musings about the elfin alchemy pop-up exhibition in October 2021

The Pendle Heritage centre is such a fantastic place to spend some time, and be enveloped in all its magic and mysteries… The ancient stone barn is set in a beautiful location, nestled next to Heritage centre, across the cobbles from it and the parkland in Barrowford, surrounded by picturesque Lancashire countryside in the borough of Pendle witch country.

I felt very lucky to finally be able to hold my elfin alchemy pop-up exhibition at the Pendle Heritage centre during the October half-term and Halloween in 2021. It’d been a longer wait than planned… as I’d originally booked it for October 2020, back in 2019, but due to Covid and lockdowns it was postponed to the following June. (you can read more about it in my last blog posts). 

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Guest artists

It had been my wish to share the space at my elfin alchemy pop-up exhibition with guest artists, and be able to give them the opportunity to display their work and meet a different audience. But, I was glad I’d decided to wait and see how my first pop-up exhibition in June went, as it gave me the chance to figure out if I could fit an artist in the space downstairs. I knew there’d be room for at least 2 artists upstairs (as Covid was still around I limited it to just the 1 artist upstairs).

After organising some studio group events a few years ago, I was aware of the work involved, so to make it easier for myself I was just inviting guest artists I already knew. Covid made it more difficult, as some of the artists I asked, weren’t able to do events because they or close family members were in the ‘at-risk category’, thankfully 2 artists were able to join me for the Halloween weekend.

“My pop-up exhibition theme with it being held at the Pendle Heritage centre was alchemy and anything related to myths, magic, woodland creatures, nature and fairy tales.”

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Potter Barbara from Barbara Lea Pottery was downstairs with her magical ceramic fairy mushroom houses and textile artist Josephine from Phinefibre was upstairs with her colourful abstract fibre jewellery, cards, art and drum sticks.

It was lovely to be joined by these talented makers in the barn, but I felt under added pressure, as I really wanted the weekend be worthwhile for them…

Phew, I felt so relieved that we were quite busy with visitors all weekend!

To fit in my guest artists, the downstairs room needed rearranging. Normally I was sat making next to my main display, blocking the stairs. I moved my small making / packing table away from my display next to the entrance, but this didn’t work out as well for me as I wasn’t sat next to my display and couldn’t  chat with visitors when they’re looking at my displays and able give them more info about my pieces.

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The barn is what you’d call quirky, the downstairs room is kind of an awkward shape that doesn’t really lend itself for fitting in 6ft tables, although a table fits into the back of the room, I used this as an info and leaflet table, and moved them when my guest artist Barbara was in that space.

There needs to be a display table in the alcove next to the stairs, so people can see it when they are walking past the entrance and going into the Heritage centre. But, if you sit one side of the display table you’re blocking the stairs, and if you sit the other side of it, you’re blocking the way, with the room being at its narrowest there (it would originally have been 2 rooms). Next time I’m going to try moving my display table sideways and see if I can squeeze into the alcove with it and hopefully that’ll work better.

Apart from these niggles, it’s an amazing space with lovely energy, there’s big windows in the entrance section that let in lots of light, which is the other reason I was sat blocking the stairs, as it’s got the best light for making, allowing visitors to watch me working and chat with me about my creations.

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Upstairs, is even lovelier, with a great view of the Heritage centre, cobbled courtyard area and parkland beyond and sense of space with its high ceiling.  

If all goes well, I hope to return for another elfin alchemy pop-up exhibition there in October 2022, with guest artists joining me at both weekends and short 20-minute recycled jewellery making tasters on the Monday-Wednesday of the half-term week.

In my next blog post, you can read about my fascinating flower design journey of discovery.

There is magic all around us…

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey, wishing you sparkles of light. Sam Rowena, elfin alchemy, Lancashire jewellery artist 

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