Dee is taking part in our coming Home is a Feeling show in Faversham on 13th and 14th November.
Describe what you do as a creative.
I am a designer/maker/teacher and I work with natural sustainable materials as well as used and found things, whenever possible upcycling and recycling. Sustainability and prevention of waste is very important to me so using materials that are sourced locally, are already recycled, and that don’t generate a lot of waste in their production are what I look for. I particularly enjoy working with metals and textiles such as: copper, silver, pewter and even some bronze, as well as wool and silk. I love experimenting and exploring ideas and techniques, often combining different materials in new ways and traditional and modern methods – the old and the new in harmony.
As well as making things that I love which are functional and beautiful, I’ve also done many commissions for clients and personal items for family and friends. I just love being creative and seeing the potential in a material or an object that might otherwise be destined for landfill, and turning it from something that may appear useless into something that has new life!
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Devon and I have two sisters – I am in the middle! We moved from Devon when I was very young to Southeast London and gradually, have moved further and further out into Kent. I now live in Sissinghurst with my husband and some of our children. Between us we have 6 children ranging from 13- 24 years old and they all get on really well, although we don’t all live together thankfully! The place would be like a sardine can!
We are also beekeepers, which we began last spring, something that we had both always wanted to do so we seized the opportunity during lockdown last year and we absolutely love it! We now have 19 colonies most of them swarms that we rescued or bees that we extracted from buildings. We also rescue bumblebees and relocate them because we just love nature and it is very important to us to do all we can to protect it and to give back what we can.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was a child I always wanted to be a news reader, oddly! But also wanted to be a teacher and from an early age used to play schools and take registers! I was always creative as a child and learnt from my grandmother how to knit and crochet, from my mother how to sew and from my other grandmother, how to cook and bake, which I feel very blessed by. I was always designing and making clothes for my dolls and other toys, and that was an area I didn’t even realise I could work in until much later.
How did you begin doing what you do?
I studied pottery at GCSE which I absolutely loved, but I never considered art as a career choice back then, so I went on to study languages at A-level and then computing, psychology and French at University, which I absolutely hated and dropped out after the first term! Then I went into the world of work, but my creative side continued to be an important part of my life. I had been making my own clothes from when I was a young teenager and always making things for people and repairing things. The turning point came when I made my older sister’s wedding dress and the bridesmaids dresses for myself and my younger sister. Everyone was so impressed with what I done it was only then that I realised that it was actually was something that I could do really well and make a career out of! So I went back to college. I went to the London College of fashion and studied an art foundation for the fashion industry and absolutely loved it. I got a place on the fashion studies degree there. However, at the same time I fell pregnant with my first son and after studying for 18 months part time whilst raising a young baby as a single mother it was too much and something had to give so obviously my son came first. I took time out, fully intending to return, but the demands of parenthood helped me to realise that the fashion industry is not really the place for a single parent. I went through various careers before I finally trained to be a teacher. I have enjoyed all the jobs that I’ve done and have found them in someway useful in my life and in my school.
What turns on your creativity?
Now that’s an odd question for me because creativity is just part of who I am, it doesn’t turn on and off, I think creatively about everything and see opportunities and solutions naturally. But in saying that when I feel like I really, really need to create something, I just need to just do some making, quite often it’s when I’m stressed actually. I find going off and making or even just designing on paper is such a powerful way to unwind and to calm down, to just take myself out of this crazy world for a little bit of time – so that’s often a trigger for me. Positive triggers are things like seeing a material or an object and feeling inspired by it, or seeing a scene in nature or something intriguing or unusual, like a juxtaposition of two things that we don’t normally associate together, or an artwork or creative expression by someone else- those situations trigger a desire to make but I think it’s about how you see the world, what you’re looking for because for me creative inspiration is all around! You just need to see in that way – that’s my perspective anyway!
What do you like best about your work?
I find the work that I do very satisfying in its aesthetic simplicity but also in its ‘handmadeness’! I love the fact that every item I make has its own unique character even if I’ve use the same technique, same tools and processes, everything is slightly different, no two things are identical! I love that because that reflects humanity, and the world we live in. People might look and sound the same as somebody else, but everyone is completely unique and that’s really important because everyone has something new to bring to the table. So my work reflects that, not intentionally but it’s just part of the process, just is the way it is and I love that because that is an expression of things that are crafted carefully and lovingly rather than manufactured by machines.
When were you most satisfied in your work?
I think the item I’m most proud of and I am the most satisfied with has to be my engagement ring. I made it with a raw diamond which I bought from the Netherlands. It’s an 18 carat gold band with the diamond held in a custom made mount on the top. I had to create the mount for the diamond from 18ct gold wire which I was really nervous about as I don’t often work with gold and it’s really expensive so I didn’t wanna mess it up! Plus it had to be really secure to hold the diamond! It really went badly wrong the first time round and so I experimented with remelting the gold but managed to fuse it to a piece of copper!! I was trying different things to remove the gold and it eventually dripped off but in the process had actually become rose gold!! I was delighted as it is stronger than 18 carat gold and was something I was thinking of adding to the ring anyway… so I ended up making the mount in rose gold and it’s just perfect! I love it!
