As many of you who follow me on Facebook know, I’ve recently started writing for a magazine based in the Gower / Swansea. I write the new arts and crafts section and for those of you not local enough to get a copy of my articles, they’re all here for you to read. Just in case you’re interested :)
April / May issue:
With its staggering coastline, rolling farmlands, dramatic sunsets and wonderful variety of wildlife, the Gower has captured the minds of artists and creative folk throughout the ages. Designated as the first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s little wonder that this pretty peninsula has been the inspiration for some of our literary greats and remains adored by walkers, surfers and sun seekers to this day.
But it’s not just the aesthetic side of the Gower that has captured the imagination. With dozens of ancient monuments ranging from burial chambers to hill forts and castles, the Gower’s heritage spans over tens of thousands of years. You need only a picnic, a map and a sense of adventure to enjoy the 70 sq miles of breathtaking scenery, history and wildlife that this place provides.
I have always wanted to live in the Gower. From an artists perspective it’s an inexhaustible source of inspiration and the perfect base for a family obsessed with the coast! Whatever the season, the Gower has always presented me with new colours, textures and natural forms of art which I use in my everyday work. A year ago, I finally made the move and now live a stones throw from the beaches I used to spend all my spare time on. Whether I’m walking the dog or setting up camp with my easel and coffee next to the shoreline, there’s always something to sketch, paint or photograph, so I’m never without a pencil and pad of paper.
For me, its the white washed cottages dotted throughout the landscape with the smell of wood fires on the air and the endless stone walled lanes that weave through quiet villages. Its the colourful fishing boats that bob quietly off shore and the sound of seagulls overhead. There’s aspects of the Gower in every piece of my work, whatever the commission. Since most of my paintings are based around the coast, the Gower Peninsula was the perfect place to settle.
Working from my home studio, I get to enjoy this fabulous place on a daily basis. But it’s not just the scenery that gets the creative juices flowing. The people of the Gower are as diverse as their surroundings. For such a small area, this little peninsula contains hundreds of talented artisans from painters to photographers, potters, jewellers, sculptors and designers – the Gower really has them all! What’s more, with such a friendly and connected community, the range of local organised markets, fayres and craft stalls available throughout the year ensure that you’re never short of advice or inspiration to get you started.
So do you need to have a natural flair for art to enjoy arts or crafts? The simple answer is no. Time and time again I hear the same thing ‘I wish I was artistic, but I’m rubbish at art’. Perhaps you’ve used the line yourself? But, you couldn’t be more wrong. We all have an area of art that we’re good at. It’s not always the ability to paint photo-realistic pieces or carve a magnificent sculpture to rival Michaelangelo’s Pieta, but there are so many other areas of crafting that you could successfully indulge in.
Which craft is which?
If you’re having trouble finding the right creative craft for you, here’s a list of some of the things you can do or try for free over the spring and summer months,
Photography ~ You don’t have to spend a fortune on an expensive SLR camera these days, since most modern phones are equipped with a camera that’ll tackle the job. You don’t have to be a professional either as when you consider the beauty of the Gower, you certainly wont run out of breathtaking subjects to practice photographing. Use the weather for added drama or attempt a wildlife shot. You’ll be surprised with the results!
Print making ~ Though there are a number of products available on the market that would allow you to start printing on a budget, there’s also a number of great ways to start yourself off without spending a penny on cutting tools or lino blocks. You may think that potato printing is reserved for the kids but you couldn’t be more wrong! Cutting out a set of simple shapes into an old potato will give you a great base to start making your own wrapping paper, wall decorations or layered, colourful works of art! You don’t have to be a creative genius, just pop it in a frame and watch it brighten up your kitchen! If you’re all out of Welsh spuds, why not enjoy a walk on the beach or in the countryside and collect shells, flowers and leaves to paint and press onto paper for a more detailed effect.
Creative Window Hangings ~ Known for its white sandy beaches, the Gower is the perfect place to spend a few hours collecting sea glass. Tumbled and in a variety of beautiful colours these little ocean worn gems look fantastic strung up in the window or add a touch of beach chic to the room when collected in glass vases.
Rubbing’s – Armed with a pad of paper and a pack of coloured pencils, you can spend a Saturday wandering this perfect peninsula taking rubbing’s of tree bark, plaques, fences, shells or even headstones to produce a fabulous mix of designs. You could simply collect them or even use them as the basis for future print ideas.
Clay impressions ~ Clay impressions are a great way to start your journey into Home-made gifts! All you’ll need is some air dry clay (Which is relatively cheap and can be bought from most craft shops), some paint, some ribbon and a want for the great outdoors! Collect items such as cockle or periwinkle shells and press them into a rolled out sheet of clay (about a cm thick). You can then use a cookie cutter to cut the design out, leave to dry, paint and thread. These are super little personalised gifts that look great when hung up and can be as simple or complicated as you like. Just don’t forget to let the clay dry completely before painting and pop a little hole in it when wet to feed the ribbon through!
If all of these sound great, but a class is more to your liking (and a great opportunity to meet new people whilst learning new skills) why not try your hand at one of the following;
Glass working ~ A chance to embrace the inner magpie and indulge in all things shiny! Workshops are available at the Gower Heritage Centre.
Life Drawing or Creative Painting~ Study and draw the human form or learn to express yourself through the medium of paint. These classes are available at GOWER GROUP in Penclawdd.
The Gower’s creative community really is second to none, so whether you’re looking for home made gift ideas or a new hobby, you’ll find it here. Over the following months, you can hope to see interviews with Gower artisans, tutorials and news of up and coming craft events in your area. I’d also love to see your own creations so feel free to send me a photograph of your work via email and maybe I’ll get to include it in the next issues.