Project Oak Tree - Still a Working Title
Two days before the start of a new year and a quick update on the project. Henk and I submitted our arts council application and have been notified that our proposal is eligible. This means that we will know by the end of January if they will support our project and if so, we can go ahead with the felling of our chosen oak tree at Ruskin Land and set the wheels in motion to transport it to the sawmill in Darley Dale where it will be processed and stored to dry for a while. Fingers crossed.
I had a meeting with Clive Wilmers, the Chair of the Guild of St. George who look after the legacy and collection of John Ruskin. I asked him why Ruskin is so little known now amongst our younger generation and is rarely mentioned as someone who brought about so much social change. Clive explained that Victorians had a tendency to 'preach' and that this had become unfashionable. Yet, Ruskin did have a major impact on the teachings of others who came to prominence after him: Mahatma Gandhi for example, an inspirational leader with a global following, still very much admired today. I wonder what Ruskin would make of Russell Brand who has a huge following amongst the student population? Or Jose Mujica, current president of Uruguay and allegedly the poorest president in the world by choice who believes that those in power should live the lives of the majority of their fellow countrymen? Uruguay is poor although getting richer but in Mujica's words wealth has little to do with money, and more to do with having what you need to enjoy a good life.
Ruskin of course was a man of his time and from a comfortably off background and although he was passionate about creating better conditions for the working classes, he did not go as far as calling for the abolition of the class system altogether. He was keen for workers to be happy workers, paid well for their labour and respected for their contributions to society but to remain workers and part of the working class. In a way, as I understand it, Ruskin may have injected a sense of pride in the working class and that is something that is still evident today. ( Even in this age where social mobility is the norm (to a certain degree some will argue) people in middle class positions will proudly point out that their parents and grand parents were 'good working class people').
Apart from talking to people who have far more knowledge than I have about the work of Ruskin I have also started to read and draw in order to help me decide what images and texts I like to transfer to our shelter. This image was inspired by my last visit to the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield where I was amazed to see how much Ruskin was drawn to vibrant colours and detail. His collection constantly reveals and dissects and actively encourages visitors to look closer, to use the magnifying glass, to step into the frame, to touch it and be touched by it.
Henk sent me a picture of a small piece of oak branch. I can start to test some of the decorative methods I am hoping to use in the final work.
Next time I show this it will look very different: