Spotlight

Alex Hirtzel

Moorwood Art has shown Alex's work a number of times throughout the years and is very happy to be showing her work again. There is always a real interest in what she is planning on showing, this year it is all about wild flowers and pollination and how the Bee sees the plants. Their wonderful colour and smell and for us to see if we can learnt the names!

IMPORTANCE OF FLOWERS

The interaction between wildflowers and their pollinators is a relationship over 130 million years in the making, and today we are lucky enough to see the fantastic diversity of floral displays these relationships have led to. Wildflowers are the wild, often unsown species, that are sometimes unfairly branded as weeds, but these species produce colourful and eye-catching displays to attract pollinators.

Many pollinating species rely on these wildflowers for nectar, pollen and other floral rewards. Unfortunately, in Britain and other developed countries, populations of wildflowers have declined since pre-industrial times due to the use of herbicides and degradation or loss of habitats that are rich in these wildflower species.

One of our main challenges is restoration of these wildflower rich habitats, particularly in agricultural areas. Actions such as adopting ecologically friendly crop systems, sowing strips of land with wildflowers and maintaining field margins can provide habitat for wildflowers to grow, and provide food for their many visitors.


SCENT PATTERNS

One of the most recognisable aspects of flowers to us as humans is their aroma. Over 1,700 of these blends of floral chemicals (called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) have been discovered. They can travel for miles on air currents to attract pollinators, but they also work at a much closer range. A flower not only needs to attract a pollinator to it: it also needs to offer some tips on exactly which parts to pay attention to once its visitor arrives. Just as flowers have patterns of different colours creating visual contrasts, some areas of a flower release a different blend of scent molecules than others to help in guiding pollinators around. 

These scent patterns are difficult for humans to detect, so specialist techniques and equipment are needed for us to identify the chemicals released from different parts of flowers. But to many pollinators, which have evolved powerful senses of smell, these differences in scent can be quickly identified. 

 

Work undertaken in the ‘bee lab’ at the University of Bristol’s Biological Sciences department set out to explore the function of these scent patterns. Using artificial flowers with differing scent patterns, researchers found that these patterns could be learned by bumblebees and used to identify rewarding flowers. They also help bumblebees find nectar more quickly and when combined with overlapping visual patterns: the bumblebees learn floral patterns faster.

When a pollinator encounters a flower, it is not just guided by the colours and contours, but by the subtle differences in odour that create a distinct aromatic experience. 

 

 



Ellen Merchant

Ellen Merchant is a decorative artist, designer and printmaker based in London. Drawing from a love of antique textiles, folk art and botanical forms, she creates unique pieces with a decorative aesthetic that pays homage to the British Arts and Crafts movement. Ellen’s current practice is focused on the conservation of the heritage craft of wallpaper making, and the application of traditional skills and values to vibrant, contemporary design for a modern audience.

Moorwood Art is a big fan of Ellen's work and has shown her work for many years now. Many many commissions have taken place and one is happening later on this summer, for a client who already has one of her pieces. This is very exciting. 

Ellen’s upbringing in rural Dorset instilled in her a love for the countryside and an appreciation for English heritage. On leaving school, Ellen moved to London to attend a foundation course at Central Saint Martins where she specialised in painting; a practice that she has continued to develop ever since alongside her various other projects. An innate love of drawing led Ellen to study a BA in Illustration at Camberwell College of Art in 2017, where she developed her illustrative style and fostered a playful approach to design. It was here that Ellen discovered a passion for traditional print-making techniques, she found a deep affinity with the college’s arts and crafts heritage.

 
Ellen’s instinct for pattern and colour quickly found her work as a fashion print designer for a studio in East London, where she honed her skills in modern design techniques. However, the realities of faced paced design and contemporary textile production jarred with her values both environmentally and with her passion for ‘hands on’ making.  This prompted a period of reflection in which Ellen began to educate herself more deeply on her materials, seeking out more sustainable production methods and more specialised skills. This led Ellen to to attend the Royal College of Art in 2019 to study an MA in printed textiles.
 
Ellen founded her West London studio in 2020 during the first lockdown in the UK. There, she works across a number of projects including her oil large paintings, textile printing and print design projects. She has began working with a select group of clients on exciting collaborations for both fashion and interiors. Ellen has recently acquired a 1920’s printing press for her studio which she is currently modifying to be able to add traditional hand-printed wallpapers to her offering in the near future. 
 
In 2020 Ellen and her partner Carl also founded their furniture business ‘Peacock and Pigeon’, a curated collection of salvaged vintage and antique pieces that are lovingly restored and reupholstered in Ellen’s unique, bespoke printed textiles. 
 
Peacock and Pigeon was born from a desire to perpetuate British craftsmanship and to encourage people to reclaim and re-vamp existing furniture rather than buying new and sending old to landfill. Ellen designs and prints the textiles that they use and Carl is an upholsterer who works on the furniture. Everything that they produce in their small, considerate collections has been personally sourced and individually worked on by hand and is therefore entirely original and unique. 
Link to website: https://www.peacockandpigeon.com/
 
 
The Colour Club:
 
Ellen also writes a newsletter on Art and Design called 'The Colour Club’, offering insights into a variety of her own inspirations, information on upcoming exhibitions and other news. You can subscribe to it through her website here: https://www.ellenmerchant.co.uk/
 


 

 

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