About 17 years ago I was holding some paper cuts up to the light to enjoy the silhouettes they made and I had an 'aha' moment. 'Why don't I make lights?' I saw a whole range of glowing lighting flash before me! I'm very excited to say that all these years later these lamps are creating cosy corners in homes all over the world and that they have been the making of my career as an artist.
This was the start of my adventures. The lamps led me to open a shop, write a book, exhibit all over and be part of a community of artists and makers navigating the boom of the growing internet. The best thing of all though is that my art allows my love of nature and making things to be at the heart of everything I do. It allows getting out in the woods with my camera or marveling at a wild flower to become part of every day.
My range of creations now includes wallpapers, fabrics, window films, books, laser cut 'treasures' and meadow bouquet's which I make from my lovely studio in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire in the north of England. It's all inspired by the beautiful, tiny and fascinating details found in nature.
I went to art college in Wales to study Crafts. As an eighteen year old city girl from Leeds the move to the sleepy township of Laugharne nestled in rolling hills by a peaceful tidal estuary was a huge cultural change but I loved it! My student house was a crumbling Georgian mansion full of creative folk with a derelict castle we could sneak into at the bottom of the garden. There was a clock tower that chimed every hour and woodland walks to collect kindling for my wood burning stove.
I didn't finish my college course. I had my two children, Ffion and Euan really young instead. But in the whirl of motherhood my desire to be an artist and to make things was like child number three pulling at my skirts and saying 'come on Mum, what about me?' My kids and my art (and me really) grew up together. When Ffion was at playgroup I'd push Euan around in the buggy until he fell asleep and then go sit in a field somewhere and draw. I would be squeezing moments of creativity in wherever I could.
Around that time I was commissioned to create an illuminated alphabet from a cabin in some bluebell woods (B was for bluebell). I only got to letter 'D' as it was too much of a struggle for time with the kids BUT my connection to the tiny details of nature was forever sealed. I've been drawing plants and flowers ever since!
We moved back up north and settled in Hebden Bridge where we have now been for 21 years. This vibrant town, surrounded by an abundance of woodland, meadows and moorland had everything we needed. I got myself a space at Northlights, a shared studio then at the top of an old mill with far reaching views across the valley and little by little found the support and confidence to introduce my work to the wider world. I felt like a real artist!
I started with handmade papercut cards (the silhouettes I mentioned earlier) which made it to Liberty and Harrods and loads of lovely craft galleries but they were hard work for little financial return and I had children to feed so the lamp idea seemed worth pursuing!
I secured some funding from The Arts Council to explore and develop my lamp making idea and it went well. I launched my range at BCTF and they were taken up by many craft galleries, some of which still stock them today.
When I exhibited at shows I would always be drawn to the work of other lighting makers and was struck by the idea of opening a gallery dedicated to artisan lighting. I opened Radiance in 2005 and it was a special place. It was the artists dream with my studio at the back of the shop and glowing and inspiring work by so many makers everywhere. People loved this cosy, colourful treasure trove of lighting and it was a big character on the high street of independent shops that Hebden Bridge was becoming famous for.
After eleven years the (general) high street was changing as the internet was growing and it was becoming a struggle to make ends meet so we closed the shop. It was a sad time on one level but it has allowed me greater creative freedom to focus on my own work again.
Now I work from my lovely sunny studio with wall to wall windows and plants everywhere (always my studio fantasy) and it's been wonderful to have the space to develop my wallpaper collection and house my own laser cutting machine which has seen an explosion of creativity.
Here is the dream team. Me and the wonderful Oonagh Staerck who helps to run the studio so I can keep on designing and creating. My Dad has worked every Thursday making lamps for many many years too and I share the studio with photographer and film maker Sarah Mason and painter/print maker Julia Ogden so (lockdown aside) it's a happy, bustling place.
There's always something exciting going on and you can keep keep up with what we're up to in the studio on Instagram and Facebook and my blog is a good place to see what I'm up to. I'm also quite active on Pinterest so do follow me there and help me share my work.
I'm so grateful to everyone that has bought my work over the years. My business has grown deep roots and is well nourished by you all. I love that customers send me photos of grass silhouettes saying 'I saw this and thought of you'!
It's a difficult time on this planet and being a maker of 'things' when the earth is already overburdened and overtaxed feels like a big responsibility. I'm trying to do it as carefully and thoughtfully as I can. When people express the value that my work has in their lives and their homes it means so much to me. It is my hope that the things I make will be cherished for a long time to come and together we can create a world of care and connection. Read my sustainabilty page here.
I have no regrets about not finishing college way back then. I am proud of myself for having listened to the whispers of my creativity and showing my kids how to listen to theirs. Ffion uses hers to build websites (like this one) and Euan to write beautiful music.
Thanks so much for reading.
I make regular donations to The Woodland Trust, Trees For Cities, Plantlife's Cluster Meadows project and to Tinderwood Trust, our local forest school. It feels give to give back to the things that inspire me the most.