This is a question I ask myself all the time and my conclusions on garden art are often contradictory and confusing. The answers depend on my mood and my willingness to listen to the competing voices in my head. I may be tapped into another person’s ideas or feeling contrary and rebellious.
But that’s the point. Good art and good garden art, in particular, is highly personal.
Whether it’s a mass produced concrete gnome or a hand-made armillary sphere made in the white heat of the forge, it should make us feel something satisfying when we see or touch it.
Art must make a connection and demand our attention. It should spark conversations – the more animated the better!
Good art lights up a dark room, seductively, and whispers sweet nothings. Sometimes it shouts out loud to bring us back to our senses!
Garden art should do the same.
But what does my garden art say about me? And yours about you?
On one level, I expect my garden art to say something about me too. What do others think of me when they look at what I consider to be ‘beautiful’ or ‘distinctive’? Are their impressions meaningful for me? For better of for worse? Will they know, or appreciate, I’ve spent hours agonising over whether a specific item is the right shape, colour, size or material? Whether it’s designed for a particular space I had in mind?
I worry that this bothers me too much and struggle to put those thoughts aside.
Garden features can be garden art too?
As art is so subjective and always in the ‘eye of the beholder’, the features we create in our gardens are no less art too. It may seem strange to think of a weathered bench as ‘art’ but the considered choice of material and placement distinguishes it from nature, pure and simple.
A well- positioned arch (of whatever material), a mirror, a waterfall, pottery, a bird feeder or even a seat swing in the right setting is ‘art’. Whether it’s good art, high or low art, I’ll leave you to decide.
For me, it comes down to whether my spirit is lifted whenever I look at, and truly see, the same ‘object’ day in day out, whatever the weather, the time of year and whatever the state of the setting – the plants and flowers, the trees, the lawns and the beds.
The more time I spent searching for ‘perfect’ garden art, with all of this mulling round in my head, the more I realised I could, and should, roll my sleeves up and do it myself. Whether this was arrogance, foolhardiness or sheer desperation, I don’t know. In all probability, a mixture of all three, but I’ve enjoyed the experience. I’m pleased with the results and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response of friends and visitors.
My garden art inspirations
I’m inspired by human figures in the context of their story, their interactions with nature and with each other. Their form and movement and the music in my head all galvanise my thoughts.
It’s not always easy creating something that contains all of them though and I’m always fearful of producing something that’s a pastiche or a cliché! But, when one or more is present in an idea for a piece, I can feel the excitement begin to bubble! To capture an idea and see something take shape is what it’s all about.
And the materials I use are an important part of that. I choose materials that provide both the rigidity and longevity that an outdoor piece requires but give the impression of fluidity and movement that I’m looking for.
At least that’s what I hope!
Our outdoor space is our canvas
Our gardens are so much more than just an outdoor space. They’re an extension of ourselves and our homes. We should always think of our garden as another room or a series of rooms. Whether we’re there relaxing and enjoying the good weather, playing with children or just passing through, the garden has endless possibilities to enrich our lives.
We spend so much time thinking about how our houses should look on the inside but we often give very little thought to how they look on the outside and what they could become. Yet first impressions count and our gardens can sometimes be the first view our visitors have of our properties and personalities.
I see the gardens at the Old Vicarage as a place to entertain and a space to stimulate the senses! The colours, the smells, the shapes and the wildlife all provide their own visual and aural feasts and I want to add something to that. Something that uses everything around it as its ‘canvas’.
No two pieces the same
As an Artful Gardener, I work with my hands. Whether it’s on the garden itself or in my studio, it’s just me, my tools and my thoughts. There’s no production line or manufacturing plant that my pieces come rolling off. There may be similarities between pieces, and there will be similar subjects, but there will never be two identical items – even if I tried!
My wire figures, for instance, can be as small as you’d like (although the smaller they are, the less detailed they become) or as large as life size (6’+/ 1.82m+ depending on the subject of course). That gives me great scope to be as creative and as adventurous as my imagination (and skills!) will allow.
What garden art are you looking for?
My website offers a view of what I do and the types of things I create. Please look around and ask any questions you might have. Think about what inspires you, the outdoor space you have, the moods you want to create and the debates you want to ignite. If you see anything that sparks an idea in you and gets your excitement bubbling, why not act on it and get in touch?