A love of Art and Design … close to home

A love of Art and Design … close to home


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.

Some of them I know

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.

  1. Tim Carroll: Posts about Tim here.
  2. David Bent: Several posts about David here.
  3. Dona Bradley – architectural illustrator
  4. Marilyn Trew – coming to this blog soon!
  5. Sally Taylor and Vicky Silver – Artsite
  6. Simon Webb: Several posts about Simon on this blog. Here’s one of them.
Dona Bradley: Architectural Illustrator

Dona Bradley: Architectural Illustrator

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! 

Images from Facebook page
Dona Bradley artist at her drawing board.

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 the Dona Bradley treatment, as has the iconic (albeit neglected) diving platform at Coate Water. Aren’t they both gorgeous?!

The Town Hall with its splendid railings, our lovely Town Garden’s bandstand and Christ Church in Old Town.

 Dona’s had wonderful reactions to her Swindon pieces and endless support from lots of Swindon bodies.

The library shop in Swindon central library stock her products. As does the shop at the museum & art gallery in Old Town and the cafe in Town Gardens. 

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:

  1. The Dona Bradley drawings website.
  2. Dona on Instagram – a great way to see Dona’s work –@donabdrawings
  3. Our old friend Facebook 
  4. And the Twittersphere of course – @dona_b_drawings

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:

  1. Swindon Central Library
  2. Swindon Museum and Art Gallery
  3. Swindon Artist’s Forum
  4. Town Garden’s Cafe
  5. Visit Bristol
  6. Clifton Suspension Bridge
Lis McDermott: Author

Lis McDermott: Author

30th December 2018

Lis McDermott: Author

Lis McDermott author facebook page header

As we enter a new year, it’s pure delight to feature Lis McDernott to the ‘Made in Wiltshire’ section of Born again Swindonian. Writing is creating. And creating is making. So writing fits here as well as anything else.

Lis’ writing and business personas cross over somewhat. As the Headshot Diva, Lis does what it says and takes great headshot photographs. The crossover comes because Lis has written a book on that very topic – and you can find out more about that here. 

Lis McDermott author

Yet her output is much broader than that and I’m in awe. I mean, I do a spot of writing myself. There’s this blog for a start. And this year I became a published author for the first time with Secret Swindon. Plus, I’ve now got ‘Swindon in 50 Buildings’ underway. But the prolific Lis is three books ahead of me. And fiction? No. That’s not me at all. I don’t have that sort of creativity.

This is Lis’ author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lismcdermottauthor/

And here are images of her varied publications:

About Lis

Hailing from Leicester, Lis now lives in Royal Wootton Basset with her husband, Conrad.

Lis is musically trained, with a thirty-four year long career in music education under her belt. During this period, along with Mary Edwards she co-authored (under the pseudonym Lis Fletcher), Nelson Music. Nelson Music being a three-volume music scheme for primary schools.

2008 saw Lis change career and turn to photography. This allowed her to bring together her two passions: pictures and people. Complementing the photography, Lis gives talks on the topic and on writing and changing career at a later stage in life. (I sure as heck know all about that! What with necessity being the mother of reinvention. Baby boomer deprived of state pension and all that jazz)

Lis became an author in her own right in 2014 with the publication of ‘Headshot Diva‘. A proud moment came with a short story she penned being included in a short story anthology.

In 2017 Lis published her own book of short stories, ‘Changing Lives: 8 short stories’. Her latest book is, ‘Mixed Feelings‘, an autobiography.

Amazon Links

Should you be interested in buying any of Lis’ books – and why wouldn’t you be – here are links to them on Amazon.

  1. Mixed Feelings (Wordcatcher Real Life Stories and Biographies)
  2. A Tilted View: A collection of poetry (Wordcatcher Modern Poetry)

  3. Headshot Diva: Why Your Business Profile Affects Your Bottom Line: Volume 1 (Lis McDermott Photography Series)

  4. Changing Lives: Eight Short Stories (Wordcatcher Modern Fiction)


T K Turns – wood turning

T K Turns – wood turning

T K Turns - wood turning

Made in Wiltshire

This post is the first in a series I’m going to run on this blog about Wiltshire craftspeople. Some of them will be hobbyists – others will be professionals earning a living from what they produce. But all of them will be people offering gorgeous things.

