Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Rescue Dog

Betty 1996 - 2011
Based on a true event 

A warm summer's evening
And time to take a stroll,
To catch the rays of setting sun,
And smile, as Betty sniffs grass verges.

But neighbours stop my heart mid-beat,
Pointing down the street
To a house on fire -
A dog trapped inside.

A crowd gathers on the green,
Watching firemen push the owner, weeping,
From the obscene,
Blackened door of his house.

We wait, each second an eternity,
While a man with breathing gear risks his life
To search for the furry soul who hides,
Frozen with fear among the burning embers.

Onlookers sigh as one,
Releasing breath held far too long,
As the man emerges,
Wreathed in dust and flame,
Holding the dog in his arms like a baby.

Lowered to the ground,
The dog's singed fur is bathed in human tears.

The smoke choked ears and nose lift a little.
A sturdy tail wags thump, thump, thump,
Upon the grass,

Starting my heart again.

Helen Ellwood 


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Alpaca Felt and Cheeky Pots

Of Heat and Chaos, the latest exhibition at the Beetroot Tree Gallery

I’ve never seen an alpaca, let alone sniffed one, but as I put my face close to one of Diana Worthy’s textiles, I’m transported to the heat of Spain and surrounded by the warm, comforting smell of her pet alpacas.

Diana uses the fleeces from her animals to create wall hangings in wild and wonderful designs - each reflecting some aspect of nature. This one is a flat fish.

She describes wet-felted alpaca wool as having “a living, moving quality, with a mind of its own.” Ideas and inspiration come to fruition as she works the fibres, allowing them to move of their own accord - to pucker or twirl, to feather or curl – giving rise to the finished design.

Many of the pieces use warm colours: showing fires on the hillsides of Andalucia, bonfires with alpacas looking on, and bright Spanish flowers.

Ben Brierley, ceramicist, is also featured. In a glass display case, under lock and key, sit a dish that shines like the back of a cowrie shell and three beautiful cups. They appear normal enough - they certainly don’t look as though they’re going to walk off when your back is turned. However, the free-range pieces on the floor, with their vertical spouts and little round feet, look almost naughty. 

They remind me of the scene inBeauty and the Beast when the teapots dance. Why aren't they contained like the non-animate cups? They look too boisterous to be left unguarded. 

The third artist showing work at Of Heat and Chaos is Jack Sawbridge. His wood and glass pieces are based on the aging, creaking joints of ballerinas. Each piece has a blown-glass blob lit from within, held by wooden structures that look like polished tree roots. One piece reminds me of a woman carrying a pile of shopping. She’s squeezing her lit-up glass so hard that it’s erupting over and under her arms. Other pieces have guitar strings, that can be tightened or loosened, attached to the wood or glass, representing tendons and ligaments.

In one piece Jack has tensioned the strings so that when you pluck them, the note drops down like a sigh.

I love the warmth and humour of this exhibition. I’m not alone in the feeling that, once the gallery doors are shut at night, the wet-felt alpaca flatfish will smile and blow bubbles, the ceramic vessels will potter about wildly, and the light and wood pieces will flex and turn, giving off musical notes and squeaks. In the morning, the shapes will look almost the same as the day before. Almost.