Something to get your Teeth into

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Some misinformed fellow once quipped that artists in Penistone are as rare as hens’ teeth. But one local art group have been striving to dispel that myth for over ten years.

Born from the desire to meet like minded creatives and get away from the isolation often felt by artists, Hens Teeth Art Group was set up in 2005 to launch a professional platform from which makers and artists in the Penistone and District area could get together to share ideas and resources.

Started up by illustrator Gillian Tyler and a couple of artists she’d met along the way, Hens Teeth has since become a vital network in the community, welcoming over 50 professional and amateur artists from across the area.

In it’s birth year, the group was invited by St. John’s church in Penistone to put on an exhibition at Christmas time as part of their Open Doors project which set up to encourage wider use of the church within the community.

Thanks to a £60 grant from the Penistone and District Community Partnership fund, the group were able to publicise the event, with 14 artists willing to contribute to the showcase.

Art at the Altar, as it was named, was extremely successful and well received in the wider community, becoming an annual event that kicks off the festivities in the town.

“One year, we were all very busy and wasn’t sure if we would be able to put the exhibition on. Locals were in uproar. We couldn’t stop doing it now even if we tried,” Gill says.

Today, the popularity of the event means that the number of artists looking to attend has to be capped at 50, but the entries far exceed this number.

The event is open to everyone – professional artists as well as kitchen table makers and garden shed entrepreneurs – and Gill hopes to encourage more people to get together and start their own creative path.

Each member of Hens Teeth has a different specialism, from glass artists to silversmiths, potters to woodworkers.

Intricate pieces of jewellery sit quietly by robust hand thrown pots. Striking photographs of the local area are complemented by Gill’s enchanting illustrations drawn from memories of her idyllic childhood.

Rabbits with funny ears creep next to needle felted foxes. Stone carved fish, fossil lamps and beach huts made from discarded driftwood. So much to discover made with love and passion.

Whilst the Christmas exhibitions and art fairs, such as Holmfirth Art Week and stalls at Cooper Gallery, are a great way to sell their different products, Gill says that for most of the members, it’s more about the exposure it gives.

“Being an artist can be such a lone existence for some. And whilst you enjoy what you do and believe in yourself, it somewhat propels you forward.

“You need a lot of bravery and a leap of faith to show off what you’ve made. It makes you question if anyone else will love it like you do. But a lot of the members have gained quite a following over the years.”

To help others as they help each other, a percentage of sales from each event is donated to a chosen charity or good cause.

Since the first Art at the Altar show and thanks to a dedicated group effort, Hens Teeth have donated over £20,000 to different charities, from the Woodhead Mountain Rescue, to the Care for Clare fund. They also donate to the church to help with the upkeep of the 1300s building.

For more information, visit the Hens Teeth website hensteeth.org.uk or