The Art of Being Well Dressed

The Art of Being Well Dressed

It’s well dressing season down in the Ventnor area of the Island again, with Whitwell and St Lawrence wells arraigned in a finery of flower petals.

Although well dressing hails from Derbyshire, folks around these parts have been getting in on the act for a fair few years now.  Wooden boards are soaked in the local stream to prevent them drying out and then covered in clay mixed with water and salt, with nails in the board ‘keying’ it in place.

The design is pricked out onto the board through a paper pattern and the outline marked with coffee beans. After this natural materials are pushed into the clay to build up the picture.

This year the beautifully decorated board at Whitwell celebrates the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible in 1611. It’s just off the main road above the brightly red painted village pump, protected by a white gazebo.

Flower petals in every colour of the rainbow make the arc above Noah’s ark, and the patchwork pieces of Joseph’s coat of many colours. A lentil studded Jonah is being eaten by a eucalyptus leaf whale with a violent pink dahlia petal mouth and Moses in basket made from bits of straw is nestled in the green rushes in the shadow of the lentil pyramids.

The tree of life has tiny fushia petals hanging from its branches and the petal loaves and eucalyptus fishes, with pebble heads are depicted in a sea of parsley. It’s always intriguing to see how the picture has been assembled. The sky is usually made up from hydrangea petals in just about every hue of blue that you can imagine – and some pink ones too.

The boards don’t last too long, although volunteers do dampen them to prevent the petals and leaves from drying out too quickly. Catch them if you can this week. The St Lawrence one is just off the Undercliff Road, near St Lawrence Village Hall.