OUT OF THE WOOD.

 

CHAPTER 1

*Scroll down for chapter 2

A month or so ago I saw an Open Call on Curatorspace that sounded very exciting.

OUT OF THE WOOD – Brief

Artists are invited to submit to participate in ‘Out of the Wood’ – a new temporary sculpture exhibition project set within the ancient apple orchard of The Bleddfa Centre in Radnorshire, Wales. Utilising locally coppiced wood up to 20 selected artists will each be given a single length of Birch cordwood – size approx. 6 inches diameter x 4 feet long – to utilise as they see fit for a group show commencing late August 2019.

The premise for the exhibition is a simple one; up to 20 artists are each invited to produce an individual sculpture utilising – as they see fit – one length of Birch cordwood for a group exhibition to be held in the ancient apple orchard of The Bleddfa Centre in Radnorshire, Wales.

There are no restrictions to the type of sculpture produced and this could perhaps be viewed as an opportunity to experiment and take your work in a new direction. Other materials can be used in addition to the donated cordwood.

The Birch cordwood has been kindly donated by the Knighton Tree Allotment Trust and is a result of their ongoing coppicing and management of a local woodland.

I applied and, on the first day of June, I found myself driving down the beautiful A470 to the Bleddfa Centre to collect my birch and meet the other artists.  The group had come together from as far afield as London, and the South of England, as well as artists much more local to the area. I was the furthest in Wales.

After our meeting, some of us went with Alithea from Castle Rings Oak Frame, who owns the woodland where the birch came from. It’s a stunning place, with ancient earthworks, ancient beech trees and the softness of young hazel and birch.

 

The drive back was all about wondering what on earth I could do with my stick.

I’m not a wood carver, and I don’t want to carve anyway…. so I have decided to go with my own practice and to use this birch as a way of connecting to other people and starting conversations that can be carried with the stick and continued over the next couple of months. Hopefully, by spending time with the wood, and with others, we will find a way of carrying these encounters back to Castle Rings.

A friend put it quite concisely…..

“You’re just going to bring this stick to stay with you, show it a good time and then return it home.”

Travels of the Talking Stick.

8th June, 2019

The first event in the itinerary: Draig Beats Festival at Treborth Botanical Gardens. We hung out, away from the main stage, at the edge of the woods, where we met loads of lovely people and had some fascinating conversation.

 

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Throughout the day, the stick and I met many people : Joy, Holly, Julie, Amy, Graham(Sooty) Osian, Lilly, Sue, Sue, Marika, Andrew, Michael, Paul, Christine, Vicky, Sol, Eli, Monty, Sarah, Max, Dan, Sarah, Alex, Morgan, Chris, Ffion, Julie, Rod, John, Nomi, Matt, Marcus, Tom and Anna.

We shared conversations of many things: Birch woodland, Pioneer species, broom making, alpacas, aliens, abuse, tenant’s rights, walking sticks, carving, German folk traditions, stone circles, motorbikes, weed, art school, children’s names, Zombies, Music, reforestation of verges and edge-lands, the 90’s, Minecraft, selling art, 3D printing, Birch sap, ecocide, D H Lawrence, runes, corporal punishment in the Isle of Man, chewed bark, and the re-seeding of Trawsfynydd.

Thanks everyone, that was a fascinating day.

Look out for the Talking Stick in a woodland near you!

CHAPTER 2

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27th July 2019

Llyn Parc Mawr Community Woodland, Woodland Party

Llyn Parc Mawr is a lovely woodland area on the Isle of Anglesey, boasting broadleafs and conifers, as well as a growing population of Red Squirrels. It is managed by the Llyn Parc Mawr community woodland group, and is about to enter a new phase, having received lottery funding to set up a forest school, including a new”supersonic classroom”, as well as running courses and recruiting volunteers to manage the woods. It feels like a special place.

This Saturday was their annual Woodland Party, and my stick and myself were invited go along and continue collecting conversations and encounters.  I set myself up under a beautiful, huge silver birch tree and waited for people to come for a chat.

At the beginning of the afternoon, it was very quiet and peaceful in our space. A couple of good chats, but mainly the chance to sit back and absorb the atmosphere, as people got involved with the more exciting events of the day: Stonebaked pizza and handmade cakes from Halen Mon, circus skills with Syrcas Cimera, basket weaving, woodland crafts and even a beautiful shire horse to pat.

There was beautiful music from Jodie and Geraint; notes from the heart swirling around the talking stick, imbuing it with their melodies.

As the afternoon wore on, more people  came to see us, and many fascinating conversations ensued.

It was lovely to meet: Jodie, Geraint, Karen, Rowan, David, Sue, Elaine, Jess, Hannah, Vivian, Sam, Alfie, Shea and Aubie.

We talked about: Art as a language, war, PTSD, MDMA therapy, sticks, Britishness, patriotism, Welsh independence, social prescribing, physiotherapy, knees, eco-decluttering, walnut trees and walnut ink, oak gall ink, Bryn Celli Du, druids, school holidays, awkward smiles and community investment in woodland.

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What a great day!

The next stop for the talking stick will be in the Caerdroia Labyrinth, Coed Gwydyr, Llanrwst, where we will be taking part in a mindfulness walk.