Overall I would say the bursaries from SWLA and contacts were of great importance in shaping the following years and supporting where I am now. I have recently been taken on as artist in residence for the Royal Veterinary College in London. This is I believe a first for a veterinary College and will involve my attending the college to observe relevant research such as anatomy lectures and their structure in motion laboratory which studies animals in motion, as well as studying their amazing skeleton collection. I am presently sculpting a horse for the college-the sculpture is of Sefton the Cavalry horse that survived the horrific 1982 IRA bomb in Hyde Park.
Project 1 (1999)
In 1999 to spend one month in South Africa part of which was in the Sabi Sands Reserve to study, draw and photograph the wildlife for my sculpture.
After this first trip in South Africa I was so inspired by my time on safari that I decided to leave Middlesex University, where I was studying sculpture and decided that I had to return. It took some 6 months of writing to various game reserves to eventually find one willing to take me on as artist in residence.
Project 2/3 (2000,2001)
Nedcor in the Community Project for the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, run in support of a teaching community Art project that I set up in a rural area in South Africa for children and adults.
In 2000 I returned to South Africa as artist in residence initially at a private game lodge and then stayed on near to the Kruger Park and Sabi Sands at a game lodge where I continued my studies. I then spent the following 6 or so months in the UK trying still to organise a safe base in the bush in SA. Finally my persistence was rewarded and I returned in 2001 for a good part of the next 8 years based in the Waterberg on a game farm. It was here that I set up an art in the community project for which I received a third bursary in support of this work teaching.
I had spent a couple of years working part time at a bronze casting foundry and had found this to be extremely supportive and felt ready to launch myself professionally. I was fortunate to quickly find an established gallery (Frank T Sabin) willing to take me on.
I had started teaching (pottery, clay modeling and drawing) when in South Africa in 2001 and on meeting Clive Walker (a conservationist and artist and MD of a local game reserve) we decided that it would be rather wonderful if my stay in the Waterberg could benefit the local community by setting up regular art lessons mainly for children. Art is a subject that was not offered in remote rural schools in South Africa and it was felt that traditional African pottery skills were being rather lost to the younger generation.
We set up the project from very small beginnings and it operated for the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO). I was the voluntary teacher and project coordinator. As most of the students were between the ages of 8-15 (although there were also a few adult participants ranging from 19-60 years old), this project was primarily educational rather than leading to a business and as such it was necessary for the project to be funded. The grant from SWLA went a long way in supporting the work and I think covered all our art materials needed for a year’s teaching. Other running costs being covered by Nedcor and BASA.
Between 2001 and 2004, I taught a total of 60 students, most from Refihlile School and around R10, 000 (£1,000) in total was taken for sales of the work produced. All felt this was really quite remarkable as the majority of the students were children. Proceeds from sales were split between the students and the material costs.
I organized and took group trips and in 2002 a workshop was held with Joanna Moshidi, a Pedi potter living in the Waterberg, as it was decided that it was important her skills be passed on in order that her traditional African techniques, (which involve sourcing all materials from the surrounding bush), were not lost in this area.
The student’s work was exhibited at SWLA annual exhibition, in 2003 and in July 2004 an exhibition was held for the project at Nedcor Sandton, Johannesburg, which was a great success. As a result of the Nedcor exhibition Joanna Moshidi was asked to be a guest exhibitor at a National Ceramics Exhibition at the Pretoria Art Gallery in September 2004. Quite an achievement. Sadly the project has now closed as Nedcor could not continue their sponsorship and I needed to return to the UK.
However over the years that the project did run it offered a wonderful opportunity for the children and adults in this very poor area to learn pottery and clay modelling skills. There is no doubt that the all very much enjoyed the classes and who knows whether any of them may come back to it in the future. Apart from the skills learnt and enjoyment, the students also earned a bit from sales of their works which no doubt meant a lot to them and raised self esteem. For me I have wonderful memories of these years of living and working in such a beautiful area surrounded by wildlife and I found the teaching very rewarding. The children had a positive and happy way about them, in spite of the real hardship of their living conditions.
Contacts fostered through the SWLA include Mark Read of the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg. He in turn put me in touch with people in the Waterberg, which led to my basing there and the Everard Read gallery took on my work quite quickly and have show and sold my work until today. I feel very lucky to have their support, as it is a fantastic gallery and one of the two leading galleries in South Africa. In 2007 one of my works was given an award by the Sporting Art Trust.