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Well Dressing, but not as we know it!

by Claire Ganthony

Fritchley School Well Dressing 2016

A sure sign that it’s summer is the appearance of well dressing around our villages. Dressing wells with flowers and  other natural materials is thought to date to Celtic times, although the exact origins are unclear. Traditionally, it’s believed that well dressing took on a special importance in Derbyshire during the 17th century. Derbyshire villages, in particular Tissington, created Well Dressings in thankfulness and celebration of avoiding the worst of The Plague which had swept the country. The creation of intricate pictures made from pressing leaves, petals and other natural materials into clay that we see today is thought to have developed in Victorian Times.

Crich area Well Dressings would have been on display during the week 4th-11th July. The coronavirus situation has meant that the usual, sociable, activity of creating the beautiful well dressings in organisations cannot take place in 2020. 


Heritage group well dressing 2019

Well dressings are an important part of our heritage, as well as being a fun and creative process to take part in. While the large, communal frames will not be possible this year, there’s nothing to stop households from having a go and producing their own mini well dressings. These could be placed in windows or front gardens for by-passers to enjoy, just like the Easter and VE day displays that brightened our villages. A terracotta, or even plastic, plant pot saucer could provide a make-shift frame. If you’re not fortunate enough to have your own supply of clay in the garden, it can be purchased online or from craft suppliers. Do be careful when selecting petals, leaves or berries to ensure materials are safe for little (and bigger!) hands.   

pattern using natural material fabric

The following links provide some great tips on how to go about making a well dressing:

rainbow petals

Natural material collages can also be create using paper, fabric or paper plates. They're a great way to combine exploration of nature and art.

Have a go and have some fun as a household. We’d love to see the results! Don’t forget to share them with us on our facebook page.

squirrel made from leaves

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