My art relationship with Veronica’s Hay Farm began when unawares we gatecrashed her private exhibition for family and friends. Needless to say we were made welcome. I’ve engaged ever since in setting up exhibitions at Studio 36, displaying woodwork items made by my charity Headway plus my own work at the Sunday events in November.
Wood is a very universal material. There are hundreds of different varieties, most of which are not used commercially. Considering the vast global use of the material, I am always surprised at how little people in general know about wood. Officially, wood is divided into two categories: Hardwoods and Softwoods. This does not mean a finger nail test will do! If a tree sheds its leaves in the Winter it will be termed a Hardwood, deciduous. If it keeps it’s leaves it will be called Softwood, evergreen. In the famous words of Michael Caine, ”not many people know that”. However, there are exceptions, for instance: Yew wood is evergreen but physically very hard! Where as, Balsa wood, used in modelmaking is a hardwood but very soft to the touch!
I have worked wood for many years, designing and making modern furniture. In the 1970’s it was not easy, as most people’s tastes were still in the Victorian era. However, I was achieving what I had set out to do! Making tables, chairs, cabinets, etc and anything sculptural that gave me a challenge. Many requests for repairs led me to study furniture restoration for antiques. With my knowledge, I also began teaching woodwork to those with special needs and acquired brain injury. I set up a woodwork centre in 1999.
I have now retired, and become interested in making early Irish “hedge chairs”, so called as most of the wood was gathered from hedgerows in fields. Shortages of timber in Ireland in the 1800’s forced poorer carpenters to gather wood, often naturally shaped for their purpose, thus chairs were made from a variety of different woods. Many were painted, like most of the Irish country furniture of that period.
My own artistic activities in the last six years have mainly been abstract painting and occasional ceramics, but I have always enjoyed a wide range of exhibitions and other visual art events. My visits to Studio 36 over the years have been an inspiration to be creative myself, and especially to bring a smile or question mark when viewing. My own abstract painting is expressive and intuitive, with no pre-design element involved. The end result is always strong on colour and usually ambiguous in how it can be read, with unanswered questions for the viewer to mull over. I now may add collage or mixed media to increase the complexity. Whilst not abstraction from anything conscious I believe everything from the subconscious is linked to past experiences, observations and memories. In my case these tend to be the positives in life such as my love of hiking, food growing, cooking (and eating), environmental concerns, birdwatching, geology, etc etc….