Larger than life
There aren’t many female blacksmiths, and there aren’t many metalworkers of any gender who regularly produce work that stands three or four metres high.
But then Jenny Pickford is an unusual artist. Originally studying in fine art, she switched to learning blacksmithing at Hereford College because she wanted to work on a larger scale. Today she’s recognised internationally as one of the country’s leading artist-blacksmiths, with a signature style that combines forged steel with blown glass to make fluid, organic shapes of recognisable plants with leaves, stalks and flowers… and they’re spectacularly oversized.
Jenny’s sculptures are intended to grab the attention, to make you really see and feel the swirls and swoops of nature. The sheer scale draws attention to the delicacy and sensitivity of the sinuous shapes – but you also know the strength of the piece, because it’s made of metal and glass.
Jenny has shown her work regularly at the Chelsea Flower Show and other RHS events like the Tatton Park, Malvern and Hampton Court shows.
She doesn’t usually show her work in large groups; they simply need too much space for most exhibition venues, and besides she’s usually busy with individual commissions. Just before this year’s Wimbledon tennis championship she installed a 3m high dandelion-inspired piece outside the players’ entrance; not long ago she was in China, supervising the installation of a 4m hibiscus in Chengdu.
But Waterperry Gardens provides the ideal backdrop for a solo show, and so Jenny will be showing more than two dozen recent sculptures there under the name Supernature III (Supernature I was in 2015, at the National Trust’s Courts Garden in Holt; Supernature II was Jenny’s first solo show, at Waterperry in 2017).
Jenny grew up on a farm four miles from Waterperry and still has family in the area; she feels a strong connection to the Oxfordshire countryside where her artistic imagination was forged. Supernature III runs at Waterperry Gardens until November 3, open 10am to 5pm. See more of Jenny’s work at www.jennypickford.co.uk
Dandelion clock, by Jenny Pickford