This year, on a fine sunny Saturday in May, the Select festival of art and craft looked as strong as it ever has. Artist led exhibitions mixed with open studios and curated shows to form an atmosphere of creative energy.
As a visitor to this event one is struck by the accessibility and openness of the exhibitors (that is, their willingness to chat and share ideas rather than the ease with which they can be found!) The nature of the event is that a map leads viewers to individual studios and clusters of workshops to find treats from ceramics to textiles. Every studio is individual and there is an element of discovery and surprise despite researching the guidebook beforehand.
My recommendation to a group of OCA students who had made the trip to Stroud this year was to look at several different disciplines rather than just the one which interests them the most. Personally I find that inspiration comes more easily by indulging in the observation of techniques beyond my own training because it is easier to respond to colour, texture and form when I am not analysing how something has been made!
It is great to see artwork in the studio where it was born and to understand the context of the maker through the various objects and artefacts laying around in the room. Having said that, my trip began at the Museum in the Park where there was a very slick and well curated show of work by textile designers Alison Ellen, Ann Richards and Deirdre Wood. The exhibition ‘Soft Engineering’ contrasted the different approaches to manufacture and function by mixing the exhibits and presenting them as clean, sharp artworks on immaculate white walls. Beyond that the museum is a treasure trove of history and memorabilia bursting with inspiration for hungry creative minds.
After a lot of walking and just as much conversation we reconvened at the Museum where the seating outside the spring fed plunge pool provided the perfect spot to share some stories. It is always the case that when someone says “did you see……” I realise how much I did not see! I had seen enough to inspire me and had enjoyed admiring the patience and skill of other makers but I now enjoyed this conversation just as much. When people are hungry to learn teaching is a pleasure and in this case advice and encouragement were flowing freely. I will invite comments to follow this blog to sum up what people gained from the trip but I would summarise by saying that looking for the unexpected and being open to new ways of thinking are key to enjoying the Select festival.
Neil Musson’s own work can be seen here
Image: Tamsin Golesworthy at work in her studio meticulously cutting and pasting magazine pages to recreate garments as 2d artworks. See her work here.
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