This is a brand new blog series meeting artists and finding out how they work, what inspires them and what the art scene is like in their local area. To kick start it, I thought I'd go with a fabulous artist who is local to me, Donna Vale from Somerset.
Hi there Donna, can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
I have lived in Somerset for forty years and have worked in a variety of jobs from a glass engraver to a sign writer. I was knocked off my bicycle on the way home from work one day and that changed my life. As I lay in the road I thought, what have I done with my life? It was after that time I decided to return to education and did an Access Course at Yeovil College. I secured a place studying Radiography at Exeter University but because of recurring injuries from the accident I couldn’t continue. That summer I enrolled on a two year Art Diploma and following that completed a combined degree in art and textiles, in 2012 I graduated with a First Class Honors.
Further Education and re-training has always been key to my journey and it was a natural progression for me to train as a teacher. I was lucky enough to be working at Yeovil College as a Learning Centre assistant when the opportunity came up but the idea of a venue where I could teach skills and creative courses for people became more appealing.
I have always loved Langport for the river walks and history and it was on one of those days a few years ago I saw an empty shop and For Every Cloud was made a reality.
People from all walks of life use the facilities here. From people wanting to do a day course such as lino and screen-printing, furniture painting and watercolours. which I hope reflects the business and the company logo: where friendship and creativity meet.
In my spare time I like to visit the bird hide, spend the day beachcombing and geocache through the countryside.
What kind of art do you do?
I create work through a collection of ideas, stories and history, displayed in a variety of ways. Textile pieces are interwoven with narratives belonging to local voices, bringing together history and storytelling through the arts.
I am currently Artist in Residence for the National Trust at Brean Down, Somerset for the Sense of Place project; a collaboration of artists working together to create an exhibition in a unique Site of Special Scientific Interest. This beautiful peninsula has many tales to tell.
Responding to the stories of the people, the landscape and the buildings, a connection will be formed with those who lived and worked at the fort and the surrounding areas. These will be made during Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios 17th September - 2nd October. The work will then form the exhibition Art on the Edge from 6th - 16th October.
One part of the project, ‘The Threads Of Belonging’, shows my work through place and identity. Personal stories and events were researched to create a visually appealing exhibition. Using sound and smell to ignite senses and trigger emotion. Through recollection and memory the viewer is taken on a story-telling journey. A fleeting glance, a missed opportunity and time captured creates a feeling of loss and of hope through the work displayed within the fort buildings. The artwork is viewed and the moment taken away to be remembered another time.
How do you work and get inspired?
I like to work with locations that haven’t been explored artistically. This allows a total freedom to create pieces unique to that place, to be completely absorbed in the history. I find researching the most exciting part. Uncovering layers of time and connections I never knew were there. I use a variety of print processes from disperse dye and manipulated photographs to wire frame sculptures and objects that ignite memory.
What do you love about art?
The freedom it gives me to be expressive. It can offer a momentary reflection or stay with you long after you have viewed it. Creativity is so important for mental wellbeing and friendships. It is a shared experience for me. When I create something it opens page one of a book and the viewer carries on turning the pages. Often work is created from the visitor experience and how it has touched them.
What's the art / creative scene like in Somerset?
It’s vibrant and exciting, lots of unique artists who are out there being creative in their own way. With the Somerset Open Studio event just around the corner there is a fantastic community spirit. So many diverse studio spaces tucked away down narrow winding lanes. Half the joy is the journey into the unexpected and seeing what the county has to offer.
If you had to take only one art tool to a desert island, what would you choose and why?
It would be my calligraphy pen. I would make paper from leaves and ink from things I found, to be able to write, sketch and keep a journal.
If you could go to an Art Award dinner with any 5 people (dead or alive) and/or fictional characters, who would you choose?
Thank you so much, Donna! It's been absolutely wonderful hearing all about how you got into art, what the scene is like in Somerset and how you work and get inspired!