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18 July 2014


Despite it not technically being artweeks just yet I have still managed to have quite an active SAW orientated week.

On Monday morning I called in to see Alison Jacobs' exhibition entitled All Aboard Contains Art - A Year Study. Alison moved into her studio at the containers this time last year after being part of the team that physically built and pulled the Watchet venue into being. You can read about the opening celebrations on an earlier SAW Blog here

On entering the exhibition space you could immediately see the effect that being based in Watchet has had on Alison's work. Her distinctive cow paintings have been replaced by boats, how could they not, one is dry moored right outside her window. She has captured a year of the harbour side elements within her sketch pads, photography and of course her iPad sketches. Not just the weather, the changes in sea light and tide but the local characters and the daily activities of a working boatyard. She has been pretty strict with her time keeping and was even in her studio on the bleakest of winter days. This has truly paid off and Alison has produced a healthy portfolio of work. A running slide show also served as a reminder of the many events and numerous artists that have been an integral part of Contains Art's first triumphant year. The studios will of course be opening during the 2014 SAW Festival - do visit if you get the chance. 

On Wednesday I caught up with SAW's Z Twist project at the Genesis Centre in Taunton. I had planned to attend the Symposium on Sunday but this was unfortunately cancelled. However I have been told that the talks and presentations that took place on the Saturday were well received and enjoyed by all those that attended. 

I have been following the progress of the project via the Z Twist blog so the work did seem very familiar when I entered the gallery space, however nothing beats seeing it for real. The exhibition was not manned  by an artist in residence which I felt was a shame, I understand that this is not always possible and that was what the Saturday had successfully delivered. 

Of the three artists participating it was Debbie Smyth's work that captivated my attention the most. To an outsider you could have been forgiven for thinking that there were four artists exhibiting as Debbie had produced two sets of work in response to her residency. One working with fabric and porcelain, the other machine embroidered incorporating horsehair. Loved both. 

The embroidery samples captured the essence of precious time 'wasted' or whiled away in their making and brought to mind a piece my partner asked his mother to make a few years ago. He asked her to produce a traditional sampler that said 'I subjugate my anger through needlecraft.' Dutiful to her son's request she did make it but I think the irony was not appreciated by someone who genuinely enjoys needlework! Debbie's 'Time is Short' holds similar connotations and made me chuckle. 

Debbie was also inspired by what seems to be the pointless method of repairing broken ceramics with metal pins, rendering it saved and yet completely useless to it's initial  function, imbuing  the rescued plate or cup with an unintentional crudely beautiful aesthetic. I remember as a child being fascinated by a cup and saucer of my Grandmother's that had been treasured in this way.

The Z Twist exhibition has come to a close but the SAW office has produced three great little booklets which records the inspiration and creative journey in detail of each artist. They are available to view on line by clicking here

Today I met with Lucy Pendrick to catch up with her progress for the Creative Pathways Bursary. She has been busy not only making but also exploring Exmoor, walking from Dulverton to Tarr Steps and back again, a beautiful twelve mile walk that will no doubt translate into her felted and foraged sculptures. After an initial mental block of what to make and where to start after learning that she had been awarded the bursary Lucy has found her felting fingers once more and produced some lovely work. The next step is to obviously keep making and take it a little bit wilder and taller! Do watch her progress and the other Creative Pathways artists over at the dedicated blog.

On Sunday I am off to Alison's closing party, quite refreshing to have a private view at the end of an exhibition rather than at the beginning, but then it is rather more of a celebration than a selling event - although Alison does have work for sale. I hope the sun shines and the storms forecast for the weekend have past. 

Amidst all this I have been working, glossing the kitchen windows, walked the Poetry Pin Trail, attended the school sports day and plan to finish my self portrait - thank goodness for all those glorious long light filled summer days, I hope they are providing inspiration and creative energy for you too!

Time is short...
And yet the days are long. 

1 July 2014


So all the artists that are participating in this year's festival have received the proofs of their entry for the guide and Zoe Li is now finalising the information before it goes to print - which is no small task with over three hundred artists opening their studio doors this coming Autumn. I have had a peek at the venues located in West Somerset and it is encouraging to see some new names amongst the familiar and established favourites. Also in the area, Contains Art, is curating an exhibition to coincide with this year's Open Studios entitled Making An Exhibition of Ourselves: A Self Portrait of West Somerset Artists. This promises to be an intriguing exhibition and will no doubt push the working boundaries of those taking part into unfamiliar territory; especially those that are more au fait with painting landscapes. Painting oneself can be an uncomfortable, questionable and revealing process as it is surely the most public form of self expression. With this in mind I have amazed they have persuaded so many to take part including myself! 


Keen to visit an exhibition sooner rather than later? From the 11th July you will be able to view the results of the SAW Z Twist residency, the latest development from SAW's two year Make, Create, Cultivate programme. During the past three months artists Debbie Smyth, Penny Wheeler and Lucy Lean have been developing a body of work with support from local textile industries including Fox Brothers Ltd and John Boyd Textiles. Some of you may have been following their progress over at the Z Twist Blog. The exhibition is in Taunton at the Somerset College of Arts and Technology's Genesis Centre. Open Wednesday to Saturday between 11am and 5pm, admission is free.


SAW is also hosting an exciting symposium on the Saturday and Sunday at the college. There will be talks and workshops from the various artists that have been involved with not only Z Twist, but Abundance and Make the Most. Tickets for the weekend are £30, or £20 day, to include lunch and refreshments. Call the SAW office to book your place. There is to be makers breakfast on the Sunday so I'm definitely there - just for the food of course! It promises to be an inspiring and thought provoking weekend for creative arts and culture in Somerset. See you there!