This review of Sculpture by the Lakes is so kindly courtesy of Darren North East PR
A visit to Sculpture by the Lakes in Dorset is always a peaceful and inspirational experience so if you add to the landscape many local artists, you create a vibrant buzzing atmosphere of creativity and talent.
Last year, in September, I spent a wonderful day at Sculpture by the Lakes for Wellbeing By The Lakes, a 3-day wellness festival. This was truly one of my highlights of last year so it was so lovely to be able to return this year albeit with the world feeling very different from last year.
Since their re-opening on June 3rd of this year since the Covid-19 lockdown, Sculpture by the Lakes offers local visitors a safe escape and a warm welcome with the much-needed experience of being surrounded by nature and beauty once again.
The Dorset Arts Festival is one of the very few events that was able to be hosted this 2020 year. The intention of the event was to celebrate a small showcase of the best artists and makers in Dorset.
Across the vast, tranquil landscape of Sculpture by the Lakes over 50 artists and crafters gathered together to demonstrate their skills.
The Dorset Arts Festival was a beautiful opportunity to witness paintings being created beside the lakes, to pots being thrown in other spots, to watch baskets being weaved, and a whole range of other arts and crafts disciplines being demonstrated at a social distance.
The aim of the festival was to see artists and crafters from a variety of creative backgrounds to demonstrate their skills and exhibit their work so you can see and understand the process.
Sculpture by the Lakes is a 26-acre sculpture park, created by the renowned sculptor Simon Gudgeon.
The concept behind Sculpture by the Lakes was to showcase inspiring works of art in a naturally beautiful setting as opposed to the artificial constraints of a gallery with its enclosed spaces.
What makes Sculpture by the Lakes so special is that each sculpture has been meticulously positioned in just the right place in the grounds to enhance the aesthetic qualities of each piece.
Any visitor is left with the experience of walking around a work of art as the sculptures and the environment exist in a unique symbiotic relationship.
It is little wonder therefore that it has become a magnet for creative talents and artists to come to enjoy the peace and tranquillity and to be inspired.
Normally there are numerous classes to nurture the creativity of novices and experienced artists alike however these are currently postponed due to Covid-19.
In normal times, work is exhibited from various artists in the on-site gallery, and themed events such as Wellbeing By The Lakes that draw huge crowds. As a result of current events, sadly the 2020 festival has had to be cancelled this year.
Due to its more modest size, thankfully the Dorset Arts Festival was able to proceed with ample social distancing and hand sanitizers we all take for normal now.
One of the many quotes I spotted around the grounds (in the above photo) was incredibly pertinent to this event: “Use what talents you possess, the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best”.
Creativity in all its forms can be something sacred to lean into, no matter how crowded we believe the arena to be.
Learning a new craft and creative hobby isn’t just fun at the best of times, it can also be the solace we need in these uncertain times as a deep practice of mindfulness.
Here are some of just some of the artists I witnessed that struck a chord in particular.
Dorset Buttons and Textile Artist Anna McDowell
One of the first crafts to capture my attention was textile artist Anna McDowell whose work exhibits the Dorset Button Industry by Henry’s Buttons.
A Dorset button is a style of craft-made button originating in Dorset.
The manufacture of Dorset Buttons was at a peak between 1622 and 1850, after which they were overtaken by machine-made buttons from factories in the developing industries of Birmingham and other growing cities.
Like so many heritage crafts and skills, information on how to make Dorset Buttons was passed down from generation to generation and this cottage industry would impact the lives of hundreds of families in Dorset for more than 200 years.
It was so wonderful to meet Anna and learn more about this fascinating heritage craft with such poignant links to the landscape it was being exhibited in.
The precision and detail in each and every single Dorset Button is so spectacular. I was in such awe of the myriad of effects that can be created.
In 2017, the Heritage Crafts Association included Dorset Button making as one of their list of endangered heritage crafts and I am so passionate to learn how to create some of my own after this event.
If you’d like to find more about Dorset Buttons and download some templates of your own, click here.
Times To Treasure Silverclay Jewellery
The next stall I visited was the Silverclay jewellery collection from Times To Treasure by Grainne.
Silverclay is a wonderfully versatile substance that is relatively new to the field of jewellery making. And one that has truly sparked curiosity for me!
It is a simple material to use and because of that, it enables people to make beautiful jewellery without many years of training as silversmiths!
Silverclay consists of minute particles of pure silver mixed with a non-toxic organic binder, which binds the silver particles together to form a clay-like substance. In this clay form, it can be manipulated just like normal clay.
