Environment: Spiration from the Fields and Hedgerows; Environment Editor Tony Henderson on One Woman's Joy in Flowers and Plants

The Journal (Newcastle, England), May 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

Environment: Spiration from the Fields and Hedgerows; Environment Editor Tony Henderson on One Woman's Joy in Flowers and Plants


MAY is a powerhouse of a month, when flowers and all manner of other plants pulsate with growth. And while it is all happening outdoors, the same can be said of indoors at the Buddle Arts Centre in Station Road in Wallsend, North Tyneside.

Alison J Best's exhibition, called Blossoming Out: The Art of the Garden, is in her own words a celebration of the joy of flowers and plants with her depictions of snowdrops seen growing beside a road in Burnopfield, forsythia, iris, Canterbury bells, honeysuckle, daisy, colchicums, stitchwort, clover, toadflax, spring hellebore, foxglove, star of Bethlehem, wood anemone, rudbeckia, tulip, celandine, speedwell, daffodil and philadelphus.

Alison, who lives at Tanfied Lea in County Durham with husband Anthony and son Alex, sketches flowers and plants and then creates stencils to produce her work, at the centre of which is the natural world. "I am inspired by nature and I wanted to do something which looked at the patterns in nature," says Alison.

"I examine the structures of flowers and plants and interpret the patterns and shapes of nature."

A rural upbringing certainly left its mark on Alison.

Part of her childhood was spent in the Cumbrian village of Beckermet, where she remembers well-stocked gardens and older villagers well versed in plant knowledge and folklore.

Alison was fascinated by the plants of the hedgerows and recalls happy hours spent picking rosehips and blackberries and learning the names of the wild flowers.

"I have always loved flowers and that has never left me," she says.

The family moved to Hexham in Northumberland, with Alison attending the then Haydon Bridge County Technical School and then Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Hexham.

For her degree in fine art, completed at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1979, Alison's dissertation was on the great 18th Century naturalist and engraver Thomas Bewick.

"I was attracted to Thomas Bewick because of his love of nature, the fact that he stayed largely in his native North East, and that he was a straightforward, no nonsense sort of man who was interested in so many things," she says.

"I never thought that one day I would be doing something that in some ways is akin to Bewick." For some years Alison worked in the public sector in County Durham, in the field of business support, before taking up a full-time career as a contemporary flower and plant artist.

Two years ago she set up her own art and design business with a Cultural Business Venture grant.

One of her latest projects has been working with The Alnwick Garden, which is in the process of planting a hillside above its Denwick Lane entrance with 350 spectacular Japanese Tai Haku cherry trees. …

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