Wiltshire based Carole Bent’s love of art and design stretches back throughout her lifetime, from school to a degree and career that led her to move to Swindon with her partner, artist David Bent.
Approached to lead the Design team at WHSmith in Swindon in the early ’90s, Carole’s strategic senior management role involved commissioning creativity at scale.
This was a dynamic time in the retail sector and the influence and contribution of good design was understood and respected, both creatively and commercially.
In 1999 and with an excellent team in place, Carole decided to leave her corporate role.
Her mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and over the next six months, long journeys north and south each weekend gave her a lot of time to think. Carole began to question what she would wish that she had done, if like her mother, she was given such a short time to live.
Despite loving her role, it felt the right time to leave corporate life and to use skills gained working in large companies and agencies to help to get more of David’s work out into the world, alongside seeking consultancy work and travelling as much as possible.
During the next few years, Carole began to realise how much talent existed close to home. She (and in a number of cases, David) began to buy locally created work.
Despite loving David’s art and wall space being at a premium, she continued to buy work each year.
Reflecting on this eclectic collection acquired over a 20 year period, including items gifted by friends, she wondered if others might be interested in seeing “What an artist’s wife and partner bought.”
The possibility of exhibiting these with a friend in a similar position was discussed, but time flew by.
In 2018, Carole decided that a positive and accessible way to share the work would be virtually, on Facebook. Her personal and positive approach aimed to brighten up the dark month of November and to help to shine a light on some of the great talent close to home.
This blog brings together these posts, written and shared by Carole each week day throughout November 2018.
Having seen these and learning more of the background, we requested that we share them with an even wider audience who can enjoy, appreciate and celebrate the diversity of creative talent in Wiltshire.
We have bought Tim’s work for many years – we love his local scenes and figurative work. This year during Open Studios we bought his nasturtium painting; as the nasturtiums in the garden are being killed off with the frost, it’s wonderful to have this beautiful art work to look at.
It takes a rare skill to capture the spirit of a place. Chris Waddell’s photograph of Kat’z diner in New York does just that – a pressure cooker of a picture – intense focus amongst jars of dollars. This is why – despite a limited clear wall space, I had to buy it at this year’s Swindon Open Studios as the newest addition to my work space.
Apologies to Chris as my photograph does little to show what a genuinely brilliant photograph it is – so really recommend finding out more – including visiting Chris & Lamorna Waddell’s home when they next ‘open’. Dave’s ‘buy’ was Chris’s ‘End of the Pier Show’ and he loves it.
Talent, intelligence, thoughtfulness & creativity combined in one place.
I love my 2018 Christmas present from Dave. A beautiful art print by Caroline Day called ‘Quiet Moment’ – chosen by us both at this year’s Swindon Open Studios.
Caroline’s gorgeous floral paintings are full of light, natural movement, colour and sunshine. Not only a very talented painter, but one of the very best people I know for always ‘looking out’ for everyone, giving practical and smart support across the artist community.
I also love Caroline’s cards & many of her paintings & art prints – including hydrangeas – on the wall close to my desk.
One of the things that I love about Jane Milner-Barry‘s painting is her sensitive use of colour and light. I bought this landscape at Swindon Open Studios c 3 years ago and love how it looks on the wall in my work room.
At the time, I had no idea that Jane was also a talented portrait painter. As a member of our Residents Association, she generously donated the gift of portrait sessions. The ‘first class’ prize was won and chosen by a neighbour and friend. This skilful painting of him now lives just around the corner from our home & studio.
Creativity ‘lands’ in many ways, including across the Royal Air Force.
Today’s post goes with much respect to Swindon’s Paul Gale, part time Reservist, Media Officer 7644 Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force. It was a genuine pleasure to meet Paul at the start of RAF 100 – splendid serendipity!
From the moment that he began to make his film, his skill was clear. I love the way that he managed to capture so much and so respectfully within just 5 minutes.
Paul’s film draws out Dave’s commitment to mark the Centenary in his own way and the impact of the exhibition at the excellent National Memorial Arboretum.
Paul is owner of Siliconpixel.com – a video and animation company worth checking out. This film by Paul, within his RAF reservist role, will always ‘ hold a place ‘ in our hearts & home.
Today’s post is about Architectural Illustrator Dona Bradley whose work I see almost every day when I’m having a cuppa in our studio (it’s a favourite mug!).
As a brilliant and committed Urban Sketcher, Dona is clearly inspired by architecture and people wherever she goes; check out her drawings of Manchester, Swindon, Bristol & St Ives.
