Guess who’s back... back again? OK. I might’ve sung that Eminem style whilst writing it just now, but there’s good reason! I’m so excited that Somerset Art Weeks is back... 16 days dedicated to showcasing the creative arts in Somerset and this year, it’s the Silver Anniversary of this fantastic celebration. Can you believe it’s been lighting up the county for 25 years? Well, from now until October 6th, there are some very special things happening to mark the occasion and we’ve been opening our guide (you can find the online version right here), getting stuck in, and we’ll be experiencing as much of it as we possibly can.
I'm sharing our pick of the bunch here too - the artists and exhibitions that've caught our eye this time around. I've also been talking to three brilliant people on our latest radio show... Textile Artist Rebecca Bruton, Artist and Curator Fiona Campbell and Artist, Curator and Somerset Art Weeks Co-ordinator Paul Newman.
The guys popped by the studio to chat about what Somerset Art Weeks means to them, to preview some of the wonderful things going on as part of this year’s festival and to share their views on ‘art for all’ – encouraging people who might not normally get involved, to discover art of all types, shapes and sizes!
If you haven’t heard the show yet, you can check it out right here and catch their fantastic work at Venue 36, (where Rebecca is exhibiting her vibrant textile art alongside June Dobson’s ceramics, Zena Parker’s prints and Robert Parker's woodworks), at Venue 67 (where Fiona and students from Bruton School for Girls have created 50 sculptures to mark 50 years since the first manned space mission landed on the moon), at Venue 91 (more on that in a bit!) and at Venue 135 (where Paul and his fellow artists are creating a beautiful exhibition celebrating trees. As we're totally tree-obsessed, we’ll definitely be there).
Right - let’s go! In no particular order, here are 'Six of the best' we'll be getting along to and we've thrown in some Somerset cool wildcards and more shout outs too... because let’s face it, in a festival that’s this full of fantastic work, six just isn’t enough! ;)
1. Zig Zag Mixed Media Show
Morland Road, Beckery Island, Glastonbury, BA6 9FT
Venue 113, Guide page 71
You never know quite what you’re going to get when you walk in to the Zig Zag building... and that’s why we love it. From the slowly rusting machinery outside, to the colourful collective of artists downstairs (shout out to Blanka's gorgeous dog Ollie and those wonderful hats of hers), to the climb up the dusty stairs and the light-flooded, top floor space, that's filled with treasures for Art Weeks.
There's a great group of imaginative artists, sculptors and photographers creating magical things up there... and Megan Players portraits always paint a huge smile on my face.
The colour, simplicity and expression is joyful and... I don't care who knows it... I absolutely want to be painted by her... one of the reasons being, I need my boobs to look like this ;).
Go, see and feel the joy of it all!
2. Annie’s Art Group at Number 13
Orchard End, 13 Brendon Close, Roadwater, TA23 0RG
Venue 10, Guide page 9
Annie Farley had me at "We can all draw".
I can often be found shouting about 'art for all' and inclusivity when it comes to creating and experiencing art, so when I saw Annie’s message in the Somerset Art Weeks guide, I just had to discover more! ;)
When I did, I found some beautifully expressive work and a lady who builds confidence in those of us who'd love to draw, create and experiment - but just need someone to help us. And err... "refreshments in the funky garden". This we must check out! ;)
Whilst you’re in the area, how about heading to 'Art at Two Rivers Paper Mill' too? Not only is there a collection of works by local artists, Two Rivers is an historic working paper mill where you can see paper being made by hand. Awesome.
3. Clayhill Arts
Charlynch Lane, Bridgwater, TA5 2PH
Sculpture, Painting, Drawing
Venue 133, Guide page 80
We’ve wanted to head to Clayhill Arts for a while and with SAW supported Artists Pennie Elfick, Megan Wakelam and Emma Housley exhibiting, now is definitely the perfect time to do it! The guys are developing their craft and I can't wait to see their fresh, new work in the flesh.
Emma's paintings are a riot of exciting, vibrant colour, reflecting the skies and fields of Somerset.
Pennie's sculptures are bold, beautiful and will be on the land and in the lake at Clayhill...
...and Megan's site-specific paintings, using handmade eco-pigments, have definitely got us intrigued.
See you there for a big dose of inspiration!
