My Mum used to warn me that ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’ so, for as long as I can remember, I’ve dabbled in craftwork – painting, pottery, creating collages and greetings cards; glueing shells and driftwood to picture frames; making paper and papier-mache; scrumbling. Like a Womble, I seize upon discarded packaging, remnants of material, odds and ends of yarn, anything that I can recycle into quirky works of ‘art’. It satisfies and amuses me, giving me great pleasure.
But I was brought up to believe that, to earn a decent living, I must aspire to – not just a ‘proper job’ – but a career in a noble profession. (Been there, done that, narrowly avoided the nervous breakdown.) So my passions have merely been sanity-saving hobbies, designed to de-stress me from my serious occupation.
When I retired from that life and came to this paradise island, I imagined that The Artist and I would soon be selling our work in galleries and welcoming customers to our home studio. With that in mind, we bought a house with potential to fulfill the last part of the dream. But life is rarely straightforward. Over the past eight years we’ve suffered twists and turns, faced potential tragedy and experienced deep joy. We’ve had much to accomplish and our progress has been erratic – two steps forward, one back and a hop and a skip to the side. The time, the place and the circumstances have never quite lined up.
One of the major stumbling blocks has been location. Owning a shop is too big a commitment; galleries charge unreasonably high commission; outdoor sales venues are at the mercy of the British climate (no joke when you’re peddling products made of paper); the Internet is too complicated… There are so many reasons to drop the dream and resign/consign ourselves to a carefree – if somewhat uninspired – ‘third’ age.
The ideal solution, we decided, would be an indoor venue where we could run a stall. Admittedly there are craft fairs and flea markets but – on investigation – none of these worked for us. What we had in mind was something similar to the pannier markets we’d visited, in Tavistock and Great Torrington. As I recall, the former was held in an ancient building – a buzzing, vibrant, creative community. The latter, situated in an historic arcade, was slightly different. Here local artists and craftspeople could either lease a small, enclosed unit as a permanent studio/sales outlet or – along with local growers and producers – hire a table for the day. I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be anything comparable on the Island.
But, deep joy, it would appear that my wishes might soon be granted. The Isle of Wight Pannier Market group (www.iwpanniermarket.org.uk) started running ‘micro-markets’ before Christmas, with more being planned this year. The long-term aim is to secure a centrally situated a purpose-designed trading venue, showcasing local produce and creativity. I’m really excited and can’t wait to be part of it!
Over the years, The Artist has built up a decent collection, whereas I’ve only just discovered my passion. So I have much work to do. Scrumbles don’t crochet themselves – as the vast piles of yarn on my studio table will testify! I’m not short of ideas and inspiration – I just have to translate these into sale-able stock.
Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how I get on.