Magical Walnut Mini Worlds


Some people look at Walnuts and think Christmas, a loaf cake or Floridian pensioners who have failed to apply effective sunscreen protection. Ruth Brickland looks at them and sees magical mini-worlds. I want to be part of Ruth’s world.
Ruth is a a potter, embroiderer and creative curator. Working in ceramics, textiles and mixed-media, she creates a variety of artworks including these magical walnut miniatures. She says: “The walnuts are tiny worlds within a nutshell.They contain figures depicting characters or stories, real and fictional, that are in someway special to me. I like to think that they move around when my back is turned. Sometimes it seems that if you peered into a walnut for too long you might walk into it.”

How utterly delightful. Ruth describes herself as a magpie, who loves both folk art as well as being inspired by extravagant works of art including Renaissance, Baroque or Victorian Naturalistic silver and gold works of art. I suppose this is why her walnuts are so unexpected, unique and evocative. I did a double take when also reading that she particularly loves to sketch Victorian Staffordshire ceramics. I am really beginning to think that I have unlocked a crucial evolutionary bond that will lead me to people I will like. We need to form a “Mutual Victorian Staffordshire Pottery Appreciation Society.” Obviously with crowd control.

Ruth says that she is inspired by folk art, where perhaps slightly unexpected, but readily available materials, are used with unusual results. This is exactly what the Staffordshire potters were doing in the Victorian period. The Staffordshire hounds, or Wally dogs, bit of an obsession for me (see previous posts including Bring Back the Staffordshire Hound) were often decorated by workers, that included children, using fairly primitive materials such as sand and rock. Ruth uses sand, glittered sand, shells and dried moss amongst other materials to decorate her mini-worlds.
I think that part of the charm of these Walnuts is that they make me feel like a child again. They remind me of the smell of powdery rose scent, the charm of little objects and the joy of hiding things in the garden.
Ruth says: “The idea that magical things can happen in secret, amidst our real world is one of the main reasons that I am drawn to puppets, snow domes, nativities, dolls houses and ships in bottles. They seem to have the  potential to animate themselves. It is from my desire to create magical worlds on a tiny scale that the walnuts arose.”

See her work at

My voyage of discovery to Ruth came about when I found a stash of old ‘World of Interior’ magazines in a local charity shop. I never quite know when the conditions will be right, but when that evening comes, I pour myself a glass of red wine, in a beautifully heavy old Italian glass goblet, light a real log fire and explore these interior treasure troves. Whilst absorbing the grandeur and glory of inspiring homes, I also wonder about the provenance of these magazines and imagine that whoever they came from they inhabited a very special interior. I wonder how they came to be in the charity shop. Death is the most obvious answer, or more prosaically a good clear-out. But I like to wonder if perhaps a doomed love affair led to a dramatic departure from the delightful environs of Muswell Hill, and the original owner can now be found in the outer perimeter of the Peruvian Cordillera Huayhuash, blowing engraved glass cameos with a band of artisan sheep-shit creatives. After all, life is there for the taking.


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