I don’t want to use the word ‘artisan’ – it’s overused and, as often as not, it’s incorrectly used. I get that the word ‘craft’ connotes knitting/crochet and felting – not that there’s nothing with that I hasten to add! – So I’ve gone with calling the section ‘Made in Wiltshire’.  This is largely a Swindon-centred blog but I’ve called it ‘Made in Wiltshire’ to allow for stretching a little beyond the boundaries of our beloved Swindon Borough Council.

If you’d like your creations featured here get in touch to discuss terms – they’re modest and vary – depending on whether you’re a pro or a talented hobbyist.

Getting the first turn – appropriately enough – is hobbyist Toby Kinton who is TK Turns. Below he writes in his own words how he got in to wood turning. It’s a nice story actually.

 I love the bowl with the resin inlay -I think that’s beautiful. I rather like the wine goblets too. #obvs

T K Turns – wood turning

I started wood turning by accident.  I had been to a medieval re-enactment and couldn’t understand why hand turned bowls were so expensive compared to the mass produced, machine made items that you can pick up in any supermarket.

One Saturday, when I had nothing else to do, I searched YouTube for ‘how to’ videos to try to work it out.  Eight hours later, I was still sitting there, watching artists from around the world make bowls and goblets magically appear from gnarly lumps of timber.  There is something hypnotic about the process – in the same way that one can get lost in the shape of a log fire, watching a form develop under the tools. I was hooked!  But unfortunately our 2 up/2 down in the centre of Swindon just didn’t have anywhere that I could put a lathe without serious detriment to my marriage. I was doomed to be a spectator. Or so I thought …

Around 18 months later, we had outgrown our little house and were on the hunt for a new property, my wife looking for a nice area, good access, well planned layout and all of the sensible attributes of a house, but all I was interested in was a garden big enough for a shed or even better, a garage!

The move came about and I finally had my man cave.  As is the nature of home moves, this hallowed space quickly became where stuff was put ‘until we could find a home for it’ and was essentially a dumping ground for clutter.  This wasn’t how I had planned my dream workshop.

On a Friday in April 2016, I got fed up with the situation and made myself a deal.  If I could make enough space in the garage by 3 o’clock, I would order a lathe.  By 1 o’clock the garage was clear and I was online, ordering lathe and tools.  The following morning at 7.45 my very surprised wife answered the door to a delivery driver and had to kick me out of bed to help unload a 100kg pallet into the garage.

Around four hours later, after a lot of swearing, head scratching and coffee breaks, the lathe was assembled, the tools were to hand and I was ready to start.  Of course, the one thing I had forgotten was wood.  After a frantic search of the house and garden, I found the ‘Sold’ sign from the house, lurking in a corner of the garage. I sawed it up into sections and started trying all of the techniques that I had leaned from YouTube. My first attempts were not successful, with my garden dibbers being likened to marital aids! Ann Summers eat your heat out. But I keep at it and slowly I worked out how the tools reacted to the grain of the wood, how to select the right speed on the lathe to get a clean cut and how to move my body rather than my hands to maintain a consistent finish.

Two and a half years on, it is still a hobby but my skills have developed, with my main output being bowls.  I have found a specialist woodturning shop in Didcot, The Toolpost, where I buy most of my wood.  Although it can be found cheaper online, in a real shop you can hold and feel the wood before you buy it and Peter and his team are always there for feedback, advice and occasional banter.

Most of my work is commissions from family and friends, bowls with custom pyrography or pens from a ‘special’ piece of wood. But I nurture hopes of saying goodbye to the rat race and becoming a full-time turner.  I know that I will never make my fortune from wood, but the joy I get from turning more than makes up for that.

Here’s a few images of my work:

Further selections of my work are available to view on my website TK-Turns.co.uk and my Instagram feed (TKTurns) I use for work in progress pictures. If you want to know more you can contact me via me web form here.

You can also find me on Twitter here and Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/TKTurns/



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