Art in Action 2013 Review

Art in Action 2013 Review

Art in Action is inspired by a similar principle to our series of textile artist interviews; people find the artist’s or craftperson’s process endlessly fascinating. What’s unique about Art in Action is that it offers visitors the opportunity to see the creators demonstrating their skills. They are also encouraged to discuss the work and ask questions. The 4 days of Art in Action are filled with exhibitions, classes and performances of 400 demonstrating artists, teachers, musicians and performers.

Janet Cook recently visited Art in Action 2013 at Waterperry House and Gardens in Oxfordshire. We’re delighted she has shared her thoughts on the event with us.

So many artists…

This year’s visit was in complete contrast to that of last year. Dust replaced mud and temperatures soared into the high 20’s. Fortunately a breeze danced around while I dodged from one marquee to another.

Taking in the work of more than 150 artists from all around the world is not easy. I had to be selective and head for whatever caught my eye first. Although I arrived 20 minutes before the show started I had to park in the second car park. Perhaps we all thought we’d beat the rush! Browsing through the programme over a cup of coffee, I narrowed the field to just 21 marquees. Stamina is the name of the game!


Sometimes I include lettering in my work, and I find Australian Dave Wood’s calligraphy and paper sculpting  awe-inspiring.

Freelance illustrator Shelly Perkins’ use of colour, line, scale and proportion kept me lingering and talking to her about her traditional and digital techniques.

Sarah Morpeth took paper cutting into a new dimension.

I needed some light relief so I sat a while watching glass blowing – intensely hot work for the demonstrators!

In the International Art marquee Hikmet Baratcugil from Turkey made marbling look easy. His fabrics are to die for! Tuareg artisans Mohamed Almaloud and Mohamed Alher from Timbuktu sat demonstrating traditional silversmithing and leatherworking skills. Their indigo attire looked cool and they obviously enjoyed the heat – or was it cool to them?

A quick tour of the metalwork and jewellery sections provided some food for thought and added a few items to my wish list. It was so hot that I didn’t venture as far as the Nature in Art marquee. It’s a pity it’s been moved away from the mainstream of the show. I admired the sculptors and blacksmiths, beavering away in the heat.

The Textiles Marquee

Was I too hot and tired, or was I suffering from overload when I entered the Textiles Marquee? I still can’t decide, but I left it with a feeling of acute disappointment. Only one person was demonstrating anything, despite looms and sewing machines sitting there all set up and ready to go. Nobody seemed particularly interested in talking about their work either. Once again there were no lace makers or spinners present.

Kate Wells was machine embroidering gold daisies, repeating the same size flowers over a length of cloth. Although I found the pattern slightly gaudy and uninteresting, at least Kate was willing to discuss her use of threads and base fabrics.

One artist will remain nameless because she sat with her feet on a chair, moaned to me about the heat, checked her home temperature on her mobile (21 degrees) and said she’d rather be there. She put me right off asking her about her techniques. It was such a pity because I always come away from the textiles section on a high, and this time I didn’t.

However, all was not a letdown. In the Newcomers marquee young Harriet Riddell was completing 15-minute portraits, using black thread in a continuous line on her sewing machine. She likes to set herself up with her machine in public places and record faces, figures and snatches of conversation in a lively and humorous style. She is a very talented breath of fresh air – one to watch in future!

What’s unique about Art in Action?

Artists from all over the world gather there to share their passion, their skills and knowledge, their hints and tips, their encouragement and their wisdom. Language is not a barrier. You can communicate with Russians, Egyptians, Turkish and Chinese through the language of art. And the food is wonderful. Will I go next year? God willing, yes! It’s a must!

About the author

Janet Cook started making quilts in 1988, after being inspired by Mennonite quilts in Canada. After exploring traditional textile methods of quilt-making and using them as a basis for experimentation, Janet developed her own technique. This unique approach led to her work being celebrated at a national level and exhibited internationally. Janet is also a passionate teacher of quilt making, both in the UK and abroad.

Have you been to an event or exhibition recently? Perhaps you were at Art in Action 2013? Did you agree with Janet’s view? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Wednesday 07th, June 2023 / 00:02

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

View all articles by Joe



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