I love the fact that she presents her work so beautifully and across many formats – from personalised commissions commemorating special occasions to tea towels of our town … flying out to Australia!
At 2018 Swindon Open Studios, Dona exhibited at the Swindon Central Library – I bought a great print as a gift.
One of the first artists whose work caught my eye at Swindon Open Studios was Vanetta Joffe. Over the last 15 + years, I’ve collected and been gifted a number of her wonderful life drawings.
I love Dave’s drawings and have quite a few in the studio, so it feels like a real privilege to have these too. I love the sense of lightness and movement in these.
Big thanks to Vanetta, Paul Ricketts (of the Swindon Museum & Art Gallery) and my husband Dave for ‘opening ‘in 2005 – just 3 locations – to ‘ keep the idea alive’.
Amazing to see how this event has grown and grown to include over 100 artists in 2018 – much credit to everyone involved.
With limited time this year, I was keen to visit Sholeh Jafari’s Open Studios – partly to be supportive of an artist taking part for her first time, but also because her entry in the brochure was intriguing.
It said that Sholeh’s work was ‘rooted in wartime childhood in Iran… layered with memories from her everyday life, some faded over time. Vibrant and colourful, they are warm and rich, tempting us to imagine faraway places.’
Meeting Sholeh, seeing her paintings (which match the description so well) and being made to feel so welcome – sharing tea, cake & laughter with other visitors – made me very glad that we went. Love the cards too, one sent to family recently and others flying around the world.
Gordon Dickinson and Toni Dickinson
In 2005 I bought ‘Scratch the Surface’ followed by this colourful figure from Gordon’s ‘Now I can see the Moon’ series. 13 years later, I still love the quality and intensity of the mark making in Scratch.
I’ve only included a little detail here to avoid overloading with the figurative piece which is full of colour, personality & exuberance – like Gordon himself.
Toni & Gordon are well loved and well known locally, including for the great work that they do through their well-established art business, No added Sugar. Their bright, uplifting installations, often created with children, are featured in many places, including schools across Swindon and the UK.
Toni & Gordon’s personal art works are equally well worth seeing – including from the plan chest – which is where I chose Toni’s work from too!
I only recently learnt that Gordon began his working life in the Swindon Railway works and since buying these early pieces, work moves on – but from what I’ve seen in the past couple of years, even more personality, skill and in places – humour – is being woven in.
On a personal level, I love it when work that I buy is created by people whose approach to life brightens up the everyday.
I love art that surprises … and that makes me think and/or smile.
Ahead of going to Chris and Lamorna Waddell‘s Swindon Open Studios, I knew that we’d be visiting a very creative home – but didn’t anticipate the scale and depth of talent under one roof.
We’ve already seen Chris Waddell‘s wonderful photographs. Now it is the turn of Lamorna’s ceramics.
Each piece is original, beautiful and very imaginative … so I chose one for a member of my family who fits the same description! I’ve never seen ceramics Iike these before.
I love the concept behind them and how much care has gone into every one of these very special handmade vases. Lamorna’s NY boxes are great too.
Moving to Swindon 23 years ago to head up the Design team at WHSmith HQ, Sal was one of the first people that I met. A talented designer in my team, her natural creativity shone through.
As well as working hard, we created plenty of hilarious memories too … getting lost on our ways to new store set ups (usually ending up driving north instead of south). There were great adventures and laughter on New York work trips … and legendary 4am exhaustion creating the Christmas press show display in Sloane Square HQ when, having never done one before, I was convinced that we could …and we somehow did …with just minutes to spare (after nearly fainting at 3,4 and 5 am !)
Years later, we remain good friends.
Sal’s talent continues to shine very brightly in her freelance creative work, including her stunning styling. Her very sensitive photographs are gorgeous too; this is one that I love and look at most days.
Having always loved all forms of creativity, including approach, I make no distinction between paintings, photographs, poetry, ceramics, graphic design, textiles, film, music, sculpture etc.
When I think of creativity, it’s as much about ‘approach’ as anything… a way of seeing things, a way of thinking & a way of working.
It doesn’t start and stop with a picture drawn (however brilliantly), a pot thrown (with skill & care) or a meal made (in my case … that’s just as well).
It’s a way of living.
I first met Bea in 2001. I knew that she was a skilled aromatherapy practitioner & over many years realised that Bea is one of the most creative people you could ever meet.
At first, I heard about her daily journals. Going for a walk together would always take longer than expected as we would each want to capture something along the way – me usually with my iPhone when I got one – but with Bea, it could be anything – a sentence said, an unexpected sight.
