Saturday, 20 August 2016

If You Build It I Will Come

I make no secret of my love for Peterborough. I've lived in plenty of other great places but these days I don't particularly like leaving our parish, let alone our city!

I make a few exceptions, however. One of my guiltiest pleasures is my annual trip down to Hatfield in Hertfordshire for Art in Clay, a festival of unique pottery artistry that I find completely impossible to resist.

Art in Clay
Art in Clay takes place twice a year (Hatfield, Farnham)

I have to confess, this has been going on for a while. 

Di and Andy McInnes have been running Art in Clay since 2005. It actually takes place twice a year. There's a summer exhibition in Hatfield, Herts and an autumn show in Farnham in Surrey. And yes, I got to both of them every year.

You see, I'm not into mass-produced tat. I like my surroundings to reflect how I am and what I am and what I believe in as far as is possible.

I may be a Green, but I don't live a 'Good Life' existence (I don't have the skills or the patience - as you've already read, any veg in my garden grow there by magic, not by horticulture). But, where and when I can, I like to do my bit, by encouraging artists in their endeavours, supporting them in their businesses (by buying their work) and by getting to know them as individuals so that I can share their stories with people who might admire their pieces in my home (in the hope I might generate more business for them). This, for me, is part of being a Greener citizen and consumer.

Of course, it would be better if the show was hosted at Peterborough Showground and Arena (hint, hint) so I could get to it on foot rather than drive to Hatfield. That would certainly be my ultimate dream (although I don't think I'd make a terribly good Showmaker at that event as I'd be too distracted by the many beautiful things).

I've come to know some of the artists very well because I've been buying from them for over a decade. I know how their pieces are made, what they are made from and what inspires them. Can you say the same about a piece of plastic made in China bought from a supermarket? No, you cannot.

I have enjoyed seeing some of the artists I buy from develop over the years. It's very exciting to see them work with a new material or draw their inspiration from somewhere new. It's a privilege to see master craftspeople develop over the course of their careers and an honour to enable them to do so buy buying and owning their work.

When you buy directly from an artist you are buying something unique and investing in their future. This statement is never more true that when you buy from a young or emerging artist.

Introducing Holly Louise Inglis...

Today, I bought two pieces from an artist whose work I've been collecting for over a decade. I also bought for the first time from an established artist who was new to me. Just before the three-day show closed at the end of the second day, I was delighted to buy a really exciting statement piece from a young artist whom I hadn't met before. Her name is Holly Louise Inglis. I'll introduce you to the other artists I collect from in future posts, but this one's all about Holly.

Holly with the sculpture that I bought
Holly with the some of her work
including the sculpture that I bought

What I buy depends entirely on what's happening in my life. Art - sculpture in particular - anchors me. I will always remember the circumstances under which I bought a particular piece so everything being 'right' when I choose what to buy matters.

Women who have a fetish for buying shoes will understand what I mean when I describe how I feel when I'm drawn to something. My mouth starts to water. My entire demeanour changes. I pace around, looking at the work (and the artist) from different angles, imagining what it would be like to own this piece and how it will make me feel when it's in my home.

I don't always follow through with a purchase. If I like the work but don't connect with the artist, I walk away. The 'story' of the piece is just as important as the aesthetic and I will gladly listen while an artist explains why they chose the medium and the technique that they use and why they decided on the particular subject.

In other words, I didn't arrive at the exhibition thinking to myself that I'd love to buy an extremely heavy 3-D sculpture of a grotesque. Far from it. I went to the show today thinking it would be nice if I found something I could connect with that said something about my current life with the Green Party in some way.

Blue tit and gold finch by Holly Louise Inglis
Bluetit and goldfinch by Holly Louise Inglis

I was drawn to Holly's stand, not by the piece I eventually bought, but by the work you can see in this picture, the bird sculptures. In particular, the goldfinch. For me, goldfinches represent Peterborough.

When I first moved to Peterborough in 2003, I had a bird feeder in my garden that was visited constantly throughout the day by goldfinches. Goldfinches are, arguably, the most striking of the finches living wild in Britain, thanks to their eye-catching red faces.

When I saw these delightful sculptures I moved closer to the exhibition stand to take a look. Almost immediately, Holly said hello and invited me to take a closer look at her work (and to touch it if I wanted to - not all artists are happy to let you do this!).

'Grotesque Natures'

I asked Holly what inspired her to create sculptures of goldfinches and while she explained, I took a closer look at the other work on her stand. During that time, I got a sense for Holly and what all this meant to her and this made me want to help her in some way. As you may know already, I have a soft spot for helping and encouraging young people (I've been a mentor with University of Brighton for many years). I began to feel that if I could help Holly and support her in her endeavours then I should and I would. It was at this point that I noticed a large, incredibly heavy and almost finger-pad-shreddingly tactile monster of a 3-D sculpture called 'Nami', one of a series of sculptures that Holly has cleverly called 'Grotesque Natures'.

Three sculptures by Holly Louise Inglis entitled Grotesque Natures
'Nami' is on the far left.

This is a really interesting subject matter for me. I know that Holly was inspired to create this work because of her long-standing interest in the world of fantasy fiction. However, when I look at the work Holly has created, I'm remind that one person's 'ugly' or 'grotesque' is another person's 'difference'.

Difference is Beautiful. Diversity in nature is beautiful.

I didn't tell Holly about my role within the Green Party. She will be finding that out right now, reading this post. I hope this insight brings something useful to her work. What she has created is a real talking point and I hope her other beautiful 'grotesques' will find their forever homes soon.

Peanut Butter

Holly explained that Nami was 'a peanut butter ceramic'. I didn't quite know how to react to this information. It sounded implausible. This big ceramic beast did not look like it was made from peanut butter. But I know when I'm in the presence of an expert so I said nothing. When I got home, I Googled 'peanut butter ceramic'. Turns out, 'reduction fired terracotta with peanut butter' an actual thing! You see, you can always learn something strange and new.

Nami meets my dog Reggie

So Nami now lives with me and I'm very proud to have him. He looks a bit like my dog.

He will be with me through some interesting times. Just as Holly's experience of life enabled Nami to be created, now Nami will become part of my life story. People will see him and ask me where he came from and how he came into my possession. In the telling of the story of why I chose to buy Nami, awareness of why it's important to invest in young, emerging and established artists will continue to grow.

Visit Holly Louise Inglis on the web.

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