With all the focus on creative mazes in Saffron Walden last weekend, it seemed only right to make a small pilgrimage to nearby Hadstock to visit the grave of Michael Ayrton, a non-conformist 20th-century artist who lived in North Essex. A sculptor, painter, author, filmmaker, and maze designer, Ayrton’s life was changed forever when he visited Crete in 1954. His imagination was captured by the archetypal story of the master builder, Daedalus and his son Icarus; those themes, along with Daedalus’ maze became his lifelong inspiration. When he died in 1975, his headstone was adorned with a bronze version of the Arkville Maze, one his most famous installations. Located in the Catskill mountains of New York, the Arkville Maze features a large bronze of the Minotaur in one goal, and one of Daedalus and Icarus in the other.
Greatly appreciated in Saffron Walden, and honoured as a local artist, Ayrton’s work is showcased in the Fry Art Gallery where there is a permanent exhibit of his Maze and the Minotaur themed work.
While we traveled to Hadstock by car, heartier folk participated in a maze-to-maze walk on Sunday morning, starting at the new maze in Saffron Walden then hiking five miles across the countryside to the church in Hadstock.
Returning to Saffron Walden, we spent the afternoon enjoying the side shows on the Common, then in the evening we all celebrated a spectacular festival with fire and light on the historic maze, a fitting farewell to the many visiting mazes and minotaurs.
Many, many thanks to the organizers for all their hard work – the 2016 Saffron Walden Maze Festival will live in our hearts for a very long time, and we can’t wait until the next one in three years’ time!
Honouring the Artist was originally published on Walking in the World.