Pulling up to Wolfeton Riding House just outside of Dorchester in Dorset, it is clear that the same such fifty Dorset artists are affirming the same single thing, their establishment and their achievement. In simply the perfect gallery space, the room was full of welcoming invitation, the space treated as though an art itself. Ceilings towered and atmosphere entwined, as Making Dorset, the new long-term initiative of Dorset Visual Arts, championed itself in celebratory form – affirming the diversity and significance of regional artists.
With Evolver magazine, the south west’s pre-eminent arts publication celebrating its 100th edition, the cause for the unity and showcase of those established and those just emerging was clear. Through the release of measured book ‘Fifty Dorset Makers’ and its subsequent supporting exhibition, Making Dorset aims to develop a network of Dorset’s best designer makers, with the drive to take their work and knowledge to new places outside this country. With the imagination to provide expansion and elevation, platform Dorset Visual Arts is an organisation for artists, designers and makers. Standing for those which have true gift but limited access upon which to showcase such gift, this concept directs focus towards the importance of individual artistic approach, in a climate where the arts has long been easily shadowed. Assisting artists to bring their work to the attention of the public in better understanding and appreciation, the inspired range of art mediums displayed across the book and seen within the exhibition was both impressive and immersive.
This area of activity is an important, though discrete, element of Dorset’s creative and cultural economy and we are excited by the potential of this creative collective working together
Inside Wolfeton House the decorative shadows of the creations made for inviting silhouettes of bespoke wonder from wall to wall. With each piece of careful curation put upon a pedestal, each artist’s character was given room to flourish. From the fine furniture of Petter Southall to the sculptural nostalgia of Lorraine Bowley, Fifty Dorset Makers offers for our viewing pleasure opportunity to expand our artistic understanding and appreciation of the local area, all at once. From the hypnotic detail found within Jenni Cadman’s stunningly framed experiments of textile, to the commanding shine of Karina Gill’s coiled metal works, representation of female artists was also highly of note. With names and works presenting at every turn, different approaches to curation darted around the room, however all were unified uniquely by their common investment in the landscape around them.
With craftsmanship and creation standing side by side, it was clear Dorset as birthplace and breeder of creativity was important to each of these exhibitors. As though this backdrop of immense picturesque beauty had given them all something nowhere else in the UK could, handmade jewellery designer Sian Evans spoke to me about the significance of being a maker from Dorset. “Growing up in Weymouth and being in Dorset as a child has impacted my work significantly, as the archaeology and the geology of Dorset has affected my work throughout my career. I was interested in old archaeological techniques and rock formations, and ‘Botony’ my fashion collection really shows this, with all designs centred around leaf and petal forms, being very organic with a touch of modernism.”
Whether the influence of Dorset is encoded as visually throughout each artist’s work or not, the weight of meaning from having Dorset as a cultural backbone to these makers is important. From influencing form to colour palette, and ethos to production, the codes of Dorset are inherent within these makers, attaching them to a heritage and a certain way of viewing the world around them. Bespoke furniture designer Simon Thomas Pirie reflects this, taking “environmental responsibilities seriously, using only sustainable and, wherever possible, British timber in its furniture.” From Simon Thomas Pirie’s approach of keeping creation as environmentally considered and as local as possible, it is clear how being makers of regional art causes impact upon these creators. Offering distinct traits wrapped in bespoke quirkiness, supporting regional art is important in obtaining true character within our artworks. Organic vision is never condensed throughout process, with making being local, personal and passionate.
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