Still the bees knees! FIFTY BEES: The Interconnectedness Of All Things

Updated: Jan 21, 2020





You might think Somerset fibre artist Lydia Needle's idea for FIFTY BEES started with, well... a bee! ;) It's a good guess, but surprisingly it all began with a butterfly. The large blue butterfly that became extinct in 1979 to be exact - and the fact that changes in the ecosystem, affecting rabbits and red ants, also meant a sad goodbye to blue (until it was amazingly reintroduced in 1984). You see? Everything's connected!

Anyway, this got Lydia's mind whirring... what about our bees and their own delicate ecosystems that are under threat? This thought, the spark of an idea and the resulting FIFTY BEES art project born last year, saw Lydia taking on the challenge of needle felting fifty of the 270 species of British bee.



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, somerset cool, somerset blog, somerset bloggers, blogs about Somerset, things to see in Somerset
Lydia's first bees, housed in gorgeous vintage containers & waiting to tell their story

She then invited fifty artists to create a response to the bee she'd paired them with - and the exhibition that followed was a flipping beautiful thing!



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, somerset cool, somerset blog, blogs about Somerset, best blog in Somerset, best UK blog, ace arts somerton, Somerset blogger,
Opening night of the first FIFTY BEES exhibition at ACEarts in Somerton

It got people thinking, chatting and helping to safeguard our bees - and you can read about it right here, if you missed it.


Fast forward to 2018 and guess what? Another fifty, almost life-sized, bees have been intricately handcrafted by Lydia...



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, somerset cool, art in somerset, somerset blog, best blog in somerset, best UK blog, Somerset bloggers
Lydia's next fifty bees - beautifully displayed at the For Every Cloud Gallery in Langport

... and another fifty artists have reacted, drawing more attention to the hidden worlds of bees. And wow! What a reaction it is.



Fifty Bees, Fifty Bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, Blogs about Somerset, art in Somerset, things to do in Somerset, art galleries in Somerset
A selection of works including Renee Kilburn's stoneware, Nina Gronw-Lewis's book & Lydia's Queen Tree Bumblebee

Fifty bees, Fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Best blog in Somerset, best uk blog, things to do in somerset, art in somerset, cool things to do in Somerset
Pieces include Susan Mannion's 'To Deeper Horizons' & 'Flight Paths', Pascoe Needle's '67 Peepshow' & Hazel Partridge's 'Life Flight'

Fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, cool things to do in Somerset, Somerset blogger, Somerset blog, Best blog in Somerset, art in Somerset
Melanie Mascarenhas's 'We Spy The Gilded Prize', Gary Cook's 'Close to the edge' & Rachel Leach's 'A sandy pathway'

You know when you visit an exhibition and there's a feast of things to check out and you get an excited rush and don't really know where to explore first? That's the feeling FIFTY BEES 'The Return' (our totally unofficial name for the sequel ;)) gave us. Should we explore things in some kind of order, or dive in and head straight for the pieces we're drawn to, like a kid in a retro sweet shop that just can't help running to the strawberry bonbons? ;) 



Joy Merron, fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, art in Somerset
Joy Merron's cushions, walk us through the Red-thighed Bee's habitat and needs

Fifty Bees, Fifty Bees the interconnectedness of all things, cool things in Somerset, art in Somerset, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, Best Somerset blog, Best UK blog, Somerset bloggers
Melanie Wickham's 'Home & Habitat intertwined' was a response to the hardworking Willughby's Leafcutter Bee


Fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, renee kilburn, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, Art in Somerset
The colourful detail of 'My Responsibility' by Renee Kilburn

Fifty bees, Laura Mabbutt, Lydia needle, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, cool things in Somerset, Somerset blogger, Art in Somerset
Laura Mabbutt's piece recreates the nest of her Brown-banded Carder Bee

Well, in the end we did both, because in an exhibition that's brimming with a host of beautiful, colourful and challenging works, there's so much to see, appreciate and consider. Work like Alison Hancock's 'There you are' - an abstract representation of grass and bee, in response to the Turquoise Furrow Bee she was given by Lydia.



FIFTY BEES, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, art in Somerset, Somerset cool, Somerset blogger, Somerset blog, things to see in Somerset, best UK blog, Somerset bloggers
Copper, paper and earring backs never looked so good!