Rather than walks, they felt like foraging trips & really reminded me of the joy of doing a Foundation Course before my degree a while ago. Over the years, Bea has taken ‘handmade ‘to new heights.
A genuine highlight each Christmas & birthday for anyone lucky enough to receive a gift from Bea is just to look at the wrapping! Always special & always stunning… with hedgerow and wallpaper or Japanese paper and petals.
There is no one who ‘wraps’ better!
Richard Wintle & Rachel
We are very lucky to know some wonderful photographers – some ‘air to air,’ others with feet and (sometimes) tripods firmly on the ground.
Some are on the other side of the world and some are much closer to home. Every single one works much harder than most people imagine.
Some leave home at 4am to stand in the dark in the middle of a field, ready to capture ‘that’ perfect shot of a sunrise or an aircraft taking off dawn.
Some race around events with hefty cameras in hand… while everyone else is having a good time juggling a canapé and a conversation.
Some, including Richard and Rachel do all of the above.
Sun, rain, snow and moonshine, they keep going and we all benefit in seeing their work … sometimes with no idea whose eye ‘ saw it ‘ or how much time it took.
Thanks to lion hearted Richard and Rachel for recording special moments in time and often surprising many of us close to home.
The first words that come to mind when I think of Marilyn are joyful, artistic, mischievous and a friend to many. I remember listening to her and equally lovely Ruth Wintle and being struck by their boundless energy and commitment to the Old Town Community Art Group. I remember listening to her and equally lovely Ruth Wintle and being struck by their boundless energy and commitment to the Old Town Community Art Group.
Marilyn and Ruth’s enthusiasm for ‘opening doors’ for others and giving people the confidence to create and to display their work ’everywhere’ is heartwarming. As artists in their own right, there is a natural joy in much of their work.
I loved seeing Marilyn’s paintings for the Peatmoor Community Woodland and the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust. Her recent hoardings for WW1 Hayden Wick carry her spirit of kindness and respect for all.
She is creative through and through.
Dave and I moved to Swindon 20+years ago when I was approached to head up the design team at a company’s HQ. The role included selecting consultancies and photographers to work with on large scale projects across corporate identity, new store formats and product/packaging design.
With many talented people ‘out there’, choosing who to commission was sometimes easy, sometimes trickier – any pressure offset by the awareness of what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to work with some of the UK’s most creative people. If I was commissioning that work today, Elmar would be firmly on my radar.
I love the way that he captures light, colour and a certain ‘mood’. His work is full of sensitivity and intensity… in a place… a look, a smile or a moment. When you see Elmar and his camera in action, he seems to almost dance around the space and that fluidity seems to carry through into the images themselves. Some have an ethereal quality, joy jumps out of others.
If you’ve seen the Switch on to Swindon campaign, you’ll know some of Elmar’s beautiful work… to see more, its well worth looking at elmarrubiophotography.weebly.com
In my view, we owe him and other great photographers close to home a debt of gratitude for helping to show our town’s heartbeat so well.
I like this photograph of Dave and I too, taken when we were unaware and looking more intelligent than usual!
I first met Russell Pinch when he was the co-founder of a Design Company called the Nest and I was part of a team who commissioned them to design a concept store. A couple of years later, Russell set up Pinch Design, a furniture design company creating very beautiful work. I went to a trade show ‘in support’ and left skint but happy, having ordered one of his earliest pieces ‘Bench’. Russell and his wife Oona’s work has gone from strength to strength. We love this piece of furniture that lives in the studio.
Messum’s of Tisbury is also interested in his work https://messumswiltshire.com/russell-pinch/
A shout out today to Willoughby’s in Old Town too – well worth visiting – a great independent furniture shop on our doorstep who support local artists work being displayed in their windows during Open Studios. Final mention ‘for creative furniture’ today goes to our local John Lewis store. I love my desk, bought from there a couple of years ago & other young visitors do too.
Thanks to Daniel for also hosting a number of artists work created locally this year, at John Lewis in support of Swindon Open Studios.
Sally Taylor and Vicky Silver
Meeting up again with Sally Taylor and Vicky Silver reminded me of their dedication to Artsite, to fellow artists and to their individual work. This long term commitment to their artist collective – providing affordable studios, support, education and exhibition space – warrants a ‘shout out’ here (more fully described by Angela Atkinson in her ‘ Secret Swindon’ Book – well worth a read).
