Bertt deBaldock launches Covid-era second volume of Good Rabbits Gone tributes in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice

The artist behind the mask: Terry Brett in his nom d’art guise as The Scribbler, memorial tribute cartoonist Bertt deBaldock

YORK cartoonist Bertt deBaldock’s new volume of rabbit valedictories to celebrities and remarkable individuals covers February 2020 to July 2021.

“That happens to be the period of the start and possible end of the pandemic,” says Terry Brett, the Pyramid Gallery owner and artist behind “The Scribbler” Bertt’s memorial works.

“Hence Good Rabbits Gone 2 has a subtitle, The Covid Years, and the book looks like a strange diary of the pandemic,” he reflects ahead of Saturday’s launch.

The 92 pages contain tributes to luminaries such as Terry Jones of Monty Python, rock’n’roll pioneer Little Richard, World Cup winners Nobby Stiles and Diego Maradona, television and radio personality Tim Brooke-Taylor, forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn and Bond Girls Honor Blackman and Dame Diana Rigg, alongside the most venerable Bond, Sir Sean Connery.

“But also there’s a visual list of several pandemic crises such as ‘lockdown’, ‘beer going down the drain’ and the ‘demise of the office’, all portrayed as rabbits,” says Terry.

Bertt deBaldock’s first Good Rabbits Gone tribute: David Bowie with his Aladdin Sane sash

First prompted by the exit stage left of David Bowie on January 10 2016 – the day the music died in a year when it died again and again and again [Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael on Christmas Day] – Terry set about drawing cartoons “in a rush” at the time of the “unique individual’s” passing and publishing them on Twitter and Facebook at #GoodRabbitsGone.

He then assembled 64 celebrities, accompanied by his own tributes or memories, in Good Rabbits Gone, Volume One In A Million, published in November 2020 in a Covid Lockdown project where he gave away 200 limited-edition copies and raised £1,700 for St Leonard’s Hospice from donations.

This Saturday, Good Rabbits Gone 2, Volume Two To Infinity will be launched at Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, between 11am and 3pm, when Bertt deBaldock will be on hand to sign copies.

Funded by the gallery, the new book again will be given away, and once more voluntary donations to the charity are invited. “From my experience with the first volume, people enjoy being given the book,” says Terry. “Most of those people have then offered a donation, at the gallery or via justgiving.com/fundraising/Terry-Brett6.”

Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett with his second volume of Good Rabbit Gone valedictories

Here, Terry answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on rabbits, death notices, the balance between imagery and wording, the impact of Covid on Good Rabbits Gone and the choice of charity for donations.

For those new to Good Rabbits, why did you choose rabbits as the motif for your valedictory tributes, Terry?

“When my daughters were ten and seven, they had a pet rabbit, which I looked after. We were making a family wall-hanging using stencils. This rabbit appeared as I was cutting a shape in card using scissors. I’ve now been drawing it on Christmas cards for 26 years.

“When David Bowie died, I felt a great sadness. It just seemed natural to me to draw a rabbit for him. Then, three weeks later Terry Wogan. Gradually I started to add facial features to the drawings. After four years, I had 64 drawings and the pandemic lockdown gave me some time to put them in a book.

“It might seem weird to be creating memorials to people by representing them as a rabbit, but I don’t see the need to question it too much. I find the act of drawing helps relieve the sense of loss and my own anxiety about mortality. The process of reading about the individual’s life and trying to capture a tiny segment of their character in a simple drawing is a little bit cathartic. 

“The rabbit body and ears create a limitation in the final drawing, preventing each portrait from being too complicated or serious. All the individuals become united by the addition of rabbit ears!”

Rock’n’roll over and out: Bertt deBaldock’s farewell to Little Richard

Or, in a nutshell…?

“There’s a long-held belief in the Bertt/Brett household that if you have lived a good life, well, let’s say a mostly good life, i.e. if you have been nice or have achieved something for the benefit of others, then when you die you will become a rabbit.”

How do the newly RIP VIPs quality for a Bertt deBaldock tribute? Has that changed at all for Volume Two?

