Christine-Wilcox-Baker has the nature of art in Tatton Hall (with audio)

PUBLISHED: 17:51 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 16:59 20 February 2013

Christine Wilcox-Baker at work in the scullery at Tatton Hall

Christine Wilcox-Baker at work in the scullery at Tatton Hall

Tatton Park's artist-in-residence is a growing success. This month she celebrates with a new exhibition at the grand Knutsford estate Narration by Sandbach and District Talking Newspaper<br/>WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH <br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

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Christine-Wilcox-Baker is an artist with an interesting personal style. Some artists anguish over the best place for the next stroke of their paintbrush, but this creative Pickmere woman is elbow-deep in soil and compost in the gardens at Tatton Park.

Since taking up her post as artist-in-residence less than 12 months ago, Christine, a former graphic designer, has dedicated her thoughts to the significance of this treasured Cheshire estate. She has worked closely with Tatton's head gardener, Sam Youd, to learn about her surroundings. One thing that intrigued her was the connection between the mansion and the kitchen gardens.

'The kitchen gardens were once at the heart of the estate and they would have provided food for the Egerton family and the estate workers,' she said. 'Today, these are not so closely linked. There is still produce grown here for the restaurant as well as being available for sale in the garden shop but it won't be needed by the mansion as much as it used to be.

'I wanted to re-establish the link between the estate and the kitchens and bring those gardens back into this beautiful building.'

This month she stages an exhibition, 'Cultivate and Celebrate: treasures of the kitchen garden'. It marks the end of her year-long post as artist in residence, and will take place in the kitchen and scullery, dining room, library and exhibition room as well as out in the gardens. She will be available on several days to give visitors the opportunity to ask her about her creations.

Pieces will include necklaces made out of fruits and vegetables, like sprouts and tomatoes, illustrated seed bags and huge scrolls with intricate drawing and paintings of plant life as well as growing art works which could include smiling faces made out of growing lettuces. She has also designed a piece of furniture to go out in the gardens but is remaining tight-lipped about this.

Christine, who draws, paints, takes photographs and makes 3D pieces explained: 'I want to point out to people the value of food. I'm trying to come at it from the plant and growing side of things and how these plants grow from little seeds, rather than thinking about them as something that just appears in the supermarket.

'The exhibition is very much influenced by the mansion as a treasure house and reminding people of the connection between the gardens and the mansion. I wanted it to have a message with it, I wanted to portray the value of food and to fire people's thoughts and to evoke what it may have been like when the Egerton's were in residence.'

Becoming a full-time artist was quite a change of direction for Christine. Previously she had worked as a set dresser for television shows like Stars in Their Eyes and as an interior designer. But she has not looked back: as well as her role at Tatton Park, she has worked on important community projects across the region. This includes working with All Saints Church in Daresbury to celebrate its links with Alice in Wonderland author, Lewis Carroll, who was born in the village.

Christine is delighted that she can finally indulge her passion full-time and is looking forward to finding new projects once she finished her artist-in-residence post in May.

She said: 'It's been an absolute privilege to work at the mansion. Hopefully, through my exhibition, I will encourage people to think more about the value of food and the gardens' importance to the mansion.
'It is a beautiful place and I think it is essential that people learn the significance of it.'

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