Shining an artistic light on nature

‘Absolutely amazing!’

That is how MA Creative Practice student, Hannah Alderson, is feeling after her work was selected for a major exhibition.

Hannah and one of our graduates, Lisa Lundqvist, are among the artists taking part in the The Secret Life of Hedgerows display at Danby Lodge National Park Centre.

The pair’s paintings, prints and other works have already been viewed by thousands of visitors and will remain on show until Monday 6 November.

Lisa and Hannah were invited to get involved after exhibition curator Sally-Ann Smith had seen examples of their work at the British Craft Trade Fair, and was impressed.

Hannah, who is on course to complete her degree this year, is exhibiting a mixture of nature-themed collagraph prints and watercolour paintings.

Relishing an incredible opportunity – and course

She said: “My three watercolours are of thistles, which I love as they provide an excellent source of food and shelter for insects and birds along our hedgerows.

“It feels absolutely amazing to have my work exhibited and sold at such a beautiful gallery, surrounded by the stunning North York Moors.”

Reflecting on her course, she added: “The MA has been an incredible experience and I have gained so much confidence in myself, my work and as an artist. I focused mainly on ‘wellbeing through art’, in particular through using clay, and the course has enabled me to explore something that otherwise I’d not have been able to do.”

Artist Lisa Lundqvist with her paintings in The Secret Life of Hedgerows exhibition at Danby Lodge National Park Centre

Lisa, who graduated a couple of years ago, was also hand-picked for the Danby Lodge exhibition. She said: “Sally-Ann felt my organic, semi-abstract art suited the subject matter and she particularly liked the textural qualities I achieved by painting in oil mixed with cold wax medium.

“All of the artists were invited to a study day where we were given a guided tour of the farms, fields and hedgerows in the North York Moors National Park.

“It was exciting meeting the other participants and then seeing the results of all our hard work come to fruition. The differing artistic interpretations, mediums and styles makes for a fascinating and engaging exhibition.”

‘Just rewards’ for talented students

MA Creative Practice Programme Manager, Dr Annabel Smith, has been delighted to watch the progress of both artists.

She said: “This is exactly the kind of opportunity we love to see our students securing before and after graduation.

“It is a testament to Hannah and Lisa’s talent that their works are being featured in a high-profile display, alongside those of seven other skilled artists, like this.

“The exhibition will be seen by so many visitors who can admire both the quality and the scope of the work, which includes ceramics, textiles and print.”

The Secret Life of Hedgerows exhibition is free and can be viewed at Danby Lodge National Park Centre’s Inspired by… gallery.

Degree success for local artists

A trio of artists from Harrogate College are celebrating achieving their MA Creative Practice degrees.

For Tom Ransom, Irene Vassiliou and Douglas Thompson receiving their degree certificates in July marked the successful conclusion of a two-year creative journey.

They are now looking forward to putting their honed artistic talents to good use – and full of praise for the college and their tutors.

Pandemic support and new horizons

Not Sun Nor Swell, by Douglas Thompson
Not Sun Nor Swell, by Douglas Thompson

Douglas Thompson, who specialises in paper cutting, said: “I really loved the course. Programme manager Annabel Smith was so supportive throughout the pandemic, providing zoom sessions.

“All of my tutors’ support has boosted my self-confidence so much and created a rigour in my practice that wasn’t there before.

“I work four days a week for Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre and the degree has improved the standards of my practice with differently-able artists there. Several of the staff from the centre have now also joined the programme as a result.

“At the end of my degree I was accepted into the UK Creative Communities Fellows programme and am off to the US this year, on a retreat funded by the Arts Council.

“I have also joined the Knaresborough arts festival (FEVA) committee to help programme arts events for this summer’s festival, and have an exhibition at the Black Mulberry cafe in August.”

Douglas will also be holding a number of paper cutting workshops this year, and producing commissioned work for various arts organisations including Harrogate Theatre.

Dramatic skills improvements

Boat of Peas, by Irene Vassiliou

Irene saw her photographic skills – which she uses to shine a light on the issue of food waste – improve dramatically during the course.

She said: “Looking back, my skills as a photographer have improved so much, especially in my studio work which I had done very little of before.

“Looking forward, I have been applying for photography jobs and have been in contact with a community centre who are looking to put up some of my images on food waste.”

