Viking Cruises Mekong Garden – RHS Chelsea Flower Show

My canopy at Chelsea. Photo by Sandie Roche

Just back from a stint at Chelsea Flower Show celebrating the success of the Viking Cruises Mekong Garden‘s gold and best artisan garden awards, Nick Weaver and I were overawed by the massive interest in our focal pieces for the garden, which appeared to have the wow factor.

A seemingly endless stream of visitors in their 1000s admired and appreciated the garden, designed by multi-gold award-winner Sarah Eberle.  People expressed how much they would love to lounge on Nick’s boat and chill, with the water gently lapping around them and visitors were charmed by the ‘ethereal beauty’ and colours of my canopy, many intrigued by its makeup.  Sarah Eberle described it in her BBC TV interview this week with Joe Swift as her best bit of the garden: “I love the canopy.. like a celestial beam.. wonderfully charming”!

Me working on the final stages of the canopyMe working on final corner of canopyCanopy finishedCanopy loaded on truckCanopy unveiling at Chelsea - checking fish skeletons are still in tact!Transporting canopy to siteNick and Fiona installing sticks at ChelseaInstalling canopy at Chelsea, May 15Fiona and Nick installing canopy at ChelseaFiona installing canopy at ChelseaViking Cruises Mekong Garden completeOur focal piecesCanopy rising above hoards of visitorsEndless stream of peopleGold and Best Artisan Garden Awards proudly displayedKate Adie giving an interview by our gardenOur garden - image supplied by Guardian GardensWire baskets I made for the showCanopy detailNaga (snake deities) carved by Nick WeaverJMP_VIKING_CHELSEA_15Me and Nick Weaver on the garden stepsMe, Nick Weaver and Sarah Eberle lounging on the boat

I was commissioned by Sarah Eberle to create the canopy for her Artisan Mekong Garden, inspired by Cambodia’s floating gardens, traditional fishing nets and silk weaving in the Mekong River region, following Sarah’s journey on board sponsor Viking Cruises Magnificent Mekong.  Nick made a lounger styled on a traditional fishing boat.

The 7 x 5m garden is entirely water with a small deck leading to the boat/lounger and cantilevered canopy suspended above. The beds follow the style of the region and contain an eclectic mixture of fruit, flowers and vegetables. Harvested hazel, other reclaimed woods and a plethora of woven wire, silk and found materials have all be used to harmonise with the planting.

I was approached by Sarah after seeing my installation piece “Lichen” at the Maureen Michaelson Gallery stand at GROW London last year.  The 4 metre textured fishing net/canopy I made by hand incorporates incredibly fine woven copper wires, fruit netting bags, twine, silk, wool and other surprising found and reclaimed materials like fish skeletons!  I also made 3 wire baskets used as props. It was a great pleasure and honour working with Sarah for Chelsea Flower Show and amazing to have achieved such highly acclaimed awards. The team involved many others, including Nigel Evans (paint effects on boat) and Angela Morley (supplied trombone squash), and we are grateful to all who have supported us, given materials and helped!

After over 4 months of hard work, I am a little exhausted but elated!

To see more photos of the Chelsea Flower Show work in progress visit my Art Facebook Page

Next show – The Hidden Garden Art Show, at Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead, London; 4 – 12 June.  I will be showing a range of my work, alongside other selected artists (see poster below).  On Sunday 12 June this Gallery is also hosting a day as part of Chelsea Fringe Festival, where I will be demonstrating my sculpting techniques from 11am – 5pm, with a talk at 3pm.  Do come along!

www.maureenmichaelson.com or www.chelseafringe.com

MMG Hidden Garden Art Show

 

Blurred Edges – Exhibition at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Bath

My next exhibition, starting today, is entitled ‘Blurred Edges’.  A series of work by Kitty Hillier and myself at Walcot Chapel Gallery, Walcot Gate, off Walcot Street, Bath BA1 5UG – runs from 14th – 27th October, open 10.30 – 4.30 daily.  The chapel is set back from the top end of Walcot Street in Bath’s artisan quarter – a busy, creative hub in the Roman city centre:
“Blurred Edges exploits undefined boundaries between line and form, distinct contrasts and interesting crossovers between our work.  Our different use of media (my organic 3d forms in metal and found materials, Kitty’s abstract 2d paint and wood pieces) adds to the dynamic interaction.  Tactile and open-ended, threads weave through the work, making connections, suggesting conflicts, revealing hidden layers, textures and emerging forms.  Echoed shapes allude from one to the other, shared interests become apparent and both artists enjoy the playful concept of taking a line for a walk.”

