It was a misty start to the August Bank Holiday Sunday but we were determined to get out into the countryside and do something. The weather can be very changeable in Devon! The scultptress Heather Jansch happened to have her studio and grounds open under the National Gardens Scheme that day. She was an artist I’d been aware of for a few years so we took off as it was only down the road from us in Olchard to discover more.
What we experienced was an amazing, creative and stimulating visit. From the gate we walked down a long tree lined drive with a wide grass verge on the left had side mown into a continuous snaking pattern for its whole length. The house had a display studio on the side of it with a stunning view through some floor to ceiling doors into the wooded valley below. Outside there was a separate studio / workshop opposite where some more of her work was on display.
If you haven’t seen it before take a look here. The reclaimed wood that Heather works in was dotted around the entire site leaning up against the workshop walls, stacked in a lean to – all open to the elements to help it bleach and take on the weathered patina that is such a strong feature in her work.
Aside from the horses, stags, piglets (!) and other sculptures in the garden she’d created the most amazing arches, linking hand built wooden walls of stacked logs to the wild hedges. Worn, weathered, twisted branches retrived from local rivers and the sea were bound in with hazel and oak from the garden arching over each other to form very natural looking fluid shapes.
As we wandered down the hill into the valley we came across little sitting areas created by a circle of mulched leaves and wood chippings with old wooden benches and seats set onto them, found from the local re-claimation centre. We sat here for a while as each seat had it’s own particular view across the valley through the branches and watched the mist come down through the trees.
After the circular walk through this magical landscape, which took us past the stream in the bottom of the valley and back up through more woods sprinkled with smaller sculptures (including a bear), we sat in the gazebo with a hot mug of tea watching the windfalls from the apple trees and the fish darting around the pond below us.
A glorious and unexpected gem. So much so we’re going back again for the open studio this weekend with our youngest before she starts her A level art on Thursday. If you’re in the area it’s open from 10am – 5pm from September 5th – 20th 2009.