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The 2014 Easter Art and Sculpture Exhibition at the Botanic Garden

This is the second year in a row my family has worked off some Easter chocolate by biking to the University of Bristol Botanic Garden for the Easter Art and Sculpture Event. Unlike last year, however, when we were bundled against the cold, this year we basked in glorious sunshine. We’ve been so impressed with the quality of the art that this will be an annual event for my family...whatever the weather!

The Garden’s annual sculpture event was combined with the Friends of the Botanic Garden’s annual art exhibition, for the first time this year. This gave visitors a visual feast of outstanding artwork set in the backdrop of the garden in its full spring glory.

Over 2,800 visitors came to the gardens over the 4-day event. Events such as this, as well as the Bee and Pollination Festival, are important for the Botanic Garden as they reach beyond those interested in gardens – drawing in new audiences. This event brought in a range of West Country artists working in diverse mediums, from watercolours to ceramics and stained glass to metalwork – there was something for everyone.

Stainless steel sculpture of water lilies by artist Ian Marlow
Ian Marlow's lilies were on display in the University
of Bristol Botanic Garden pond during the
Easter Art and Sculpture Exhibition.

A taste of some of the artists and artwork on display

One of the first pieces to catch my eye as I entered the gates of the garden was, of all places, in the pond. Stainless steel lilies, created by of Ian Marlow (www.marlowsculpture.co.uk), shone in the sunlight – a stark contrast to the dark water. Ian was also the creator of Sir Gromit ofBristol, which was certainly one of my son’s favourite stops along last year’s Gromit Unleashed trail.  

Willa Ashworth's working display of one of lovely
metal open fire-pits offered warmth as well as
the promise of a sausage and hot cuppa.
Willa Ashworth (http://willaashworth.co.uk/) was there again this year, with a number of new pieces. I went home last year with one of her beautiful garden wind chimes and I still adore it! This year, she had one of her open fire-pits set up with sausages cooking on a grill and a kettle bubbling away. Her working display created a multi-sensory experience – the smell and sounds of sizzling food, the warmth and glow of fire, the beauty of the fire-pit itself. I watched as people gazed at the fire, no doubt envisioning (as I was) the lovely little set-up in their own backyard. Willa’s functional metalwork sculptures are inspired by her love of gardening and one of her pieces is now permanently displayed next to the lake in the Botanic Garden.

Karen Edwards (www.karenedwardsceramics.co.uk) was another return artist this year, displaying her nature-inspired ceramics. Each of Karen’s pieces are hand-built and unique. I was particularly attracted to her planters, which appealed to my functional side. The organic textures in the ceramics not only drew my eye, but beckoned me to reach out and touch them.

Karen explained how she created the lovely textures in one of her pieces:
One of Karen Edwards' nature-inspired ceramics with
imprints of ammonites and bark.
“The doors of my studio are clad with unstripped half logs,” explained Karen. “I pressed some clay onto one area, then made that into a cylinder that I biscuit fired to use as a small hand roller. I then pressed in some shell and ammonite textures. The textures are highlighted with metal oxide wash and slip (liquid clay).”

One of Jude Goss's stained glass pieces hanging in the
Chinese herb garden.
The Chinese herb garden once again hosted the stained glass art, including that of Jude Goss (www.lucianstainedglass.com). My six year old was thrilled to once again see Sam Bailey’s (www.theartistblacksmith.co.uk) metal dinosaur sculpture in the Evolution of Land Plants Display (nicknamed the grotto).

Stonecarver Tom Clark (www.clarkstonecarver.co.uk) had handed his chisel over to a pair of children when I got around to his display. The youngsters seemed to be having a brilliant time chipping away at the block of stone. Tom served an apprenticeship at Chichester Cathedral and has since worked on many large and interesting restoration projects including WestminsterAbbey and The National Gallery.

While I was circulating through the outside gardens, my husband managed to get into the glasshouses where he was captivated by the stainless steel pieces created by Julian P. Warren (www.metalgnu.com).

My son, Morgan, was equally enthusiastic about Julian’s work and he told me all about it on the bike ride home, with the unbridled enthusiasm that comes with being six.  “There was this amazing dragonfly mum...and a bird of paradise with those little sticky-up feathers on his head and everything!”

Sadly, I didn’t get to all the exhibits as I was keen on joining a tour set up by Andy and Nick for a number of bloggers (more on that below). I missed the botanical artists displayed in the Linnaeus Study room entirely! However, I have listed all the artists with links to their websites at the bottom of this post as they all made incredible contributions to the weekend event.

Oh...and I also got to hear about some delicious carrot cake on my bike ride home. Another thing I missed out on...the delightful refreshments being served on the newly finished west patio of The Holmes.

It wouldn’t happen were it not for the volunteers

As with any event of this magnitude, there is a whole lot of work that happens behind the scenes. With the Garden’s small staff, it is thanks to the many volunteers that it all comes together, and they are the first to admit it.

“It’s all those people out there that are welcoming people as they enter, giving tours, serving cake and refreshments and helping direct people around the garden that make this work,” said Nick Wray, the Garden’s Curator. “Without these volunteers, we simply couldn’t host important events like this.”

A personal tour for local bloggers

As part of the Garden’s plan to increase its digital presence and reach out to wider audiences, Andy and Nick hosted a tour of the garden for a number of local bloggers during the event.  Helen and I, both bloggers for the Garden, tagged along too!

We started in the meeting room with delicious cakes and a cuppa, while Nick gave everyone a briefing on the history of the garden, its core collections and more generally the role of botanic gardens. After lots of healthy discussion about the Botanic Garden and the role of social media in marketing, we all followed Andy into the garden where he briefed us on each of the main displays.

Fused and slumped glass artwork
Adele Christensen's 'Blomsters': Fused and slumped glass
with mild steel support.
Despite having been to the garden many times before and having had lots of discussions with Andy and Nick...I still learned a great deal, and found new inspiration for blog ideas...so stay tuned!

Hopefully some of the other bloggers will have found some inspiration from the tour also – the Botanic Garden is, after all, a place for education and research, stewardship and conservation, but it is also a place of great beauty.

Artists on display were:

Willa Ashworth (http://willaashworth.co.uk/)
Susan Bracher (Email: susanbartle (at) blueyonder.co.uk)
Pamela Clogstoun
Sarah Easby (http://sara-easby.com/)
Anne Girling
Nick Hasell (Email: woodbarnfarm (at) hotmail.com)
Emma Jean Kemp (http://emmajeankemp.com/)
Florence Maggs
Betty Marten
Connie Ridge
Cynthia Skinner
Dorcas Sohn
Jac Solomons (aka J Zulka)
Sheila Southgate
Julian P. Warren (http://www.metalgnu.com/)
Frankie Wild
and
Refab Arts (http://www.bristolcreatives.co.uk/jobs/2010/05/19/reclaimed-fashion-genius-refab)

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