From Spider-man to Cotswold sheep, Chipping Norton is a magnet for art-enthusiasts during Artweeks. Words and photography by Tracy Spiers
From Spider-man to sheep, the town is a magnet for art enthusiasts during Artweeks
“We are small but beautifully formed in Chippy and are supportive of all the festivals we have going on here”
Creativity runs through the veins of Chipping Norton and this flows through into its celebration of food, drink, literature, arts, textiles, music, dance, nature, craft, animals and husbandry which collectively make-up the market town’s annual festival calendar.
During Oxfordshire Artweeks, a plethora of artists, photographers, designers and makers from Chipping Norton will be showcasing their talent in various local venues. As well as the main brochure, an art trail will be available to guide visitors around the area and the surrounding villages. For example in Enstone, Art Yard Café is an inspiring art-themed environment, which holds regular events and exhibitions whilst serving a great value family menu, coffees as well as a selection of fantastic cask and craft ales. For Artweeks, a diverse exhibition of paintings, carvings, furniture, pottery and jewellery will be on show in the café.
On the opposite side of the road, Andrea Bates will be showing some of her much sought-after oil and pastel painted scenes of the Oxfordshire countryside. Other subjects which inspire her include landscapes, seascapes, portraits, flowers, gardens, street scenes, still life, and occasional abstracts.
There are 10 listed venues in Chipping Norton itself, five of which are new including Artweeks newcomer Andrew Wildman, best known for his work as a Comic Book illustrator for Marvel Comics. Andrew will be showing some of his original artwork from Spider-man, Transformers and Xmen comics, storyboards from Dr Who, small canvases of transformers and more personal drawings, paintings, sketchbooks and a graphic novel on life-coaching. Andrew is exhibiting with his wife Lesley who trained in contemporary glass and now creates an amazing array of quality art in different media. They will be showing their work in their home and gallery space which was Chipping Norton’s Old Fire Station – a 200-year-old part brick, part stone building where the original horse-drawn fire engines were once stored.
In Spring Street, Chipping Norton, Melanie Wright will be showing equestrian and landscape drawings, portraits and her working sketchbooks, while at Rockcliffe House, wood turner Martin Sanders will be showcasing his fascinating collection of turned wood, which he has created from ash to Zebrano. He admits what he plans to make and what emerges can be totally different.
“The work evolves and depending on how the wood behaves, the final piece turns out to be similar or quite dissimilar to the design I had in mind at the start,” he says.
Other artists include photographer Petre Smith who will be showing work in Chipping Norton Theatre. This photo exhibition of Robben Island furthers the themes in the theatre’s current Homegrown production The Island. A brand new exhibition space
for 2017 is The Gallery on the Stairs in Church Street, where Sarah Grinsted and Hannah Forward will be showing their flair for painting, printmaking and collage. Artsweek newcomers include printmaker Ruth Shaw-williams and painter Judith Yarrow who are jointly exhibiting at Cross Leys; jeweller Jane Griffiths at Distons Lane and painter Carol Harvey who is based at Bliss View Cottage in Worcester Road.
Oxfordshire Artweeks Festival Director Esther Lafferty says there is a high calibre of talent in Chipping Norton.
“Chipping Norton is an absolute magnet for art-enthusiasts during Artweeks because every year there’s a wealth of quality art and craft on show which people look forward to all year round,” she says.
“It’s also wonderful chance for the town to showcase its creative talent and this year there’s even more than normal with 24 artists and designer-makers exhibiting in the town centre itself, from storyboards by a well-known comic book artist to contemporary paper sculpture, organic glass sculpture, photography to make
you think and dramatic jewellery.”
Experience Chipping Norton (ECN) is an instrumental voluntary group set up four years ago which, using its interactive website, multiple social media channels and innovative ventures seeks to integrate and encourage trade, tourism and community. ECN Chairman Shaun Fagan, who has won a prestigious award for his role in the project pays tribute to the town’s creative talent.
“Chipping Norton has an amazingly vibrant artistic and cultural life, with many artists working in the vicinity. This includes painters, photographers, designers, potters, jewellers and those working in a variety of mediums,” says Shaun.
“Local artist Nic Vickery has created an amazing giant hare sculpture as Chippy’s entry in the 2017 Cotswold Hare Trail. Landscape and animals feature widely in Oxfordshire art, as we live in such a beautiful natural setting. And, of course, sheep are central to our life and times. A prosperous wool town in the Middle Ages, Chipping Norton still loves its wool.”
This month is Chipping Norton’s annual Fibre Festival which celebrates this rich past, and the town’s friendly Fibreworks shop is a great source of wool supplies and education.
Mike Tysoe, Chipping Norton’s Town Mayor, is proud of the efforts made by individuals and groups who host such events, which together make up a rich social calendar. This includes April’s Chiplitfest, run by volunteers in the publishing and writing world; Chipping Norton Town Festival in June, a day when residents fill the streets for food, entertainment, live music and games; and The Big Feastival in August, staged at Blur bass player Alex James’ farm in Kingham.
“We are small but beautifully formed in Chippy and are supportive of all the festivals we have going on here. We have a good selection of venues to host a range of events,” explains Mike.
“They bring people into town which is good for business and for everyone. I love living here. When I moved here 18 years ago I told my wife it felt like being on holiday. I still feel that way.”
Left : One of Melanie Wright’s equestrian paintings
Above : Petre Smith’s photography at Chipping Norton Theatre
‘Purple Forest’, by Carol Harvey
Optimus Prime, by Andrew Wildman
Stained glass artist Nicola Kantorowicz
James Cochran’s fun sculpture