Miniature ceramic British gardens

From her Arizona studio, ceramic artist Andrea Shemilt Kashanipour creates miniature sets of iconic British gardens. 

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On a shelf in a sunny workshop in Sedona, Arizona, sits a charming little clay dachshund between a pair of truncated green square pyramids. Carved on top of each pyramid is a creature with a large tail. The pieces may lack detail, you might even describe them as naïve, but there is no mistaking the shapes: they are miniature pottery versions of the peacock topiary at Great Dixter.

The studio’s owner, ceramic artist Andrea Shemilt Kashanipour, moves the three pieces on to the workbench, and arranges them in various positions, absorbed for a moment in her imagination. “I like the sculptural quality of hedges and topiary, and I like having pieces that you can rearrange, so you can play with your art. This Great Dixter set is just a nod really. At the other end of the scale is the dovecote and knot garden at Rousham. It’s 24 pieces and it’s huge.”

This is Andrea’s latest project: a set of famous English gardens, which includes the bathing pool and hedges at Hidcote and topiary at Levens Hall. The sunken garden at Hampton Court Palace is in progress. Andrea has created garden forms before; fountains, flower beds, ornamental trees, even blocks of different-shaped clipped hedges for arranging your own parterre, but this is the first time she has created specific places. “It was Juliet [Roberts, former editor of Garden Illustrated] who suggested the iconic gardens and I thought it was a great idea,” says Andrea. 

 

Andrea puts her love of English gardens down to visits on her travels and time spent staying with her parents in Buckinghamshire during her early thirties. “Their house was just down the road from Cliveden and I spent many glorious afternoons in the gardens there,” she says.

The quaintly European miniature world that makes up Andrea’s work is beguiling but seems vaguely out of place in her surroundings: the view from her window is of jagged peaks of red rock jutting into deep-blue sky. The native plants here are cacti and succulents. So how did she end up in a studio by the desert making ceramic topiary? “I’m a Canadian, who lives in Arizona, it might be that I feel a little starved for greenery,” she laughs. “Actually I’m the worst gardener, but I also love gardens. I guess this is just me creating gardens in my own way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words Dominique Corlett

Photographs Brian Shemilt

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