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Blackwell the Arts and Crafts House exhibits works by four artists made from natural materials
Jo McDonald, Short Stories, 2009.
CUMBRIA.- The exhibits in Woven from Nature are – literally – just that. This exhibition brings together four contemporary artist-craftswomen whose work is either entirely or partially woven and which has the ‘common thread’ of being made from natural materials: wool, cotton, willow, paper and vellum. This is a show that brings together traditional and contemporary practice in the most exciting ways.

Two established leaders in their respective fields, basket-weaver Mary Butcher and tapestry weaver Jilly Edwards, have each nominated a fellow maker working within the same discipline, whose work may not yet be as well-known as their own. It makes for a show in which experience has informed the curatorial approach, and which offers an fascinating breadth of work.

Jilly Edwards trained at West of England College of Art in Bristol, and the Edinburgh College of Art Tapestry Department; she has since taught, published and exhibited widely. Jilly is now based in Devon, where the landscape plays a key role in her work. She creates tapestries that manifest an abstract evocation of nature and landscape in which narratives are told through the painterly use of colour, and texture, rather than words. They represent the distillation of her emotions, memories and responses to places which have a particular resonance for her, or to journeys through nature and landscape.

Jilly’s ‘nominee’ is Jo McDonald, who also trained in tapestry at Edinburgh College of Art and exhibits regularly. Her work is concerned with the story-telling aspects of history and the way in which it changes with each re-telling. Using second-hand books, newspapers and journals she takes on the role of ‘editor’ in recycling them. She deconstructs the printed material and weaves it into tapestries and structures that will take on a new history.

Mary Butcher trained under traditional basketmakers and within a formal framework at the London College of Furniture. She has travelled widely, acquiring knowledge about techniques and materials from Europe and beyond. She teaches at West Dean College and exhibits internationally, and in 2009 was the Crafts Council Designer in Residence at the V&A. Recently she has developed a series of wall pieces, or ‘wall drawings’, fragile constructions combining different materials such as willow and vellum. Smaller-scale examples of these, developed for the Blackwell exhibition, will be on display.

Maggie Smith, nominated by Mary Butcher, trained at City Lit., London. Her work is inspired by her passion for the heritage of traditional craftsmanship and love of natural materials. The starting-point for many of her pieces is a found object, around which she builds a form, often using natural materials from the same location. This element of chance enables her to explore the possibilities of these often unconventional materials, such as seaweed, bark or pebbles.

These four makers have very different approaches, and the exhibition sheds light on their working methods by including preparatory work such as designs and sketchbooks.

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