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Bees & art

PUBLISHED: 18:02 30 May 2015 | UPDATED: 18:02 30 May 2015

KEN JUN 15 Bee artist

KEN JUN 15 Bee artist

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Meet Faversham artist Kate Linforth who is working with the North Kent community to create engraved wax tiles made from donated beeswax from local hives

My very first visit to Upnor Castle was not to admire the mighty stones nor view of the busy Medway at its toes (though that came later).

Rather, I headed up ancient stairs to the former barracks at the castle join Faversham-based painter and a sculptor Kate Linforth at a creative workshop to carve my own design into a beeswax tile.

In the process, I discovered how art and nature can interlink and learnt a little bit about the ancient practice of encaustic art.

Kate’s HIVE project was inspired by a visit to Rochester Cathedral, when she found herself so taken by the mathematical floor tiles that she returned to trace them.

She gained the support of grassroots arts and cultural organisation, Ideas Test, which is revitalising communities in Swale & Medway (an area where levels of engagement in the arts are much lower than the national average) by encouraging people to test out new ideas for inspiring others to get involved in arts and culture

HIVE has seen Kate using beeswax donated by local beekeepers and working with small groups to gently encourage people of all ages to ‘have a go’ at arts and creativity, and of course raise awareness of the importance of bees.

The free workshops drew people of all ages (there were two families with small children in my group) attracted by the idea of creating their own tiles inspired by what bees mean to them.

“During a workshop I teach people how to create a tessallated pattern which they then carve into tiles which will then sit in among mine – you can take your pattern away and I keep your tile,” Kate tells me.

“What is fascinating is that you can get such a lovely effect and you don’t have to be an amazing artist: my strong belief is that everyone can draw and should be given the opportunity to do so.”

The thematic pieces created (including my own humble attempt) are now being displayed across Swale and Medway on a four-leaf screen in churches – including Rochester Cathedral, where she has held a workshop in the Lady Chapel - and in little-used public buildings.

Once the sculpture has toured, Kate then intends to melt the tiles back down and return the wax to the beekeepers who have donated it, ensuring the environmental impact of the project is minimal.

Kate’s love affair with beeswax began when she was given a large piece from a beekeeper in Chilham during her fine art degree. Inspired by the scent and colour she set about researching the artistic history of wax and began to explore the medium in her work.

The mum of three children under 16, explains: ‘The idea of creating a tile installation came from the bees; they are natural architects and create perfect structures using the hexagon. This is a technique that is used in architecture and interior design across the globe, so making some tiles seemed like a natural progression of my work.”

For HIVE, Kate met with beekeepers across Swale & Medway and donations came from small beekeepers with one or two hives to more seasoned keepers.

“The common factor between them all is they want people to know about bees and they love what they do,” says Kate.

“One beekeeper from Sittingbourne made a huge loan of around 20 kilos, which was especially generous as he is not living at home due to the fact that his home was destroyed last summer by a thunderbolt.” You couldn’t make it up.

She adds: “Other donations have been from a commercial beekeeper from a fruit farm on the Medway/Maidstone border who keeps 60 or so hives for pollination, and from a beekeeper in Selling who keeps bees only for pollination and never harvests the honey.”

When it is complete Kate wants the installation to be a sensory one and she’d love to eventually tile a whole room so the viewer can be entirely surrounded by beautiful, scented wax.

“I want to encourage people to smell and gently touch the tiles as well as admire them,” she smiles. As for me - I had a whole castle to explore. n

Find out more

HIVE will be at Nucleus Arts in Chatham, ME4 4BP, from 6-10 June, back at Upnor Castle from 19-23 June and Rochester Cathedral 26-30 June.

HIVE will then travel around the Swale/Medway area to little-used churches and some other public buildings where the tiles will be installed.

As these locations have not been discovered yet, the best place to find out more is by following Kate Linforth on Twitter @katelinforth and checking the HIVE page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hiveartinstallation

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