‘I first saw it in my minds eye. We were living in Ethiopia at the time, where I started to paint (of all places!). In Ethiopia we had plenty of space and I had my own little room behind the house, a kind of storeroom, with rats in the ceiling space, evidenced every morning by fresh droppings on the surfaces. As we planned to return, I wondered how I would manage to continue to paint in an already cramped living space in a Cambridge Terrace. The only option I could see was the little plot at the bottom of the garden, currently occupied by a ramshackle garden shed. We went online and found just the thing – the Cambridgeshire Corner Summerhouse, aptly named! A few months later, my studio came into being. Five years on, it nestles in the bottom corner of the garden, a focal point of elegant pale green boarding and glass.
The journey from the back door across the patio and down the lawn to the studio takes all of 15 seconds (as long as I don’t get distracted)! The double corner doors beckon invitingly, sheltered by the roof overhang, decorated with three ceramic Indian bells swaying with the breeze. It’s a step up into the studio as the ground drops away to the side gate. No problem, as just inside the doorway I have a little wooden step at the ready to place outside the door.
Wood becomes the overwhelming theme as I enter my Tardis-like world. I inhale a deep breath, it’s a kind of ritual, the studio welcomes me. It’s warm, silent, womb-like. The smell of wood immediately reminds me of my dad and grandpa’s boatmaking days. A huge barn full of sawdust, tools, workbenches and usually a boat at some point in construction. But that barn was cold and noisy. I did love the smells, though, of wood and varnish, as I did the two craftsmen of distant memory! One of these is still working in his woodshed back home in the northwest, and occasionally makes for me a piece of kit for my craft, a paint stand, an easel, a wooden step, a brush stand.
The studio is 8 foot by 8 foot with the corner chopped off. But it could be the whole continent of India, or Africa. I can go anywhere in my Tardis studio, be in any century. However much I love India and Africa I also love here and now. The silent warmth, the uninterrupted focus, the rhythm of pallet mixing and paint stroke. The slow crafting of an image of beauty holds me centered.
All cleaned up, I step out into the cool air of the garden, return the step to the inside threshold, close the door and hear the clunk of the key turning in the lock. Restored, satisfied and wearily refreshed I return to the other here and now of a bustling homelife, a little more whole!’