Jo Ball – Patches of Blue Sky
Working as a gardener for the last four years has given me a greater awareness of place, and how longer-term involvement in one location can change your perceptions and understanding of a particular site.
I saw the Ropewalkers commission as a way to combine art-making and gardening, and explore a new way of making art that invited people to take part. I wanted to connect people to the soil, to sow seed and have the experience of watching and caring for a plant as it grows.
A call to participate was sent out in February 2016 and over the summer eighty people in the village, and further afield, grew flax. Pictures of the sky blue flowers were sent in from across South West of England and from as far away as Norway, Toronto and the isle of Skye (many of which can be seen on the blog). Harvest events were held at the Twineworks in late summer where people brought in the bundles of flax they had been growing in their gardens and allotments.
Initially making the twine was my main aim, and this will still happen, but during the residency the social dimension has become the most valuable part of the project. For me it is the connections made during this process that is important, with support from people in the village, emails from growers further afield with updates on their progress and the two harvest events which were days full of conversations and remembrances, as the markers of success.
Alongside growing flax, I have been investigating the history of the twine industry and agriculture of West Coker and the surrounding areas. This has led to new drawings and sculptural work that refer to land, mapping and language.