For the final day of this year’s festival, we headed as a family Glastonbury way, small boy cajoled with the promise of a tree house. . .

Our first stop was the Somerset Rural Life Museum to see the Gather-ing which we are quite familiar with as Christopher is one of the associate artists involved. Some of you may have visited this show in 2015 when it was initially installed in the tithe barn at Stoke-sub Hamdon. This touring exhibition highlights how Somerset’s tithe barns have not just been used to store and gather harvests but as both meeting place and space for ritual celebrations. Artists Stewart Easton, Jacky Oliver, Helen Snell, Gillian Widden and Christopher Jelley were all commissioned to create new works to awaken this strong association of ‘gathering’ throughout history.

The Gather-ing Jacky Oliver

The museum itself has recently undergone extensive refurbishment and is well worth a visit. We enjoyed lunch alfresco in the October sunshine with what is surely the best view of the tor from anywhere in the town. It may have been the last day of the SAW Festival but the Gather-ing exhibition is open until November 11th. I would also recommend that you view Kate Lynch’s exhibition which features her atmospheric drawings and paintings of rural Somerset life.

Just a ten-minute drive from Glastonbury, is the home of artist and print-maker Bronwen Bradshaw and Dove Studios. This is a thriving creative hub that offers a variety of courses and always a joy to visit during Art Weeks. This year we were particularly keen to see how the library tree house build was progressing and of course view the artists’ books that have been commissioned to line its shelves once completed. I was particularly taken by Jennifer Newbury’s book, her words and images capture the striking contrast of light between the location of the tree house in its shady copse on the border of the bright field that was literally glowing with sunshine beyond our view on the day we visited.

Green Oak Tree House at Dove Studios

Tree House Library Book by Jennifer Newbury

Jennifer was awarded a SAW Creative Pathways Bursary in 2015, and spent her time at The Dove, it is encouraging to see how this artistic partnership has continued. This year Sue Gilmore benefited from the same scheme and was commissioned to produce a book for the tree house library inspired by her residency within the landscape of the Dove and the neighbouring land that encompasses it.

Beautifully Bound, Artist Book by Ama Bolton

Dove Studios was hosting drawing sessions as part of The Family Friendly weekend, but when I was there it would seem that the adult visitors couldn’t resist the sign above and the invitation to design their own tree house!

I’m looking forward to re-visiting the library once it is complete, but as Bronwen explained, somethings just cannot be rushed. One visitor asked her what her ethos or drive was and she replied ‘Creativity’ – explaining that being creative, by making and being positive via the means to create had brought the Dove’s neighbours together as a community, united by the vision of the tree house, ensuring that it will be finished but in its own time. The strength of this particular endeavour has banded together nine unlikely yet committed builders, aged between 10 and 61, many of whom are learning on the job, guided by master craftsman Jim Blackburn of the Timber Frame Company.

On the way home we had time to pop into Venue 47 just before they closed at 6pm. Jackie Curtis and Lorna Davies made us very welcome with a much needed cup of tea and I was surprised how much energy they still had on the final hour of the final day having welcomed over 600 visitors throughout the two weeks. It was a treat to be able to view Jackie’s prints first hand as I have followed her work on twitter and been quite captivated by the colour and composition of her images. Lorna’s enthusiasm for quilting was quite infectious – this had not only been her first time participating in SAW but also her first public exhibition and the response had clearly been very positive.

Lorna Davies

Jackdaw Mono Print by Jackie Curtis

I hope that you have enjoyed exploring the many venues that opened their doors for this year’s festival, perhaps you even bought an original piece of artwork to remind you of your time exploring the creative talent that calls Somerset muse and home.

links connected to this post

GATHER-ING

SOMERSET RURAL LIFE MUSEUM

DOVE STUDIOS

JENNIFER NEWBURY

JACKIE CURTIS

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY by Davina Jelley
Jackie Curtis image by the artist.

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Published on October 10, 2017 // Davina Jelley