4. Canvas and Clay
Ellis Pottery, Trubswell, Stout Road, High Ham, TA10 9BD
Ceramics, Pottery, Painting, Printmaking
Venue 42, Guide page 24
'Having a go' is one of the things Art Weeks is all about, right? Well, at this tucked away little Pottery, you can throw a pot on a weekend with awesome Potter, Rob Ellis...
... and every day, you can enjoy a large selection of gorgeous Somerset pottery, displayed in a lovely studio and snug, where you can get your hands on homemade cake, tasty light bites and did we mention the cheese scones with cream cheese and chutney? We highly recommend those!
And I definitely need to mention the work again. Shelves of it. Big Somerset cider mugs, sweet little trinket dishes and everything in between.
Two beautiful hounds will say hello too, so there's definitely lots to love in High Ham!
I've also got to mention the fab little seconds shed, so you can grab yourself a bargain.
Look out for Katy Armstrong's pastel paintings and lino cuts here as well. They're inspired by the Somerset landscape and it's Katy's first time exhibiting, so we really hope it's an Art Weeks to remember for her.
Shepton Mallet Prison, Frithfield Lane, BA4 5LU
Digital media, moving image, film, sound, performance, installation, sight specific, sculpture
Venue 91, Guide page 59
Art in unusual places is something we absolutely love and if there’s someone who champions this more than artist Fiona Campbell, I’ve yet to meet them!
This festival, Fiona is co-curating a very special exhibition with Luminara Star, in the old Shepton prison. It explores incarceration, as well as other thought-provoking themes and not only are there 8 artists displaying their work in this historic space, there's also a series of brilliant events you can be a part of.
There are writing workshops, talks, discussions and a very Special Events Day this Saturday, September 28th, featuring world-renowned writer and broadcaster, John McCarthy, who was held hostage for five years during the civil war in Lebanon. He'll be speaking at 10.30am and there'll be artist talks, poetry readings and lots more happening throughout Saturday.
You can also become one of Lou Baker's living sculptures, by trying on her wearable art... which sounds bonkers, brilliant and looks something like this!
The exhibition looks and sounds reflective, emotive and challenging and we can't wait to experience it. If you fancy hearing Fiona talk more about the project on our radio show, it's around 19 minutes and 40 seconds in... and do check out their website here for all the latest info.
6. Celebration Langport
Shakspeare Glass, Westover, Langport, TA10 9RB
Glass, Jewellery, Silverwork, Painting
Venue 46. Guide page 25
The art of glassblowing has always mesmerised me and Will Shakspeare is a glassblowing guru, so going to see him do his thing in the studio is a real privilege.
You can pop in any time during Art Weeks, and the guys have just launched a beautiful new range of glass lampshades too.
Look out for the 'slow blow' on Saturday 5th October at 11am though, when Will and ace assistant Johnny, will slow down the process before your very eyes, so you can see exactly what it takes to create the unique glassware they make.
I went over to meet them just before the launch of Art Weeks, had a little go myself and let me tell you, Will makes it look beautifully effortless. It's actually anything but, and I was blown away (no pun intended ;)) by his skill.
So, if you want to see what it really involves, head over to their riverside studio in Langport for coffee, cake and there's a selection of other fantastic work from local artists too. We particularly love Heidi Warr's ceramics and Heidi will be doing a demo from midday on the 5th as well.
The Somerset cool wildcards
1. Mark Pickthall
Bord Hall Studio, Bruton, BA10 0AT
Venue 68. Guide page 33.
How does a beautifully crafted studio, the warmest of welcomes and a series of truly breathtaking photographs of the Somerset starling murmurations sound?
Well, Mark's tucked away gem-of-a-venue in Bruton will have you wishing for Winter, when the starlings wings beat in their thousands above our nature reserves... before they come in to roost.
Mark is such an interesting person to chat to as well, so don't miss out.
2. Zac Greening & Wincanton: The Town as a Gallery
7 High Street, Wincanton, BA9 9JN
Installation, Mixed media, natural materials, wood, willow
Venue 60 & 61
Guide pages 30 and 31
Zac's work is made entirely from found and reused materials and you can experience it all in the setting of a 1930's hardware store and 18th century house and gardens. This innovative exhibition has definitely got us intrigued and we can't wait to explore!
