Derbyshire Open Arts – May 2017

Interesting afternoon spent visiting Banks Mill Studios as it took part in the Derbyshire Open Arts festival.  The studios had 8 artisans/artists taking part and their work varied from the fine art of Lor Bird to the upcycled garments and textile art of Mig Holder to the glass art of Stevie Davis – the variety of techniques were of great interest and fascination.

The actual event I confess to wishing more of the studios had been opened as there looked to be a wide variety of artists based at Banks Mill although from both an art student point of view it was still more than worth going – also from a consumer point of view as I came away more than happy with couple of small gifts.    With regards to the artists I was able to take photos with their kind permission to upload in this blog and was also able to talk freely – they were all there to sell their work but all were happy to discuss it too and this was much appreciated.

Thinking about my current studies there were 3 artists whose work held particular fascination – that of Stevie Davis, Susan Bedford and Mig Holder.

Stevie Davies is a contemporary glass artist whose work is inspired by colour and light as she works with fusing glass and wire.  Unfortunately my photos have not come out well enough and so I have had to rely on the photos I can take of the small pieces I purchased from Stevie.  I was really entranced by the use of colour in all the pieces – the light reflected and bounced off the glass and was particularly beautiful in the pieces of dichroic glass which I now understand to be a composite of incredibly thin layers of metals or oxides combined with layers of non-translucent glass.  Dichroic glass first appeared it seems in Roman times around the 4th century and the appeal for me is the shifting colours as you view the pieces from different directions.  I have to purchase some of the dichroic glass jewelry from Stevie and instead chose a variety of small pieces that caught my eye – I particularly love the red and grey lozenge shape with the delicate glittery decoration and also the green oblong piece with small flower detail which is in keeping with my current theme.

I really loved the range of jewelry and other items such as coasters and bowls which Stevie makes which all reflect the beautiful and colours of her materials.  As I think about my own work I reflect on how one of my strengths is colour and I am realising that this is something I want to develop and I am also realising I love the play of light on colour particularly if there are iridescent touches or reflections – looking at Stevie’s work has made me think how much I want to develop this side of my studies and own work.

Susan Bedford is a mixed media artist/textile artist whose work can be seen at: . In person I found her use of colour and textures with the fabrics she used inspiring – unfortunately I was unable to talk to her for long but loved her use of painted fabrics or dyed fabrics which she was able to combine in her pieces.  As I read her website I note that the pieces that Susan works on are a personal response to whatever captures her interest – this is something I am currently trying to do but now see how I can develop my responses in a more abstract manner.

Mig Holder – this is a lady who works with upcycled garments or accessories and this is no question that those pieces were exquisitely and beautifully made but what really captured my attention was her textile art with its use of texture.  This particular piece seemed to be rolled strips of fabric with the abstract arrangement reminding me of water and reflections in a lake or the sea and caught my attention for the deceptive simplicity of the design.

A second piece was this cream/ivory toned highly textural work – my photograph does not do it justice but it really reminded me of the crocheted coral reef although using very differing forms and fabric manipulation.

The simplicity of the monochrome palette demonstrates to me that sometimes colour is not needed and a single hue can make use of light and shadow to great effect particularly when combined with a variety of textures.

As we looked around we also met the other artists …

Sue McNair’s work is primarily in ceramics now using air dried clay which she moulds to create a range of small delicately coloured and textured items but on her studio wall is this textile piece which involved stripes of blue fabrics stitched together very much in the same vein as the exercise 3.4 – the reconstruction of fabrics into new fabrics and although this piece is a wall art work the colours draw your eye across it almost in gentle ripples or waves.

Sue’s use of colour caught my attention in part because on the whole it was more restrained and muted than other artists I currently like but that restraint is appealing – her bright red clay poppies really pop and shout out at the viewer but other pieces speak just as loudly through their use of texture or simple lines.  I purchased a beautifully simple hanging decoration in muted colours that would sit well in any location and maybe that is also something to think about i.e. a simple muted or even monochrome palette can speak to a viewer or speak of what the artist is trying to convey just as much as a highly coloured palette can if the design and materials are chosen carefully.

Lor Bird is a fine artist who has come back to art in recent years and much of her work is abstract  or semi-abstract and she appears to really play with colour and form as she experiments with different media.  My favourite piece of the ones she had in her studio was the only one not for sale – a detailed and delicately coloured watercolour of a sycamore tree leaf.  I suspect one of the reasons I loved this leaf is that I have a sycamore in my front garden and so I can relate fully to the colour palette chosen which so Lor has chosen clearly carefully to reflect the colours of the leaf.  From a budding artist point of view this simple composition of a singular leaf does demonstrate to me how I can pick individual elements out of my garden to work with and this is something I do and want to develop to become more abstract forms or designs whether as paintings or three-dimensional textile pieces.

Barbara Colbert’s work is incredibly striking as she works primarily with charcoal with gold highlights which really bring the large-scale pieces to life.  The work is highly detailed and appears to be full of strong forms which come from nature – either landscape or animal forms and each has a real sense of energy and movement which she captures with inspiring mark making.

At this point I am only just beginning to experiment with charcoal and find it wonderfully expressive but Barbara’s work shows how it can be used to create images that speak of power and life – the gold highlights act to increase the physicality of her subjects as they add a real sense of drama and almost theatre to each piece.

Overall as stated at the beginning this afternoon has been an incredibly interesting one as I was able to meet local artists and see their work – there are pieces that I wish I had had the finances to buy as I am sure they would have liked too but all the work that I saw was inspiring in differing ways.  As I look at my own work I am aware of the fact that I am being pulled to work with colour and texture as I seek to discover my responses to things that inspire me or seek to express myself through my art and today I saw artists who are doing just that – each artist is responding to whatever inspires them and intrigues them and each is individually expressing in their work.

This may have been a small event but it is one that could prove incredibly useful in my own work.


Susan Bedford.  (date unknown).  Susan Bedford Mixed Media Artist [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:

Barbara Colbert.  (date unknown).  Barbara Colbert [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:

Stevie Davies.  (2017).  Stevie Davies [online].  [Date accessed:  28 May 2017].  Available from:



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