TALK: with artists and furniture designer Christopher Kurtz


Saturday 21 June, 11:30am,  free event  RSVP

We are delighted to welcome artist and designer Christopher Kurtz to the gallery. Kurtz’ work is currently being exhibited at the V&A and will come here in August as part of our Material Wood: Art & Design series of exhibitions and events. Join us for this opportunity to hear Christopher introduce his work and explain his thought processes and practice. Christopher follows on a tradition, started by artist and friend Judy Pfaff, as a representative of the Hudson River group of artists coming to share their work here in Wiltshire. Along with his mentor Martin Puryear, Kurtz is one of the most pre-eminent contemporary artists working in wood today.

Christopher Kurtz (born 1975) grew up in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. He studied sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute (1994-95), Landscape Architecture at The GSD at Harvard University (Career Discovery Program) (’98) and received a BFA in sculpture from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in Alfred, New York (’98).

After college, he went on to work as the studio assistant to artist Martin Puryear. While working with Puryear, Christopher refined his woodworking skills and began maturing as an artist.

In 2005 Christopher set up his own studio in the Hudson Valley of New York State. Kurtz has always had a passion for furniture and began experimenting with design. In 2008 he expanded his studio practice to include studio furniture in addition to sculpture, where the two practices blur the lines between functional work and poetic conceptual statements.

Christopher lives and works in the Hudson Valley, New York.

TALK: ‘A Life in Design’ with Chris Eckersley

Wednesday 8 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Chris Eckersley is an artist and designer from Birmingham who originally studied Sculpture at Gloucestershire College of Art, and subsequently Design at Central Saint Martins where he became a Visiting Tutor. His work covers drawing, three-dimensional design and object-making, research into measurement and proportion, sculpture, and designs for furniture. Chris is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Extra Ordinary Objects.

Chris will tell the story of the ‘Bodging Project’ that he set up in 2010. This was a back-to-basics research trip for a group of designers, looking at the ancient art of ‘bodging’ (a.k.a. greenwood chair-making). They spent a week in the ash woods of Herefordshire, then took the results to the Milan Furniture Fair, and were then inundated with enquiries from manufacturers and the press.

From this woodland origin the project – like Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival – went electric. Out went the pole-lathes, the draw-horses, and unseasoned timber, and in came power tools, off-the-shelf dowel, and workshop offcuts. The project is based very definitely in contemporary design and not, as is sometimes thought, in craft revival. The one lesson learnt in the woods was the importance of design-through-making – ‘bodge-thinking’ if you like – and it is this coupled with a sort of art-school experimentation that fuels the project and keeps it moving forward.

Chris’ illustrated talk will also introduce his 2.5 day chairmaking workshop here at Messums Wiltshire, a design-led making course that will see all participants guided through the process of designing and making their own ‘Wiltshire’ chair to take home at the end of the course.


Wednesday 15 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Hattie AKA ‘THIS GIRL MAKES’ is a young designer-maker with a love for natural materials. Her work encourages others to assert more value on curiosity and play through the objects they use, as she strives to redefine traditional archetypes of furniture in a playful and honest way. Hattie’s THIS GIRL MAKES blog and workshops, her craft, and public speaking provide opportunities to pass on practical skills and knowledge, as well as opening up new channels for discussion.  She will also be running two-hour children’s workshops on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 August in making wooden stools as part of our Wood Festival.

Hattie was selected for the LINLEY Summer School 2017, was shortlisted for the 2017 Wood Awards Student. She champions women’s roles in the crafts and furniture making industries. A must for aspiring makers of all genders and ages.

TALK: Head, Heart, Hand, a Boatbuilder’s Story

Wednesday 22 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Award-winning master craftsman and boatbuilder Colin Henwood has over 40 years experience of building, restoring and caring for wooden boats and will be running a two-day course at Messums Wiltshire on 23 & 24 August  in making a wooden canoe paddle from Ash.