It’s something I really enjoy about making and experimenting when that happens – a happy accident I call it, when things seem to go wrong but the end result is much better than you planned in the first place!
Describe a memorable response to your work.
I have had so many positive responses to my work over the years which I’m always very grateful for and humbled by, but one particular piece that I made which was a commission for a young guy for his girlfriends anniversary. He had a clear vision of what he wanted and I had to figure out how to bring that vision to fruition, it was nothing like what I had done before but I pulled it off with some experimentation and lots of patience and it was just perfect! He absolutely loved it and she absolutely loved it and his family absolutely loved it, even months after some of them came and spoke to me and told me how wonderful they thought it was. So that was really deeply satisfying especially as it was one of my first commissions! I’m always more nervous doing commissions because it’s something deeply personal to someone and it’s about whether or not you’re interpreting their ideas in the way that they see it, plus it’s special for them so there’s always that added pressure I find. But then, on the flip side of that, is the added satisfaction when you nail it!
What is the most exciting part of your work at the moment?
The most exciting part of my work at the moment has to be my new workshop space I’ve recently moved into. It’s a studio in my garden which was previously where my eldest stepdaughter was living and it’s a fantastic space! It’s huge, it’s warm, it’s cosy and all of my tools and things are now all in one place and much more accessible, so I have more scope to be creative and to combine different materials and techniques which I’m really excited about! I’m also really excited about doing this exhibition as it’s the first of that kind of thing I’ve ever done so I’m really pleased to have been chosen!
What is your dream project?
I would love to be commissioned to make a huge garden sculpture/functional art work out of copper and other natural materials! That would be a really great project for me and something that I’ve been mulling over in the back of my mind for a long time.
Which artists / creative people are your heroes and inspiring figures?
I have lots of influences, but well-known artists I really love are: Andrew Goldsworthy his landscape part is just phenomenal and I always find it really inspiring, I’ve always loved Gustav Klimt and his dramatic use of pattern, texture and colour combinations. I love some of the greats like Picasso and even Matisse, as well as sculptors like Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. Not to mention fashion designers like Vivienne Westwood and Yohi Yamamoto to name but a few… But I find a lot of inspiration in traditional Craftsmanship like the Japanese techniques and real traditional artisan stonemasons, Potters, weavers, blacksmiths, et cetera – I love seeing those kinds of crafts still active.
Your idea of happiness.
Now that’s a huge question! I think it’s very different things to different people but essentially for me the freedom to express myself and to feel that that expression is valued in someway by other people and acknowledged as valid makes me feel very satisfied. So now that so much of my work has been received so warmly and so enthusiastically by so many people that brings me great joy, but I don’t do it for the people. I do it as an expression of my creativity and that brings me happiness. But I am most happy when I’m in the woods, around a roaring campfire, making things in the ways that our ancestors would’ve made them, having a connection to primitive craft and traditions that takes us away from the craziness of the modern life that we live in and allows us that time to just be, to immerse ourselves in creativity and be in nature at the same time is very powerful and deeply satisfying and that’s basically what my business is founded on. It’s even better when it’s with other people – either those you love or even people you don’t know that are really enjoying and appreciating that too. Sharing that with others it’s really important.
What art/creativity related book should everyone read?
I can’t think of one specific book that I would recommend because everybody is interested in different things and everybody perceive things differently so it’s hard for me to specify one book. I love books and I have loads of books but I think what people need to do is just find an influence that inspires them, find a character who inspires them and find out about their life, listen to their story and be inspired and encouraged. Over the last few years I’ve taken to listening to Audible as it means I can consume books while I’m doing other things as I don’t often get time to sit and read a book. I’ve listened to some really, really inspiring people, theories and historical narratives, so my advice would be just to learn and to keep learning about other people’s stories and about different times in history about different cultures, different experiences and perspectives- just keep learning!
Tell us a lesson life has taught you.
I think one of the most important lessons life has taught me so far is that connection is crucial, connection with your family and your friends, but even connection with people you don’t know is really important. I have found, especially in more recent years, that so many connections are not just coincidences. They can be turning points in your life and make such a huge difference to the path you walk. Also the more connections that you can make with people, the more you can have a positive influence in the world and the more you open yourself up to positive influences from others too. Creativity is a really powerful way to connect with people and to relate to people which is another reason why I love it.
Anything else you would like to add?
I’ve heard so many people say about themselves over the years, ‘I’m not creative’, ‘I’m not artistic’, ‘I can’t do something like that’, and it makes me really sad because I firmly believe that we are all creative, we all have innate creativity – but perhaps we have been conditioned to believe that only some people receive it. So having an openness to expressing your creativity is something that I have tried to encourage in all the people I’ve taught both young and old, as it’s so important. It’s something that I think should be taught to children from a young age that we are all capable of being creative and it doesn’t have to be in the same way – we don’t have to all be great painters, we don’t have to all be skilled carpenters but we’ll have our own way of expressing our creativity and I think it’s important for people to understand that. Maybe it’s just that people haven’t yet found that creative outlet but everyone has creativity within them it’s who we are as human beings, we just need to find it!