My Formative Years
I loved to paint and draw from a really young age. I was fascinated by pattern and detail and would spend hours sketching princesses in big ball gowns, adding marks and lines and dots to create something I considered beautiful! I loved art at school but studying it at A level is where I learned and had to relearn the basics. Our tutor Joan was a real stickler and had us work through and master line drawing before we could even move onto tonal work … and forget paint. We needed to consider composition and preparatory work before that could commence! I loved every minute of it and made some amazing friends during these two years.
After completing my A levels, I started an Art Foundation degree, but became so disillusioned with the tutor and the work we were doing, that, after a few months I ditched it and decided to work with horses. Random, I know, but for people who don’t know me, I have ridden from being a child, was fortunate to own two ponies and regularly competed on the local and pony club circuit – such an amazing experience in my formative years.
A Self-Employed Artist
I had secured a job with a polo yard on the very edge of the Pennines and over the course of the next three years, I worked part-time at various other private yards while I also attended a business course with a view to becoming self-employed.
My mum and dad ran their own business for years and I think, unconsciously, it was always an option for me to explore. They were incredibly generous and encouraging and I soon started out on the craft fair scene, selling painted glassware and traditional decoupage items such as mirrors and boxes. By 1998 I had a regular stand in a local shopping centre, where I met three sisters who specialised in collectable bears and home furnishings. Over many cappuccinos and toasted tea cakes from our beloved Masserella’s café, we discussed ideas and hatched a plan to go into business together. By the summer of that year, we took on a tenancy agreement in an ex-mining town called Goldthorpe and our shop, Hollygrove, was born.
We attended gift fairs, found suppliers, and as well as selling our own work, we stocked handmade items from other makers, and speciality glassware from Spain. Running a shop was great. We became known in the local area and even delivered ‘party plan’ evenings in people’s homes.
I soon took on wedding stationery design work and used the handy work room in the back of the shop to beaver away between serving out front. It was during this time that I also discovered the American author, Patricia Cornwell, and with my trusty library card, I devoured her books, along with broadening my apetite for the classics! But, as time went on, I began to worry about my future (a theme that seems to have dogged me somewhat throughout the intervening years). I always felt that I should have gone to university when my friends did, and so, in a rash last minute dot com surge of panic, I looked up various courses and applied late. You can imagine my shock at actually getting accepted!
Fast forward to 2002 and I emerged with a degree in Humanities (History and Geography) from the University of Sheffield. My business partners were less than enamoured by my decision to leave, but bought me out and continued – very successfully – to build the future of Hollygrove. Turning my back on a world of creativity was difficult – it wasn’t plain sailing … I’d not studied for five years, and it look a while to get going. I also needed to work and found a job at weekends packing bananas … In my last year I moved to the more glamourous (!) world of bread, working in a factory that made speciality products for M & S. Juggling work and studies was tough (particularly the Friday morning geography lecture at 10.00am after a night shift that finished at 4.15am!) but I did it and am proud of what I achieved.
A return to creativity was still some way off. After graduating I worked as a graduate project worker within the field of economic regeneration and travelled 70 miles each way to North-East Lincolnshire for four months before being offered a permanent job. I relocated soon afterwards!
Over the following years, I moved to Northampton and worked in Birmingham with people on disability benefit who needed support gaining employment, and then spent several years working in Milton Keynes for a small social work recruitment agency. During these years, I did paint and undertook commission work, creating bespoke abstract work and montages that encapsulated special moments, dates and words into large-scale canvases. It was such a wonderful contrast to the office work I was doing.
My move to Somerset in 2011 saw me continue working for SocialWork 2000, before a move into academic publishing. Despite it being a rather quirky workplace, I learned so much in this role. I joined King’s College, an independent school in Taunton, in 2014 and worked in marketing for the next several years, moving up into a more senior role within the team. During this time I started to paint and to make again.
Art is Calling
In March 2021 my sister died suddenly. She suffered a brain haemorrhage. You can imagine the devastation this caused. It made me rethink my life and reflect on what I was doing. I was working in a job I had come to loathe and decided the time was right to leave and start something new. With the full support of my (now) husband, I began to explore ideas for a return to working as an artist/maker … and here I am today, rambling on about how I got here!
I never actually planned to return to painting on glass. Going back some 25 years or so, this was the mainstay of my work. I look back at images of this earlier work and cringe at its crudeness and naivety. It was around summer time in 2021, after I’d just finished in my full-time job that my friend contacted me to paint her a new washing up bottle. Some years before, I had painted one for her – a prettier item to have on display than a heavily branded plastic washing-up bottle! Anyway, I painted her something different, this time a floral design and posted it out to her. She and her husband run a fantastic online haberdashery business – Sew Essential – and Lucy is the creative lead behind their massive social media following. She posted this to her Instagram account and I got a reasonable amount of interest. Soon, people from years ago with whom I had reconnected on social media began to commission new pieces … and so, I decided to continue down this path. My glassware is available to order via my Etsy shop.
Now, painting on glass was never really my favourite thing to do. The paint is notoriously difficult to work with on glass (well, I think so anyway) and requires the same process when working on canvas and paper – layering. I have to steadfastly apply layer upon layer to overcome the natural translucency of some of the colours (the greens are a pain) but the applied patience is worth it when I come to unveil each piece. My skills have improved greatly and I’m starting to enjoy the work more than ever before.
In February 2022 I was offered a small retail unit at The Emporium, a local business over in Wellington (Somerset) that houses over 70 makers and small businesses. A year on and my glassware is still as popular as ever and through social media, I continue to receive a lot of repeat business. While ever their remains demand, I will continue. My designs are changing as my skills improve and I am enjoying this process and seeing my work evolve to become looser in style. I would love to try to marry up my digital work with my glassware but feel it will happen at some point rather than it being forced.
I am still stocking a range of home textiles that I have designed using my original artwork. The range is vibrant and colourful. I’m not sure this is where I will remain, but I have enjoyed the process of product development and of seeing my designs come to life on fabric. If I do decide to move on from this, that’s ok. I knew I always wanted to develop a home accessories range, and I’m glad I took the plunge. There are now homes up and down the land sporting a flash of VS leopard print and a pop of bold floral velvet – and this makes me smile. A number of these are available on my Etsy Shop. Eventually I will move all of these products across, leaving the website to focus on my prints
From the start of January 2023, I began working on a new collection of landmarks and buildings prints (you can read about this in My Journey into Digital Art article. Launched at Easter (soft launch) these have proved hugely popular and the designs continue to expand.
My Advice to You
So, the take home from this … do not be afraid to try new things, to leave a job that makes you unhappy, to move on from toxic bosses and colleagues that only add to your woes. Now, I’m not good at taking my own medicine, but this is what I say to you, the reader. Do something that makes you happy and enjoy the journey. You might end up somewhere far, far away from where you started, or like me, the calling back to your roots will seek you out on the wind!
Choose from extracts from my original acrylic and mixed media paintings, to bespoke letter art, and local and national landmarks! My work is bright and bold, led by colour choices and mark-making.
Vibrant Home Textiles
I have designed a range of home textiles from my original paintings. Choose from velvet cushion cover and vegan suede cushions through to fancy tea towels. My products make the perfect gift, for someone else or ro brighten up your home.
Hand Painted Glassware
My hand painted glassware includes vases and votives, as well as upcycled bottles and jars. The latter are generally destined for landfill or a recycling depot, but I enjoy breathing new life into these discarded vessels, giving them a new purpose and a pretty pattern!