Take a combination of skill, passion and inspiration and you have the ingredients for a talented artist, when that inspiration comes from the Dartmoor landscape, its mysterious legends and places, then you have Rachel Jennings the textile and mixed media artist. In fact the above statement is far too simplistic as this artist works in papermaking, weaving, stitch and in her own words; ‘anything else which gives me the effect I need. Rachel is influenced by many things; nature, poetry, music, dreams, myths and stories from her surrounding Dartmoor landscape to name but a few. It is a combination of these elements that make her various works unique and have earned her a place amongst the noted modern artists of Dartmoor.
Rachel Jennings trained as a weaver at the Chelsea College of Art and along with bringing up her two daughters has worked as a self employed artists ever since. During the past 8 years she regularly has exhibited her work around the South West of England and at times ventured further afield. Rachel is an active member of Paper Weight which is a national group of various artists who work with paper, also she is a full member of the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen. So what are her secrets? Well, let’s start with the following:
“I’m fascinated by the tactile qualities of paper, its directness as a medium and the potential to transform it with colour, texture and pattern. Using textile techniques such as dyeing, printing, batik and patchwork, I create unique pieces which cross the boundaries between textiles, collage and printmaking.”
Another important facet of her work is the fact that she produces her own ‘canvas’ so-to-speak insomuch as the paper used is home produced, again Rachel notes:
“My paper is handmade and coloured using various natural materials including cotton, tea, spices and onion skins; for warp I have used cotton, silk and metallic threads.”
Ok, so how come this page? About a month ago Rachel emailed me to ask if I could put a link on here to her website, she also included a couple of examples of her work in the form of greeting cards. The thing that really attracted me to her work was that every card was connected either to a myth or aspect of Dartmoor. On visiting her website I saw the full range of greetings cards and prints along with other examples of her work. As always, I asked the question; “how and why Dartmoor”, Rachel explained that in 2008 she moved to Ashburton and began numerous drawing trips onto the moor when she soon experienced Dartmoor in all its moods and weathers. Whilst moving amongst the varying landscapes she also related to the myriad of myths and legends associated with them which in turn provided her with new inspiration, thus beginning a new creative journey. Today she works from her studio at the old Seale Hayne agricultural college located just off the Newton Abbot to Ashburton road. Below a just a few examples of Rachel’s greeting cards/prints:
I am always fascinated by where and why are peoples’ favourite spots on Dartmoor and in Rachel’s case it is the enigmatic rock pile of Bowerman’s Nose. She explains how, “each time I visit, I’m amazed all over again that a natural rock formation can look so intentional and inspire so much legend and art.” Her trips to Bowerman’s Nose could well become a legend in their own right because after every visit she leaves ‘him’ an offering of a chocolate biscuit or a gingerbread man at his foot. So, just like the mysterious flowers which appear on nearby Kitty Jay’s grave, Bowerman gets his mysterious treats – thanks to Rachel.
I thoroughly recommend a visit to her website (see link above) to see for yourself her evocative work or better still if passing Seale Hayne pop into her studio where a warm welcome will await – chocolate biscuits not guaranteed. It would be a hard task but if I was to be asked to pick my favourite from her range then I would opt for her work entitled ‘Star-rise at Merrivale’. Why, because you have the ancient stone row that draws your eye to the constellation of Pleiades. It is said that when these stars are seen rising it is a good indicator to begin the harvest, a fact represented by the feint pattern of ears of grain portrayed in the background. The scene is completed with the addition of a hare which is a fertility symbol as well as being one of Rachel’s favourite animals. All in all very evocative and so representative of the mysterious and ancient ritual complex of Merrivale. A new timely addition has been added to her portfolio entitled ‘Siward’s Cross’ which shows a beautiful snowy scene along with a robin sat atop the old granite cross, to me this would make a very special Christmas card to sit on the mantelpiece.