Shepton Mallet has witnessed an unusual flock of birds migrate to its high-street this autumn. As a result of the cancellation of the usual floral hanging baskets in its town centre due to the pandemic, Shepton Mallet Town Council decided to commission a different kind of display instead. The council approached the team of artists behind the well-known Art Bank – a community hub and café housed in former bank – and asked them to design a public art trail for the high-street.
The creative team behind The Art Bank are renowned for their championing of art made from recycled and reclaimed materials – also known as The Rubbish Art Project. This not for profit organization takes waste materials from local businesses, charity shops and individuals and helps local artists and residents transform them into thought-provoking art. For the Shepton Bird Trail, the team approached seven local artists and asked them to create a large-scale, three-dimensional bird to be displayed across the town.
Rather than looking to the exotic and unusual, the artists focused on birds that locals are likely to encounter in their everyday lives here in Somerset: a seagull, a heron, a blackbird, a curlew, a buzzard, a kingfisher and a barn owl. While birds are an obvious source of inspiration for artists, the choice was also a more conscientious one: even the most common of our bird species need somewhere to live and to protect them, we need to protect their habitats too.
The Somerset Wildlife Trust partnered with the town council and creative team at the Art Bank to advise on messaging and how residents can do their part to protect the natural habitats in which these birds thrive. The art trail also highlights the fact that our urban areas, parks and gardens are all home to birds. Birds and other wildlife in Somerset rely on different types of habitats such as wildflower meadows, wet grassland, woodland, calcareous grassland, and heath. Importantly, they also depend on being able to move between them through the landscape. Pippa Rayner, Engagement Coordinator at the Somerset Wildlife Trust was keen to point out that ‘everyone can get involved in helping wildlife in Somerset – gardens and public green spaces provide real havens for wildlife in towns and villages – even a window box can help and for those without gardens there are ways to help on our nature reserves or in local community spaces’.
The art trail will be on show from Friday 09 October until December 2020 and is free of charge for all to enjoy. The trail start at the bottom end of Town Street and carries up towards the market place and high-street.
Bird trail map
Artists and Artworks
Bird: Barn Owl
Materials: Milk cartons
Size: wing span just over 4 feet
Mandy McKenna is a local artist who works in a variety of media. Often materials are re-purposed from discarded items in line with her affiliation with Shepton Mallet’s ‘Rubbish Art Project’. With pieces often reflecting nature Mandy enjoys working in three dimensions and teaching workshops in collaboration with The Art Bank. Recent work includes the ram lantern which led the Shepton lantern festival and the bee themed library window which Mandy decorated with the help of Shepton school children.
Materials: mixed willows, bramble, willow bark & silver birch
Size: wingspan 1.2m, body (tail to head) 58cm
Bio: My work celebrates the beauty of the individual fibre, twig or piece of wood, its smooth or twisted grain, texture, colour or tendrils… The work aims to be completely natural and “invites you to witness up close the subtle colours and textures of often overlooked materials”. Design, ecology and sustainability inform my work be it gardens or my sculptural willow forms. I work from my studio just outside Shepton Mallet where I grows most of my own vegetables and keeps hens.
Size: approx 150cm (when standing) and 90cm wide. The main body is approximately 90 x 90cm
Materials: sim cards and phone circuit boards mostly. Skeleton made of old shelving units and timber scraps. Plastic bags
Elly Wdowski is a local set and costume designer and maker for a variety of different types of theatre, opera and musical theatre. In Shepton Mallet, Elly has been part of a number of enjoyable projects with the Rubbish Art Project, most recently designing window imagery for the Window Wanderland display at the Anglo Trading Estate in collaboration with Make the Sunshine.
Bird: black bird
Materials: : recycled and found steel, wire, plastic.
Size: approximately 88cm (L) x 60cm (W) x 28cm (D).
Fiona Campbell is an artist, educator and curator. Her work focuses on environment. She has a Master’s in Fine Art, is a member of Royal Society of Sculptors and won the Red Line Art Works global award in 2020.
Materials: recycled wire and steel
Size: 70cm high by 70cm wide by 20cm deep
Melanie creates distinctive sculptures that use a range of materials to emphasise the movement of the subject.
Materials: Mussel Shells
Size: Beak to tail 46.cm
Wing span. 63.cm String fishing line ( holds 27 kilos ) bird to hoop 23 cm
Jackie Adams is a local mixed media artist who is passionate about reimagining the every day.
Materials: wire, bottle tops
Size: 24x 19 inch
Sarah Meikle is a Somerset based mixed media artist.