Skills Unearthed Symposium: Craft and Industry in the Blackdown Hills
Friday 30th March 2012 – Regsitration at 9:30am
Organised by Blackdown Hills Artists and Makers
About the Symposium
For artists and makers there is often an important relationship between the places they spend their time, and the work they produce. Just think of William Wordsworth or Kurt Schwitters in the Lake District; Alfred Wallis in Cornwall, Stanley Spencer in Cookham, Ashbee and the Guild of Handicraft in the Cotswolds, Cézanne and Mont Saint-Victoire, David Hockney and California or Yorkshire.
Skills Unearthed is a Making it Local and Arts Council-funded project aimed at developing a group of artists and makers in the Blackdown Hills, with the final outcome being the strengthening of the membership and skills of the group, and the commissioning of a series of new creative works in the Blackdown Hills. The resulting commissions are to be inspired by, and should celebrate the crafts and skills, past and present, of the Blackdown Hills.
Who is the symposium for?
- Artists and makers who are, or may be interested in becoming, BHaam members
- Artists and makers working in any medium who may be interested in applying for the Skills Unearthed funding
- Anyone with an interest in creative practice and the crafts and industries of the Blackdown Hills
9.30am – Registration, tea & coffee
10.00am – Welcome and introduction to the history of creative projects in the Blackdown Hills by BHAAM Chair, Tim Martin
10.15am – An introduction to the Craft and Industry of the Blackdown Hills, by James Crowden and Pauline Rook
11.00am – Tea/coffee break
11.15am – Tania Kovats
12 noon – Rebecca Chesney
12.45pm – Lunch & networking
1.45pm – Dail Behennah
2.30pm – Group work
3.30pm – Plenary, tea & coffee
4.00pm – End
About Blackdown Hills Artists and Makers (BHaam)
BHaam are a group of creative practitioners who live and work in the Blackdown Hills on the Devon and Somerset border. BHaam was established formally after the artists involved had worked together on a number of large-scale projects in the Blackdown Hills, including New Eyes in 2007 and The Border Project in 2009.
Tania Kovats is an artist whose work deals with the experience and understanding of landscape. She has focused on drawing and mapping landscapes and describing or using geological processes in the making of both sculpture and drawings. Her sculptures are often made as a response to what she refers to as ‘geologically explicit landscapes’ where the narrative evidence of processes such as erosion, shifting, eruption, compression and subsidence can be clearly seen. Much of Kovats’ research has focused on geology to further understand how landscapes are formed, exclusive of humanity’s effects upon them.
Kovats has recently become involved in investigating rock formations worldwide that follow simple mathematical formulae. She has also commenced an investigative body of work mapping imaginary and existing islands, with the intention of eventually creating her own ‘floating’ atlas. Through her research, Kovats has developed an interest in geological forces and how they affect a landscape and the built environment. Seismographs and seismograms, visual records of the earth’s movements, have become central to Kovats’ practice.
Tania originally trained at Newcastle Polytechnic, before completing her MA at the Royal College of Art in 1990. She was awarded the Henry Moore Drawing Fellowship at the University of the West of England in Bristol in 2004 and was visiting Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Oxford University in 2006. Tania has completed several public commissions at sites including the Natural History Museum, Kielder Forest in Northumberland, Weston-super-Mare and Bristol. Kovats also works in the landscape, as with Meadow, where Kovats moved a wildflower meadow from Bath to London via the inland waterway system. She also has a keen interest in drawing including writing and publishing about the form in ‘The Drawing Book’.
Rebecca Chesney is a visual artist based in Lancashire. In her work she explores and reveals changing environments and the impact of human activity, creating installations that not only capture a sense of wonder in the natural world but also the inescapable struggle between survival and death.
Recent projects have explored dandelions, bees and the pH of river water. The Dandelion project looked at how the European dandelion has become an alien invasive species in Japan and is out-competing native Japanese dandelions in stark comparison to Japanese knotweed in the UK. During her year-long residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park Rebecca researched the native bumblebee and solitary bee species around the Bretton Estate, set up beehives for honey bees, and researched plants found locally.
Diligent Observation, a solo exhibition revealing her findings during the residency at YSP, was held in the Garden Gallery at YSP in 2011. Rebecca is currently artist in residence at The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Yorkshire, where she is working on a research project about the weather. In recent projects she has involved members of the public to help her collect data.