“Well, most names who hit the headlines qualify on the basis that they have done something amazing in their life. I can’t really tell whether or not they have actually been a good human being, though with many people there’s so much written about them, that there’s no closet in which to hide the skeletons. 

“I was disappointed not to be able include Motown producer Phil Spector, ruled out on the basis that he was found guilty of second-degree murder. There are many others that I could have included, lots of actors and actresses, but I like to find some other attribute in their make-up that goes beyond acting.

Honor Blackman: Wartime despatch rider, judo black belt and Bond Girl

“Honor Blackman, for instance, was a Second World War despatch rider and a judo blackbelt before she became an actress. Reading about iconic individuals fascinates me.”

Do you consider the wording to be as important as the imagery, with much greater scope than on a gravestone?

“I want to make the page entertaining or give the impression that the individual was a person of substance. Some people’s faces, or eccentric dress, say most of what needs to be said, but the addition of a quotation can put across something of great importance to that individual.

“For Albert Roux, I merely added his quote ‘Don’t let love interfere with your appetite’, which says all you need to know about a man who holds food up above all other human needs.

“But I enjoyed adding a bit of humour to that with the dates of his birth and death: Hors D’oeuvres 8 Octobre 1935, Digestif 4 Janvier 2021. As well as being amusing, it tells the reader that he was both a chef and French. 

Bertt deBaldock’s food for thought on Albert Roux OBE

“Sometimes, I like to add an anecdote about myself or my family. Some people have said that these are their favourite pages! For the astronaut Michael Collins, I say only a little about him as Apollo Command Module pilot and the moonwalk by Neil Armstrong, but a lot about me delivering newspapers in the rain, while they were at the crux of their mission. It brings things down to earth a little.”

This set of tributes covers the Covid period: how much does that cast a shadow over the memorials,  even prompting the subtitle and your reflection that it “looks like a strange diary of the pandemic”?

“The whole world was in a state of panicked confusion. Some of these great people died of Covid.  I was really shocked that Tim Brooke-Taylor was an early victim. I felt that if he can’t be saved, then we are all very vulnerable.

“The book would have been incomplete without some acknowledgement of the pandemic, and I wanted to record some poignant moments, such as the Thursday night applause we gave to the NHS and essential workers.

“I drew the hands clapping in rainbow colours, with the hands gradually becoming rabbits. This is a subtle dig at the Government. If they think that saying thank-you to NHS is enough, then they don’t understand what the public is feeling about the years of under-funding the NHS.

“Sometimes, I like to add an anecdote about myself or my family. Some people have said that these are their favourite pages!” says Terry Brett, with reference to his Michael Collins memorial

“If all we can do is applaud the NHS for the sacrifices made, then the NHS itself will become a [Bertt] rabbit. Other European nations were better prepared for the crisis than the UK, more ventilators, more nurses and better provision of PPE. It was right to clap for the NHS but they need more funds and better planning. 

“I didn’t set out to make points about the politics, but it just couldn’t be ignored. There was also a lot of humour put out on social media about Covid. I think it helps us all get through.”

How have you responded to Covid in the broader subject matter for (with reference to ‘Lockdown’, ‘Beer Going Down The Drain’, ‘Freedom – Italy’ and ‘The Demise Of The Office’)?

“The Demise Of The Office was added in right at the end. It was difficult to find a tag that would be amusing. It’s just a boring subject that I needed to find some humour in.

“I was looking for something to say about the Minke whale that died after swimming up the Thames, which was too upsetting to turn into humour. Once I decided to put these two stories together, it became very poignant. The empty streets tempted the Minke Whale to move in! It’s one of my favourite pages.

Freedom – Italy, March 2020, by Bertt deBaldock

“To keep it light-hearted, I also gave an office block some rabbit ears, as if the building itself has died. The page about ‘Beer’ was fun, though the knowledge that 50 million pints went down the drains was a catastrophe that could have been avoided.”

Usually, your tributes raise a nostalgic smile, but do Covid-related tributes have to be more serious?

“There are only four people featured here that I know for sure died from Covid – Dr  Li Wenliang, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Alexander Thynn and Captain Tom Moore – but I suspect that many others have had Covid but it’s just not been mentioned to the press as a cause of death. 

