Yorkshire’s best art project – baaa none!

A Yorkshire tourist attraction is hoping visitors will flock to see its new attraction – dozens of sheep with words stencilled on their woolly coats.

From next month to September, Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) will be animated by the sheep as part of a project called Write to Roam.

Barnsley-based laser firm Cutting Technologies has created 130 stencil words which have been spray painted on to 150 sheep. The words include Flock, Ha ha (a term for a landscape feature), Free and Thissen (Barnsley dialect for “yourself”).

The words have been taken from research into the history of the ancient land of the Bretton Estate, now run by YSP, and are applied to the sheep as they have a right to graze the land.

The sheep were stencilled with a harmless natural vegetable dye and will wear their painted woolly jumpers throughout summer.

Designer Alison Cooper, of The White Room Interior Design, had an initial trial last year at Cannon Hall Farm.

She said:

“Last year, during a country walk in Derbyshire, I noticed a flock of sheep, all walking in a line. It struck me that it might prove fascinating, and possibly amusing, if each carried a different word to create various, random messages.

“I met with the farmer at Cannon Hall and learned that the annual marking of sheep (using safe, natural inks) notes the sex of lambs and numbers each with its mother. With the farmer’s co-operation a trial project was undertaken, applying carefully selected words to 30 of his sheep.

“This small, private project proved a success in testing application, legibility and logistics and gave me the encouragement to approach the YSP.”

Alison and YSP decided to use the history of the Bretton Estate as a theme for the project and Write To Roam was born.

She added:

“I was given access to the rich archives of the Estate and used this resource to produce the final words. Write to Roam is a larger and more considered presentation of words, using sheep as a moving canvas within the landscape at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

“From the land being closed and private to where it is now open, public and free, Write To Roam will hopefully serve as an interesting way in to the story of the Estate.

“At the very least the ever-present sheep will, unwittingly, present random and changing word combinations for visitors to their home.

“This has been a fascinating project to have been involved in, learning the history of the land, people and animals at the Bretton Estate, from its inception following the Norman Conquest and the Doomsday Book, right through to its present day management by the YSP.”

Graphic designer Robert Hurst created a brand new font called “Bretton” for the stencils.

He said:

“The font, or typeface, evolved quickly from a crude stencil into something that’s both legible and distinctive, chunky and warm.”

The sheep at YSP belong to Charles Platt at Home Farm. Alison sprayed the words through the stencils in the pen installation at YSP, a sculpture in itself “Shadow Stone Fold” 2007 by Andy Goldsworthy.

Jane Robinson, director of Cutting Technologies, said:

“We often work with artists and designs and our speciality is laser cutting creative designs but I have to say this is the first time we have created stencils for livestock!

“We used plastic material and our state-of-the-art laser equipment to ensure each stencil was a clean and highly accurate reproduction of the font. It’s been a very enjoyable project as we always like to rise to new challenges.”

Designer Alison Cooper. (Photograph by Richard Turner)

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