And then there's Rebecca Bruton's beautiful artwork 'Sea Radish', responding to the Violet-winged Mining Bee. Becky even used bee pollen to create the yellow dye that adds colour to the cotton fabrics!



Somerset cool, fifty bees, rebecca bruton, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset blog, Blogs about Somerset, things to see in Somerset, Somerset bloggers, best UK blog
The Sea Radish is vital to the Violet-winged Mining Bee's ecology

Fifty bees, things to do in Somerset, Fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset bloggers, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger
Lydia's beautiful handcrafted Violet-winged Mining Bee, perfectly placed in the vintage compact mirror

And where else could you see this cool creation, Nature Therapy 1?



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, Best UK blog, Best blog in Somerset,
Viewing the world of the Groove-faced Mining Bee

Elinor Taylor researched the food sources of her Groove-faced Mining Bee, chose the hawthorn and then discovered a piece of wood in her wood store that made the perfect viewfinder - so we're also treated to a glimpse of the bees natural habitat, if we peek inside!


Elinor Taylor, fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, for every cloud langport, somerset cool, somerset blog, somerset blogger, somerset bloggers, art in somerset
Anyone else see a mouth, which links the thinking right back to food sources? Just me then! ;)

One of the things we love about the exhibition is that there's so much diversity in the body of eclectic work on show at the For Every Cloud gallery in Langport. Whatever inspires you, whether it's ceramics, painting, crafting, needle felting, mixed media sculpture, poetry... you're sure to find it here. It'll reach out to you in different ways, like this beautiful detail in Donna Vale's piece 'the weight of the world' did to us, as it describes the determination and energy of the Yellow Loosestrife Bee to "burrow and line their nest for the next generation".



Fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, Best Somerset blog,
"And they lined their burrow with oil from the flowers, creating cells that are filled with pollen & nectar"

Rowena Payne's watercolour, showing the imagined private world of the Yellow Shouldered Bee, made us stop in our tracks too! We got lost for a while in the vibrant colour and abstract shapes symbolising "a bee pathway to nectar-filled flowers". 



Fifty Bees, Fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things,  Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, Best blog in Somerset, Art in somerset, things to see in Somerset
Colours and shapes creating another world to explore

I'm also a bit magpie-like when it comes to shiny things, so I immediately made a beeline (I know! I know!) for jewellery designer and maker, Gemma Atwell's piece. I've got a beautiful necklace by Gemma already and at first, I didn't actually realise this stunning sterling silver locket was made by her. It just goes to show, my magpie instincts are pretty fine-tuned! ;)



Fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, common mourning bee, somerset cool, somerset blog, best blog in Somerset, Somerset bloggers, blogs about somerset, what to do in somerset, best uk blog,
Lavender, rosemary and feverfew - favourites of the Common Mourning Bee

Gemma's locket was made in honour of the solitary Male Common Mourning Bee, who's a bit of a tricky customer and pretty difficult to spot!



Somerset cool, fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset blog, Somerset blogger, best blog in Somerset, best UK blog, Somerset art, art in Somerset, Somerset blogger
A bit of a loner!

As Gemma says:


"The first recorded sighting was made in the 18th century, a time when botany and herbal remedy was more widely practiced. This bee tends to visit wild flowers and herbs, so one can see how they would occasionally be spotted by those foraging wild growing flora"

Inside the locket is a clue as to where you can find this particular bee...



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, somerset cool, gemma atwell, Somerset blogger, best blog in Somerset, blogs about Somerset, art in Somerset, things to do in Somerset,
Wonder where the Common Mourning Bee wanders?

One of our favourite pieces is by Julia McKenzie who was given the Shingle Yellow-face Bee to respond to. 'The shingle beach' is an altered Pocket Observer Road Atlas that shows the Kent and Sussex coasts bursting into life... and it's so beautiful up close in the gallery.



Fifty Bees, Fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Art in Somerset, Best UK blog, Best Somerset blog, Somerset bloggers, Julia McKenzie, the shingle beach
Up close & personal with 'The shingle beach' by Julia McKenzie

The idea behind it is that the Shingle Yellow-face Bee would be at home here, amongst the elbow-horned poppies, sea peas and sea holly. As Julia says:


"My little atlas comes to life and dipicts the plants and insects you would find there. This bee would be happy there on the margins of the beach, looking for nectar amongst the salt-sprayed flowers and the brambles that bridge land and sea"


Some pieces in the exhibition caught our eye for colour, like Julia's and Renee's, and some we fell in love with for the story and emotion behind them... like Suzie Simmon's piece 'I went looking'. For us, it really brings home the fragility of the bees environment and sums up perfectly what this awesome exhibition is all about.