Colin Henwood founded his boatyard, Henwood and Dean Boatbuilders, in 1982 specialising in restoring and building wooden Thames launches. The boatyard received many awards in the UK and abroad, and in 2014 Colin was awarded Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association. In October 2016 Colin handed the boatyard over to his team who are successfully continuing the tradition he began 35 years ago. Not one to retire, Colin has established a workshop at the Sylva Wood Centre where he is currently re-building a 1920 Thames motor canoe.

When time permits Colin writes for WaterCraft Magazine.

TALK: ‘The Story Boat’ with Gail McGarva

Bank Holiday Monday 26 August, 11am, free event  Bookings

Gail McGarva has a fascinating life story, in 2004 at the age of 39, she decided to re-train as a boatbuilder having worked as a Sign Language Interpreter for many years. Her specialist area is the building of replicas or as Gail prefers to call them ‘daughter boats’, breathing life into a new generation of traditional craft. These working boats are designed to have a long and hard-working life, they are strong and robust and yet the lines of these boats are truly elegant.

Gail sees this creative process as breathing life into a new generation of historic boats. Not the creation of static museum pieces but the building of boats as an expression of ‘living history’ where people cherish a sense of belonging and connection to the boats and to the sea. Gail is passionate about celebrating their beautiful blend of form and function and the stories they have to tell about their people and their shores. All boats have a story to tell……….

Gail’s ‘Story Boat’ (pictured here) gave a new lease of life on land to a retired Lerret boat, by up-turning her and transforming it into an intimate mobile maritime oral history ‘ museum’ where people’s memories are preserved and shared. The ‘Story Boat’ will be featured in our Material Wood exhibition from Saturday 18 August.

Gail has been awarded a British Empire Medal for her services to traditional clinker boat building and to heritage crafts, has been on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s hour and her work was featured in the BBC 2 ‘Heritage Heroes’ series.
Her work has been featured in a wide range of magazines including Country Living and Landscape and she has written articles for the Journal of Modern Craft and Watercraft.
Gail was a speaker at the Heritage Craft Association’s inaugural conference at the V&A.
She has given lectures in variety of settings including Sheffield University’s School of Architecture as part of the lecture series ‘ The Thinking Craftsperson’ and Henley River and Rowing Museum’s annual conference.

TALK: with Furniture Grower Gavin Munro

Wednesday 29 August, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Taking a radical stance on the way we produce our objects, Gavin Munro and his company Full Grown are at the cutting edge of an emerging art form that highlights an interesting way to be closer to art and nature and the symbiotic relationship between them both.

Using ancient techniques combined with modern technology they grow, graft, nurture then harvest living trees into chairs, tables, sculpture – anything you can imagine.

Challenging the way we create products as well as how we see the items with which we surround ourselves, grown furniture has an immediate tactile, visceral and organic appeal.

Join us for a fascinating hour of conversation to hear how the first seed was sown as a young boy playing in the garden, a concept that took 25 years to take root. His work is now feted by leading collectors and designers alike with a waiting list for his work.

BOOK LAUNCH & SUPPER CLUB: Restoration of St Giles by Nick Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury

Saturday 8 September, 6:30pm, £10 or £40 includes supper afterwards  Bookings

The 12th Earl of Shaftesbury never expected to inherit his family’s crumbling Dorset stately home, or the title that goes with it. As the “spare” rather than the heir, he spent his early twenties building a career as a dance music DJ in New York.

St. Giles House fell into a period of disrepair following the Second World War and appeared on the English Heritage “Buildings at Risk” register. A decade on and the family pile, St Giles House, bears little resemblance to the disintegrating shell Nick took on and is now the subject of Nick’s new book, ‘The Rebirth of an English Country House : St Giles House’.

In recent years, his award-winning restoration has brought the house back to life, transforming exquisite spaces that honour the past while being suited to twenty-first-century living. English country-house splendour, through the hands of some of the world’s top artisans and craftspeople, returns to the house in the form of re-created wallpapers, customized paints, revived furniture from the Georgian and Victorian periods, reworked antique Brussels tapestries, restored plasterwork and textiles, and a complete overhaul of the landscape, with its sunken garden, woodlands, avenue of beeches, lake, and shell-encrusted grotto.

