The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper

P1210413Machynlleth is home to the rather wonderful Museum of Modern Art (more a gallery really as you can buy the work) and their annual show took this quotation (from Eden Philpott) as its starting point. This very beautiful piece by Martin Wenham is in the newly restored Tannery sculpture gallery. It stands on a piece of old slate too soft for roofing and is made of two timbers from a traditional prawner called Helena II which is being restored in Conwy. The sculpture includes the nails, each one individually made, which held it together. The quotation is carved in English on one side and Welsh on the other, using a font Denham has devised to enable both languages to be used in sympathetic and complementary ways in his work. He hand-draws the script and then carves the letters with great precision. The timbers still retain paint from Helena II, and he has used long-lasting red ochre to highlight the words. The work is called Pethau Lledrithol, or ‘magical things’ and it is beautiful.

Conwy, in addition to the castle and Plas Mawr is home to the Royal Cambrian Academy, the oldest artist led organisation in Wales. I was lucky enough to catch their 133rd Annual Summer Exhibition which had some fantastic work. The town is littered with galleries, including Oriel y Crochenwyr, the Potters’ Gallery. I had to be very disciplined or I would have left the town with a car full of new pieces. My flat is already overfull!

Ruthin sets a new, high standard for weaving art and making into the town, both encouraging artists to sell and attracting visitors. They have a comprehensive art trail which encompasses the very wonderful  Craft Centre. When I visited they were showing an P1210258exhibition of contemporary jewellery. From there you can follow the trail of Spy Holes by Lucy Strachan and Fred Baier. These are each set into walls around the town and when you peep through you find amazing visions. I could not capture them with my camera and they are not on the website: you will need to go to Ruthin to see them. In one, Landlocked, they give you an astonishing 3D fish-eye view of the hills around the town, lush and roomy, making you stand with your eye pressed to the wall yearning to enter fairyland.

P1210257Even the tree guards and benches are artist-designed. They are sturdy, attractive and
enjoyable. If wee Ruthin can do it, why not all of us? My many friends concerned with place-making, culture, regeneration and design, I offer you Ruthin as an outstanding example.

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About Sarah Tanburn

I'm a writer, a sailor and a strategic adviser to public organisations. Visit my websites to find out more.
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