Herbal Chronicles

An exhibition of watercolours by Sally Bamber with a book of healing herb stories from the hedgerow by Medical Herbalist Sarah Atkinson

Local artist Sally Bamber returns to Brantwood with another exhibition of her beautiful watercolour wildflowers in this collaboration with Sarah Atkinson.  Between them they have created a unique insight into the world of herbal medicine.

Over the past few years I’ve been working with Medical Herbalist Sarah Atkinson painting watercolours of the herbs that Sarah works with in her practice.

We have had a series of joyful days; they began with Sarah messaging me that there are several herbs ready for painting in her garden or garden room – I would set off with my drawing board, coloured pencils, pencil sharpener, one of those old fashioned ones that teachers used to have on their desks when I was at school – on arrival Sarah and I would drink her own tea preparations of green or comfrey tea and talk about the herbs, as well as share stories about the world, and everything. We would take a walk around the garden to find the herbs for that day’s subject matter, pick a selection and bring them back to the house to put them in water. Then I would set about drawing the herbs as carefully as I can; hoping to capture some movement, to be able to see their rhythm and flow, and the elements of the herb that Sarah uses. All this in a calm and beautifully natural environment. I would take the drawings back to my studio to paint, starting with masking fluid, then adding watercolour. With each stage the work becomes a little looser. The final painting is revealed as I rub away the masking fluid and decide if more painting is needed to complete the piece.

The main aim of this partnership has been to produce a book of herbal stories from Sarah’s practice. As a graphic designer, I have designed the book, scanned all the paintings and done all the production work in preparation for printing by Beamreach Printing. The finishing of the book has been important, using a paper that is gentle on the eye (not too white), soft to touch and light in weight. The binding is thread-sewn in sections to allow the book to fall open more naturally. Beamreach have done a beautiful job.

Here’s an extract from Sarah’s writing: “It’s easy to assume that because herbs are ‘natural’ they can only work slowly – this may be the case but not always. We were told during my time at the School of Phytotherapy that we should allow one month’s treatment for each year that a condition has been present. In my experience this is a useful guide but in addition to this I have noticed that if someone is fundamentally well and happy, they will get better quickly.”

30 hand-made sketchbooks have been prepared using my watercolours for the covers, then hand sewn with coloured threads and bound by Elizabeth Shorrock.

There is a series of seven herbal greetings cards. I was really pleased to ask Brantwood’s Head Gardener Bethan Pettitt to select the herbs for the cards. Initially she selected 15 herbs which was whittled down to a set of seven.



Event Information

Date & Time:20th June - 1st August 2021

Brantwood is an independent registered charity - The Brantwood Trust Coniston Cumbria LA21 8AD enquiries@brantwood.org.uk Telephone: 015394 41396 Fax: 015394 41263