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31 January 2013

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

'Let's meet at the Brewhouse, it will be good to put faces to names and reassure one another the SAW Blog is in good hands.'

I arrived first, bought a coffee and found  a seat. I would be easy to spot on this quiet Monday morning, the cafe was empty, but how would I recognise Natalie my predecessor? Any worries soon dissipated, as instead of the obligatory red carnation, in walked a young woman carrying a large blue metal tool box! Regular readers of the SAW Blog will be well aware that Natalie's inspiration and muses are often to be found in the tool shed. 

It was for me to introduce myself and explain why the team at SAW felt that I could be entrusted with the blog that she had created and nurtured these past three years. 

Natalie Parsley and Davina Jelley SAW Bloggers
Art and education are what originally drew me to Somerset from my childhood home in Kent. Upon graduating from my degree in textile design I was sad to be leaving this wild, beautiful and green county. A job opportunity within the art department at Somerset College of Arts and Technology enabled me to return within the year and during the twenty years that have since past I have been fortunate to make a career within the arts and creative industries. For fifteen of those years I have successfully run two craft galleries, the first in Dunster and currently Number Seven in Dulverton. Both were established and built upon the success of supporting, promoting and selling the work of individual artists. I have commissioned, bought, exhibited and sold work by many leading UK designer makers, exposing their work to a wider and appreciative audience in West Somerset. This has provided me with a sound understanding and sympathetic approach when dealing with professionals who have a wide skill base and  an array of technical processes - from ceramicists to jewellers, print makers to sculptors. 

SAW felt that this background lent itself particularly well with it's newly planned two year project. An exciting programme of events is promised, beginning this summer with an exhibition at Barrington Court entitled 'Make the Most' and will focus on the relationship between artisans and their translation of locally sourced materials. An ideology, obviously very close to my heart and that of our SAW patron Kevin McCloud.

I have also been a regular participant of Somerset Art Works and many of you may recall the brightly wrapped tree, land art installations that featured for several years in Dulverton, Dunster and North Hill, plus the subsequent photography exhibitions. Others of you will be familiar with my partner, Christopher Jelley's current Storywalks. 

As the new resident blogger I would like to thank the SAW team for asking me to be more closely involved with such a vibrant community. My aim is to make the blog a positive hub where SAW members can connect, share ideas and promote their work. Many SAW members live in rural areas where working as a professional artist can be quite solitary. There is a rich social network of artists and like minded colleagues on line. A positive world which can easily be dipped into on your coffee break to make you feel human once more, reassured that you are not alone throwing pots or painting canvases in a cold studio! In fact if you have any ideas to share that would make interesting editorial or your own regular blog that you would like linked from the site do get in touch. I hope I can continue to inject and convey the same energetic enthusiasm that Natalie has expressed.

The SAW Blog is of course accessible to the wider public who enjoy visiting the many studios and supporting the artists involved. I am sure there must be a collective noun which we can employ to positively describe devoted SAW followers? Without them SAW would not be the success that it is today. For you too are encouraged to comment and join the buzz, here you will find news, reviews and insights into the world of Somerset artists. 

The eagle eyed amongst you may recognise Andy Davey's work in the background of the photograph above. Based in West Somerset, his current exhibition, Work Surface, is at the Taunton Brewhouse until the 23rd February. Do pop in and take a look if you can. I particularly appreciated the way he had merged the boundaries of his work into the gallery environment by writing, drawing and painting onto what can sometimes be described as sterile white walls. Natalie has written about her reaction to his exhibition on her new blog Spanner in the Workzs.

So that's me saying hello and welcoming you, I hope to meet many of you in the virtual world and you never know we may meet out there in the real world too - my name if you didn't catch it is Davina.

2 January 2013

An end has a start

I created and began writing on the SAW blog on Tuesday 8th June 2010, I was 23 year old recent Fine Art graduate and was eager to learn more about the art world that I suddenly found myself in. Writing a blog that used critical writing as a way of reflecting on both local and national contemporary art was the perfect opportunity to explore this and hopefully meet new artists, institutes and galleries along the way. On my first post I introduced myself to the world of blogging with the photo above followed by the quote,

Hello! The person in the photo above struggling to hold a giant wrench that's grappling an equally giant spider. That's me.”
 Three years and 162 blog posts later and I’m still that same person grappling the giant spider that is ‘art’....Or something like that, I’ve  learnt lots of new things along the way, gotten a bit wiser and probably also a bit crazier none of which is necessarily a bad thing. Whilst it has been a privilege a joy and an honour, I now feel it is time to move on to something new and focus on establishing and creating my own independent blog page and bid farewell to my days in residence with SAW.
The SAW blog in  numbers: 
Over 20,000 hits
11 Art book reviews
3 Somerset Art Weeks
14 posts whose titles come from song lyrics (can you spot them all?)
160,000 words written on blog (at least)

The SAW Blog has chronicled my personal account of discovering new things in Somerset, for example; Jamaica Street and BV Studios in Bristol, Bath Artists Studios, the opening of The Crescent Contemporary, pop up art shops, The Brewhouse (there are so many posts about the Brew!), art in Tithe Barns, Old School Rooms and Collar Factories, glove factories, bridges, Willow Cathedrals and more. I’ve travelled to Plymouth, Weymouth, Bath, Exeter, Bristol, Bath, Reading, Oxford, Cardiff London, Liverpool and Edinburgh and more. It has covered the highs and lows of two Liverpool Biennials, Turner Prizes, The British Art Show, degree shows and Contemporary Art Opens throughout the land. The SAW blog has also allowed me the special opportunity to communicate directly to SAW artists and particularly in the run up and during art weeks which have been amongst the liveliest and rewarding posts I’ve had the pleasure to write. And as an artist the ongoing dialogue with contemporary art and artists has been at times cathartic as I’ve been able to express my opinions thoughts and rantings, enlightening as sometimes I’ve actually changed my opinion of much work as a result of writing about it, inspiring as it has given me the opportunity to see other artists work and create posts about them in return.
Hopefully the SAW blog will continue to thrive soon under a new resident writer, watch this space. In the mean time it is very important that the last thing I write before I go is to say a really big thank you to all who have followed, commented, contributed and EVEN READ the blog over the years, it has been a pleasure and thank you for your motivation and inspiration to write. 

Annnnddd.... If you’re really going to miss me (why wouldn’t you?!) then fear not for I’ll be continuing to write posts on exhibition reviews, arty nonsense, books, films and more on my blog page, Please check it out.

Writing here has been the best work and joy I have had outside making actual ‘art’ and has actually helped me make sense of so many exhibitions, art works and more. I’ve always enjoyed it and have tried to be honest and responsible in what I am writing aware that it is in the public realm. So it is on that note that I’d like to end this chapter of my blogging career with a quote that echoes my own blogging philosophy (and features tools of sorts) from Hunter S Thompson,

“I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively. For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order, if you don't lie to yourself and use the wrong words.”