It's in line with the philosophy of arte povera, that emphasises the importance my own guiding principles of intuition, imagination and innovation. The things I make are rather like maps that are made after the journey. For me, the importance is mainly about the journey, although saying that, it would remain uncharted if not for the making.
Lizzie, my daughter and I went to Herefordshire for a weekend at the end of July to visit old haunts, a little trip down memory lane. The whole weekend was filled with synchronicity and was delightful and moving.
The cottage rapidly disappearing beneath the ever encroaching undergrowth (above) is where we used to live. In fact when I found it in the late 1980's it was also wrapped up by Mother Nature. I had woken up early one morning after a strange dream (I have many unusual and telling dreams by the way) in which I was visiting a very old lady who lived in an isolated cottage where wild ponies would come to her door to be comforted and fed.
On the hill beyond a hunt was in full swing, I remember being surprised the appearance of a very stroppy woman in a black velvet top hat, (who looked like someone I had met only once but who lived nearby and who was also a member of the local hunt) who was busily bossing everyone about but she could not come onto this old woman's land to pursue her prey. The dream cottage was like a little oasis of peace and magic. On recalling the images on waking, I thought that I recognised the place by the lay of the land and after I had taken my son to school, I drove up to where I thought it was with Lizzie, who was then only two years old, to see if this place actually existed. Sure enough I saw the top of a chimney above all the tangled brambles that covered the entire building. Feeling quite encouraged I went back home and got a thick blanket for Lizzie to sit on, a machete, a pair of thick leather gardening gloves, a sailing hat ( to stuff my rather long and unruly hair under), a pair of wellies, a pair of dungarees (quite on trend in the 80's) and a picnic and returned to start my hacking and chopping. I should add here that the land, 5000 acres belonged to a close friend who was also the local Lord of the Manor and I knew he would not mind one bit as I tried to connect dreams with reality. The whole episode had the air of fairy tale adventure from beginning to end. The cottage had in fact been unoccupied for over 40 years and brambles grew extraordinarily well in that neck of the woods, some were almost as thick as Lizzie's wrist. I slowly made my way and came to a stream, not very deep but quietly running along its course and kept on hacking back the brambles, trying to avoid the very sharp thorns. I came to the porch after about two hours. The brambles had travelled into the front room, (the only room downstairs apart from a larder and a place to chop up a pig) grown up the fireplace in which was an old iron grate where the previous occupants had done all their cooking and heating of water and up the chimney, intertwining between a 40 year old tower of crows nests that had been built on year on year. The extraordinary brambles had also grown across the flag floor and made their way up the spiral stone staircase, across the two bedroom floors, through the little windows
and back outside to begin the journey all over again. I must add that as I kept clearing my way, I would also clear another place for Lizzie on her blanket. She made no attempt to crawl away and simply sat and watched as I slowly revealed what was eventually, though unbeknownst to either of us at the time, to become our new home.I can and will no doubt retell all the adventures we had there over the ten years that we lived there. It's fascinating, and is often stranger than fiction.
The undergrowth nowadays is more cultivated at least, or once was as I established a beautiful garden there before we left in 2000 and moved to Devon. I had the cottage on a so-called renovating lease for 20 years with an extra 7 years for Lizzie to take possession if she so wished when she was 21. There hangs another tale of devious skullduggery, the upshot is that this lovely place is abandoned once again.
Before and after shots but not as we expected. Initially, when I started on my renovation plans the kitchen, above was an old cow shed, again abandoned for 40 years, made from bricks, timber and corrugated iron sheeting. It was beyond repair so I made the plans for a kitchen with a sort of minstrel gallery above, where I envisioned my children and their friends peeping through and looking down on preparations for Christmas etc way after their bedtimes. It worked perfectly for the time we lived there. My son, Richard, built a beautiful Carl Larsson style wooden shelf all around the kitchen where I could keep my papier-mâché pots.
Somewhere beneath the jasmine and vines is a wooden pergola, once a sunlight dappled retreat.
There was a wildlife pond here that I had dug out to collect water from the stream.
Before and after rack and ruin.