xl
LG
MD
SM
XS
OX HC Magazine
Follow us | OXHC Magazine On Pintrest Follow OXHC Magazine On Facebook Tweet OXHC Magazine On Twitter OXHC On Instagram OXHC Club
Whats On
Lyn Harrison's Frog Fishing (Photo by Matthew Harrison)

From animals in art to busty brooches

Animals have been a perennially popular theme in art since the bulls and bison of the earliest cave paintings, and they are a popular inspiration for today’s Oxfordshire artists
Oxfordshire Artweeks is sponsored for 2017 by West Waddy ADP

"I like to make people smile. Life can be too serious if you let it."

This month the sixth annual Cotswolds Art & Antiques Dealers’ Association Fair will take place at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, this year on a theme of ‘the CADA Menagerie’ focusing on art depicting animals.

 

Animals have been a perennially popular theme in art since the bulls and bison of the earliest cave paintings, and they are a popular inspiration for today’s Oxfordshire artists and creators whose depict a wide range from perch to pointers, puffins to polar bears in traditional paintings and forged metal, paper maché, and more.

One local artisan whose work will be at home in the CADA menagerie in years to come is wood carver John Parrey whose main influences are medieval and renaissance objects and art. He captures character and life in his bird and fish sculptures, each numbered with a sterling silver tag hanging from its tail, and there’s a timeless quality to his creations.

Sunflower Rose and Pink Cosmos by Alison McWhirter

 

His fish range from 20 inches to over four foot long, and are all individual with local English Oak for the bodies, inlaid hickory for the spots, boxwood for the lighter colour of the eyes and usually bamboo for the teeth, the careful craftsmanship shining out.

Over near Abingdon, Steventon Green Pottery are known for their animal ceramics, from bird bowls and fishing frogs to flying pigs for the garden.

“Jo Bosley and I together,” says potter Lyn Harrison, “are Steventon Green Pottery – we live two doors down from one another, and moved in just six weeks apart in the late 1980s. I was already taking classes in pottery and, although I had no formal art training, I grew up in mid-Wales where we spent a lot of time digging holes and making mud pies as children – so that’s probably the root of it!

“Jo had a textile degree and after we became friends she joined the pottery group too. We learnt from a rather eccentric local potter at the Watermill in East Hendred, and although she’s no longer alive, we continue to use the style and clay that she inspired us with. We first started selling a few pieces at exhibitions that she was hosting, and then, through Artweeks, we were able to set up our first exhibition of our own, and we haven’t looked back.”

Lyn and Jo both use a type of clay called Stoneware Crank which is great for hand-modelling, and gives an earthy, rustic and tactile finish. The clay itself tends to inspire the things they make. Much of Lyn’s pottery is decorated with black and white patterns that could be African or Aboriginal in style, a striking look that works well with the burnt brown finish. The final pieces are full of life and most are functional as both potters love the idea that they make things to be used. However, they also do more unusual one-off decorative pieces where an idea takes their fancy.

Jo is particularly influenced by birds and cats and the flatback tradition of Staffordshire pottery that is so popular at antique fairs, whilst Lyn – who had four children of her own and taught small children for many years before turning to pottery full-time – has a passion for children’s literature. The influence of Beatrix Potter and other stories is clear in her work: many of her quirky and charming characters look as if they could have stepped from the pages of a picture book, and each captures the joy of children and motherhood.

“They are fun and rather whimsical,” she smiles, “because I like to make people smile. Life can be too serious if you let it.”

For more light-hearted off-beat charm, head to Oxfordshire’s only dedicated contemporary jewellery gallery. Named from wold (n. field, open countryside) and stone (n. piece of rock; this shaped or polished; precious stone), Woldstone in Woodstock brings the brilliance of the world’s most precious gems to the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, choosing one-off jewellery made by local and international designer-makers. With Mother’s Day on the horizon they suggest you give brooches a stab, and choose something for Mum to wear close to her heart – their 'Festival of Brooches' (and other versatile pins and badges for adornment) runs from 4th March and includes a selection for men too.

Jeweller Claire Fyfe-Jackson from neighbouring Stonesfield whose creations take centre stage has been developing a range of corset brooches inspired by a visit to an exhibition of antique corsets at the Costume Museum in Bath with her daughter.

“I’ve always loved vintage textiles and fashion,” she explains, “and as my daughter and I tried on various versions of corsets, I was struck by the instant feeling of elegance and poise that wearing one creates because of the improved posture it gives you.

“One can’t slump,” she laughs. “Because of the restriction of movement, a garment like this, however beautiful, is totally impractical in the 21st century, but you can wear one as a brooch, and channel the inner poise instead.”

Claire’s corsets are beautifully made, unusual and are just that little bit risqué, so they’re bound to prompt a comment – and as well as being cheeky and fun, they add a touch of ‘Vogue’ to any outfit with their strong 50s silhouette and delicate bows.

And just ten doors down, Junction Gallery present their fifth anniversary show in March. Gallery owner Kate Hipkiss, herself a talented papercut artist, is showing a series by Scottish colourist Alison McWhirter whose intimate fresh spring flowers in bold brush strokes are guaranteed to lift the mood of even the gloomiest day, and unlike most Mother’s Day flowers, these won’t fade after a fortnight in water!

- Esther Lafferty

 

The CADA fair is on from 30th March-2nd April.

 

Related Articles: Challenging perspectives on old narratives | Portraits: a picture tells a thousand words