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Weaving in the wilds of Dartmoor

MA student Kate Williams reflects on first Southcombe Barn artist residency

Kate Williams, an MA Fine Art student from Arts University Plymouth who is due to exhibit at the Masters Summer Show 2022 in September, completed the first MA Residency at Southcombe Barn earlier this year, creating new work at the new arts, nature and wellbeing retreat space located in Widecombe-in-the Moor, Dartmoor.

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Kate Williams

As part of an open-application process for Arts University Plymouth MA students, Kate was jointly selected for the first iteration of the new residency by academics from the university and Vashti Casinelli, Co-Founder of Southcombe Barn. Rooted in Vashti’s work with women's rights organisations, Southcombe Gallery aims to represent viewpoints that have historically been excluded from dominant discourses and bring current artistic debates into the countryside. The residency was the first in a series of recurring opportunities for MA students, representing an ongoing affiliation between Southcombe Barn and Arts University Plymouth.

Using COVID-19 data to create textiles - MA Fine Art student Kate Williams

Kate Williams is a highly skilled weaver with a studio at Mount Edgcumbe. Working primarily with the constraints of using a traditional mechanical dobby loom, Kate challenges herself to find ways to convert her ideas into lively woven wall hangings of rich texture with plenty of colours.

"It feels like my time on Dartmoor will be pivotal to my development as an artist. The whole experience was like my time studying an MA at Arts University Plymouth - I came hoping for one thing, but gained so much more than I was expecting.”
Kate Williams, MA Fine Art
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During her funded residency at Southcombe Barn, designed to give an artist space and time to create new work in Dartmoor away from distractions, Kate stayed for ten nights in Southcombe Piggery, a lovingly restored piggery set in 16 acres of wildflower meadow, pasture and ancient woodland, with sweeping views across Dartmoor National Park. The residency also included full use of a restored print maker’s gallery and studio space, culminating in a final exhibition in Southcombe Barn of work created by Kate.

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Kate Williams said: “The residency at Southcombe Barn was such a warm and generous offer and it’s an experience that I'll never forget. I’m grateful to Vashti and Tom for making me feel so welcome. It feels like my time on Dartmoor will be pivotal to my development as an artist. The whole experience was like my time studying an MA at Arts University Plymouth - I came hoping for one thing, but gained so much more than I was expecting.”

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Vashti Casinelli said: “I’ve worked for ten years in women’s services, with women who’ve been trafficked. My MA is in gender and sexuality. That’s where I want to focus the gallery and the business here, on representing viewpoints that have been historically excluded from mainstream discourses.”

Kate Tom and Vashti

From left to right: Kate, Tom and Vashti

Richard Kenton Webb, an award-winning artist and Course Leader for BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking at Arts University Plymouth, coordinates the Southcombe Barn MA Residency for students.

Since Kate Williams’ residency, Southcombe Barn has also welcomed Becky Dodman Wainright, a textile artist and designer and Lecturer at Arts University Plymouth, with Milly Brown, a visual artist and former Senior Lecturer and Course Leader at Arts University Plymouth, for a week-long artist residency. Exploring place, spirit, and divination by immersing themselves in the cultivated and wild spaces in and around the barn, Becky and Milly worked collaboratively on research that will inform a joint exhibition, 'A Premonition of this Place', at Southcombe Barn in October 2022.

Milly Brown and Becky Dodman Wainwright Photo by Dom Moore 2022

Milly Brown (left) and Becky Dodman Wainwright (Image by Dom Moore 2022)

Southcombe Barn is currently hosting artist Amy Wiggin, winner of their International Women’s Day Artist open call residency.