“Four Covid cases out of a total 72 people is probably about a third of the proportion of Covid deaths to non-Covid deaths for the whole population, so we should have expected the number in this book to be about 12. 

“I had considered including the first nurse and the first bus driver etc who died, but I don’t feel it would be appropriate to make entertainment out of such tragedy. Which makes me question why it seems appropriate to pay tribute in a humorous manner to celebrities. I do wonder if it is appropriate and whether or not they would choose to be included or not, but I can only guess at what their response might be.

The fundraising Yorkshireman, Captain Sir Tom Moore, who walked and walked and walked towards his 100th birthday in aid of the NHS

“So, in answer to this question, I think the cause of death makes no difference as to the way I would represent the individual, except perhaps in the case of Dr Li Wenliang, whose demise was especially sad, unjust for political reasons, premature and included here to make a point about the gross ineptitude of the authorities and leaders in China, who could have mitigated the effects of the virus by making different decisions.

“In a broader sense, I hope that most of the individuals here, if they could make a comment, would like what I have done or at least find it mildly amusing, though some of the scribbled portraits might not really do the person justice!

“I would love to know what the Queen would think of my tribute to Prince Philip, but I’m not expecting a knighthood for it. We are very fortunate to live in a culture that allows freedom of expression without fear for our lives!”

Why will donations be going to St Leonard’s Hospice from the charity launch night?

“My father died of prostate cancer at the too early age of 76. Partly because he wasn’t diagnosed. I asked him if was angry about the disease and he told me to go and get a test. I felt sorry for him because he was in denial about his predicament.

Bertt deBaldock’s cartoon drawing to mark the passing of Prince Philip. “I would love to know what the Queen would think of my tribute, but I’m not expecting a knighthood for it,” says Bertt

“He simply carried on life as if there was nothing to concern himself about, but when the time came, he booked himself into a hospice and died the next day. I think the existence of the hospice allowed him to take control and make that decision. You cannot just book yourself into a hospital and who would want to?

“The hospice doctor simply chatted to him and asked him what he wanted, to which he answered, ‘ice cream’. He was dead two hours later. I’m proud of him for that. And I want to tell everyone that dying can be dignified and that the hospice movement do this very well.

“I have supported St Leonard’s Hospice ever since that day. The hospice is largely funded by donations from individuals, as well as government grants. I feel the hospice needs to have independence.”

Bertt deBaldock/Terry Brett launches Good Rabbits Gone 2 at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, on Saturday (16/10/2021) with a book-signing session and charity fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice from 11am to 3pm.

Vaccine Day, by Bertt deBaldock

Dreams come true for mudlarking jewellery designer Ruth Claydon at Time and Tide exhibition debut at Pyramid Gallery

York jewellery designer Ruth Claydon mudlarking for treasure on the River Thames in London

MUDLARK Ruth Claydon’s Time and Tide collection of upcycled jewellery from treasure-seeking trips to London are on show at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York.

A mudlark is defined as “someone who fearlessly embraces the hunt for treasure on the banks of the river Thames. Come low tide, you might spot a solitary figure armed with nothing but a pair of tweezers and a small pot, kneeling by the water’s edge as the tide ebbs out”.

York jewellery designer Ruth first chanced on this pastime a few years ago when crossing Waterloo Bridge, from where she espied people milling about on the riverbanks. “As soon as I saw them, I had to check it out, dragging my poor patient friends with me down to a strangely sandy spot,” she recalls.

On discovering that the Thames is Britain’s largest archaeological site, and that all that was needed was a permit, combined with patience and tenacity, Ruth wholeheartedly embraced her desire to trawl for trash turned treasure by time.

Upcycled jewellery designed by Ruth Claydon from her mudlarking finds

“It’s hard to exactly explain the strange lure of the river, but it’s something about the tranquillity I find there,” she says.

“The new layer of history being uncovered by each tide; the joy of holding something lost for 500 years; the unexpected thrill of a rough garnet beneath the rubble; the inevitable poignancy of all that goodness being quickly submerged once again by the incoming tide; the slight sense of danger; the closeness to nature; seeing London from a unique angle, and not least the fascinating characters I encounter down on the foreshore.”

