I was born in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire in 1948. I loved drawing and painting, and I loved wildlife. My Sister Liz and I started a ‘gang’, called ‘The Nature Lovers Circle’ . it consisted of the two of us and the three kids next door. After a dismal time at school, I went to Newport Art College and had a whale of a time. Although not very successful, I spent too much time partying and laughing with my room mate June from Merthyr, barefoot and with flowers in my hair – 1964 -1965 was a wonderful time.
Sadly reality hit and I got into Manchester Art College to do a Dip AD (forerunner of a BA) in Textiles, Printed and Woven. I wanted to do Fine Art but women in those far off days were guided away from Fine Art to the gendered areas of Fashion and Textiles. Unfortunately I thought my tutors knew better than me, actually I thought anyone knew better than me! There were women artists that our Art History lecturer spent a couple of minutes on such as Frida Kahlo (he spent longer on her husband Diego Rivera) Gwen John (again Augustus John , her brother was better known and an artist I knew about growing up as he was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire), Elizabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley, to name a few. I loved Art History, did an ‘A’ level on British History of Painting 1700 – 1850 in one year and without a teacher, as my wonderful art teacher, Thomas Owen Thomas, known as TOT for obvious reasons! was architecture trained, so he only offered an architecture at ‘A’ level, I did a year of that and decided it wasn’t for me. I asked him could I do my own ‘A’ level and the marvellous man that he was said I could; so I sat in the back of his art room and while he taught architecture, I taught myself British History of art 1700 – 1850. And I got a ‘B’ pass!
I married John Farrow, who I had grown up with, in my second year at Manchester but it was thought married women would just have children and be housewives, we weren’t going to have a career, so my two male tutors, Peter Perret and Hugh Barrett immediately began ignoring me, sealing my fate as a ‘failure’. It was rumoured that If you slept with your tutors, you could get through your course without the necessary ability but I’m glad to say I never found out if this was so, at least not in Manchester. It was definitely true in Newport!
It is hard to be reminded just how much social pressure acted against women at this time. Lacking in confidence, I left at the end of my second year. After working in the newly opened Habitat in Manchester, and having three children, I found my way to Devon where I lived and worked in a socio-therapeutic community with education called Kilworthy House where I taught Art and Craft. Kilworthy was an amazing place, a home for twenty four young people with educational, behavioural difficulties, ages 13 – 18. Some of whom I still am in touch with after nearly thirty years. Kilworthy was my spiritual home.
I spent seven years at Kilworthy, then, after divorcing, I worked at Plymouth College of Art as a part time screen print technician producing and printing the student’s work. I also worked part time at Dartington College of Art, first of all as a screen print technician then I retrained as a counsellor. In my mid 40s I did an Open University BA (Hons), studying part time for four years, as I was working at two part time jobs often totalling more hours than usual for full time work, I found most of my studying was done in the early morning, always the best time for me. I finally achieved the degree I had started so many years before, this time in the area of Social Science. The first year was ‘Issues in Women’s Studies’ the second year ‘the Family and Social Policy’ the third was ‘Mental Health and Welfare’ and finally ‘Crime and Social Control’. I achieved a 2:I and enjoyed it immensely. I’ve worked in different forms of education for most of my working life but nothing can compete with the brilliant tutoring, course material and enabling that the OU produces. I worked at both colleges as a counsellor until 2003 and 2010 respectively, being made redundant, as sadly, Dartington College of Arts moved to Falmouth Art College. Both my husband TJ and I worked and lived on the wonderful Dartington estate and worked at DCA for twenty years and were devastated at the closure of a unique college, leaving the estate and the local community bereft of the wonderful energy those students brought to the area.
Since retiring I have returned to my first love of painting and printmaking. the Natural World, the South Devon Coast, my Wolfhound and Lurcher Hounds and Birds are all inspiration for my prints and paintings. I see as much as possible of my Children and eight Grandchildren, who are all wonderful and I love walking with my lurchers on the stunning beaches.
Screen Printing Again!
In 2016 I finally worked out how I could screen print on my kitchen table by extending it with planks of wood that I could remove when it needed to be a kitchen table again. After a few printing sessions I realised that I could just leave the planks in place which was more motivating than having to ‘set up’ each time. OK so what to print? The urge to print fabric was strong – after many years printing the wonderful 4/5 colour prints of the PCAD students on a five meter table with all the necessary equipment available to me (because as technician it was part of my job to order what was needed!) this was very different – all the contacts from 30 years ago, although etched in my mind, were not easily contacted, many like Sericol who had supplied inks had been taken over by Fuji and were a different kind of company, however new smaller company had emerged like Handprinted and Hunt The Moon, who were local to me, and were brilliant, supplying everything I needed to start again. I had one screen from PCAD days, but soon had acquired several squeegees and frames, inks and fabric. The excitement was intense the first time I produced a screen again.
I had bought a 1000 watt builder’s light and had made a frame to hang it from. A well sealed drawer in the plan chest was my ‘dark room’ where the light sensitive photo-chemical emulsion I coated the screens with, were placed to dry. The working at night and with a red light (a wonderful 1950’s photography light. still in its original box) I transported the screen to the bathroom, and did a light test to see the correct time needed to produce the screen – moving the dark piece of card an inch each minute down the screen until. after washing the screen in the bath I could see exactly how long it was to make the light sensitive photo emulsion remain on the screen. As this would vary with height and strength of the light, it was important to keep everything the same for future screens. 5 1/2 minutes.
The huge light box at PCAD had been about 2 1/2 minutes and because the image and the screen had been placed down on the glass top with the lights below there had been no need for glass to be placed on the screen to keep the image flat. My light was from above so a piece of foam underneath and glass with the image stuck to it was necessary to make sure no light escaped between the image and the screen.
Once I had established a fairly makeshift way of producing screens I set about making my own screens, I had been making my own frames for my prints for a while so making screens just needed a 1 12 x 1 1/2 plain sawn wood to make screens. I bought mesh (43T) suitable for the kind of detail I wanted and began.