Drawn to the Valley Open Studios: Meet the artists inspired by the beauty of the Tamar Valley
PUBLISHED: 11:36 01 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:22 04 September 2017
Visit Georgie Bruce’s very special corner of Cornwall and it’s easy to see where much of the inspiration for her mosaic art comes from
Georgie lives at one of the old coastguard cottages at Rame Head. From her garden, on a clear day, you can see the sea for miles and miles. At the end of her garden is the South West Coast Path, which she walks every single day. And underfoot all around here is the Cornish slate and stone that you’re likely to spot in some of Georgie’s mosaics.
An hour’s drive up the Tamar Valley, and textile artist Katy Choroszewska and her daughter, Melissa, a ceramicist, are also inspired by their surroundings. Here, it’s the Cornish countryside and mining landscape.
For nine days in September, Georgie, Katy and Melissa are inviting the public to come and see them at work, as part of the Drawn to the Valley Open Studios event. Drawn to the Valley is an artist-led initiative open to professional artists and craftspeople living or working within five miles of the River Tamar. It was formed by the artists themselves in 2003, mainly as a support network, but also to promote the Tamar Valley by bringing the area of natural beauty to life through art.
Around 100 of the group’s 160 artists are taking part in Open Studios from 2-10 September, dozens of them in Cornwall. You’ll find Georgie at the southern tip of the Drawn to the Valley area. The moment you walk into her courtyard garden and through her front door, you’ll notice mosaics everywhere you look – in mirrors, tables and in art pieces on the walls. All are made in her little studio: “This is Mosaic Central,” says Georgie, “this is where everything happens.”
Georgie uses a hammer and hardie, a traditional Roman mosaic tool, and it takes pride of place in the studio. Everything Georgie uses is either collected while on walks, such as beach glass and cowry shells, or is recycled: chipped cups and plates, broken glass, the silvery side of chocolate wrappers, rusty staples and even old items of clothing that she uses in her colourful mixed media paintings.
“I’m passionate about recycling and I dislike waste. That’s what inspired me to make mosaics in the first place. There’s a use for everything so why not use it? This painting is inspired by my views of the sea,” says Georgie, pointing out a painting she’s just finished. “It’s got my old trousers in it and bits of steel wool and mesh.”
Georgie has been creating mosaics for over 20 years, explaining: “I’ve always made things and I just remember getting up one morning and making one. Also, I’m compulsively creative and a compulsive fiddler.”
Making mosaics can also be therapeutic: One of the mirror mosaics features Millbrook and Rame slate which Georgie took enormous pleasure in hammering the morning after a stormy night blew off part of her roof: “I love the slate in this mirror. I was out walking with my granddaughter and I saw this confused seam.
“I’ve always got my eye on the ground, looking for nice pieces to work with.” And when she looks up from the ground, there’s that glorious view straight ahead: “Who wouldn’t be inspired by this? I’m sure one of the reasons I do lots of fish mosaics is because I see the sea every day.”
Georgie, a member of Drawn to the Valley for 11 years, enjoys sharing her skills and people visiting her Open Studio will get the chance to see her at work and learn about the processes that transform found materials and recycled bits and bobs into eye-catching pieces of art.
Further up the Tamar Valley and the blue of the sea becomes the green of the countryside. Welcome to Gunnislake, home to a number of Drawn to the Valley artists, including Katy and Melissa Choroszewska. Their Open Studio is at Katy’s 200-year-old cottage, which is reached via a picturesque lane and her country garden. Some of the flowers in the garden will end up being pressed on Melissa’s ceramics or as subjects for Katy’s paintings: “We’re so lucky having this all around us and it feeds the work,” says Katy.
For the Open Studio, the dining and sitting rooms will become a gallery and studio, where Katy will be demonstrating how she hand-dyes threads - “my bread and butter” - and creates textile art - “my joy”. Melissa will be showing how her hanging pieces are pressed with flowers: “I love using sunflowers, and buddleia especially,” says Melissa, who works with porcelain: “It’s gorgeous, nothing compares to it.”
Katy’s process involves cotton fabric, a waterproof drawing pen, acrylics - and a hair dryer: “I’ll be sitting and watching the painting as it dries on the cotton and as soon as it reaches the shade I want, I’m ready to blast it with the hair dryer.” The hair dryer came in handy when Katy made a scroll this year depicting the mining heritage of the Tamar Valley. It has several layers, incorporating Katy’s paintings and sections of maps that have been transferred to textile.
Last year, three generations of the family took part in the Open Studio, with Katy’s mother, printmaker Jen Parker, joining Katy and Melissa. It was Jen who bought Melissa’s first kiln: “Hopefully, grandma will be doing it with us again next year,” said Melissa.
Katy summed up why the artists love taking part in Open Studios each September: “What we do is very solitary so it’s nice to be able to talk to people and show them how we work.”
Drawn to the Valley Open Studios is a chance for the public to buy locally-crafted one-off or limited edition pieces. Details of locations and opening times are on the website. www.drawntothevalley.co.uk