Deep into Dartmoor

Artist: Jess Davies

Museum of Dartmoor Life, Okehampton.

The Museum of Dartmoor Life holds answers to so many questions I have had while wandering over Dartmoor during the past eight years. This landscape has been a strong inspiration to my work as a printmaker, as I am drawn to landscapes that are marked by human ‘intervention’. It seemed quite natural, therefore, to be drawn to the information which the Museum has on why Dartmoor looks as it does: why all the sudden deep gullies? What are the odd lumps and bumps, ditches and heaps, stone rows, ruined chimneys? I have resolved to make a ‘portrait’, a series of prints showing how the land of Dartmoor has been changed by human hand.

In my first session with the volunteers who run the Museum, I asked them which 20 things in the collection they thought were most key in changing the face of Dartmoor over the years. I gave them 20 squares of paper to mark their choices around the displays, and then they told me about the reasons for their decisions. From drawings of these objects I shall make a series of drypoint prints, which in turn will be reproduced into a ‘trail’ for the public to follow.

I had a delightful 3 days drawing the chosen ‘icons of Dartmoor industry’ in the Museum. Nearly every volunteer I met came up to offer me precious nuggets of information, and stories about the moor, life on the moor. Did you know, for example, that workers in the gunpowder mills wore socks over their workboots to prevent sparks from the hobnails on the stone floor blowing them up?!