Saturday 24 June 2023

Jeanette Orrell – Drawings on Indigo - Ruthin Craft Centre, Wales

Jeanette Orrell - Untitled (Indigo blanket) XIV

I have long wanted to visit Ruthin Craft Centre. I have read about their exhibitions, particularly their textile and mixed media exhibitions, and wished I was a little closer and able to visit. Having seen that Jeanette Orrell was exhibiting, I made arrangements to go - and was not disappointed.

Jeanette Orrell was born in Leigh, Lancashire in 1964 but has lived in Wales for more than 20 years. Originally trained in ceramics at Camberwell School of Art, following graduation she travelled between London, Japan and Greece before returning to the North West to continue her art and bring up a family. In 2017 she was awarded an Arts Council of Wales Creative Wales Award to study indigo dyeing on a farm in the foothills of Mt Fuji in Japan. Orrell brings fine art and craft together informed by familial ties, making, nature and motherhood.

Jeanette Orrell - Untitled (Indigo blankets) & Untitled 
(Indigo plant drawings) I-VII

Orrell's work combines a daily drawing practice with the art of indigo dyeing. This particular body of work was developed following the death of her father and contemplates mourning, recovery and regrowth. Jeanette found she had chosen a tradition that has a longstanding connection with mourning. Indigo was woven through the funerary wardrobe of Tutankhamun, the hand dyed ikats of Central Asia and the uldebe funerary cloths of the Dogon people of West Africa Here abstracted botanical forms are painted on to woollen fabric with a resist paste and then dyed in indigo. Dyeing a single blanket can take days. There are also hand stitched appliqued botanical collages using naturally dyed linens...

Jeanette Orrell - Blue Poppies I & II

Whilst the work employs simple forms they are stunning and the large indigo blankets are breathtaking. I also found the samples and ephemera that were exhibited fascinating...

Jeanette Orrell - Samples, notebooks & ephemera

Jeanette Orrell - Samples & ephemera

I loved the indigo samples where white thread had been couched down to form elaborate patterns...

Jeanette Orrell - Indigo sample with couched white thread

There were also a number of short films made by Jeanette's daughter, Ellie Orrell, illustrating Jeanette's practice. This exhibition continues to 2 July 2023. Jeanette and Ellie Orrell are running a two day indigo dyeing workshop at Ruthin Craft Centre on 1-2 July 2023. You can book here.

Other exhibitions on show were Animal Rites - celebrating fauna in clay. I loved Susan O'Byrne's work which looked like patchwork...

Susan O'Byrne - Hare 2023
(Hand built and printed paper porcelain)

Susan O'Byrne - Hoopoe 2023

and Louise Bell's Endangered Species that looked like pull-along toys. Louise fears these representations may be all that is left if humans don't change their actions in relation to these animals.

Louise Bell - Black Rhino 2023

Love the angels coming out of the elephant's trunk...

Louise Bell - Elephant Finding Hope 2021

All of Louise Bell's work was fantastic.

The other exhibition was Zoe Preece - In Reverence. Zoe Preece has created a series of ordinary domestic objects – intricately carved by hand from porcelain or turned from plaster on a lathe. Each piece takes many hours to create. For Preece, the repetitive and unseen activity of her craft resonates with the ceaseless, invisible domestic labour undertaken within the home. It is this often unnoticed, undervalued work that Preece tries to capture in this installation.

Zoe Preece - Spoonful

Zoe Preece - Carved Tools

Ruthin Craft Centre has a large car park and a spacious cafe. If you need somewhere to stay try Manorhaus Ruthin - nice rooms, lovely food & great welcome from Gavin. Also, lovely to see Julie Arkell and Dionne Swift represented in the artwork on display at Manorhaus.

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