Hannah Bennett is a sculptor inspired by the landscape and by natural forms. This year her passion expanded further: into embracing the natural world as an exhibition space. Living and working in Eyam, at the heart of the beautiful Peak District National Park, her latest creation also provides a platform for work by other sculptors. The Sculpture Garden opened on the 1st of May 2016.

Hannah’s own work has a direct response to the natural environment. Buildings, landforms, insects and plant life are all sources of inspiration. She predominantly works with clay, which is fired to high stoneware temperatures for durability and frost resistance. The process of making pieces which sit upon the land, out of materials which are extracted from the same source, is of utmost importance to her. As sculptures they reflect the landscape in form, detail and also substance.

Therefore, it was a natural progression to expand the space outside her home into a platform for sculpture. The symbiotic partnership was not just born from the affinity within her own work, but seems to have been nurtured by the vibrant community that is Eyam. They welcomed her and her artwork with open arms when she moved there ten years ago and the constant encouragement from her neighbours meant Hannah was confident in progressing with what she hopes is a worthy addition to the community.

So how did this become a reality? Over the years Hannah has worked with and has friends who run sculpture gardens. She found however that recently it was something that she herself wanted to create. A natural extension of her own creative journey.

The aim is to annually curate an intimate collection of work from some of the best sculptors within the UK. Some will be better known than others but all deserve to be in the garden. As with all art mediums every individual piece has a story, and it is this that will be celebrated within the gardens collection. Another important factor was the accessibility of the garden itself to all audiences. Hannah felt it shouldn’t be a uniform, structured sculpture garden as that would neither match the sculptor’s work she exhibits nor indeed entertain the wider audience she is keen to entice to visit.

I feel that people should be comfortable living alongside fabulous things that become part of the fabric of their lives. So my garden is a real garden, with a vegetable patch and the odd child’s toy about the place, because it’s a space that’s lived in and the sculpture should be part of that.”

The opening collection is a selection of seven sculptors work and the garden will be open annually from May to October. Some work is for sale and some can be commissioned, and as a piece sells or as Hannah discovers more artists the garden will evolve. There is plenty of space and Hannah hopes this garden will be seen as an unusual but exciting new exhibition platform for contemporary sculptors.

The initial selection evolved via Hannah’s own contacts and connections within the art world. Some sculptors she had worked with previously and admired their work, others she found by visiting their studios or via artist open days. A reminder of how important it is as an artist to host such days or events. This inaugural group of work means a lot to Hannah and she is incredibly passionate about the collection. As the role of curator is an unfamiliar one for her, the conviction she has about the work is a necessity as she is asking a new audience to look at something she has created. The main area that she can easily celebrate and freely share is the fact that all works have a synergy to her own. They are all made using materials that have come from the earth, wood, metal, clay. All of the pieces take inspiration from the natural world, be that of the human form and its journey through life, the purposeful journey of a seed which falls to the earth and nurtured by fallen leaves from the same plant, or the simple beauty of a specific plant or moment in landscape.

Hannah’s own work will also be exhibited; a group resembling fallen conkers. These pieces were inspired by the pregnancy and birth of her sisters first child. A celebration of the continuous cycle of life, beauty and power. Her desire is for them to be seen as determined, protective and nurturing with all their energy focussed on the creation of new life. Each piece has a circular navel which is a reminder of its once vulnerable state.

Interestingly in an area renowned for its natural beauty and inspirational landscape there are no other sculpture garden in the vicinity. The wonderful Chatsworth House is ten minutes away and does exhibit sculpture in a more formal setting however The Sculpture Garden, Eyam has a more tangible charm that Hannah hopes will bring benefit to other businesses within the village. A place that truly embraces the community spirit that first inspired her to create this exciting new sculpture garden.

The inaugural Seven Sculptors are: Claire Lee, Hannah Bennett, Simon Hempsell, Walter Bailey, Juliette Hamilton, Peter Clarke and Bev Seth.

The Garden is open from May till October - Thursday and Friday from 10.00 – 15.00 and Saturday from 11.00 – 17.00 and at other times by appointment.