Artistic Resurrection

Witch trials are an unlikely inspiration for art but in 2012 a sculpture trail was designed in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials. (Pendle is a small district in Lancashire, England). The trail is now a permanent artwork in Aitken Wood.

The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history. Twelve people were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. Of the 11 who went to trial (one died in prison), nine women and two men, 10 were found guilty and executed by hanging while one was found not guilty.

The artistic lead and chief designer of the project, Philippe Handford had been thinking of a natural trail in the area for a couple of years. He is an environmental sculptor and creates a number of projects for both indoors and outdoors, often with a natural theme. He worked with the town of Pendle and United Utilities who owned several woodland areas around Pendle on the concept. They eventually decided to secure a grant and invited other artists to participate. Afterwards he discussed with the artists how and where the works would be installed.

“I was part of the judging panel on choosing fellow artists and responsible for the coordination of time schedules and installation of all the pieces,” Mr Handford told The Word.

His own contribution, entitled ‘Reconnected’ is interesting. In the area they were working, some trees had been illegally cut down. Mr Handford decided to reconnect the stumps and their trunks with something which looks like a curved metal spine. The trees are not standing up, but instead curve down. Their positions remind us how the accused people probably felt. Mr Handford explained the process behind his contributions to the trail.

Grammar point: Felled and fell: Fell is the past simple form of fall. However it also a verb meaning to cut down a tree. The verb is regular so the past simple form is felled.

“There were three main elements to the woodland that I chose to work with. There were several felled trees, the remains of a dry stone wall that ran the length of the wood and holly bushes,” he said. The site was ugly and a health risk. Mr Handford wanted to create “the illusion of the trees falling which have reconnected to their stumps.”

The sculptures look like they must have required a lot of precision.

“I spent a long time surveying the area before metal fabrication began as once the huge frames were brought to site there was not much room for error,” Mr Handford said.

The felled trees were sliced by tree surgeons. Mr Handford wanted his piece to be in harmony with the surrounding nature.

The idea of working with trees to create new structures is an attractive one and Mr Handford has spoken with a few clients interested in this project. He will continue to be inspired by nature and natural forms.

Idiom: To push boundaries: To extend what is possible or imagined in a particular field.

“I try to maintain simple lines and keep things plain relying on other elements such as scale or texture. I’m also fascinated by the mechanics of counter balance and visual illusion,” he said. “The challenge is to be innovative and push the boundaries of working with nature in a non figurative way but an abstract approach.”

Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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The witch trials were terrible events, but in the district of Pendle in England, a sculpture trail was built in 2012 in Aitken Wood. It was for the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials. The Pendle witch trials were among some of the worst in English history.

Eleven people went to trial, nine women and two men. Ten were found guilty and executed by hanging. One was freed.

The artistic lead and chief designer of the project, Philippe Handford had been thinking of a natural trail in the area for a couple of years. He is an environmental sculptor and creates a number of projects for both indoors and outdoors, often with a natural theme. He worked with the town of Pendle and United Utilities who owned several woodland areas around Pendle on the concept. They eventually decided to get a grant and invited other artists to participate. Afterwards he discussed with the artists how and where the works would be installed.

“I was part of the judging panel on choosing fellow artists and responsible for the coordination of time schedules and installation of all the pieces,” Mr Handford told The Word.

His own contribution, entitled ‘Reconnected’ is interesting. In the area they were working, some trees had been illegally cut down. Mr Handford decided to reconnect the stumps and their trunks with something which looks like a curved metal spine. The trees are not standing up, but instead bend down. Their positions remind us how the accused people probably felt. Mr Handford explained the process behind his contributions to the trail.

Grammar point: Felled and fell: Fell is the past simple form of fall. However it also a verb meaning to cut down a tree. The verb is regular so the past simple form is felled.

“There were three main elements to the woodland that I chose to work with. These were several felled trees, the remains of a dry stone wall that ran the length of the wood and holly bushes,” he said.  The sculptures look like they must have required a lot of precision. The individual slices were cut by a tree surgeon.Original article by Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Witch trials as an inspiration for art? It’s a more unlikely muse but one that actually came to pass in the borough of Pendle in Lancashire, England. In 2012 a sculpture trail was designed in honor of the 400th anniversary of the Pendle witch trials. The trail is now a permanent artwork in Aitken Wood.

