Orchard Works is a series of commissions devised to celebrate and inspire a rethinking of Somerset’s apple tradition and culture. Through embedding artists in a sector deeply rooted in Somerset’s identity, the project will create innovative work that preserves and disseminates knowledge, invigorates current practice, engages rural communities and inspires a renewed appreciation of local apple culture.
At the start of her residency Tana set out to investigate the process of ‘grafting’, a practise integral to cultivating apples. The project began with thoughts of her own personal relationship with apples:.
In late July we would visit an apple tree down by the river Lea, perched precariously on the other side of a bit of collapsed wall. We climbed into its branches to gather its fruit looked on by Olympic park security and dog walkers. I had moved to Hackney Wick just as the blue Olympic fence was being erected, a sign of the imminent regeneration. This urban wilding was probably a result of a discarded core, an anomaly in a post-industrial landscape. I grew up in the West Country and like the fragment of 16mm film I found, depicting a man picking apples in an orchard, the tree in Hackney Wick was a reminder of the region to which I felt I belonged. Sadly one day I past the spot and saw that the tree had been grubbed up and replaced by approved flora.
She was particularly interested in the idea of grafting representing a perpetuation or preservation of specific unique qualities and the way in which orchards play a part in the cultural identity of the region of Somerset, and grafting as a very direct intervention in natural processes is the way this is reinforced, both physically and culturally. This idea of Somerset works on a shared cultural memory; newer memories are grafted onto older rootstock.
During her residency Tana talked to people involved with orchards including the owners of Charlton Orchards, a community orchard group and local small orchard owners. She collected ash from a wassail bonfire and photographed grafted two-year old apple trees. Using old and new maps she traced the locations of old orchards in the local area, collected soil samples and photographed the landscape. Tana also collected local clay, which she will incorporate into ceramic sculptures based on experiments conducted during the residency. She also made drawings of the graft unions, concentrating on the point at which the scion and stock grow together.
The key things she learnt about grafting will be used to develop work, using the techniques, motives and material qualities of the union between scion and rootstock.
During her residency Tana also gave an informal talk about her investigations so far into grafting and her wider art practice.
In January artist and poet Sophie Herxheimer came to Wiveliscombe to collect apple and food stories from local people. Working from different contexts (library, a residential home and Community Centre) Sophie listened to stories and produced live ink drawings in response to the revealed anecdotes.
The resulting 30 images are an insight into the culinary experiences of people in the town; they range from humorous mishaps to childhood memories of food and explore what is means to be nourished by growing, cooking, eating and sharing food.
Clare Patey makes socially engaged and participatory work that explores the narratives of food production; growing, harvesting, cooking, the social act of eating together, ritual and waste. As well as being interested in the political gestures embedded in food production and the environmental issues that they expose, she is also interested in the celebratory and community dimension to food. Clare’s previous projects include the creation of social spaces that bring people together to share conversation, often around food.
Clare has been commissioned by LIFT (London international Festival of Theatre), Friends of the Earth, The Countryside Commission, Channel 4 (winner of RTS award), South Bank Centre, The New Economics Foundation, The National Theatre and The Art Museum, Phoenix. She was the creator of the Museum Of, The Ministry of Trying to Do Something About It and has curated Feast on the Bridge, a feast for 5000 people on Southwark Bridge, London.
Clare Patey is working with artist and poet Sophie Herxheimer. Sophie has been collecting stories live in ink from members of the public since 2004, when she was an artist-in-residence at an allotment shed, for LIFT, on a project called FEAST, curated by Clare Patey and Cathy Wren.
‘Orchards play a part in the cultural identity of the region, and grafting as a very direct intervention in natural processes is the way this is reinforced, both physically and culturally’
Tana West is an artist who makes work from materials at hand, in the guise of a wandering bricoleur, investigating where nature and culture intersect. Originally from the West Country, she studied Sculpture at St. Martins College and recently completed a Masters in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art. Whilst studying she was awarded a travel bursary to go by train to visit a soil museum in St. Petersburg and in February she will be starting a residency at Konstfack University in Stockholm.
She works mainly with ceramic processes using estuarine mud and excavated clay, brick and rock fragments. Digging her own clay and making glazes from found materials her work connects object and maker to local environments.
During her residency at Feral Studio, Tana will be looking at the idea and process of grafting and the way it represents a perpetuation of preservation of specific unique qualities. Tana envisages that the outcome of the residency might be a series of drawings and ceramic sculptures, incorporating grafting techniques to combine elements made from locally sourced clay.
During Tana’s residency there will be an informal talk and open studio.
Forkbeard has been evolving for nearly 40 years. Originally started in 1974 as an experimental performance art group, it has developed into what is now a thriving multi media arts company, producing and presenting their highly individual brand of comic surrealism across the UK and abroad without stop. This makes Forkbeard one of the UK’s longest surviving independent performance companies.
Much of the company’s development has been based around touring theatre shows. However this is just one element of a diverse field of work. Forkbeard have a broad range of skills in street & stage theatre, writing, poetry, animation, film-making, mechanical installations & interactive sculptures.
Their work carries the common themes of innovation, humour and invention, and all with a unique Forkbeardian twist. Still true to its avant-garde origins, the work, be it stage show or mechanical museum exhibit, champions magic, entertainment and fun. On stage the Forkbeard trademark mix of film, animation, cartoon with live performance in the 1970s set them apart as pioneers of a new wave of multi-media theatre.
Sophie Herxheimer's work moves between poetry, painting, print and drawing. And she loves stories. Share your story and watch it appear in ink as Sophie draws it for you live. Each person gets a copy of their illustrated story. And a cuppa and some cake. Perfect for a bleak January afternoon! 2nd January
Image credit: Nita Nathwani
Tana West is coming to join us to do a short residency. Recently graduated from RCA with an MA in Ceramics and Glass, Tana will be using her residency time in Wiveliscombe to explore grafting processes and interventions. She will be giving a short talk about her findings and wider practice.12th January
Developed with artist and curator Clare Patey, the event draws on the apple as a signifier of love and generosity. The baking session brings the community together through the act of cooking and conversation. The pies will then be gifted to people in the town and will be delivered to their doorstep by a procession. Come & bake with us! 17th January
Sophie returns to Wiveliscombe to continue gathering stories. Her visit earlier this month was a huge success - we watched stories about Maradona and complimentary pizza, spilt dhal, water shortages in Turkmenistan and an orchard wedding emerge on paper. 17th January
The traditional annual ceremony that involves singing and drinking the to health of the apple trees. The purpose of wassailing is to awaken the apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. Come and join us for mulled cider, song and merriment! In partnership with Brendon Orchards Cooperative.17th January
We'll be working with Forkbeard Fantasy and Charlton Orchards on an animation project that documents the journey of the apple from the Tian Shan Mountains in Central Asia to Somerset. This will include a number of (free) workshop sessions so do let us know if you'd like to participate.