Letting materials dictate

I’ve been having fun with a new piece.  It started as a clear idea, based on a dying spiky pod form I came across, which mesmerised me.  A familiar yet unfamiliar form.  I photographed and drew it.  Gnarled creases, mould growths and thin spikes on red skin; an hourglass shape ending in dried, dripping leaves held a history of growth and decay.  Ugly elegance.   I needed to explore this form by making it.  I gathered together a selection of my reclaimed copper and steel components, and one by one, they told me where they should go.  It’s been a collaboration between us, a journey with risks, but whether it succeeds or not, I’m enjoying myself!

I owe a huge thank you to John Shepherd Feeders in Doulting, who, over the years, have given me steel bits.  For this piece, John gave me a steel plate for the base.

When finished, the piece – which will stand tall with a large, delicate, woven wire butterfly perched on it – will be installed in Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Cornwall from March – November.  You might like to visit it there!

 

SAW ’12

This year’s Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios event was an interesting one.  Naturally, the recession has hit peoples’ pockets a plenty, so visitor attendance and sales were clearly down on previous years, in my experience.  However, although a bit remote from the main hub of venues, I was pleased that my venue at no. 10 attracted some lovely, appreciative people and a whole range of positive feedback – all of which help make it worthwhile.  I do feel that we artists will need to work even harder to gain public recognition and earn a crust in times ahead… A blog by Nancy Farmer articulates many thoughts from this year’s SAW artists.  Somerset Art Works is a great organisation for artists in Somerset and let’s hope it continues to move from strength to strength despite the arts cuts.

Sometimes it’s hard to verbalise what my work is about – often working in an instinctive way – so it’s helpful receiving other people’s responses.  Here are some of my visitors’ comments from SAW ’12, to end the 2 weeks and 3 weekends on a positive note (and to entice you to come and view my work in forthcoming exhibitions):

“Beautifully close to nature…delicate and strong at the same time”  “..fascinating and clever”  “absolutely intriguing”  “inspirational”  “your sculptures work very well in the garden”  “we love your stuff – you have a wonderful eye for the incredible”  “wonderful texture and form”  “individual”  “unique”  “amazing work”  “inventive use of materials”  “jack of all trades – master of all!”  “so versatile”  “ethereal”  “I very much admire your work”  “so organic”  “I love your work – it’s so intricate, clever and witty”  🙂

 

 

Nature’s cyclical persistence

A solo exhibition of my work is dawning soon at Casespace, Bruton Museum.  An intimate space enclosed in a glass case and one corner of the Museum, the exhibition ‘Precious and Primal’ will show some of my smaller pieces – including cocoons and new work I’m making at present:  New Beginnings is a series of egg forms with tentacles sprouting upwards.  I’m experimenting with the kinds of media I used years ago – bandage, wax, bristles etc… to achieve the textures I’m after.  

My ideas have been developing for a proposed show, for which I’d like to create a massive piece as the main focus.   Concepts of  ‘a network of threads weaving through all things’ and Nature’s cyclical persistence keep re-emerging.  Although one changes, develops and adapts in life – it’s strange how one keeps returning to old ideas.  It’s that ‘cyclical nature of things’ concept again (or I’m like a goldfish swimming around.. and around….)

Sonja Klinger (glass artist) kindly gave me some beautiful large pink glass baubles, which she considered scrap.  As I collect recycled materials she thought I could use them in my work.  In a way, I’d like to keep them just as they are – objects d’art in themselves.  They have been sitting decoratively in my garden over the winter, mulling over their next destiny.  But I have a plan for them now.  My Diatom drawings show the baubles encased as the heart within these sculptures.  Diatoms are phytoplankton from the Jurassic Era.  Significantly endangered, they’re responsible for over 40% of the ocean’s primary production – without which we all die.  When I recently learnt that information, my obsession with these fascinating microscopic phenomenon grew all the stronger.  We mustn’t kill them just as we mustn’t slaughter whales!  

My work with the Scraptors sculpture group is accelerating once more.  We are about to launch our IndieGoGo bid to help fund our next venture at the Magdalen Project and filming continues tomorrow to get our message across.  See our blog for details: scraptors.blogspot.com   S-J of Whitespace Productions has kindly made a shorter film version of our Scraptors’ Sculpture Trail at Stourhead to help with our IndieGoGo fund-raising launch.