As Grainne demonstrated, the clay can be rolled, flattened, cut with a blade, pressed into moulds or impressed with shapes and textures. There were many examples on the Times To Treasure stall and I loved the dainty star earrings in little jars.
After Silverclay has been left to dry it is fired (either in a kiln or with a simple gas torch) which turns it into pure silver.
The whole process of witnessing the magic behind Silverclay has only made me want to dive into this craft even more!
Moreover, because the end product is pure silver, Silverclay can be used in the same way as any other precious metal. So it can be filed, sanded, textured, burnished and polished.
I can’t wait to explore Silverclay in more detail and it was so wonderful to see the demonstrations from Grainne.
Click here to find more about Silver Clay Workshops in Dorset.
The Mouse Hole Woolery
The next stall that truly captured my heart and imagination was The Mouse Hole Woolery who is the maker of needle felted animal sculptures inspired by the animals, landscape and conservation of the British Countryside.
The ethos of The Mouse Hole Woolery is: “Take time for yourself, connect with the raw materials and create your own individual piece of nature.”
As we all find ourselves spending more time in our homes, it’s healing for some of us to have ideas to keep us busy and our minds active but also be connected to nature. This is exactly why I was so enamoured by The Mouse Hole Woolery.
Carla Taylor’s majestic animal sculptures at The Mouse Hole Woolery are created using the time-consuming, but most rewarding, process of needle felting.
Needle felting is a craft created where the artist repeatedly stabs at loose wool fibres with a barbed needle where you can then shape, re-shape, and create life-like animals (or other objects) with incredible attention to detail.
Needle felting until not so long ago was a relatively unknown art form, however, it has now become one of the most in-demand crafts.
Carla’s own journey into needle felting was inspired by her Dorset countryside surroundings.
Carla’s partner is a farmer and whilst he was working on a rare breed farm, Carla was helping out get the sheep ready for shearing, and that’s when she fell in love with wool!
Carla recalls how the lanolin felt on her hands and that the textures were fascinating to her.
Now Carla is an official supporter of the Campaign for Wool, where she likes to work closely with local Dorset farmers promoting the use of local and British wool and will often refer to conservation awareness within her sculptures as well as incorporating vintage pieces into her work.
Outside of creating her own spectacular felted creations, Carla also runs a number of workshops throughout the year where you can create your own little piece of nature. I would love nothing more than to attend one as soon as restrictions allow me to do so.
Raffia Craft by Clairedoescraft
Raffia is the most sustainable type of palm known to hat and accessories makers. The palms on this tree can grow from 60 to 80 feet and can be harvested without damage to the plant itself.
Claire first began working with raffia in 1993. Since then, Claire has expanded her craft by creating a range of bags and kits to make your own raffia products.
Straw hats and bags are a common sight in the summer period, especially in our high street shops, but seeing first-hand the artistry of how they are made has made me want to explore this craft more deeply.
Moreover, it was so important for me to witness how important it is to find sustainable alternatives to the high-street models and raffia is a fascinating medium to work with.
As well as these beautiful products of raffia on display, from bags to hats, Claire is also the author of ‘Raffia: The Arts of Crafts’, the complete guide to working with raffia.
In this book, Claire offers different dyeing and colouring methods and plaiting and sewing techniques for a variety of items such as sun hats, dried flower baskets, candlestick holders and picture frames. What a dreamy project for the summer this would be!
Click here to find out more about Claire’s book and products.
Whilst this year’s Dorset Arts Festival event had to take place against the background of a global pandemic that has changed our lives for now and possibly in some ways forever, it still remained so special.
During this period, many of us have reignited, or perhaps found for the first time, the pleasures associated by awakening our hidden creativities and the advantages that this brings to our wellbeing.
The Dorset Arts Festival, that was located at Sculpture by the Lakes, provided the perfect oasis for artists and art lovers and as another of the quotations from the gardens says: “Time spent in nature heals your Body, Mind and Spirit”. How true this is.
I will certainly be revisiting this idyllic treasured spot in Dorset soon with my journal or sketchbook to bathe in the creativity this tranquil spot is so stimulating and invigorating for.
How many of you have been to Sculpture by the Lakes? How have you been nourishing your creativity whilst in lockdown? Have you ever tried any of the above crafts? I’d love to know by chatting in the comments below.
Sculpture by the Lakes is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Book tickets in advance here.
Sculpture by the Lakes, Pallington, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 8QU