Growing up in Wolstanton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire I was surrounded from birth by the smell of oil paint and a knowledge that creativity was a very important part of life.
My Sri Lankan mother Ione had studied ceramics at North Staffordshire Polytechnic as a mature student and met my father Enos there. He was one of the part-time Fine Art and Ceramics lecturers. Whilst my mother never made any ceramics after I was born – the beauty and grace of the pieces that she had made were always on display in our home.
My father, principally a fine art painter, became a full-time lecturer after I was born and when I was one we all moved into the rambling Victorian semi in Wolstanton where they still live. It was here on the ground floor of our home where he established his extensive studio. Our lives were dictated by his need for space to create – don’t ask if he still paints, you might as well ask if he still breathes – and we lived on the first and second floors of our house. Though I drew and created like any other child, I never thought that one day it would become my career, and though I studied Art at O-level I did not excel and did not pursue art in any serious form.
Following a BA at Sheffield Polytechnic in History of Art, Design and Film and an MA at Leicester University in Museum Studies in the early 1990s, I took up a career as a museum curator and later as an administrator. I did evening classes in Ceramics and Printmaking but neither of these gripped me particularly, though all the time I was making cards and embroideries and knitting and crotcheting.
In 2002, whilst taking a career break to have children (my son Louis was born in 1999 and my daughter Breesha in 2002), I took a part-time evening adult education course at Filton College, Bristol in enamelling. Taking this course was suggested by my husband Matthew who was working at the University of the West of England and had done some enamelling with renowned enameller Elizabeth Turrell. I was lucky enough to do a course that was principally about making pictures rather than jewellery and my tutor Matt Benton did a great job of teaching and guiding me, but also allowing me freedom to do as I wished – I am not always an obedient pupil.
Arts Trails, Craft Shows and Galleries
My first real taste of exhibiting came at the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail in 2004 where I exhibited embroidered bags, felt jewellery, hand-dyed and cut cards as well as some of my first enamels. I got a good response and continued to sell at small arts trails and local craft fairs until 2007 when I was selected to take part in the Get Fresh: Emerging Designer Makers in the South West exhibition at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen. Taking part in this exhibition was very important to me in terms of both my first step in my involvement with the Guild, of which I became a full member later that year and my feeling that my work was being taken seriously and seen as having achieved a certain standard. By this time I had pretty much stopped making all my other bags, felt jewellery and cards and was concentrating on my enamel designs.
I also started exhibiting at panel-selected contemporary craft fairs such as the Contemporary Craft Festival at Bovey Tracey, the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair in Manchester and Origin in London.
Getting good relationships with certain galleries has helped to create new opportunities. This is particularly true with the Devon Guild of Craftsmen where I have taken part in numerous exhibitions and which I have used as a testing ground for new designs and types of work. The Rostra Gallery in Bath has also been important to me giving me large featured exhibitions and taking me to the Affordable Art Fairs in Bristol and London for several years. They were also the first gallery I ever approached and was accepted to exhibit in.
I am now a full-time maker with outlets including The Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey, The Craft Centre and Design Gallery in Leeds, Studio One in Edinburgh, The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle, the Cider Press Centre in Dartington and the Gallery on the Square in St Ives.
In 2012 I embarked on my first public commission for Frenchay Hospital in Bristol creating a wall of over-sized enamelled leaves and seedheads cascading down the surface of an outer wall of an inner courtyard in one of the hospital buildings.
I was elected as a member of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in 2007, becoming a Trustee in 2014. I became a full member of the British Society of Enamellers in 2009 and an Associate Craftsman member of The Guild of Enamellers in 2011.
I moved out of my home studio in 2015 to a large single studio in BV Studios in Bristol. This has meant that I have to plan my work schedule more carefully as I cannot now work at any time of the day or night as I had previously been doing. However, I still have my studio at home where I do design work and all the administration and packing up of orders.
I hope to expand my ranges in the future. I also wish to explore new creative avenues such as the scalpel-cut line drawings that fill my mind, but for which I have limited time to create at the present. I would also like to do more commissions.
In September 2015, whilst I will still be enamelling and selling my work, I will be starting a part-time MA in Design at the University of the West of England. Its both exciting and scary and I hope to be able to explore a whole new world of ideas.