belatrova paid a visit to the Mid Wales Arts Centre just outside the above-mentioned town in Powys on Sunday, in part to get some fresh air and a bit of Welsh countryside, but also to get some ceramic inspiration as well as a look at Nicky Arscott’s paintings.
It’s a two hour drive from Ledbury so we stopped in Rayader and had a snack at the Old Swan Tea Rooms in the middle of the town. Let me tell you that you will not find a better toasted cheese and bacon sandwich anywhere in the world, or a warmer and friendlier café.
We drove on.
The views were as beautiful as ever, even with the white pockets of snow that still dotted the higher parts of the hills along the way. Lots of sheep, and a few daffodils just starting to show, and (a rare sight nowadays) a very unlucky hedgehog that had not managed to make it to the other side of the road.
The Centre is a fabulous old Georgian house, and contains original artworks and craft in every room, a contemporary art gallery and a sculpture park in the 18 acres of grounds.
It is a wonderful place to stay for casual visitors, walkers, cyclists and artists. All food is home grown, and the Welsh breakfast is a speciality.
It is all run by Cathy Knapp, whose late husband the Polish-born sculptor and enamellist Stefan Knapp left a collection of his work which is on display in the house and grounds.
Stefan had many commissions in the 1950sand 60s, including work for Heathrow, and the Shell and Seagram buildings with others such as Rothko and Pollock, and he was a great experimenter and technician, working with Rowneys to develop Cryla acrylic paint. Artists are involved in the
centre’s direction, and there are all sorts of courses on offer, including life drawing, enamelling workshops, poetry events, felt design and ceramic weekends.
Anyway, we had a good look around and enjoyed the mixed exhibition. There is plenty of pottery on display, and a wide range of paintings on the walls, all of it well exhibited and spaced out and using all the rooms available, which guests are encouraged to walk around in, cup of tea or coffee in hand.
Did I mention that Cathy makes the most mouth-watering cakes in Powys?
I liked the shapes of the assorted bowls that filled the rooms and the importance of their weight and texture came to me when I picked them up.
There is an article in the New York Times International Weekly (Julie Lasky 14/04/13) that highlights the sale of a small white ceramic bowl that was sold for more than $2.2 million. We take the bowl so much for granted and yet its shape has not changed for thousands of years – essentially the shape of cupped hands to hold water in it. Its simplicity is so attractive – another source of inspiration to belatrova, I think.
Have a look at the website for the Mid Wales Arts Centre: