Thursday, 07 July 2022

Artist weaves magic of nature into her work

Artist weaves magic of nature into her work

TEXTILE artist Saskia Saunders is well aware of the health benefits of spending time in the natural world.

Her large-scale, woven pieces have been inspired by the delicate balance and intricate patterns found in nature.

She is sharing these benefits with her new exhibition, called Well-Being, at the Old Fire Station Gallery in Henley this weekend.

Saskia says: “The show is about what a lot of us have been through in the last two years, reconnecting with our natural surroundings.

“I live up in the Chiltern Hills and all of our walks through the lockdown period and beyond just reignited this intense love for our landscape and for the ancient woodlands and trees.”

Saskia, 37, lives on the edge of the Wormsley Estate in Stokenchurch with her husband Jon, 38, and children, Quinn, six, and Neve, two.

She says she became increasingly aware of the impact of the countryside on her family’s wellbeing.

“The miles of woodland paths and scenery almost invited you to slow down and take your time to notice the surroundings,” says Saskia.

“You had to have a more sensitive approach to seeing how your body felt, listening to the birds, or noticing a new bud on the trees. It’s not ‘one walk and my life is okay’, it’s repetition, continually engaging with what is personally good for us and our wellbeing. We all need continual reminders.”

She points out that studies have shown that even 20 minutes a day of fresh air can provide benefits.

“If we’re just getting out on our lunch break, it still has a huge impact on us,” says Saskia.

She and her husband, who is a primary school teacher, follow the practice of “unschooling” their
children.

Saskia explains: “I have quite a holistic approach to my art, my family and my life.

“Unschooling is a really free and natural way to learn. It’s not curriculum-based, so you don’t sit down and learn from a workbook. It’s much more life skills-driven and following the interests of the children and their passions.

“A big part of what we do is get them out into all different natural environments.”

Her love of nature is reflected in her weaving, which visitors to the exhibition will be able to try for themselves.

Saskia says: “A lot of the works in the show are woven with incredibly delicate paper or linen yarns that are really, really fine.

“It’s connecting the really slow, meditative process of weaving with these really delicate fine yarns to having a sensitive approach to ourselves and the natural environment. It all ties together.”

Saskia graduated from the University of Brighton in 2008 with a degree in woven textiles and business studies.

She learnt to weave on large looms at university but now uses a smaller table loom which enables her to work on pieces in her studio at home and in her garden.

“I’ve created my own style of weaving and my own techniques to show the idea of conceptual art,” she says.

“I create long, woven strips of my textiles, which are then pieced together very much like making a quilt. This means that I can create really large-scale pieces in a small, portable way.”

One of the largest pieces in the show has been inspired by her visits to the River Thames in Henley.

Saskia says: “We come to Henley a lot as we love it and there is one piece that is based on the river itself.

“It was created with hemp and paper yarns and it’s really textural and light and ethereal.

“It’s about being able to sit there, looking at really gentle ripples on the water as boats go by and acknowledging that you have this incredible environment on your doorstep.”

Many of the pieces have been created specially for the show, which is her first solow show in Britain, although she has exhibited in Hong Kong, New York, Paris and London.

She will be at the gallery all this weekend.

Saskia says: “Visitors will be getting the first views of them and I’m looking forward to seeing what they think.

“I’m able to engage with everybody and show people around — it’s so much more interesting when you can talk and ask questions. I’m still deliberating as to whether to bring my loom.”

There will be Prosecco and soft drinks on offer at the family friendly show.

Saskia says: “I will have an area for children to have a go at small, nature-inspired weaving themselves. There will be little cardboard looms to use and they can take away a little artwork.”

• Well-Being is at the Old Fire
Station Gallery in Upper Market Place, Henley, tomorrow
(Saturday) and Sunday from noon to 4pm daily. Private appointments are available by arrangement on both days as well as Monday
from 10am to noon. For more information, email saskia@saskiasaunders.com

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