The Arts Trail is over for another year. How many artists did you manage to see? I tally mine at 115 of 130.
Plus actors and musicians, like Captain Dan’s crew, Jake Farrell, and Marcus Ferrett-Paine.
The negative first: I found an extreme minority of creations which I thought were so bad it was hilarious. That’s it. There are no more negatives. The Trail was glorious.
I found some art that I am going to dream about until I can afford to own it, most especially one of Lynn Smith’s stunning wildflower paintings, which delighted me from a distance and only got better the closer I got. I found art which has inspired me to try new things, like Sue Rhodes’ Attic Batik, whose classes I want to take so that I can make the things swirling around my brain, which need to become reality. And Susan Bedford’s mixed media arts, which illustrated how effectively fabric can be used on canvas.
I saw wonderful things: Clay chasms full of crystals 3D on canvas (Sue Heale), fairies who need to have knickers (Karen Williams), waterproof sculptures made out of fabric (Allison Turner), impressive pyrography – which has inspired my art student daughter (Blasted Oak), steampunk jewellery which looked so magical that I expect it to open portals to lands only Alan Moore has ever been to before (Timeless Curiosity). I saw wood that had melted under the hands of a superpowered carver (Why Not Wood), sock monkeys of great character (Mazzasmonkeys), and how felting can make paintings (Steph Jansen).
I’m not a fan of pottery/ceramics, but even from my outsider perspective, there were things here, on this alien plane of fat plates, which were unique and sparked my unwilling interest, like the use of ceramic pieces in very structured abstract display that worked like paintings (Zoe Marsh).
In my opinion, the best thing about the Arts Trail is getting to talk to lots of artists. Hearing about their inspirations, how they came to do the unusual thing that they dedicate their lives to, how they go about crafting the wonderful things they create, the accidental and experimental ways in which their process came into being, this is the most wonderful part of it for me. I come away wanting take up a dozen new art forms. My perception of my own art was also reassessed when I saw art similar to the laziest things I create. Those lazy makes are things I love, and it was delightful to see similar on sale and display, but I’d dismissed my own as not valuable, because they were created on whim, from stuff that had been in my art dresser for a dozen years. I’m rethinking this self-judgement, and am grateful for it.
I got to talk to some wonderfully inspiring people, where I learnt about the difficulties of creating stunning multi-coloured linocut prints, how long it takes to recycle glass into new structures, the suffering and stains certain creations cause, which books are chosen to be cut into new artforms (damaged, out of date) and the organic journey they can take, and how a personal journey can change art within the same form.
I feel enriched, and I know many of these pieces will stay in my mind, wedged between SEO coding and DIY like a bright beautiful light to shine when frustration trips my steps. I have more beauty in my life right now because of all the wonderful things I have seen, and that’s a precious gift which makes the £3 entry fee well worth the price.
Apparently there were a number of people cheating the system. I think that’s a shame. The incredible effort and experienced thought which organisers Kelly Nixon and Suzanne Parnell put in to creating an incredibly diverse and well organised trail deserves respect from everyone who enjoys the trail.
The trail is now closed and dismantled. We can only wonder what incredible treats will be in store for us next year.
Kelly told me that “next year will be different and the Trail will not be part of the Arts Festival, but we are happy with how it went this year.” As the Arts Trail has always stood apart, as an individual event grander than being a part of another, this is not really a huge change, and we can but wonder just how it will be different. I’m already excited.