My Values & Artistic Process
I think I am possibly the last generation of ‘make do and mends’, this is mainly due to my mother teaching me her values that she was taught by her parents that lived through the war. Nothing went to waste!
My Mum taught me to use everything, and I still do. I remember Mum darning socks in front of the fire or altering hand me down clothes to fit properly. Cooking from scratch with fresh produce from local independent shops, left over roast lamb would be hand minced (by me) for a shepherd’s pie the following day or the chicken carcass would be boiled up to make stock and pop in the freezer, left over veg would be turned into soup. We grew our own fruit and vegetables so even the vegetable peelings went onto the compost heap. Fruits from trees and bushes were gleefully made into puddings, pies and cakes and anything slightly over ripe or that had fallen from the trees were scooped up and turned into chutneys, jams and sauces.
Recycling was just a normal way of life for me and an exciting one too, buttons, ribbons, paper and cardboard were all saved up for a fun craft day round the scrub topped kitchen table. Old sheets, clothes and towels went in the trunk for dressing up and tent building. Golden syrup tins were strung and made into stilts and communication devices, puppets were made from old socks and many flowers were picked and pressed to put in my scrapbook or placed on homemade cards and jam jars for presents. One of my favourite rainy day activities was to play with the button tin, I think Mum still has it somewhere. In this tin was a wealth of buttons of all different shapes, sizes and textures, some would tell stories of military adventure or glamorous nights out. I remember playing with these buttons for hours, sorting them into groups by colour or hue, arranging them into beautiful rainbows, creating patterns and pictures with them on the lounge floor. Life was about living for the moment and enjoying every day which I think is something we are sadly loosing, we have become too busy looking forward to tomorrow that we have lost sight of what is right in front of us, the here and now.
One year at Christmas Mum made the three of us a huge cuddly toy each, they were so beautiful and I remember thinking that they were so much better than any of my friend’s presents that were purchased and manufactured.
At Easter all our eggs were made by hand. I used to sit and watch with amazement whilst Mum made all the shells in moulds of different flavours and sizes, she would then make personalised gifts or sweets to go inside. The eggs would then be decorated with crystallised flowers of mauve, white and purple from the garden. Those eggs were such a treasured treat made with skill, love and thoughtfulness. They were truly a thing of beauty.
All these values that have been handed down and carried forward have grown from an interest, a passion for life and the beautiful world that we live in. These taught skills were never considered as being green through my childhood but more about developing a mutual respect for the things we have, being able to use the materials that we have in a multipurpose way. With the current eco crisis that we sadly now find ourselves in, my aim is to share my knowledge and ethos in the hope that these values will come full circle. I want to show people what we are really capable of and give back some of that understanding. By using all reclaimed and discarded materials in my work I am not only recycling but reusing and creating something beautiful from items forgotten with a hope of leaving the disposable world in which we currently live.
Using eco- friendly materials is a very important part of my process, nothing goes to waste. Everything that has been forgotten or destined for the tip I will try to make use of, reclaim, recycle and re-love.
I am staggered by the volume of waste. A tower block of old discarded paint tins, all containing varying amounts of paint, some hardly even used. A rich rainbow of beautiful colours all waiting for me to stir my creativity, sometimes I get lucky and come home with almost new tins and sometimes it’s slim pickings but I enjoy the thought process of who owned this paint before? Why did they choose this colour? Where was it intended for? Have they given it a second thought since abandoning it at the tip? Would they be interested to know that I found it, took it home, and mixed it with someone else’s paint that were all destined for different adventures, but are now embarking on a new life. For me this an important part of my journey when I am thinking about preserving our environment and reducing our waste.
Scavenging in the wood pile is always inspiring, finding used wood with the most unusual grains, colours and textures that I can re-use and which create new ideas and opportunities for my creativity.
Back at my studio I look through my finds more closely, I rough sand them to remove any dirt and discover the woods unique imperfections. Once I have gained a better understanding of what I have to work with I then set about cutting it into pieces if needed. Whilst keeping as much of the character and individuality as possible, the wood will dictate where it should be cut or what shape this piece was meant to be.
My background colours are then mixed up in small batches and applied to the wood, this is where I decide to leave the best areas free of background colour, thus giving the wood a chance to exhibit its natural beauty and distinctiveness which play an important role within my paintings.
From here I then paint my chosen flora to bring the whole piece alive. Some of my flowers that I paint are simplified to portray their delicate and fragile nature. The bold statement of my sometimes heavy wood pieces trigger the curiosity, but carry a natural beauty because they celebrate our imperfections and differences. During this whole organic process I want to showcase being smart with resources, reducing waste and finding creative and sustainable solutions that bring beauty to our everyday lives and surroundings. My intention is to reflect and encourage an understanding of how vulnerable our world is and that we should cherish and respect our place within it.