As life begins to uncurl itself both seasonally and hopefully post-pandemically

I want to begin with remembering a poignant part of the past year. Not in any restrictive or negative way, but in the most creative and expressive way.

We’ve dipped our big toes for three months into this new year, after being locked down throughout winter, and I can’t help but think about what I’ve brought with me into 2021 so far. I feel that I’ve learnt such a lot from my creative compadres and seen how most people, whenever and wherever they’ve been able to, have embraced their inner artist to help guide them through turbulent emotions and anxieties.

The irony here, is that all the arts communities I know of have been hit hard economically during the past year and it’s these very communities that have given so selflessly to the rest of the world.

Whether it has been through treading the virtual boards with online productions, live grassroots performances or with the independent designers, makers and sole artisan traders transforming their studios to the web and sharing behind the scenes how-to workshops with the masses.

Part of my day job in an unlocked-down world, means I’m one lucky photographer who gets to explore and document the work of some of these talented artists. Observing the magic, the relationships and processes that take place in the lifecycles of the pieces they make. Spending days with them to really understand the layers, connections and thoughts behind how they create. Most importantly, why.

Capturing people engaged in doing what they love is an approach I’ve always wholeheartedly believed in. It feels evermore important this past year, to show the relevance, integrity and connectivity of some of these people.

I want to share three artists who I’ve spent time with. Each one is unique in their practice, though they are joined together in staying true to what inspires them. Whether it be inspiration from a landscape, born through nature or a journal of a physical state and emotion in their life.

Stephanie Roberts, Mosaic Artist

Stephanie is a friend and artist I’ve been in awe of for many years. She uses layers of mosaic tiles with discarded objects from the landscape. Such as broken plates, relics and even submarine parts in her work, to visually talk about the often controversial moments and unsung heroes of history.

In recent years she has shown through her art, her challenges around finding her true voice through her undiagnosed dyslexia. This accumulated in an emotionally-powerful body of work she called Case Study, which was exhibited with the blindfolded drawings she made, including flowers incased in resin to symbolise the restricted beauty of words.

She started exploring the concept of re-nesting in familiar spaces of the home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Then after becoming unwell herself with the virus, Stephanie began to draw, write and feel her body’s response during this time. In turn, this has led to her current work, visually exploring her journey into the menopause. These current pieces of work bring nurturing, wildlife, deforestation, bleeding and reef bleaching into one self-reflective ecological visual and help her mourn the children she can no longer conceive.

Chris Wood, Artist Sculptor

The first moments of walking into Chris’s workshop felt like that wonderful metaphor, a child in sweet shop, had come to life. Everywhere I looked were hundreds upon hundreds of carefully placed tools, off-cuts of wood and sculptures of dragons, wild animals and goddesses. Hanging from the beams and displayed on topsy-turvy yet steady shelves and tucked in each corner of his vast woodcarving kingdom. Even the floor is a spongy carpet of six-inch-deep shavings, as why would you bother sweeping up?

Chris is perhaps one of the most unassuming talents I’ve met. He simply loves what he does. If you travel around the Welsh countryside you will most likely come across some of his commissions. From the intricate sculpture of the Lave Fisherman of the River Severn, to the Coal Miner in Merthyr Vale, Chris also takes his chainsaw art to festivals across the country and internationally.

He points to a little half-sculpted dragon and then over to another piece, Chief Wolf Robe, placed on an exquisitely carved bench. “I’m now looking forward to finishing some personal work for the home” he tells me. Then the mask and goggles go on and he’s using his chainsaw like a paintbrush, turning on the gas to fire out flames to finish his pieces. I leave more enchanted than when I arrived.

Beca Beeby, Designer Maker

You only need to take a peek inside the old wicker Wunderbox that Beca has collected since childhood, packed full of seed pods, washed up shoreline flora and various other ethereal-looking objects of nature, to see that she draws her inspiration from the earth’s natural forms.

Her eyes shine brightly as she explains each treasure and where she found it. Names which I cannot pronounce, but when you cast your eyes around her studio at the barnacle-inspired ceramic bowls and see the exquisite honeycomb moulded silver jewellery she is wearing, all becomes clear.

We have been working together over the past year, journalling the creation of a silver honeycomb ring. It began with a visit to her beehive, where she gauges their mood from the tone of their buzz and where I learn a few bee-facts along the way. Such as how an impending thunderstorm can make them tetchy – there’s no doubt that Beca is in tune with her bees’ wellbeing! Then ever so gently, she sources the outer edges of leftover comb stuck to the wall of the hive. It’s these fragile fragments that will form the mould of the ring.


As featured in JUNO Magazine