Foraging in the woods is a daily routine for artist Jane Bevan. When she takes the dog for a walk in Calke Park she isn’t just enjoying the tranquility of her surroundings she is also scouring them for materials she can use in her craftwork.
Bark, thorns, twigs, feathers, lichen, seed pods and even fallen pine needles can find their way into her treasure boxes back home.
Then she uses traditional techniques such as tying, stitching, binding and coiling to make sculptures and vessels in which tiny details from the natural world are highlighted for us all to admire.
Having a passion for all things natural myself I decided to join a workshop being run by Jane as part of the From the Land exhibition at the Old Station Gallery in Rowsley.
Spread out all around us was an amazing array of found materials, all with potential to be transformed into something even more beautiful.
“In one tiny patch of woodland there will be a whole range of materials which are accessible to everyone and are sustainable and free,” explained Jane at the start of the morning session.
“There is something so magical about woods and I have always been fascinated by them. As a child I even had a fantasy about being Robin Hood,” she joked.
“I knew it was an area I wanted to explore with my art and spend much of my time walking, sketching, and collecting materials outdoors. It is endlessly satisfying and really quite ridiculous how pleased I am about finding a special bit of bark.”
As a warm up exercise Jane invited us to have a play with the huge variety of leaves in the boxes.
“Try whatever you like, stitching, weaving, binding – just have fun and remember that it doesn’t matter if something doesn’t work out because we don’t ever have to throw anything away we can just keep going and use it another time for something else,” she told us.
One of my peers on the workshop was Rachel Evans, a basket maker and willow artist from Staffordshire. She was clearly already used to manipulating natural materials and was in her element.
She had signed up for the workshop as a special treat for Christmas and had been looking forward to it.
“When you work on your own there is no office Christmas party. Instead I wanted to try something new and this is really quite fascinating,” she said.
While it may not sound too difficult to stitch together leaves or bind seed pods to a tiny canvas I can assure you it is not as easy as it looks, and to create the beautiful artwork made by Jane takes a great deal of skill and endless imagination.
It was after a 25-year career as a curator in public galleries that Jane decided to go back to university and she graduated from Derby’s Crafts BA course with first class honours in 2011.
The originality of her work also won her the University Purchase Award.
Jane enjoys passing on her passion for nature to others in the workshops and although it would take considerably more than a few hours to create something as intricate and captivating as Jane’s own sculptures you will certainly not leave empty-handed. I was quite pleased with my mini canvases – even if the stitching was a bit wonky.
Each piece of Jane’s work is unique and she invites commissions. For details go to http://wwwjanebevan.co.uk
You can see her work at a small cabinet exhibition at Sharpe’s Pottery Museum in Swadlincote during March and April.