In 2015, St Giles was announced the winner of the Historic Houses Association and Sotheby’s Restoration Award.

A pop-up exhibition by award-winning photographer Justin Barton documenting the restoration of St Giles House will be on view in our Long Gallery.

St Giles house lies in Wimborne St Giles on the southern edge of Cranborne Chase.

TALK/SUPPER CLUB: with choreographer Alexander Whitley

Wednesday 25 July, 6:30pm, free event  Bookings

Join us for a fascinating hours talk with guest artist internationally acclaimed choreographer Alexander Whitley, one of the brightest and most innovative stars on the contemporary dance scene. Alexander will discuss his work and inspiration as well as introduce his new triple bill programme being performed here at Messums Wiltshire on 27 and 28 July. A fantastic opportunity to hear about the creative process and learn the background to the three works by their creator.  Read more about the Alexander Whitley Dance Company performances here in July…read more

There is an opportunity to stay for supper with Alexander afterwards in our Mess Restaurant, the menu will be specially designed menu by our head chef Sunny Sin. Please do book in advance as places in our restaurant are limited.

Following his sell-out, critically acclaimed work for the Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler’s Wells, Alex returns to his roots with a collection of beautiful, stripped down contemporary dance works. The three pieces include the Royal Opera House commissioned, Noumena and the world première of Between Two Fires and Ulysses Awakes, originally commissioned by the 12 Ensemble.

“It is a great pleasure to bring this triple bill of contemporary works to Messums Wiltshire. The gallery’s majestic 13th Century Barn space provides a spectacular backdrop to present the new programme and I’m delighted that audiences in Wiltshire will be the first to see the world premiere of my duet, Between Two Fires.” Alexander Whitley

Born in 1980, Alexander Whitley is a London-based choreographer working at the cutting edge of British contemporary dance. As artistic director of Alexander Whitley Dance Company he has developed a reputation for a bold interdisciplinary approach to dance making.

Alexander is a New Wave Associate artist at Sadler’s Wells theatre, an associate at Rambert and a former choreographic affiliate of the Royal Ballet. He is an Artist Fellow at Queen Mary University of London and a lecturer on the Design for Performance and Interaction Masters programme at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

Alexander trained at the Royal Ballet School and began his career at Birmingham Royal Ballet before moving into contemporary dance. He has been twice nominated for Outstanding Performance in the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. His choreography has won him nominations for the 2012 Arts Foundation fellowship, the 2014 Sky Arts Southbank Awards and the 2015 Critics’ Circle Awards.

TALK & BOOK LAUNCH: with Author Professor Caroline Dakers ‘Fonthill Recovered – A Cultural History’


Friday 18 May, 6:30pm  Bookings

On Friday 18 May, Caroline Dakers, Professor of Cultural History at Central Saint Martins (University of Arts London) will join us to launch her new book ‘Fonthill Recovered – A Cultural History’ and discuss the legacy of William Beckford’s estate.  Messums Wiltshire was once itself owned by Beckford as part of the Fonthill estate.

Situated less than a mile away from the gallery, the writer and collector William Beckford built his Gothic fantasy house Fonthill Abbey at the end of the eighteenth century. The collapse of the Abbey’s tower in 1825 transformed the name Fonthill into a symbol for overarching ambition and folly.  However Beckford’s Abbey is only one of several important houses to be built on the estate since the early sixteenth century.

Caroline’s recent books include a new edition of Forever England (2016). She has also curated exhibitions at Leighton House Museum, London such as ‘George Aitchison: Leighton’s Architect Revealed’ (2012) and ‘Artists at Home: The Holland Park Circle’ (1999-2000).

Eventbrite - TALK & BOOK LAUNCH: with Author Professor Caroline Dakers 'Fonthill Recovered - A Cultural History'