John Stanley and Deanne Tremlett give Edwina Baines a tour of the enormous range of creative options available for the whole community at The Gugg in Stalbridge
Gone are the days when the cows were driven up Station Road twice a day to be milked. The yard and outbuildings of the 16th century farm have for more than 25 years been the home of Guggleton Farm Arts – or The Gugg as it is now affectionately called. The farmyard offers an eclectic range of studios, galleries and shops, as well as the Dutch Barn Sculpture Yard and a large space available for outdoor events.
A sign at the entrance proudly announces a Community Interest Company, where anyone can join for art, crafts, textiles, ceramics, printmaking, music, sculpture, film… and tea!’
A little refreshments cabin, crammed with cosy sofas, is tucked into the corner of the Dutch barn. It was here that I enjoyed a cup of coffee with treasurer and director John Stanley and curator and artistic director Deanne Tremlett.
Guggleton Farm Arts was founded by owner, artist Isabel de Pelet, a renowned champion of visual and performing arts and supporter of local artists, as an inspirational environment for artistic exploration.
It welcomes local people to get involved in creativity of all kinds at all levels. Exhibitions by established artists inspire visitors and resident and participating artists to develop their aspirations.
A continuing theme
At the beginning of 2019 Isabel stepped back from day-to-day involvement. It was a serendipitous search for a new studio that led accomplished painter Deanne to Stalbridge. She has helped in the continuing development of Isabel’s vision ever since, as it is one which entirely mirrors her own.
She says: “At the heart of all our work is the belief that any creative pursuit, no matter what form and independent of its outcome, promotes wellbeing, nurtures the mind and provokes discussion and engagement. We are a place for all ages and experience, offering opportunities to become involved in a creative community, with all of the joy and growth that this creates. We’re not looking to be results-based – we’re looking for people to enjoy themselves through their creativity.”
I visited on a Tuesday, the day the Men’s Shed was in operation. This is one of 576 sheds in the UK which belong to the Men’s Shed Association. Whatever the activity, the essence of a Shed is not a building, but the connections and relationships between its members.
These are community spaces for men to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practise skills and enjoy making and mending.
David Stubbings, the Shed co-ordinator, was notionally in charge at The Gugg – but I gathered the activities were a collaboration between the other Shedders, as they are called. The space was filled with woodworking and metalworking tools, most of which have been donated or are owned by David.
The activities are similar to those that the Shedders might undertake in their own garden sheds, but with the company and encouragement of others, helping to reduce the common loneliness and isolation.
Most importantly, they’re fun, as I saw from the laughter and camaraderie from busy ‘workers.’
In the Milking Parlour Gallery there was an exhibition of new paintings by Matthew Hayward. John explained that artists are invited to exhibit and the calendar is booked a year ahead.
Outside the gallery, tucked into a corner, there is a cupboard full of free craft materials for children, who can go to the Dutch Barn with their parents, to make things, during the holidays.
John showed me the Pottery Shed, recently equipped with a shiny new kiln, where classes will soon be held. Thanks to a grant from Dorset’s Culture and Community Fund, all children within the catchment area can enjoy two free pottery lessons.
Tutor Carolyn Finch Corlett was teaching her weekly Oil Painting from Observation class in the workshop/art room that she describes as ‘an inspiring space.’
In a nearby studio, Jo Winter was using her jigsaw to create some new designs which she will use in forthcoming classes. She is a mosaic artist who works mainly in 3D. She showed me photographs of quirky dog sculptures that she sold in Brighton. They started life as a wire armature covered in concrete and then were layered with ceramic or lustreware mosaic. Her sculpture Fox Trotsky has pride of place at the door of the craft gallery. She felt a two-dimensional approach was more appropriate to introduce mosaics in the classroom.
As the crow flies
The craft gallery houses one-off items created by local makers and artists living within a 20 mile radius – hence the shop’s name As the Crow Flies. Deanne’s mother, Mary Tremlett, says she enjoys her one day a week volunteering at the shop.
I could have spent hours browsing the wonderful items in stock, including macramé wall hangings and items created by Laura Jackson, who runs classes in air dry clay and découpage as well as macramé. The wonderful stock includes macramé wall hangings and other items made by Laura Jackson, who discovered that macramé was excellent therapy after difficulty with movement and numbness in her fingers following a stroke four years ago.
Laura, who runs classes in air dry clay and decoupage as well as macramé, says her first attempt at a pot-hanger was a disaster, but she has learned much from her initial mistakes.
Deanne persuaded her to run classes, giving her confidence a further boost. She enjoys sharing the craft with other enthusiasts and everyone leaves the sessions with a piece of macramé, a satisfying outcome.
The Dutch Barn hosts a variety of community events and coffee mornings to help combat isolation, as well as musical soirées of all sorts.
Thursday is Open Mic night, the aim being to help up-and-coming musicians on their road to success. The audience can bring their own drinks or picnics as the venue is not licensed – but popular stone baked sourdough pizzas are available.
There is too much going on at The Gugg to describe all the activities; I left the venue impressed by Deanne’s enthusiasm to create a space where everyone is welcome – even if just as a safe haven to come and sit. She feels that everyone can benefit from some form of creativity – it has been lost from so many lives.
She believes in living a more sustainable life and in having the confidence to make a mistake, in finding your own path and your own happiness.
Who could argue with that?