Cotehele Garland

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The Tamar Valley can be a grey and dank place between November and January. Outings tend to need the right sort of clothes and a brew. A trip, at this time of year, to the medieval Manor House, Cotehele, provides numerous muddy walks along rivers or in the countryside and plenty of chances for a brew. It also alleviates the dankness with a fabulous flashback to the fecundity of Summer.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele

The tradition of the garland goes back to the 1950’s. It celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016. Because it appears in November and carries on beyond the new year. Many first time visitors are surprised by its colour scheme. It doesn’t shout Christmas with rich jewel colours  or bold glossy green foliage, instead it is a joyous celebration of summer colours. Everything in the garland is grown, dried and stored on the estate.

 

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My eye is always caught by the bright pink abstract wiggles of Limonium suworowii or Pink pokers. Tethered, as they undoubtedly are, in the garland, they look like horticultural escape artists waiting to break free.
The garland is the responsibility of the head gardener. Each garland takes 12 days to assemble but it has taken a full gardening year to grow the plants from seed and then harvest them to be hung and dried ready for the November assembly. Depending on the quality of the summer weather, between 23,000 and 35,000 flowers are produced. Volunteers spend 70 hours a week caring for, then cutting and stripping the flowers ready to be dried. Picking starts in April, once ready, they are bunched and hung to dry until November.

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Each garland differs slightly depending on the growing success, or not, of the various flowers that traditionally form the garland. Some years a theme is adopted that has a particular significance, for example, last year was the centenerary of the end of World War 1.
The green base of the garland is the product from fifty Pittosporum or Cheesewood trees, an evergreen shrub with small, shiny, leathery leaves. Ninety feet of rope forms the beginning of the swag, bunches of Pittosporum are then tied to the rope until it is covered.
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Photo credit . The National Trust. Cotehele

The swag is then ready to become a garland.
Scaffolding is erected indoors and the swag is hung in the Great Hall, gardeners clamber up to create the lofty design, the beauty of a years harvest of flowers and hard work are pushed into the greenery one colour at a time to ensure an even distribution.

sdr_vivid The Garland attracts 32,000 visitors to the estate. For some it is an annual visit, to rekindle the memories of past visits, for others, it is a unique experience, never to be repeated but wonderful never the less. The volunteer guides at Cotehele are a huge asset. This pondering was all gleaned from talking to a volunteer for less than ten minutes, I don’t think she missed a single thing.

Devon Slice and other baked goods controversy.

Yesterday’s Quickie#5 was a scone. A controversial food item, in particular in the borderlands of the Tamar Valley but also worldwide. Quickie#5 was a cheese scone for simplicity

Lively conversation occurs at theoldmortuary over baked goods as we are a mixed heritage household. One Hongkonger with Devon/Cornish genes, one Essex woman and two dogs from Bedford. Growing up in Essex I loved being bought a Devon Slice. A soft mound of sweet dough, glazed and split across the top and filled with fresh cream and jam. When I moved to the Tamar Valley I fully assumed I would reacquaint myself with the Devon Slice. I can’t say I was hugely diligent in searching them out but occasional enquiries were met with puzzled looks in the bakeries I visited. I have a vague idea I bought something similar, in the eighties, at Jacka Bakery on the Barbican in Plymouth, but it wasn’t called a Devon slice. As they are the countries oldest working bakery and must know their dough products I must assume a Devon Slice was an Essex or maybe even more locally a Braintree invention or,worse,a family made- up name.

Our much missed family baker, Jenny, part of the Cornish heritage had never heard of a Devon slice fitting my description.

This opening paragraph illustrates that there isn’t much of my bakery knowledge that is factually correct, and so with my lack of accurate knowledge laid bare I will make a small personal statement about the Scone/ Jam/Cream debate.

In my early Essex life amongst family we split a scone, spread the cut surfaces with thick cream and topped it with jam. We were all happy with this, I continued to be happy with it for 30 years until I moved to the Tamar Valley. My life since then has straddled the Tamar Valley, living in Cornwall and working either in Devon, or more recklessly and wildly, ‘ Up the line’ *

* Up the Line’ in Cornwall means anywhere beyond of where you are within Cornwall and to the East. It could mean Plymouth, London or, in reality, anywhere in the rest of the World.

