In January 2013 the Cumbrian based arts organisation ‘Eden Arts’ launched an exciting new visual art project called Canopy. The project resulted in a spring/summer exhibition of artworks displayed in tree canopies and woodland throughout the Eden Valley in Cumbria.
Artworks included ‘The Woollen Woods’, an enchanting craft based installation at National Trust property Acorn Bank, which features hundreds of woollen creations made by the public. Specially commissioned artworks by Liverpool Art Prize winner Robyn Woolston were also exhibited across a number of locations, including on the shores of glorious Lake Ullswater. Further artworks were created by young Cumbrian artists and students and displayed in the grounds of two local stately homes.
The Canopy project builds on the extraordinary success of Eden Arts 2011/12 project ‘Flock’, which had over 5000 participants worldwide. Eden Arts had initially invited local schools and groups to help create an art installation, which celebrated the Cumbrian sheep farming industry. Each participant was asked to create a sheep with a 100% wool pompom body, with the intention of bringing them together to create a public artwork. With the help of social media and word of mouth, interest in the project grew and grew and in summer 2012 a ‘Flock’ of 5500 sheep went on display, featuring sheep sent in from all over the UK (and beyond!). The Flock project has now grown into a new and unique partnership with The Campaign for Wool, The Wool Room and Aardman Animations (creators of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep) and rebranded as ‘Shaun’s PomPom Parade’.
“We were delighted by the response to the Flock project and wanted develop a new project, which continued to celebrate and raise awareness of the wool industry. We are a rural arts organisation based in one of the country’s most beautiful districts, so we were keen to work with our environment and organise an outdoor exhibition.” Says Eden Arts Project Co-ordinator Joanne Leary.
The Woollen Woods’ is public participatory element of the Canopy project, with people being encouraged to take part throughout the world.
The Canopy exhibition includes craft, sculptures and contemporary installations – all of the artworks are installed in trees but the locations range from lake shores, stately home courtyards, castle grounds and in the depth of woodlands. The exhibition not only celebrates a diverse range of artistic talent and skills but also the stunning landscape of the Eden Valley, which encompasses part of Lake District National Park.
‘The Woollen Woods’ is public participatory element of the Canopy project, with people being encouraged to take part throughout the world. The exhibit features hundreds of woodland themed woollen artworks, all made using 100% wool. The project is non-selective and artworks were submitted by artists, schools, groups and individuals from throughout the UK and beyond, including Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany and America. Knitted squirrels, felted owls, crochets flowers are amongst the hundreds of woollen creations on display in woodlands of National Trust property Acorn Bank.
“It is estimated that over 28,000 people will have visited The Woollen Woods installation when it closes in November, which is just astounding. People have been surprised and delighted to see the artworks amongst the woodland and seeing the exhibition has encouraged many more people to get involved.
“These type of projects seem to work really well, as they offer people the opportunity to get creative, learn new skills and have their work in an exhibition. People around the world are collaborating and collectively creating something big and wonderful. We also run a series of community workshops alongside our projects as we feel it’s essential to get the local community involved and encourage them to take ownership of the project and exhibition.” Says Joanne
Both the Flock and Woollen Woods projects have inspired and led to similar project being launched by other organisations, including the UK Hand Knitting Association’s national ‘PicKnit’ project. Eden Arts are planning to install a new Woollen Woods installation at National Trust property Sizergh Castle in south Cumbria in 2014.
They are inviting the public to make and send in woodland themed woollen artworks for the exhibition – free patterns, ideas and a submission form are available on: www.canopyart.co.uk