For those of us interested in twentieth century craftsmanship, Dartington Hall in Devon, is a place to be revered and celebrated. Craft tradition at Dartington goes back a long way, the hall was founded in the 1920’s, based on the idea that ‘the arts and craft [are] the foundations of human flourishing’.
Dorothy Elmhirst, the co-founder of Dartington was greatly influenced by William Morris and one of the first artists that she invited to Dartington in 1926 was the potter Bernard Leach (pictured above in his studio at Shinner's Bridge, Dartington). Leach’s former assistant Sylvia Fox-Strangways installed a kiln at Dartington and felt it was her duty to bring art to everyone on the estate from ‘children to bricklayers’.
The Elmhirsts were pioneers and they poured their resources into the “Dartington Experiment” – restoring the estate buildings and setting up a host of farming, forestry and educational projects. Early initiatives included Dartington Hall School, Dartington Tweed Mill and later Dartington Glass. They also commissioned craftspeople to make unique work for the estate, including the beautiful Modernist tapestries by Elizabeth Peacock, still hanging in the Great Hall. Dartington quickly became a magnet for artists, architects, writers, philosophers and musicians from around the world, creating an exceptional centre of creative activity.
The estate has just appointed a new chairman and with his support launched a series of craft courses which hopefully will restore the links between Dartington and craft. The Craft Revolution features a diverse range of courses from furniture making to building a tiny home, brewing beer, dressmaking, cheesemaking and kiln building.
The Spoon Camp with Barn the Spoon sounds particularly good. Barn is an excellent spoon carver and the camp is a whole weekend of spoon and bowl carving for beginners, newcomers and anyone who would like to practice their spoon carving skills. There will be camping in the woods, sourdough pizza, coffee, local ales, cider, films and fresh woodland air… All while learning how to carve spoons, bowls and utensils.
It's a brave move for Dartington but as Bernard Leach said, “with hindsight, the years at Dartington were of thought and exchange of thought and friendships, a time of enrichment and expansion for which I am deeply grateful. […] For me personally, the years there provided a pause in my life, between East and West, during which I had the opportunity to assess its basic values, Dartington was a brave effort, worth all the cost.”
Spoon Camp - A Weekend in the Woods with Barn the Spoon, takes place from Thurs 1st - Sunday 4th October 2015, at North Woods on the Dartington Estate, Devon.