I always feel I have to apologise for my non art college background, but I did have a good old go at being a crafter in my late teens ... my Occupational Therapy training was so long ago that it included applying different arts and crafts to the therapeutic setting, although I really was rubbish at it. The making that is .. sadly I never worked in a post that properly involved applying it. To receive the instruction at the beginning of a Thursday afternoon art class back in 1978 to make a 3D paper sculpture, triggered the flight centre in my brain. Should have watched more Blue Peter I thought. As it turned out less Blue Peter and more imagination would have been much better. It doesn’t matter how many paper tubes you make. You will never get them to look like a donkey (I know.. donkey??) Well done on the parrot Alison McKee. No really .. well done.
But we should never apologise for such things and at the ripe old age of 50 I started playing about with illustrations .. illustrations that I could reproduce fairly quickly for the purpose of selling greetings cards.
I still illustrate each and every card by hand .. but restrict selling them to my markets and two retail outlets.
It seems flowers are my thing and at 55, when I retired properly from OT, I decided to learn how to make ceramic flowers. I attended a class run by two clever ceramicists who taught me the rules of clay. I quickly discovered there are no rules to clay .. well . at least not in my experience. I subsidised this time with seasonal horticultural work in a beautiful nursery within the grounds of Mountstewart Estate .. pricking out real flowers in hot greenhouses (bit of rose tinting there .. not always hot), eating Pot Noodles for lunch (sorry) and getting spadefuls of compost under my finger nails. This special time has had to be my inspiration even if its impossible to replicate nature.
Then the struggle to source a second hand kiln as I couldn't afford a new one .. like gold dust. How and ever, you find ceramicists are so very helpful and Patricia Millar Ceramics (recently starring on Country File .. ok ok name dropping here) alerted me to a kiln going free to a good home, just down the road. Too good to be true I thought and indeed when I saw the kiln .. my heart sank. It appeared to my uneducated eye to be a massive rusting heap of metal but Patricia assured me that it was perfect. So with the help of 3 strong grumbling men, a manual forklift, nerves of steel and the promise of lots of Guiness we got it into my garage. I named my kiln Molly, after Moly, a plant in Greek mythology like a snowdrop greekmythology.wikia.org/wiki/Moly_Plant (thank you Donna and Mac for the research)and I am so very fond of her, old and rusty as she is. My joint X-rays would look just the same. By the way, that pole in the picture is just keeping the bung in place (I dropped and damaged it same day I got it).. it is not keeping the kiln upright.
I was thrilled to be asked to join the North Down Craft Collective which gave me the opportunity to be part of a monthly market. A group of like minded people who help each other develop and evolve. I just love it! Thomas Powell Pottery from the collective has designed little bottles just for my flowers. I, in turn, make little jewellery dishes for Laurie of LG Jewellery. Parallel to the NDCC I have a significant range in 2 wonderful galleries .. The Doghouse Gallery in Comber and Above and Beyond the Warehouse in Derrystrokelondonderry. My cards and a small range of ceramics are also in Marie Cafolla Flowers in my home town of Newtownards. Finally, I enjoy taking part in the Ards Creative Peninsula events.
I won’t mention the disc protrusions in my neck from prolonged stooping, or all the late nights working and the 7 day weeks. Or the flower rejects. It goes with the territory .. and I love this territory I somehow managed to stumble upon.
I will however mention with gratitude the help and mentoring I receive from my very dear clever friend Donna, also from the beautiful Ards Peninsula, who I met whilst working in the nursery, who always keeps me focused and with whom I share a glass of wine and nibbles on a Thursday evening in her garden summerhouse ... in the guise of business development ... surrounded by butterflies, lavender, bees, wildflowers, vegetables, fruit trees, lots of grass, rabbits, badgers, squirrels .. attempting to put life into some kind of philosophical perspective ... oh how we laugh!