And as if that wasn't enough, how about turning Wincanton town centre into a gallery space too? Now there's a big idea we need to see!
3. Cotley Tithe Barn: Grounded
Cotley Tithe Barn, Cotley, Chard, TA20 3EP
Drawing, Painting, Installation, Film & sound
Venue 37. Guide page 22
What we've heard about the barn has definitely appealed to all our senses and we can't wait to be inspired by the "hard, soft, dusty, muddy, grassy, stony ground", just like the five artists exhibiting here.
I'm particularly keen to see Liz Gregory's project, based on a scrap of discarded black bale wrap. Bring it on!
4. Jane Mowat
Little Hurstone, Waterrow, Near Wiveliscombe, TA4 2AT
Installation, site specific, printmaking, sculpture, stonecarving
Venue 19. Guide page 13
Come rain or shine, there's something magical about the thought of heading for the tall trees to see Jane Mowat's carved bed installation.
Jane's other prints and wood carvings in ash and oak explore nature and how we fit within it... plus I always say yes to a bit of silver jewellery! ;)
5. Quiet Places for Unquiet Minds
Gallery, Octagon Theatre, Hendford, Yeovil, BA20 1UX
Mixed media, printmaking
Venue 55. Guide page 28.
We love the idea behind this Somerset Art Works project, in collaboration with Mind in Somerset, which aims to help people stay well, express themselves and experience a better quality of life. We're looking forward to the diversity of work created by the Yeovil community Day, Art and Poetry groups, alongside artist Simon Ripley. The Minehead Mind Art Group has been working with Megan Players too, so we can't wait to see that body of work.
6. Batcombe & Beyond
The Old School House, Back Lane, Batcombe, BA4 6HE
Venue 85. Guide page 56
Walking in to Batcombe Old School House is a bit like a big warm hug! Artist Camilla Frederick's animal paintings have so much soul and alongside seven fellow artists, the diversity of work here makes your heart sing.
Plus, if Peter Sheldon's quirky illustrations and news print collages don't make you grin, you might want to check your heart's still beating ;).
The animals steal the show though...
More woofing great venues!
Talking of dogs, are you taking yours with you on the Art Weeks trail? If you are, why not drop in on some artists we've previously written about, in some very Somerset cool dog friendly venues. These are Petal, Flower and Little Hope’s picks! ;)
Shave Farm Studios (Venue 73, Guide page 35), Nick Fraser at A load of old scrap (Venue 128, Guide Page 77 ), Jackie Curtis (Venue 130, Guide Page 78), Ness Robinson (Venue 118, Guide page 74) Rockaway Park (Venue 77, Guide Page 53), ACE Arts (Venue 47, Guide Page 25) and Lydia Needle (Venue 111, Guide page 70).
And there’s more.
We kicked off our Art Weeks experience at the opening of the Glastonbury Mural trail - a brand new trail that's arrived in time for the festival.
We can't wait to go back to experience all the stunning street art in full, across 26 stops!
Whilst there, we bumped into Miriam Sheppard, who'll have her 'Head in the Clouds' in the little attic space at Venue 101 (Guide page 64). Can't wait to sit in a deck chair and take it all in...
And finally... drum roll please... it’s The Silver Anniversary one to watch!
We couldn’t end the blog without giving a huge shout out to venue 25 of course, because this year Paul Newman's curated 'Reflect' - an exhibition inviting 25 founder members of Somerset Art Weeks to show their work.
Some artists have contributed a piece from turning points in their careers. Others have made new work especially for the festival and we love the idea that six artists were given a glass dome and asked to create works to fit inside them. These are being raffled off, so buy a ticket and you could own an original artwork by Jan Ollis, Jessica Palmer, Liz Clay, Lucy Large, Rebecca Bruton or Ria Burns. Exciting stuff!
All that’s left to say is have a fantastic 16 days... whether you're an artist, Somerset Art Weeks regular or someone who's totally new to the festival and is visiting venues around the county for the very first time.
We hope you've found something here that's made you want to get out your guide and get inspired... and we’re chomping at the creative bit to get out some more and explore this beautiful county we’re lucky to call home.
Check out our social media @somersetcool on Instagram and Twitter to see where else we end up on our Art Weeks travels - and don't forget to share your favourites with us too.