurring the boundaries of what it means to be an illustrator, fine artist, or craftsperson. So I headed to the craft centre at Bovey Tracey on the edge of Dartmoor.
The craft centre at Bovey is housed in a beautiful old mill and is run by the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. It’s a really wonderful space, full of light. It’s also jam-packed with inspiring treasures. Just now the Devon Guild of Craftsmen are celebrating 60 years with an exhibition. I wanted to share the work of some of the craftspeople who jumped out at me.
The image above is by Lynn Bailey. The piece she had up in the exhibition was called Cirl Bunting – Back from the Brink. They both come from a series she produced called Landforms. She uses a combination of collagraph, dry point, chime colle and mono print to produce these really effective images. I especially love how she overlays meticulously rendered close-ups of flora and fauna. They spill out over the traditional white mount space in just the jumbly, wild way nature does in real time.
The image here is a tiny part of a larger piece called Fragments of Nature by Janine Partington. In it she arranges a selection of tiny enamelled plates showing natural shapes. I didn’t count them but there must have been at least fifty of these thumbnail-sized plates in the piece. Each plate requires three firings. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried enamelling but it’s really really hard. No, that’s not true, it’s not hard unless you want to produce anything of the quality Janine Partington does. Sadly, I think the vast majority of people would have sailed past this incredible piece of work blithely unaware of the technical prowess involved in producing it. Fragments of Nature comes from Janine’s Copper Series, of which there are two hundred and eighty five plates. You can see them all on her website: www.janinepartington.co.uk.
Talking of technical prowess, let’s talk about Amanda Richardson. Amanda is a textile artist and the piece pictured here is hers. An image on the internet really does no justice to her work. Flattened into pixels it looks like a nice oil painting. It’s not. It’s composed of hundreds and hundreds of tiny pieces of hand-dyed silk, satin, and velvet. Instinctively you want to reach out and stroke it. It shimmers and shifts in the light, like a living garden. If you head to her website she has a series of photographs showing how she builds up one of her pieces. Mind-blowing!
I suppose, given that Lynn, Janine, and Amanda are all women, it may well be high time the Devon Guild of Craftsmen changed it’s name – just a suggestion! The exhibition is on until 6th September so if you happen to be down this way, take a look.