Earlier this year Elizabeth Jardine was appointed to deliver the third and final instalment of the artist residency programme at Yeovil Country Park. This three year project has enabled the local community to artistically engage and investigate the three key elements that shape the park’s landscape and historical development. Year one saw Deborah Westmancoat lead workshops inspired by the Victorian water gardens, year two Carolyn Lefley focused on the expanse of meadow, and this year the spotlight was on wood.
Last week was my first visit to the park and I caught up with Elizabeth in the midst of her last workshop. Despite the light rain and dark summer sky the day was incredibly busy and so well attended that extra supplies of clay had to be sent for. It was very pleasing to see so many families keen to join Elizabeth in making ceramic leaves and I was quite taken with how calmly she oversaw the making process, encouraging all ages to participate.
The children took great delight in rolling out the clay, impressing a leaf into the surface and then carefully cutting out the form, which for some little ones was quite challenging, but they persevered with a little help from parents or older siblings. After applying a coloured glaze, the children could then choose which leaf they wanted to take home, leaving the other to be fired ready to be displayed in the forthcoming exhibition at the Octagon Theatre. I did a quick count of leaves before I headed home and there was nearly one hundred!
Alongside these drop in style workshops Elizabeth has been working on a regular basis with schools and local community groups. Over time these youngsters have learned new skills, built confidence within themselves and formed a personal connection with their local landscape. Elizabeth explained that one boy on his initial visit was reluctant to get off the bus but on his subsequent visit was first off!
Rather than overwhelm the children with information, Elizabeth broke the looking and discovering into different aspects: roots, trunk, canopy. Combine all three and hopefully they can now easily digest and understand a little of the rich habitat of tree and wood, and in turn convey what a tree can inspire. You can read about their discoveries on the dedicated Water Meadow Wood blog on the link below, here you will also find information regarding the first two years of the project.
The results of Elizabeth’s residency can be viewed in the cafe bar at The Octagon Theatre during our 2017 festival and is listed as Venue 97 in the brochure. Opening times are Monday – Saturday 12noon – 5pm, plus during theatre show evenings.
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WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY by Davina Jelley
Published on August 3, 2017 // Davina Jelley