Personally despite living in Cornwall I persist in my ‘Essex’ ways left to my own devices. In company I can go either way to be honest. I actually don’t have a huge preference. To say the spreading order of jam and cream or cream and jam is contentious is in itself contentious. Not having an opinion is entirely possible but will always expose the undecided individual to unlooked for advice in any group of people.I am hugely fascinated by other people’s views . Does Aberdeen side with Devon , cream first, or does it follow a Celtic lead and side with Cornwall, jam first? Where does Birmingham stand?

Essex I believe stands with Devon, but maybe that’s just my own leafy corner of North East Essex. Who knows?

Debate and more knowledge warmly welcomed.

Friday

This stretch of mud is one of my favourite sights. It appears on the banks of the Tamar. Pill Creek feeds into the main River at Saltmill; at low tide its serpiginous track into the main body of water is clear to see. There are many others that can be seen from the road bridge but this one is easy to get close to on foot. I never plan my walks to deliberately to see it but serendipity is kind several times a year. Time stops still for a bit when I catch it at perfection. It recalibrates me until the next time.

Quickie- #2

I popped into this local visitor attraction this morning.

When I asked Brian, the Centre volunteer for today, why he joined this tiny new museum as a guide. His answer was simple.

” Because I’ve been in construction all my life.I just love seeing something that has been designed by engineers, fulfilling its purpose effectively” he explained

Enthusiasts are so great to talk to, alongside his extensive knowledge of both bridges I also learnt that Brian had started life in a drawing office. His technical drawing skills were way more advanced than my meagre ‘O’ level. He explained that final, finished-build,technical drawings were done on waxed linen and that the fabric was amazing quality, if there was any spare you could take it home and wash the wax off to reveal beautiful fabric to sew with.

It must be a fabulous experience to draw on waxed linen, I find it hard to imagine the process. The smells and textures would be so different from the usual paper. Perfect though if a tea spillage occurred..

Amazing fact, and the excuse for this picture. The workers on the bridge wore normal every day clothes and used no safety gear. There are photographs of men at work in flat caps and suits. Maybe not as visually pleasing as this shot ; which I chose because it could be a contemporary fashion shoot and yet it is more than 50 years old.

Tethering my Abstracts

Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead uses shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect. The term is also applied to art that is based on an object, figure or landscape where forms have been simplified or schematised.

https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/abstract-art

Synesthesia is a condition where one sense ( for example hearing) is simultaneously perceived as if by one or more additional senses. The word synesthesia comes from two Greek words syn ( together) and aisthesia ( perception) meaning joined perception.

https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/syne.html

My abstracts are mostly landscape inspired. Rooted very much in a particular place but also informed by the history and geography of the place. In some respects they are also created with reference to my synesthesia. Whilst creating art I often listen to music, sometimes deliberately chosen , other times just random. I often choose not to allow synesthesia in and listen to spoken word radio. A painting created with Joy Division as background music would be subtly different if it were created while listening to Benjamin Britten. These things are hugely important to me but joyously insignificant to everyone else.

http://www.joydivisionofficial.com/reimagined/

https://brittenpears.org/

It’s important to me to know where a painting comes from once I’ve committed it to canvas or panel. Naming it is obviously a start, but that has never quite satisfied me. Owners of my works often read something quite different into them , sometimes I share the geographical location or the synesthesic source, but they are of course, free to interpret the art on their walls however they see fit. However for me there has always been a tethering that I couldn’t quite catch, something that satisfied my need for a location but that didn’t dictate too much to the final work . I’ve recently discovered ‘what3words’ It is a location system that is simple and accurate to a 3m x 3m square anywhere in the world.

https://what3words.com/daring.lion.race

Retrospectively I’ve started giving my pictures a ‘ what3words’ tethering.

Beast From The East.

From the title anyone can roughly work out the timing of this painting. It is an amalgam of a few wintry walks in the village of Forder near Saltash in Cornwall.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=beast+from+the+east+2018&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-gb&client=safari

The walk takes you along a creek into Churchtown Farm Nature reserve. Most days I stopped at the same spot to contemplate the cold . What is never obvious is that this was painted when I was personally very chilly as our central heating boiler broke down and we were without heat during this period. However I can perfectly express where I was standing when the inspiration for this picture formed using what3words.

Breathing. Frowns. Index. Curiously appropriate words , I’m sure this won’t always be the case.

Coincidentally I’ve discovered a whole new story for the next work that I was going to tether, I was doing a little research about the pillow in this picture, prior to giving it its ‘what3words’ location. As it turns out there is a whole new story which deserves a blog all to itself. Here it is at Tate Modern as part of the Pillowtalk Exhibition, with my lovely daughter.