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, somerset blog, cool things to do in Somerset, art in Somerset, best Somerset blog, Somerset bloggers
Torn notepaper brings home a powerful message

Whilst researching her bee (the Shiny-margined Mini-mining Bee) and armed with paper and pens, Suzie went looking for the places it might nest, but she found the Spring ground rain-soaked...


"Ploughs and diggers had raked the soil of potential nesting sites and food-rich wildflower meadows had almost disappeared. I found some quiet green corners where speedwells and buttercups grew and where small shiny bees would soon emerge from the loose soil. Once my pages were full of notes and drawings, I tore them into pieces, pinning this fragmented environment to unframed board - vulnerable memories of my search"  

For us, it's such a powerful way to highlight the precarious nature of this bee's natural habitat.


fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset blog, Somerset cool
The female, Shiny-margined Mini-mining Bee - 61b

And we were also drawn to this beautiful oil painting by Jenny Graham - 'One Spring Morning'. We must've instinctively known that Jenny's bee, the Early Nomad Bee, is quite commonly found in Somerset! ;)



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, somerset cool, Somerset blog, art in Somerset, Jenny Graham, Somerset blogger
The Early Nomad Bee lays its eggs in the nests of other bees, just as the cuckoo does with other birds

Lydia Needle, fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset, Somerset cool, Somerset blog, Art in Somerset, best blog in Somerset, Somerset blogger, cool things in Somerset
The bee brought to life by Lydia's beautiful needle felting

Once again, Lydia has brought together an incredible group of talented artists from all across the country, to raise awareness of the plight of our British bees and as she says:


FIFTY BEES 2 is a whole new experience. The first one was like walking into the unknown. I’m very new to the art world and it was my first exhibition and first time curating. The second one is like something else entirely - a whole new creature! Until all the companion artworks are unwrapped and seen together in the exhibition space, you have absolutely no idea how everything will work and for the second FIFTY BEES, we're working in a much smaller space... but it’s magical. It’s magical how the individual works come together, to conjure up such a wonderful experience for the visitor

And that's so true. We've discovered species we wouldn't have known existed and FIFTY BEES encourages everyone to play their part in preserving the natural world - creating a visual story that touches your heart. 



fifty bees, fifty bees the interconnectedness of all things, Somerset cool, Somerset cool blog, Somerset bloggers, best blog in Somerset, cool stuff to do in Somerset
Lydia's sketch books, on display in the gallery, add to the wonderful story of FIFTY BEES

Lydia's handcrafted bees of differening shapes, sizes, purposes and behaviours are breathtaking and as she says...

I love it that every person who comes to the gallery takes away something - a new favourite artist, new knowledge, new inspiration, something to pass on to their friends or an idea of what to plant in their gardens to encourage the bees and other pollinators in. It’s like a big game of tag, but winning the game is all about how much we can share and improve prospects for our little friends (and the artists too!)

Plans are already taking shape for FIFTY BEES 3 which will be at The Brewhouse Theatre and Art Centre in Taunton. It’s going to be a much longer show this time and Lydia shares a new development with us too...


"We’re hoping there’ll be a wider remit, involving wildlife charities to include talks, workshops and wider audience participation. And because we’re going into a bigger space, who knows what the new fifty artists will come up with".

That sounds exciting and whatever happens in the future, if you love bees, nature and beautiful storytelling, take a trip to see this year's FIFTY BEES. It's on until September 1st and the exhibition opening times for the For Every Cloud gallery in Langport are:


Wednesday: 10am-4pm

Thursday: 10am-4pm

Friday: 9am-1pm

Saturday: 10am-2pm


Lydia also has an open call out to artists who would like to be part of FIFTY BEES 3! If you are inspired and interested in discovering more check out the FIFTY BEES social channels or email fiftybees@gmail.com.


P.S. You know we often share secrets on the blog, right? Well unless we buy David Smith's 'expressions on the journey of Hylaeus brevicornis' there'll always be a FIFTY BEES 2 secret we'll never know! That's because David will only explain the full reasoning behind his piece to whoever buys it :).



 

#fiftybees #theinterconnectednessofallthings #somersetcool #artinsomerset