Sara Trillo

Touche du bois

Clay hands on pine log in barn attic
Collecting lilies beneath the walnut tree
Mulberry dyed cloth
Walnut dyed glove on bergerie niche
Clay votives made at Sacy
Walnut dyed cloth kneeler
Herbarium cloth

First row: Clay hands on pine log in barn attic – Collecting lilies beneath the walnut tree

Second row: Mulberry dyed cloth – Walnut dyed glove on bergerie niche

Third row: Clay votives made at Sacy

Final row: Walnut dyed cloth kneeler – Herbarium cloth

Sara Trillo’s exhibition ‘Touche du Bois’ evolved from a two-part residency undertaken between the summers of 2020 and 2021, when the artist spent four weeks at the Château de Sacy meditatively investigating the local flora and fauna. Reflecting on the history of the land, which once was a focal area for pagan and animist rituals and then became a Christian site of pilgrimage, Trillo is fascinated by the way reverent nature rituals transmuted into superstition through the coopting of sacred space and narrative.

Referencing ‘The Golden Bough’ (1890) by James George Frazer, a study of the similarities amongst magical and religious belief globally, Trillo practices her own version of ‘sympathetic magic’, by using the intrinsic qualities of her material to activate a deep power. Trillo’s work is site-specific and intimate. It has developed from listening to local bird calls, scrutinising the sky for subtle weather shifts and the impact of this on the surrounding vegetation, gathering decaying flower heads and fallen fruit, crushing, cracking, simmering her findings to alchemise into inks and pigments. For Sara Trillo the gardens of Sacy reflect the history of the surrounding landscapes, drawing connections with the Roman remains at Champlieu and the Forêt d’Halatte. The magic of this is intensified by the fact that Sacy is an oasis of biodiversity surrounded by miles of monofarmed land.

Trillo uses walnuts for dye and texture, clay dug from the stump of a pine tree to create hand made tools which distribute cherry stones and the petals of lilies and roses to dye an oversized apron and glove. She honours an ephemeral matrilineal history of craft and handiwork whilst referencing specific stories such as Jean Cocteau’s film ‘La Belle et La Bête’ which takes the metaphor of the glove to speak of protection and transformation. Here Trillo’s glove reflects the distance between humanity and the natural world; a longing to hold and collect, combined with a fear of our role within nature.

Unlike a herbarium where plants are preserved and pressed for study, Trillo does not seek to preserve but rather to activate the essence of each specimen using them to anoint and imbue with ritual. She creates imagined votives and artefacts which are missing from the vitrines full of weaponry and metal objects in museums. Hers are the kind of tools that tenderly cultivate the land and once used are returned to the soil to be repurposed and processed by earth worms and root networks.

For ‘Touche du Bois’ this new body of works are exhibited in a bergerie (sheep house) at Château de Sacy, where the high stone structure evokes the feeling of an ancient chapel, the manger holding the space of an altar, the creamy white walls speaking of ritual cleansing. The title of the exhibition plays on ideas of superstition, whilst nodding to the gardeners who maintain the land, the hands that so lovingly keep the balance of these small ecosystems but are never mentioned in the historical accounts of great estates.

Gabriella Sonabend

More images from the Residency

Cracking walnuts
Boiling walnuts
Walnut ink
Mulberry textile
Fired votives
Fired votives
Mulberry textile
Votives and mulberry textile fragments
Votives and mulberry textile fragments

Previous Work

Sara Trillo - Bring up the Boat
Sara Trillo - Ozengell
Sara Trillo - Ymar bones
Sara Trillo - Tools for a Quest


Bring up the Boat

, 2019 –


, 2018


Ymar bones

, 2019 –

Tools for a Quest

, 2017

Sara Trillo Web: Exhibitions/Projects (recent)

Open Water

, curated by Theo Shields, Oriel Croesor, Wales

The Search for Shuart

, walk/performance, commissioned by Crate, Margate


, edition for Swapart Editions/Skelf, with show at Creekside, Deptford
PEATS funded residency at Cyprus College of Art, Lemba, Cyprus


, pop up exhibition and publication launch, Well Projects, Margate

Bolster Playground

, Ugly Duck, Tanner Street, London


, Arnolfini, Bristol

Talkie-Walkie Walkie-Talkie

, funded collaboration with Frûctose, Dunkerque, France

Summer Camp

, funded residency at Eastside Projects, Birmingham

The Rushbearing Ceremony

, funded commission for art in Romney Marsh, Newchurch

Bring up the Boat!

, excavation/performance commission funded by MargateNow Festival

Anna Perach and Sara Trillo

, for Limbo Plus One, Margate


, TOMA Project Space, Southend-on Sea

At the Violet Hour

, Nayland Rock Hotel, Margate (collaborative installation with Chloe Ashley), curated by Chiara Williams and Shaun Stamp

Nothing to Nothing

, Limbo, Margate, curated by Claire Orme and Sophie Dixon

Why do you never speak?

, Horsebridge, Whitstable, curated by Mirka Kotulicova

The Ash Archive

, touring throughout Kent

Knots and Lists

, TOMA Project Space, Southend & Arcade, Cardiff

The Deer Line

, with Athelstan Sound, Resort Studios, Margate

Pass It On

, Crate, Margate

The Tide is Coming Towards Us

, curated by RamosLübbert, Arnis, Germany

The Ghost Tide

, curated by Monika Bobinska and Sarah Sparkes, Thames Side Studios Gallery, London

Hell, It’s Us

, Sara Trillo and Gav Toye, Limbo, Margate

Local Anywhere

, Sluice HQ, London
Various collaborative work with Open School East Awards/Commissions/Residencies (recent)
Residency, Château de Sacy, Sacy-le-Petit, France
Artists Newsletter bursary funding for new skills (glass blowing/flint knapping) Arnis Residency selected by Cristina Ramos and Christian Lübbert, Arnis, Germany PEATS funded residency at Cyprus College of Art, Lemba, Paphos, Cyprus, researching foreshore archaeology
PEATS funded residency in Sultanhisar, Turkey, studying ebru (paper marbling)

Localism and Legacy

, ACE funded archive commission for the Fleur de Lys Museum, Faversham

On Margate Sands

, Turner Contemporary/Tate Britain Digital Archives project

Cardboard Canterbury

, homelessness commission for The Beaney, Canterbury in conjunction with the Homeless Film Festival, Manchester

The Tea Trolley Laboratory

(joint project with Amanda Thesiger), initial research commission from Ideas Test, working with diverse venues since October 2015

The Beaney Broadsheet

, library and museum collections commission/residency for The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury Education
Associate, Open School East
BA (Hons), Norwich School of Art
Foundation Course, Canterbury School of Art