Here is its estimated ‘what3words’ location while at Tate Modern.Loaded.Tiger. Salon.

The story of this pillows journeys and my experiments with what3words will be the next blog.

https://www.southlondonwomenartists.co.uk/pillow-talk-conversations-with-women/

Drawn to the Valley, Drawn to London. Artists of the Tamar Valley.

As someone who has spent their entire adult life actually being drawn to the Valley and then drawn to London, on repeat, and loving both equally, this was always going to be a ‘ not to be missed’ exhibition. The Valley in question is the Tamar Valley, the natural border between Devon and Cornwall. Beautiful, spectacular and largely undiscovered this vivid corner of England is home and sometimes muse to a vibrant gathering of artists. Some of whom belong to the collaborative group Drawn To The Valley.

The group has over 160 members, thirty-five of the artists have brought their work to Pall Mall.

The exhibition which runs from 22-27th October at The Royal Opera Arcade Gallery is an eclectic mix of art, some very representational of the area from which the group hails and some inspired by world travels or fantastic imaginations. This exhibition has something for everyone. West Country expats will love seeing familiar landscapes rendered in so many different ways, while those who are quite unfamiliar with the area will be exposed to its charms by the skill of artists who really love the place they call home. Not all the art here is representational, there are some amazing abstracts and 3D pieces. London and other world locations have also inspired this talented group of artists. Some pieces are pure creativity and inspiration.

Invigilators or gallery assistants can be a huge part of setting the tone of an exhibition. It’s not an easy job to gauge how much interaction gallery visitors want. Drawn to London benefits from having the artists themselves as invigilators. During my visit everyone was warmly welcomed and conversation about the art flowed freely and enthusiastically.

The ‘Hang’ at this exhibition, which covers three floors, is whimsical. Not unlike the Royal Academy Summer Show. Works that look good together, hang together. Maybe this style is not for everyone but I think it adds to the really happy feel of this exhibition.

I hope I can get back for another mooch around, I can’t recommend this refreshing exhibition too highly. If you have a blank wall there is almost certainly something here that would fill it nicely.

www.jeannineallen.co.uk

www.nickybeaumont.co.uk

www.janet-brady.com

www.jenbradleydesigns.wixsite.com

www.martinbush.co.uk

www.martinclarkart.com

www.dartmoorlandscapes.com

www.monachorumgallery.co.uk

www.melanieguy.com

www.artgallerysw.co.uk

www.pippahowes.com

www.tessajane.co.uk

www.clarelaw.co.uk

www.nsltextileart.co.uk

www.mawdsley.co.uk

www.jillianmorris.co.uk

www.clarknicolart.co.uk

www.karennicoltextileart.ipage.com

www.sallyoneillartist.co.uk

www.glenrockstudio.co.uk

www.ianpurvisart.com

www.charlottesainsbury.co.uk

www.angelasmithsart.com

www.katystonemanart.co.uk

www.saatchiart.com for Marianne Sturtridge

www.callingtonartschool.com for Tessa Sulston

www.riichardsunderlandart.com

www.tinatianart.com

www.markwigginsart.com

www.annette-wrathmell.co.uk

www.simonyoungart.com

www.drawntothevalley.co.uk

Saltash Regatta

Potential Energy

IMG_0192Saltash Regatta weekend.

A bustling brightly coloured celebration of river and community based pleasure. I always like to get to the waterfront at dusk on the Friday or dawn on the Saturday to catch the hardware of the event in preparation. The symmetry and stillness of the gigs and pilot boats belies the ferociousness of the events later in the day

IMG_0197These weighty oars have the delicacy of ballerinas feet as they rest peaceably together on the green. In a few hours they will be battling for prime position, one on one contact is not unheard of.

IMG_0196I love the laced-on leather handgrips, resting here, they have an erotic quality, suggesting laces on corsets passively waiting to be undone. In reality, the leather provides grip but the combination of endeavour, leather and salty water is punishing to the flesh. Soft palms and finger tips can be shredded to bloody remnants of their former selves.

IMG_0195Gigs, resting neatly in the water, delivered overnight from all over the West Country await their teams to give them energy and purpose.

IMG_0190Their skeletal insides waiting for race-ready muscles to give them power.

IMG_0193Blades, polished to cleave the water whilst the rowers cleave together, rhythm and energy effectively brought together.

IMG_0191Flashboats announcing every rowers hoped-for outcome. Just a few hours peace before the rowing begins.