The Tamar Valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and for the fifth year running, local painters, printmakers, ceramicists, calligraphers, sculptors, textile artists, jewellers and stained-glass-window makers opened their studios to the public between 30 August and 7 September for the Drawn to the Valley project. More than 80 artists took part, but the curious had to figure out how to get to their often remote places of work.
There is a rail line running along the valley between Plymouth and Gunnislake, and there are also good bus routes in the area. A car made it easier to visit several studios in one outing, but a planned trip by other means would have got you to the Weir Quay boatyard and Calstock (three artists and four artists respectively) in one journey. The Tavistock area had a good cluster of exhibitors. One studio had paintings and monoprints indoors and poultry outside.
In Bere Alston, the work of three artists was displayed in a boat shed, cleared of clutter, and there was music, canapés and elderflower pressé. The artists had designed covers for the annual tide tables, which give predictions for ports worldwide. As well as the original works on display, less costly limited-edition digital prints were also available.
There were two other interesting exhibitions, both in Saltash, at Mary Newman’s Cottage (said to have been the home of Sir Francis Drake’s wife), where there is a cottage museum with an Elizabethan garden, and at Elliot’s Store, a 1960s grocer’s shop. There was also a show at a bar in Mount Batten, accessible by ferry from the Plymouth Barbican.
The event was supported by Peninsula Arts and EU funding (Cornwall is a high-poverty county). Help of this kind will hopefully enable the local artistic community to grow. Recreation and hospitality is flourishing, and there is a pride about the riverside villages, which have lost traditional industries – farming, fishing, boatbuilding and market gardening – and are now trying to find a new way of life.
Jeannine Bolingbroke, Charity worker, TavistockReuse content