The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history. Twelve people were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. Of the eleven who went to trial (one died in prison), 9 women and 2 men, ten were found guilty and executed by hanging while one was found not guilty.

The artistic lead and chief designer of the project, Philippe Handford had been thinking of a natural trail in the area for a couple of years. He is an environmental sculptor and creates a number of projects for both indoors and outdoors, often with a natural theme. He worked with the town of Pendle and United Utilities who owned several woodland areas around Pendle on the concept. They eventually decided to secure a grant and invited other artists to participate.

“I was part of the judging panel on choosing fellow artists and responsible for the coordination of time schedules and installation of all the pieces,” Mr Handford told The Word. “I discussed with the artists the practicalities of incorporating their pieces in the wood and the final locations to site their work.”

His own contribution, entitled ‘Reconnected’ is an interesting engineering realization. In the area they were working, some trees had been illegally cut down. Mr Handford decided to reconnect the stumps and their trunks with a curved metal spine of sorts. The trees are not returned to their strong upright positions, but instead are arched and curved, looking like they are fighting against the cruelty of being unjustly chopped down. Much like the accused witches probably felt the spitefulness of their discriminatory trials. Mr Handford explained the process behind his contributions to the trail.

Grammar point: Felled and fell: Fell is the past simple form of fall. However it also a verb meaning to cut down a tree. The verb is regular so the past simple form is felled.

“There were three main elements to the woodland that I chose to work with. These were several felled trees, the remains of a dry stone wall that ran the length of the wood and holly bushes,” he said. “The site where I created the two large arches was where more than half a dozen trees had been felled illegally, creating an eyesore and health risk. I wanted to provide the illusion of the trees falling which have reconnected to their stumps.”

Looking closely at the sculptures, it seems surgical precision was necessary to get the spacing and required support for the sliced pieces of wood to seamlessly flow to the stumps.

“I spent a long time surveying the area before metal fabrication began as once the huge frames were brought to site there was not much room for error,” Mr Handford said. “I had all the felled trees cut into even slices by tree surgeons then selected the best pieces. Each segment was secured into position leaving parts of broken branches attached when possible. My vision for the trail was one of natural elements and to harmonize with the environment.”

Other works on the trail include ten ceramic plaques designed by artist Sarah McDade. Each one represents one of the people condemned as a witch. They are sitting on existing tree stumps and include prints of herbs and plants used in 1612. Artist Steve Blaylock crafted several woodland creatures out of stainless steel and wood carver Martyn Bednarczuk fashioned a life size ‘witchfinder’ out of oak. In another of Mr Handford’s creations, he used holly bushes and surrounded them in steel frames shaped into human forms.

Starting out as a product designer, Mr Handford says he prefers the artistic freedom of outdoor work.

“I have always been active in outdoor sports and pursuits, preferring to work with nature,” he said. “I love experimenting with natural materials and creating ‘spontaneous sculpture.’”

His work today includes outdoor furniture, both in private and public spaces, works for the garden and sculptures. With the majority of his work designed for the outdoors, it was his brainstorming in winter that led to his work with the town of Pendle.

“During the winter months I develop new concepts and build natural sculptural structures for inspiration,” he said. “These temporary creations provided an interesting collection of images which I showed to a local art director. He recommended I contact Pendle Council to see if they may be interested in developing one of my pieces.” And the rest is history.

The concept of working with trees to create new structures is an attractive one and Mr Handford is in consultation with a few clients interested in this sort of project. He will continue to be inspired by nature and natural forms.

Idiom: To push boundaries: To extend what is possible or imagined in a particular field.

“I try to maintain simple lines and keep things plain relying on other elements such as scale or texture. I’m also fascinated by the mechanics of counter balance and visual illusion,” he said. “The challenge is to be innovative and push the boundaries of working with nature in a non figurative way but an abstract approach.”

Jacy Meyer – Phoenix, Arizona

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