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….
Patricia caught COVID-19 recently and experienced vivid dreams as a result.
My first job was working as a plankton sorter at The National Institute of Oceanography. The plankton was caught by the research ship Discovery, bought back to the laboratory, preserved in alcohol or formaldehyde, washed and the different species sorted into petri dishes with the aid of a microscope.
I had two children and after my marriage to their scientist father ended, I changed career and taught myself about antiques and old books. I had two secondhand bookshops and sold antiques at fairs and markets. On the antique side I specialised in antique textiles but also other curiosities. Recently I’ve been interested in Victorian photography especially silver gelatine prints, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and carte de visite. Although now retired antiques are still my passion.
On the day I moved to St Leonards when walking past Studio 36 I asked Veronica did she know where area D was to park my car: she said no but come in and have a cup of tea!
Soon Veronica and myself were off exploring the Devon countryside, true dryads we prefer leafy glades and a bower. Veronica navigated with random left and right turns. I drove quite well forward but not so well back which led to a few memorable escapades trying to get out of ditches or wedges in lanes. . In March I caught Covid 19 and had quite a few strange dreams Veronica was often in them.
Here is one of them:
You know how in dreams they suddenly zoom in? Well anyway this last dream it suddenly zoomed in from a clear three quarter view of a tropical bird in muted highland tweedy mauve’s and heather colours to the breast feathers they then changed colour to vivid luminescent greens and blues. Another zoom in and exquisite detail of each feather. Then each feather metamorphosed into a miniature tuba and without a a player started playing zany music! The whole of the birds breast feathers were now tiny tubas playing scintillating tunes! A zoom out and I’m witnessing the bird moving on its perch with its breast feathers transformed and playing.
Last night we were in a great castle full of antique textiles laid before you and I were great swags of heavy ivory coloured silk each probably about ten feet in length. A boy about sixteen years old in c18th costume presented and turned them over for us each piece was decorated with exquisite calligraphy in brown or Indian ink, the characters were different on each silk. Some were Zen circles with a red chop. Others were in ancient languages complex with characters unknown to either of us. We looked into each others faces awe stuck, neither of us spoke. The rest of the dream was fragmented.
Early 90’s, & I’ve just confirmed a position as a Systems Administrator with a fashion wholesaler in Exeter. Conveniently a house in Pennsylvania is included. Having just returned to the uk after a year of travelling, most of my things were in storage. I’d sold most of the big stuff and so when accumulated, the room of boxes was what was left of my previous life.
Found a small weird house in St Leonards, near the river, which needed some renovation. Met an angel builder both capable & affordable, things were looking up. Or so I thought!
Within weeks the fashion company went bankrupt, & I had to move into my little house, & sadly, my lovely builder died suddenly! I was busy trying to find another position but there wasn’t much around of a similar level. I did a variety of things to survive. Finally, working on a magazine, covering the south west as Features Ed., a small organisation with the nicest of people and a excellent product.
Magdalen Road was my local shopping area & Denmark Road my doctors… so how could I miss Studio 36. I don’t know if you know what it’s like to arrive somewhere new, you know no one, then you stumble across a heavenly oasis, that was what finding Studio 36 was to me. It was, & hopefully still is, a delightfully whacky, anything can happen, sort of place, & it usually did..!
I often wonder why I ever left Devon as it became my adopted homeland, which for a Scot says a lot..!
Life in Brittany, France, for someone who is really bad at languages, is not the wisest of moves. Other than my failure with languages & the catalogue of French ‘trials’, it is truly beautiful. Very similar in its greenness to Devon, but with next to no traffic – I get excited on the extremely rare occasion I’m in a line-up of say 6 cars delayed for a few minutes.!
My next move must be, where English is spoken & I can emerge from my enforced semi-retirement to be the teacher & therapist I enjoy being.
As a sometime actor & director I have few reflections amongst the kind friends here.