Dail Behennah’s new series, Fieldwork, maps out her sense of place in solid form
Hiraeth, is a Welsh word with no direct English translation. It’s defined as something akin to longing or nostalgia for the Wales of the past and it’s a word Dail Behennah connects to her new series Fieldwork on show for the first time at Ruthin Craft Centre this spring.
A year in the making, her pieces are inspired by a decision to leave her Pembrokeshire house to be closer to her family. She had lived in the house for 12 years, walking along the coastal paths and collecting pieces for her nature table, a practice kept since childhood.
For someone so connected to place – Behennah describes herself as ‘a geographer through and through’ – the move was ‘utterly heart-breaking’. With memories of walks and landscape in her mind, she made work as a celebration of what she’d left. Using the last three bundles of willow – the result of her supplier shutting shop – Behennah has made intricate willow pieces inspired by the local rock formations.
But there are new materials and techniques on show too. For her 60th birthday she got ‘a proper blowtorch’ and has made her own Gunter’s chain (a 17th-century surveying tool). The chain is made up of cages and links that hold in place precious objects, and offers a ‘map’ of her daily walks at Aber Mawr. Maps, she explains, like her work, are wholly subjective: ‘It’s just what you want to show.’ Her nature table will be there too: ‘If I can get one child to look at that and then go and look at what’s outside then it’s been worth it,’ she says.
Though the foundations for Fieldwork may be a longing for journeys past, the feeling has inspired a new beginning, a fresh creative exploration for this particular maker.
Dail Behennah: Fieldwork – new work in willow and other materials is at Ruthin Craft Centre, from 18 April to 5 July