One month into lockdown and I was almost starting to question my place as a woodturner and whether I ought to perhaps become a gardener instead? I’m green fingered and the English love their gardens so I’d always have work!
I must have been only nine or ten when I dug up a large circle in the lawn at my parents’ house in Sweden and planted various vegetables and also flowers, especially the kind that you can dry and keep beyond summer to remind you of sunshine and the joyous feeling of having free time.
This April I’ve had the luxury of plenty of free time and spending lots of it in the garden, planting and (almost literarily) watching things grow. Aside from an abundance of vegetables, I’ve sown the seeds from last years’ seed-heads, which I then use to display in my turned wooden Weed Pots. I’ve got lots of Poppies and Love-in-the-mist which produce striking seed heads but the most precious are my two Honesty plants whose delicate purple flowers transform into flat round paper-like seed heads. One of them is growing in a pot and is just scraping by and one is absolutely flourishing in a large planter, full of my nourishing homemade compost. I feel a bit like the plant in the pot at the moment. I’m surviving but lacking nourishment. What usually feeds my creativity and ability to grow and stay healthy as a Woodturner is meeting my customers, chatting to people about my work and getting to hear their feedback. Not being able to attend shows and not having deadlines to work to has slowed me right down. What’s usually normal for me is to live with wood at the centre of my existence seven days a week.
I’ve had a love of wood for as long as I can remember. My very understanding mother let my dad build a workbench into the downstairs box room, complete with a vice, shelves full of spirits and wood stains, a large toolbox and various hand-tools on a rack on the wall. There was also a cardboard box full of wooden offcuts. I really loved rummaging through that box and had various projects on the go on the bench. My dad was a very handy man and used the tools for jobs around the house but worked as a civil engineer. I was steered in a maths and science direction academically, until moving to London at 18 to work and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
Four years (and a brilliant Foundation course in Art & Design at London Guildhall) later I found myself where I truly belonged, in the wood workshop of Brighton University, where I was first introduced to the wood lathe.
Fast forward and I now find myself living with wood in several cardboard boxes. I also designate half of my linen cupboard to wood, and the hallway and garage (it’s my husband who’s the understanding one in this family).
One of the most common questions I get at shows after “Did you make all this?” is “Where do you get your wood from?” I buy some from local sawmills, some from reclamation yards, a lot comes from freshly felled trees around Worthing and occasionally it washes up along the Sussex Coastline. What a great place to live! Sussex is such a creative place and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world! It is also, of course, the home of the prestigious Sussex Guild and I’ve been a member for about three years now. It’s been amazing being surrounded by so many brilliant artists who support and encourage each other. Several have also become good friends. Oh, how I miss hugging my friends!!
One of the things which gets us through times like this is chatting to upbeat and positive people and I had one such conversation just the other day with Andrew Hauge, the talented furniture maker. He wanted to order one of my Pebble Lamps, for which I’ll partly be using woods from his own garden. I felt so energised by this and after having received some other commissions from returning customers I’ve met at Guild Shows, all of a sudden I feel like I do have a place as a woodturner once again and gardening really ought to just be a hobby.
Another thing which brings me joy every day are the works of art which I’m lucky enough to have around the house. I have a few of Robert Goldsmith’s gorgeous stripy blue and white ceramic pieces from his Selborne Pottery. A lovely fruit bowl, a large jug always full of flowers and the perfect coffee cup. That’s a recipe for happiness!
I’ll round off with another recipe, one for perfect compost:
- One part woodturners’ sawdust.
- One part grass clippings.
- Any good amount of veggie peelings and the like.
- Mix, wait and voila. All done!!