This post is by way of sharing a blog on the Creative Wiltshire website.
The blog began life as a series of Facebook posts by Carole Bent, partner in the David Bent Studio. Carole set out, in the lull following Open Studios in September, to use Facebook to celebrate some of Swindon’s artists and to showcase ‘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.’
So the lovely blog put together by Creative Wiltshire brings Carole’s posts together with some context about Carole herself.
Of course I’ve written about some of the artists Carole showcased on this blog – often several times over the years. So what follows is merely a list of quick links to those posts. But DO, DO, DO check out the full blog linked above to read about others that I’ve not covered.
I have long admired Dona’s work. So when she expressed interest in having a feature in this ‘Made in Wiltshire’ section on the blog, thrilled didn’t cover it because I love her iconic Swindon images. #Obvs
It’s a b*gger that I’m out of wall space – fridge magnets it is then!
Dona at the drawing board. Photo credit: Stephen McGrath
Talk to many creatives of certain generations and you meet a recurring theme: that of parents discouraging their offspring from pursuing their artistic talents and aspirations. And Dona is no exception to this. She told me how, when she hit 40, she realised that the great keyboard of life had a lost chord. And that chord was her creativity, her art. So she set about rediscovering it.
From then until now, Dona’s pursued her art part-time. But January 2019 marks a new, exciting, yet scary era: that of pursuing her work full-time. She’ll be doing lots more live events, getting out and about with her art and meeting people. I think it’s safe to say the lost chord is well and truly found.
Art for Architecture’s Sake
Dona confesses to be being a closet architect. ‘If I had my time again, I’d train to be an architect’, she said. But instead, at the life point she was at when she realised how much she missed being creative, she opted to go to Bristol college and do a course in spatial design.The discipline takes into account the architectural aspects of a building and is much less about pretty colours, soft furnishings and the like.
All of Dona’s artwork now is a happy compromise for her. Specializing in buildings, her work fulfils both her interest in architecture and her desire to create. With Dona’s work, everything is about the building. What she loves is marrying a building’s beauty with the significance it holds for an individual.
The Feel Good Factor
Dona’s clients tell her stories about their experiences of a building or place – so her work helps people to feel good about where they live. Swindon is a great subject for Dona for this reason.
There’s no escaping that Swindon gets more than its share of put downs and knocks – goodness only knows why. Yet, Swindon has some wonderful, iconic buildings and structures that Dona has used in her work to great effect. For a start, my favourite David Murray John Tower has had theDona Bradley treatment, as has the iconic (albeit neglected) diving platform at Coate Water. Aren’t they both gorgeous?!
Dona’s had wonderful reactions to her Swindon pieces and endless support from lots of Swindon bodies.
There’s a list of places that stock Dona’s work at the bottom of this post.
Swindon Artist’s Forum and Other Support Networks
Freelancers of all kinds need support networks and, in the case of artists in particular, somewhere to try out their work in a safe environment. Dona cites Swindon Artist’s Forum as one such place. Says Dona: ‘It’s a non-judgemental gallery for all comers.’ She is also a keen participant in Swindon Open Studios, displaying her work in Swindon’s central library. Yet another group that Dona is involved in is Swindon Urban Sketchers – looking them up I find that the Urban Sketchers are an international thing with chapters all over the place – including Swindon. I rather like that.
A Swindon urban sketchbook on its way to the art library in Brooklyn, New York. Should you visit you can go take it off the shelves there and view it. How FAB is that?
Down the Motorway to Bristol
It’s obvious enough that Dona finds suitable subjects for her illustrations beyond Swindon’s undoubted charms! These are many but notably – Bristol. When she has stalls, and participates in markets in Bristol, Dona accepts their local currency the Bristol pound. Over the 2018 festive season, Dona had a blast trading in Brizzle’s own currency and collaborating with seventy other traders at the Bristol Bazaar – a fabulous pop-up shop.
In the Ether
By now you’re surely keen to see more of Dona’s work and follow her on social media. So:
Shop local. Shop Independent. It’s Just a Card – or fridge magnet … !
There’s a growing appetite for shopping locally and supporting independents. Witness the diaspora of the coffee shop for a start. And the rise of artisan everything – now there’s an overused and wrongly used word – anyway! Anyone who’s paid any attention at all to this blog will know that I’ve written ad nauseam about the importance of shopping locally and supporting small businesses. I am one after all.
And so are artists! They have bills to pay just like the rest of us. Which is why there’s a thing, a campaign, called ‘Just a Card‘. From the website: ‘The JUST A CARD campaign aims to encourage people to buy from Designer/Makers and Independent Galleries and Shops by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just a card‘ are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses.
The campaign came about when Artist & Designer Sarah Hamilton saw the quote “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card‘ we’d still be open” by store keepers who’d recently closed their gallery.’ That makes you think doesn’t it? It’s an important message – one applicable to any small business and *ahem* blog owner. So Dona, of course, subscribes to the ‘Just a Card’ campaign.
