Until 2 days ago, my only encounters with garden art and sculpture had been on the grandest of scales - at garden festivals, show gardens, stately homes, sculpture parks and museums - I'm sure you know the kind of thing. But on Thursday, Threadspider introduced me to a place where art is used in a more intimate setting - just a few miles from us - at the 125 Gallery near Bath.
The gallery's at the home of Carole Waller and Gary Wood and Threadspider knew of it because she's been attending a course there, tutored by Carole, for the past few weeks. From the roadside it looks like an ordinary unprepossessing 1930s bungalow, but the inside is totally different. Once there, you're in a huge airy, white space filled with Gary's wonderful ceramics and Carole's beautiful jewel-like painted textiles. As it was so hot, there was a giant fan in the main room and this added to the display as some of the textiles fluttered in the 'breeze'. The work of other artists was on display too, so there was plenty to discover. As you wander through the house, you can't help to be drawn to the garden outside as each window frames some wonderful 'pictures' of it. It's clear the garden has been staged as carefully as the art inside.
You may have come across Carole's work before. Six of her largest textiles were encased in glass to form the entrance to Westonbirt Garden Festival in 2003. She exhibited alongside Kaffe Fassett and Candace Bahouth in Bath last year and she also featured at this year's Chelsea Flower Show. In the garden her work was everywhere - curved walls (similar to the one commissioned for the reopening of The Pound Arts Centre in Corsham), encased banners leading you through the garden, plus the coolest of fountains - the latter most welcome on an extremely hot day. There was pottery on a massive scale such as the large raku pots and fountain, but also in smaller details, like the head shown at the top centre of the collage, plus a large circle of blue pottery balls (see Gary's website) placed on the grass. I also liked the touch of using a planter to go underneath a table or just in front of a bench.
The whole garden was a masterclass in focal points, surrounded by exquisite planting. I was surprised to find the Spirea I was so doubtful about in my recent post about my front garden providing just the right highlight amongst a mainly green planting of Sedums, Astrantia, horsetail and mind-your-own-business. And for anyone wanting a Mediterranean look but knowing an olive tree won't survive in their garden, look no further than using a beautiful contorted willow to drape over your white rendered walls.
The garden's on a very steep hillside and the art plus a winding pathway of slate and plentiful benches lead you upwards to views back across the Avon valley and towards the house. Here you can appreciate - from your bench - just how much hard work must have been put into both home and garden. It's been an eleven year project so far. There's an exhibition held at the gallery twice a year and I'm now on the mailing list so that I have an opportunity to visit again. Since coming home, I've been eying up my patio to see where a wonderful raku pot could be placed, or perhaps the most colourful of banners. Something else to be added to my fantasy garden alongside Wednesday's pleasure-dome...