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Youth group work with artist to create art installation

Posted 17th November 2015
Watts Contemporary Gallery


Over the summer the Artists' Village has slowly been invaded by flocks of terracotta birds. Drop-in pottery sessions have been held at the Gallery and across Surrey, inviting the local community to create their own terracotta bird to add to the collection. The flocks have been created with the intention of creating a community made art installation to celebrate the opening of the Watts Studios this winter. The installation is to hang in the newly landscaped woodland surrounding the Studios that was the garden of GF and Mary Watts.

Watts Studios will open up sections of the Wattses historic Surrey home to the public. Opening in January 2016 Watts Studios will host three new gallery spaces exploring the heritage of the Wattses in Compton, the creative design work of Mary Seton Watts and working processes of G F Watts. It will also feature a recreation of the art studio in which G F Watts created his artwork here in Surrey. The pubic will also be able to access new learning facilities including a working conservation studio and a large workshop space for practical art and design workshops, talks and lectures.

Three themes have been the foundation of this installation project – nature, terracotta, and community. All three themes are founded in the heritage of the Artists' Village and feature strongly in the work and practice of the Wattses.

Nature, and specifically birds, were both strong themes in the creative work of both as they found inspiration for their work in the woodland gardens around Watts Studios (originally part of their Surrey home). With the increased access to the gardens there is hope that they will continue to inspire new generations of artists. Terracotta clay is synonymous with the Artists' Village because of its popular feature the Watts Chapel as well as the heritage of the Compton Potters Art Guild. Created by Mary in collaboration with the local community at the turn of the 20th century, Watts Chapel is exquisitely decorated with terracotta tiles and is the inspiration for countless pottery workshops at the Artists' Village every year. The Compton Potters Art Guild was founded on the Artists' Village site as a result of the Chapel's creation. The theme of community has always been a part of the foundation of the Artists' Village inspired by the Wattses' ethos of Art for All.

So far around 800 birds have been created by the local community and the task of installing them is now underway. The Artists' Village's youth consultation group, the Art Forum, has been working with local artist Lisa Pettibone to transform the 800 birds into an art installation. The group of 8 young people meet once a fortnight to take part in projects like this and contribute to the workings of the site. They will be working with Lisa over the next 5 weeks to create the bird installation. Lisa Pettibone is a Surrey based sculptor. She mainly works with glass and is inspired by the natural world.

This week the Art Forum visited the woodlands to scout out locations for the installation and create some initial design ideas.

To follow the progress of the project keep an eye out for the Art Forum Blog on our website news feed, or follow the hastag #wattsartforum on social media.

The Watts Studios will open to the public on Tuesday 26 January 2016. Opening times can be found on our website.

Interested in getting involved with projects like this? Why not join the Art Forum? The Forum meets once every two weeks on a Tuesday evenings 5.30-7pm and is for young people aged 14-18yrs. For more information contact Lauren McCombie Smith on or 01483 901 803.