Permanent Collection1 April 2015 @ 8:00 am

It might be surprising that a village the size of Ditchling warrants a museum dedicated to the art and craft created by local artists. But Ditchling is no ordinary village. Throughout the 20th century it attracted artists and craft workers of national repute. This museum provides the opportunity to see the works in the place where they were made. 

When Eric Gill arrived in 1907, he was not the first artist in the village, but the Catholic guild of artists and craft workers he co-founded with Hilary Pepler, Desmond Chute and Joseph Cribb was the magnet for many who followed subsequently. Two miles north of the village on Ditchling Common, the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic built homes, a chapel, and workshops for silversmiths, stone carvers, carpenters, printers and weavers. The Guild ran from 1920 to 1989. In the village other important artists worked including Edward Johnston, Rowland Emett, Ethel Mairet, Frank Brangwyn and Charles Knight, while distinguished illustrators Raymond Briggs and John Vernon Lord work in the village now.

The museum’s permanent collection showcases and champions the incredible work of these craftspeople.

Image: Eric Gill, Divine Lovers 1923

Kitching in Ditchling: The London Series19 October 2019

Inspired by the bold and spirited typography of Hilary Pepler, contemporary letterpress maestro Alan Kitching presents Kitching in Ditchling: The London Series in the William + Margaret Rowling Gallery to accompany Disruption, Devotion + Distributism. Alan Kitching has spent most of his professional life in London, exploring and enjoying its iconic landmarks as well as its more obscure nooks and crannies. His new series with Karoline Newman ‘Alan Kitching’s A to Z of London’ captures his favourite haunts in the capital, marrying the individual letters of the alphabet with its significant buildings, monuments, sports grounds and retailers. The 26 prints will be accompanied by a number of Kitching’s other prints that celebrate the capital.

Alan Kitching is one of the world’s foremost practitioners of letterpress typographic design and printmaking. He is renowned for his expressive use of wood and metal letterforms in creating visuals for commissions and limited-edition prints. He values the slow articulation of letterpress much as Pepler and Gill did, rejecting the speed and dispensability of modern technology and reveling in the simple joys of making.

Alan Kitching will be in residence working on Pepler’s Stanhope Press from Tuesday 24th – Saturday 28th March 2020. You can also join him for his talk Kitching in Ditchling on Thursday 26th March. On Wed 25th March he will run a masterclass.

Disruption, Devotion and Distributism19 October 2019 @ 10:30 am

Brazen, political and provocative works take centre stage for this exhibition at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft. The pieces in Disruption, Devotion + Distributism are drawn from a major acquisition of over 400 St Dominic’s Press pamphlets and posters, acquired through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2017. The private press was set up by printer Hilary Pepler and published a wide range of material including books and pamphlets for The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic and other artists and thinkers sharing their philosophy around craftsmanship and life. These special items are now displayed in public for the first time in a show that explores the values and beliefs of the extraordinary group of craftspeople and artists living in Ditchling at the turn of the 20th Century.

Over 100 outstanding objects have been brought together for the exhibition. Printed material is presented alongside items from the museum’s permanent collection to offer a compelling perspective on the ideas and philosophy which drove the artists’ move to Ditchling. The exhibition includesnever-before-seen pieces by Eric Gill, Ethel Mairet and Valentine KilBride.

Disruption, Devotion + Distributism will take the visitor on a tour of the underlying ideas and beliefs which led artists like Edward Johnston, Hilary Pepler and Eric Gill to Ditchling, and their engagement with and influence on wider debates taking place nationally and internationally in the early 20th century. The exhibition pulls at the Guild’s core principles – a resistance to industrialisation and city-living, their devout Catholicism and a commitment to Distributism, a political movement that championed individual land ownership in rural communities. Feeling inspired? The season is packed full of events and workshops to accompany the exhibition. Why not try your hand at wood engraving or calligraphy at one of our new year taster workshops? Or get that festive feeling while making your own letterpress Christmas cards? Whether you’re 1 or 101 there is plenty on offer at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft.

Image: Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic safe door, painted by David Jones. Image: Tessa Hallmann

Solace25 February

Solace is an interactive sound and video installation inspired by the South Downs. It has been designed to get local families involved in more experimental art. Solace will invite audiences to ask questions about our relationship with open and urban spaces, wellbeing and digital authenticity. The work will be created by artists Karen Tilley and Kevin Grist and inspired by digital content captured by local people.

Join the artists on an outdoor hunt to capture sounds and videos on Sunday 1 Feb. You will get to explore the rural settings near the museum, taking sound recordings and video footage of the landscape and wildlife. Learn how to turn your mobile device into a field recorder + digitally manipulate content. Your work will help form the Solace installation.

Artists Karen Tilley and Kevin Grist will talk about the project on Thursday 27 Feb.

tillage – John Newling25 April

Sat 25 April – Sun 18 October 2020

John Newling (b. 1952, Birmingham, UK) is a pioneer of public art with a  social purpose. He is known for site-specific work that explores the relationship between nature and culture and the transformative power of incorporating nature into everyday life. This major exhibition features many of his acclaimed works spanning the past 40 years of his career alongside a specially commissioned, site-specific sculpture and new works inspired by society’s need to evolve in the face of the climate emergency.

Newling worked with local allotment holders and gardeners and was influenced by the history of Ditchling and the village’s craftspeople. Local leaves have been gilded in copper by the artist and are presented in the exhibition in the form of soil books. They will then be returned to the local residents, drawing conversations on ecological issues from garden to gallery and back again. The artist often works with gold and copper to guild natural materials in his work, transforming nature’s ephemera into a kind of currency that explores notions of time, money and value.

Newling also presents a new sculptural installation that sits seamlessly amongst the village green’s natural habitat, in a beech tree adjacent to the museum. A Letter to the Soil is comprised of large steel text that reads ‘…so sorry…’, offering a direct apology to nature. This work, like much of Newling’s oeuvre, intends to elicit an emotional response in the viewer and prompt action against climate change.

In addition to these new commissions, Newling’s studies of the natural world and the social and economic systems of society will be displayed alongside work from Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft’s permanent collection.

tillage – John Newling

Sat 25 April – Sun 18 October 2020

John Newling (b. 1952, Birmingham, UK) is a pioneer of public art with a  social purpose. He is known for site-specific work that explores the relationship between nature and culture and the transformative power of incorporating nature into everyday life. This major exhibition features many of his acclaimed works spanning the past 40 years of his career alongside a specially commissioned, site-specific sculpture and new works inspired by society’s need to evolve in the face of the climate emergency.

Newling worked with local allotment holders and gardeners and was influenced by the history of Ditchling and the village’s craftspeople. Local leaves have been gilded in copper by the artist and are presented in the exhibition in the form of soil books. They will then be returned to the local residents, drawing conversations on ecological issues from garden to gallery and back again. The artist often works with gold and copper to guild natural materials in his work, transforming nature’s ephemera into a kind of currency that explores notions of time, money and value.

Newling also presents a new sculptural installation that sits seamlessly amongst the village green’s natural habitat, in a beech tree adjacent to the museum. A Letter to the Soil is comprised of large steel text that reads ‘…so sorry…’, offering a direct apology to nature. This work, like much of Newling’s oeuvre, intends to elicit an emotional response in the viewer and prompt action against climate change.

In addition to these new commissions, Newling’s studies of the natural world and the social and economic systems of society will be displayed alongside work from Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft’s permanent collection.