Art in Action – beautiful things, shared

I had never heard of the Art in Action festival until the lovely Fleur Hitchcock told me about it. Her husband, Ian McKay, is an amazing automaton toymaker and was displaying in the market tent. As soon as I realised how close it was to me, I decided to have a (mostly) screen-free day out in the sunshine yesterday.

Ian McKay’s automaton boats

The festival, which goes on for four days, features hundreds of artists demonstrating their work, inspiring eager crafty people and selling some of the most stunning, hand-made treasures I’ve seen.

I watched demonstrations of etching, print-making, sculpting, wood carving and I even took one of the practical classes: making a bug box with dovetail joints.

Yes, I cut myself within two minutes of starting to make the box – on the vice grip rather than anything that was actually sharp – but I did make my very first dovetail joint. (See if you can tell which one was mine and which was the teacher’s demonstration.)

Hosted at Waterperry House & Gardens, near Oxford, this event literally buzzes with collaboration, sharing and supportiveness.

Everyone was sharing techniques and tips, giving away the “secrets” of their trade to random passersby. They all said that it took discipline and practise, but they were not afraid to share what they learned. I believe they were doing it for the collective good, knowing that even if everyone has exactly the same tools, creativity means that different people will produce different things.

There was the incredible Penny Dann there, demonstrating how she does all her roughs sketching on her iPad using the Brushes app, and once approved by her publisher, Nosy Crow, then she prints out the sketches, traces and goes to digital-free colour artwork.

It’s very like what we are trying to do at Hot Key – be open about what we do, show the workings, share the results. No one can do exactly what we can do, because every book is different and every author is different.

It’s better for everyone if books do well, if more and better books get read by people. The craftsmen at Art in Action were so willing to share their working that the cabinet above had the plans posted up on the wall beside it:

The stunning Puck cabinet is part of the amazing One Oak project (click the picture for that website), which follows the life of a tree.

(Click here for a big version of the plans.)

I will most definitely be at this festival next year, and will hope that we can get an authors/publishers tent at Art in Action so we can have authors doing live writing and editors doing live editing – and even some demos of digital projects?

On a completely different note, this evening I’m going to the technical rehearsal of the Olympic Opening Ceremony. I wonder if it is possible for the two things to be farther apart on the spectrum of openness and sharing? Still, hoping Adele makes an appearance!


2 responses to “Art in Action – beautiful things, shared

  1. Now I have to post an apology for the crapness of my photos. Here’s another blog on Art in Action, with drool-able photos:

  2. The photos are fine, in a way they sum up the feeling of the event very well – which is that everyone should have a go – part of the experience is understanding that each discipline is actually the result of practise and determination, that with Applied Arts, you can’t just wing it!.

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