The Covid-19 restrictions created extra study challenges for Irene, just as she was beginning to focus on strengthening her studio and video work. 

She ended up having to build a studio at home, but says regular phone and online contact from her tutors was ‘a great help’ and enabled her to produce top-quality work.

Tom, meanwhile, is a painter who also works with printmaking, and studied Fine Art at Harrogate College before going on to do his MA.

It is one of his works, Knaresborough Viaduct from the Riverbank, that is the main image attached to this article.

He said: “The MA helped me to broaden my creative horizons and push my practice forward to the next level. I was encouraged to experiment with a range of mediums and to search for a deeper contextual understanding.

“After completing my degree I felt ready to pursue a career as a practising artist, which continues to this day.

“I am also due to start a PGCE in September which will enable me to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher.”

A showcase for fellow artists

The creations of three other artists who have completed the MA Creative Practice course, meanwhile, will go on show in Harrogate from Thursday 28 July.

Works by Claire West, Lisa Lundqvist, Clare Paul will be exhibited at St Peter’s Church, on Cambridge Road, under the title of Masters Art Exhibition.

An invite-only preview will take place from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday 28 July; after that the works will be on show at the venue, between 10am and 4pm, from Friday 29 July to Sunday 31 July.

Student’s water-based art trail delights Fountains Abbey visitors

An artist from Harrogate College has teamed up with the National Trust and Henshaws to create a stunning water-based art trail.

Catt van Leijen’s, Waterlogged, features a series of nature-inspired artworks that have been installed in and around Fountains Abbey’s Water Garden and stream.

MA Creative Practice student, Catt, is a long-established artist and a pottery and paper tutor at local charity, Henshaws, where she has worked for 12 years.

So when it came to doing her course’s ‘collaborative project’, she knew she wanted to involve the Art Maker students that she teaches at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre.

The results, including everything from colourfully painted bird and animals, to floating Roman goddess heads, went on display on 28 May and have been enjoyed by thousands of visitors.

Inspired by nature and the need to connect

Catt said: “As the brief was very open, it gave me a great deal of scope for my own interpretation on how I would like to lead this project, from an artistic standpoint and as project manager.

“The inspiration was the nature around us, and getting people out into the fresh air to follow the trail. This focus on connecting with nature, I hoped, would be beneficial in so many ways, including physically and emotionally.

“The complete trail itself is a few miles round so it encourages people of all ages and abilities to connect with the sculptures in their natural setting.”

Catt was delighted to get lots of the people she teaches, and works with, at Henshaws involved – both in the initial discussion and then in creating the artwork.

She said: “I really believe that the students at Henshaws deserve their work to be included in projects like this. And it served as a fantastic opportunity to give our Art Makers a platform in a wonderfully open and public space.”

Artist Catt van Leijen at Fountains Abbey beside one of the Waterlogged project's displays

The trail includes boards with fun animal facts along with, in a nod to The Skell Valley Project*, information on recent flooding and the impact of global warming.

A heady experience on the water

One of the most striking features meanwhile, five porcelain floating heads, were made from a mould that was taken of Catt’s own head.

She said: “These are my take on female Roman goddesses. The Moon Pond Garden only seemed to have male statues, based on Roman figures.

“As I am interested in swimming and nature, I thought it would be quite a playful idea to incorporate five swimming heads which are also related to the goddesses Luna, Salacia, Diana, Minerva and Flora.

“The idea being that animals and humans should all be able to enjoy nature and be part of the narrative along the water.”

Displaying much of the artwork actually on the water turned out to be a challenge in itself, but gave the pieces the impact Catt wanted.

Some of the exhibits created by Art Makers, at Henshaws, for the Waterlogged project

Setting the scene

She added: “I decided they needed to be enjoyed from a distance, and what better way than actually on the water? So I sourced two boats, filled the gaps, applied resin, and sanded, painted and varnished them.

“We made two rafts from pond linings and seasoned wood, and used these as a platform for all the artwork. Then, on the second installation day, we put these in the water.

“Due to the risk of cross-contamination from footwear/equipment, the gardener at Fountains Abbey also went in, wearing his own extremely long waders, to secure the vessels.”

 *The Skell Valley Project is a multi-partner initiative, co-led by the National Trust and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to safeguard the valley’s cultural and natural heritage.