Visit to Heather Jansch’s Studio

Art, Contemporary Art, Design, Devon, Sculpture

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.

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Design brought on to agenda at Davos

Design, Devon, London

It’s great that design has a voice at Davos this week. What with President Obama currently being lobbied for a Secretary for Arts & Culture (it’s hard to believe the US don’t already have this) maybe 2009 will be the year design finally gets the opportunity to flex it’s vocal chords.

But what is good design? At Davos, design critic and former Design Museum director Alice Rawsthorn will be curating two debates focused on design. The members of the panel will present one example of good design and one of bad design and discuss the reasons for their selection. Industrial designer Yves Béhar, founder of Fuse Project says he will compare two cars, the Hummer and the Smart car. He describes both models as ‘iconic’, but says the Hummer has ‘little insight into a changing world’.

However, I wonder if he’s been to Harrods recently. They have the coolest Hummer I’ve ever seen in the sports department. It runs on electricity, costs a little over £11K and has a range of around 70 miles on one charge. To me it’s a cross between the original Jeep but with that iconic Hummer grille. To the Americans it’s a golf cart. As I live in rural Devon I thought it might finally give me the upper hand over the farm tractors and sheep towing quad bikes that regularly stuff you into the Devon banks at speed.

Sadly Mrs E. hustled me out of there pronto when she saw me so glassy eyed and slack jawed…I dare not tell the kids or it could be a very expensive Christmas ’09.