Where you can get Dona’s work – aside from her website:
Hello lovely listeners. On the heels of Secret Swindon, I’m now in full flow with research and writing for my second book from Amberley Books, Swindon in 50 Buildings. It’s come as no surprise at all to me that there’s a cornucopia of potentials for this book. For every building I’ve put on the list, I could quite easily have selected several more. So I’ve had to make choices. And it’s been tough I tell ya! There’s no shortage of interesting material in Swindon as we all know.
For instance, I’m definitely featuring Swindon’s County Ground in the book. After all – a tale of any town or city couldn’t call itself complete without mentioning the town’s sporting life. A natural complement to that listing then is theCounty Ground Hotel. But do I have room for it? No I do not. For now it’s on the reserve bench – and in this blog.
The Swindon County Ground Hotel is a mere few yards from the stadium of the home team – Swindon Town football club. Hence its name. It’s a popular watering hole for fans whenever Swindon Town are playing at home. And, according the website, a down-to-earth ‘local’ when they are not.
Curiously, for a watering hole associated with a football ground, the pub has strong associations with pugilism. ‘In fact, the pub’s favourite sport in modern times has been boxing, having been equipped with a gymnasium and former licensee Pete Neal a well-known former boxer. Who knew? Well not I!
A bit of County Ground Hotel History
Taken from the pub’s website:
‘Regulars in the County Ground Hotel celebrated a special anniversary on 2nd November, 1997 when this grand old pub notched up a century of service to Swindon drinkers.
Commemorating its opening year is a terracotta plaque on side of the building. The plaque include a portrait of Queen Victoria who happened to be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee that year.
Arkell’s bought the land from C Williams the year before and had a ready-made licence thanks to the demise of a pub in Highworth. The Rampant Cat was closed by a relieved James Arkell – son of John Arkell – who lived nearby at Redlands and was annoyed by the rowdy behaviour of some of the regulars. So the County Ground got the licence and one of the town’s landmarks was born.
Outwardly, The County Ground Hotel is largely unchanged from how it looked a hundred years ago, though alterations and extensions in 1921 and 1954 mean that it is not wholly Victorian.’
Some of my old favourites – and there’s nothing wrong with that – are on display in the Gifted! exhibition. Like, for instance, the Lowry below.But it was fab to see some that I’d not seen before. Or at least that I don’t recall.
I think a sticker book would be a bit good here. Pictures of each painting in the collection and a sticker of it to put on when you see the painting in the gallery.
Listeners! I have grave news for you. No apologies for the pun. I can’t help myself, I can’t stop digging – they’ll be the death of me.
Esteemed Swindon historian, Frances Bevan, has got a new blog. And it promises to be a rather riveting combination of research and fictionalised stories with which Frances will tell the story of Radnor Street Cemetery in Swindon. And, I guess, its inhabitants.
‘Every death touches someone; a husband, a wife, a friend, a lover, a stranger, leaving a mark on history itself. Each of these blogposts begin with the re-imagined stories of that unknown witness and continues with researched facts supported by contemporary accounts. Sources include books, emphemera etc held at Local Studies, Central Library, parish registers, Radnor Street Cemetery burial registers, Wills, census returns and the British Newspaper Archives website.’
Last weekend saw me – and many others – in Swindon’s Old Town being part of The Journey.
The Journey, as described on photographer Elmar Rubio’s website, was ‘an immense, immersive theatrical telling of the Christmas story’. It entailed a processional performance that unfolded throughout Old Town that showed ‘the true nature, the faith and the fearlessness of those chosen to birth and raise Jesus Christ. It was truly epic, beautiful and moving and I offer my biggest and most heartfelt congratulations and thanks to all those who made it happen.
It began at Lethbridge School with crowd scenes, and the Romans telling the residents of Nazareth that they had to return to their birth place to be counted – for a census. The Journey progressed down to Wood Street, through a bazaar, and into Christ Church for the Nativity – with a real baby!
As I walked along with the performance it occurred to me how much the Christmas story carries resonances for all of us. Whether you’re a firm believer in God and Christ, are on the fence or strongly of the opinion that it’s nothing more than the greatest story ever told – it has resonances. Because, aside from the birth of Christ element, the Christmas story is one of people being made to move en masse, without fault and without choice. Whether it be fleeing from war, or famine or natural disaster – or forced from their homes for racist/political reasons – people have suffered mass exodus since time immemorial. The world hasn’t come to anything. Such atrocities were ever thus.
The residents of Nazareth, and all towns and villages in the region, were forced to undertake a long and arduous journey to Bethlehem because the Romans decided to count the population in its occupied territories. No matter if you were old, or sick or, like Mary, heavily pregnant – you had to go. Many must have died along the way.
And mass exodus is something that moved David Bent to paint his Movement 2000 collection. These works took David two years to paint. He undertook the project from feeling moved, inspired – driven even – to create a major piece of work in celebration of the new millennium. When he chose ‘Movement’ as the umbrella title for these paintings he was inadvertently prescient. Why? Because around this time the Balkan/Yugoslav raged. And, as we know, where ever conflict exists there are refugees. Where ever there is conflict there are people on the move seeking sanctuary.