I have arrived at lovely West Dean College in West Sussex, for a short course on Botany for Artists with Liz Leech, followed by a Botanical Painting course with Sandrine Maugy.
How to describe West Dean? Well here is their own description ..
"West Dean College is a unique community, a creative and rich mixture of artists and craftspeople, conservators and restorers, working alongside gardeners, farmers, foresters and builders. Managed by The Edward James Foundation, a charitable trust, West Dean is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty in south-east England "
It's all true, at least in my opinion.
It is a wonderful place to stay and learn and create. Once home of the eccentric Edward James, supporter of the Surrealist movement and creator of the strange Las Pozas garden in Mexico recently featured on Monty Don's, Around the World in 80 Gardens. This will be my second visit and I feel very lucky to be able to spend a whole week here. It will rush by and I must try to concentrate on the work rather than wander about the beautiful gardens and parkland which is a great temptation.
The rooms are all different and this time I have a very pretty room with an old leaded glass window, looking out onto the little church at the back of the main house.
Go to their website here for more information on courses, Edward James and the house and grounds.
I arrived early, so after a walk around I went to visit the Sussex Barn Gallery which is currently hosting a very interesting ceramics exhibition of Felicity Aylieff's huge porcelain structures, which are experimental, vital, and bold. Up to three metres in height they are also very impressive. Felicity Aylieff took a residency from August to December 2006 at the Pottery Workshop Experimental Factory in Jingdezhen working with a family business of ceramicists specialising in making ‘Big Ware’, enormous traditionally-formed and decorated porcelain vases. The large cylindrical pots are worked with traditional pigments in expressive surface painting, carved surfaces and transfers sometimes over-painting using Chinese calligraphy brushes. They are quite beautiful and sympathetic to the rural setting here at West Dean.
I particularly liked the surface of this one with both carved and drawn motifs.