Inverewe Gardens, by Poolewe village, is not far from here in this remote corner of the North-West and has become a mecca for artists and makers, as well as botanists, in recent years. In a breathtakingly beautiful bay, sheltered from the worst of the prevailing Atlantic gales and warmed by the Gulf Stream, it was lovingly created by Osgood Mackenzie and his daughter Mairi Sawyer from barren ground, in the 19th century.
Plants from around the world, including giant Californian redwoods, olearia from New Zealand, Tasmanian eucalyptus, rhododendrons from the Himalayas, to name just a few, thrive here in this most northerly outpost and it really is a botanical wonder.
Recently, the house has been restored and turned into an interactive museum and the adjacent building turned into the intimate but wonderful Sawyer Art Gallery, which hosts exhibitions throughout the year, as well as an artist-in-residence.
Last year, the inaugural invited artist was my friend Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie, from Gairloch. She remains closely involved with Inverewe, organising regular ‘artists’ days’ in the gardens, when artists from near and far, who feel a connection with the place, are free to wander – creating, musing, gathering inspiration for their work and meeting up at some point during the day to chat and connect with each other.
One of these days was last Wednesday, when I was able to wander ’round the walled garden while the mist and rain held off for an hour or two, after viewing the wonderfully organic, understated work of sculptor Ann Coomber in the Sawyer Gallery. (Images below)
At the heart of the exhibition is this wonderful work, above, in Ancaster Limestone, inspired by Inverewe.
Called “The Shelter of Your Arms”, it is the artist’s response to Osgood Mackenzie’s shelter belt, which nurtures, embraces and protects the garden, enabling its creation and growth.
The sculptural shapes of the South African “Propeller Plant” – Crassula falcata (below)
It proved to be a gently energising treat, being pulled away from the ‘hermitude’ (a word perfectly descriptive of my usual solitary routine, borrowed from one of the other artists present!) of my studio, for half a day and I enjoyed meeting the others who had also come along for inspiration and connection.
The studio is normally and by necessity, a quiet, cloistered and meditative place and it can be daunting to leave it behind and meet other solo practitioners. Lynn’s idea of providing us with regular opportunities to connect, create, explore and share ideas and laughs in this incredibly inspiring and nurturing place, is a thoughtful gift to us all. She describes one of the earlier gatherings in her own blog here.