Dail is a contemporary maker who began making baskets in 1990 but whose most recent work is more sculptural, a vehicle for ideas, especially about line and depth, light and shadow. There are two strands to her work. The first is geometry and mathematics, the second is a sense of place. Dail has a degree in Geography and the baskets she makes are constructed as 3D contour relief maps are built, starting with a regular grid and drawing on contour lines that form the curves of the container.
Many of her baskets refer to, and contain elements of, a particular landscape. Dailʼs baskets are constructed rather than woven and the stacked willow grids cast shadows that are as significant as the containers themselves. She has exhibited all over the world and has work in many public collections including those of the Crafts Council, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. In 2009 Dail undertook a commission at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery called Labelled, an installation of 500 enamelled labels designed to draw attention to species diversity and conservation.
James Crowden is an author and poet living in Somerset. Born in Plymouth in 1954, he was raised on the western edge of Dartmoor. After serving in the army and travelling widely in Eastern Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and north west India, he spent a winter on the northern side of the Himalaya, in the remote Zangskar Valley in Ladakh. It was from this experience that he developed a lifelong interest in agriculture and Buddhism.
For the last 20 years James has worked in North Dorset and South Somerset as a shepherd, sheep shearer, cider maker and forester. The choice of manual work was deliberate and gave him a deeper understanding of the landscape. James has now retired from working on the land and is writing full time. Over the last few years he has worked on many different projects, in particular with Common Ground.
In 1999 James was made their Apple Day Poet Laureate and subsequently wrote a libretto for an environmental opera called The Silver Messenger. This was part of Common Ground’s three year Confluence Project with the composer Karen Wimhurst on the River Stour in Dorset.
James has worked on several recording projects for Year of the Artist and Somerset. Now, as well as working on Foot & Mouth poetry with Devon photographer Chris Chapman. James’ books include ‘Waterways’, commissioned by the National Trust about rivers and canals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and more recently ‘Ciderland’, which traces the long history of cider-making in the South West.
Pauline Rook is a professional photographer who lives and works in Somerset. She specialises in portraiture but is equally well known for her rural documentary work. She has a small studio in Lopen but prefers to work on location. Her professional work began in the black and white darkroom and this experience is still a major influence on her work. She has a background in farming and this is reflected in her photographic work. Pauline has won many professional awards and her work has been published in a number of books and magazines.
How to get to the Symposium
The Symposium will be held at The Blackdown Healthy Living Centre, Riverside, Hemyock, Devon, EX15 5SH.
From the M5:
Leave the M5 at junction 26 (Wellington), pass under the motorway and leave the M5 roundabout heading west for Wellington. After a few hundred yards, at the next roundabout, turn left (Exeter A38). Continue South along the A38 for about a mile, take 3rd turning left (sign posted Hemyock). Continue East on this main route under the M5, through Ford Street and up to the top of the Blackdown Hills. Turn right at the crossroads (sign posted Hemyock), along the top of the hill. After almost 1 mile, at the bend near Simonsburrow, turn left (sign-posted Hemyock). Follow this road south along the ridge, down the hill into the village. Take the left turn for Lower Millhayes, The Healthy Living Centre is situated on the right off Lower Millhayes.
From the A303:
Detail: Travel south-west along the A303 past the Ilminster and A358 roundabout. Continue on the A303 for about 4 miles. The A303 climbs a hill, there is a bend to the right followed by a garage on the right. Soon there is a bend to the left. After about ½ mile, turn right just past the public house, sign-posted Buckland St Mary. Keep on this road as it curves gently west around the top of the Blackdown Hills. (Do not turn left to Buckland St Mary!). At each junction, keep straight on. Castle Neroche (Iron Age) and Staple Hill Forest will pass on your right. After about 4½ miles, near Holman Clavel, follow the right fork to the junction and then right, past the inn on the left. After about ½ mile, near Culmhead, cross straight over the major road, near the telephone box. Follow the ridge road west between the magnificent beech trees. After about 5 miles, at the bend near Simonsburrow, turn left (sign-posted Hemyock). Follow this road south along the ridge, down the hill into the village. Take the left turn for Lower Millhayes, The Healthy Living Centre is situated on the right off Lower Millhayes.