Thinking back over their early days and no doubt many challenges along the way alongside celebrations (memories of floors being mopped after floods and walls being installed 10 years ago come to mind) they have always ‘kept going’.
It takes special people to do that, to keep experimenting and to keep encouraging.
They and all at Artsite do that in abundance, including hosting exhibitions for many artists across our town, including Dave in 2009.
Sally’s detailed and sometimes haunting collages and Vicky’s powerful ‘birds’… Credit to all!
This story starts with a piece I bought at the Arts Centre c 6 years ago.
Life was complicated at the time and there seemed something so pure and strong in this drawing that I was ‘drawn to it ‘. At first glance, the figure seemed to be like a mermaid emerging from bubbling water. Jaime pointed out that the ‘bubbles’ were actually insect like figures that she was ‘rising above. Intrigued by her story, I ‘got it’ and the words behind it.
To me, Jaime is like a spirit of nature and it’s always lovely to see her and her work.
I love her recent portrait of her son, Flynn… wonderful use of coloured pencils, chalk and fine line black pens in her portraits … very skilful work in clay and stone too.
Each time I go to Pasqualina Vitale-Richardson‘s ‘Inn Hair’, I see this painting by her very talented relative, artist Anna Mazzotta. Through the wonder of Facebook, I’ve seen more of Anna’s work over the last couple of years, including her Diana Dors exhibition at Swindon’s Central library.
Anna’s paintings are sassy and stylish … often seeming to have ‘sisterhood’ at the centre in unguarded moments and often glamorous settings. Many make me smile, some – including ‘5 fathers & 2 Hail Mary’s’ make me think.
Whilst not yet owning Anna’s work, I admire this one each time I go to Pasq’s and I wish her continued success in her brilliant adventures with her art.
Last year, I bought Simon’s stunning holly and ivy cufflinks for Dave’s Christmas present. I love how they look and feel… and the very unusual choices of wood that Simon uses in his creative cufflinks and pens… including from HMS Victory (if anyone has historic aircraft wood available … please let Simon have some !)
As well as being an inventive, very skilled artisan and great all round bloke, Simon is well respected for his role with the Swindon Museum of Computing. It is a gem of a place, well worth supporting and visiting on Saturdays.
Our paths happily crossed again this year, including during the exhibition of a number of Swindon Open Studios artists work at John Lewis where she also creatively contributed to bringing the event to life. Loving dandelions (one of our cats is named Danny aka dandelion :-), I couldn’t resist buying this art print at her and Julian’s home.
Lovely to see work by other artists in Cheryl’s home/studio too… bought by her over recent years including some that are very familiar to me.
I’ve admired Artist Beverley Anderson paintings since the first time that they were exhibited at The Core in Old Town. Drawn to her work, I asked to visit her studio this week. Listening to Bev… hearing a fraction of her story and understanding what leads her to paint was genuinely captivating.
Her approach, use of colours, meaningful mark making and courage behind the paint creates soulful and ( in my humble view ) beautiful work.
The light was fading and my iPhone photographs really don’t do these justice…. so when you have chance, see Bev’s paintings in person.
Wonderful to see work in progress too.
Before I left, she said ‘ Art is Life. Life is Art’
Love that too.
It has been great to look at these artists ‘afresh’ and to share the work of so many talented people here.
In addition to everyone mentioned already, ‘shout outs’ are due to all the team at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (I loved the recent Cicatrix exhibition and Curator talks), to Marilyn and all at Create Studios for their wonderful work (a pleasure to help to commission the Oct 25th 2017 film), to Prime Theatre (including Sarah and Bully for making me realise why it was essential to wear a mike for the same event) and to Swindon Dance & Twigs for all that they do.
There is such a lot of talent and so many good people on our doorstep that I could tap on technology for another month and still not cover everyone (and needless to say… I love Dave’s work too!).
NB – Carole has also been leading the way for arts, gaining cross-sector support on Facebook both locally, nationally and internationally by exploring the question ‘How do we change STEM to STEAM ?’ For further information see her Facebook page.
Carole is very pleased at the dialogue, progress and positive response to date (116 so far; individuals in Arts, Aerospace, Business, Defence and Education adding their names in support of Carole exploring this further). She has also been invited to give a Research Seminar at Cambridge University Feb 2019 & to participate in the new Inspired Evenings Lecture Series at her old school, Badminton in Bristol – where her love of art and design began.
Dave also has a forthcoming exhibition at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery which includes the fabulous Cold War Warrior! http://swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk/event/out-of-the-box-an-exhibition-of-paintings-by-david-bent/