Ruth designs jewellery under the label of Moth and Magpie, the magpie being known for its habit of bringing shiny bits and bobs back to its nest. “She loves incorporating her mudlarking finds into her designs, which she has been doing gradually, but this is the first exhibition where she’s devoted the entire collection to her obsession,” says Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett.

“It’s an obvious progression from her signature use of salvaged and ancient materials used in her previous work, where each piece is made from preloved jewellery merged with ancient treasures and heirloom finds.”

“It’s hard to exactly explain the strange lure of the river, but it’s something about the tranquillity I find there,” says Ruth Claydon, pictured on one of her riverbank mudlarking sessions in London

Ruth says: “Planning a special exhibition incorporating mudlarked treasures for Pyramid Gallery is pretty much a dream come true. There are few established galleries that would take a risk with such niche designs, but then Pyramid does enjoy delighting customers with the unexpected.”

Terry Brett, a visionary gallerist who is unafraid to take risks, has embraced Ruth’s quirky work, championing her by not only giving her this first show and launching her career with a special exhibition, but also by being a mentor.

“I’d never have thought of tea staining my labels to match my jewellery. That was a brainwave of Terry’s,” she says. “It’s that level of attention to detail that makes all the difference.”

Fiona MacFarlane, who manages Pyramid Gallery, equally has played a huge part in nurturing Ruth’s practice. “Not only did I have the privilege of working alongside her for many years, but Fiona’s input has been invaluable,” says Ruth. “She’s always giving me ideas about what to make next and displaying my pieces in the most artful ways.

“It’s newer ground for me that makes my heart beat faster,” says Ruth Claydon of her Time and Tide jewellery-designs, crafted from her mudlarking discoveries

“I’ve called this show Time and Tide, after the two original craftsmen for this body of work, using pieces that in themselves are worth nothing, like fragments of copper, which I’ve formed into beads and soldered with real gold solder. I love the high-low contrast and the patina that the river has created on the ancient metal.”

Expect the unexpected, she advises. Such as? Rough garnets from the Thames set amid 100 per cent recycled sterling silver; distressed metal patinated to perfection by time and tide, then shaped into unique beads; salvaged copper wire crafted into rustic bangles. 

“I’ve been making under the name Moth and Magpie for years. The name is descriptive of the style of jewellery I love to craft, all bohemian and intricate, but this new collection is something differently. A coming of age, if you will,” says Ruth.

“Melted and mended metal, fire and gold and silver, a rustic, simple and edgy aesthetic. It’s newer ground for me that makes my heart beat faster, pieces I’m loathe to part with because I want them for myself. It’s my hope that authenticity and excitement shines through in every piece.” 

Ruth Claydon at work creating her jewellery

Summing up Ruth’s work and artistic progression, Terry says: “I’ve known Ruth since 2008, at which point she was an artist making handmade cards, small pictures, and was experimenting with turning found objects into art and jewellery.

“To me, she was a natural artist with a great sense of humour and style that was a mix of pre-Raphaelite and slightly gothic. All she needed at that time was an outlet and some encouragement. So, she came to work in the gallery and got involved with displaying and selling. I knew that the gallery would gain much if we could harness her natural talent and her quirky and flamboyant style.”

Terry continues: “Every piece of jewellery she makes has a name that reflects the origins of the ‘found’ elements or just her own imagination that is informed by something historical or exotic. The words that she types out onto information cards, using an old typewriter, are almost as important to the customer as the item of jewellery that she is describing.

“The ‘mudlarking’ was a natural progression for Ruth. She is now incorporating artefacts that you simply wouldn’t find at a car-boot sale. Somehow, she makes old corroded bits of metal into precious artefacts and tells or gives them a story.”

Ruth Claydon’s Time and Tide exhibition will run until “at least the end of October”.

Finders, keepers, or not in the case of Ruth Claydon, who makes jewellery pieces “I’m loathe to part with because I want them for myself”, she says, but part with them she must at her Time and Tide exhibition at Pyramid Gallery, York

Berrt DeBaldock launches second volume of Good Rabbits memorials with fundraiser for Refugee Action York at Pyramid Gallery

Author and artist Berrt deBaldock, alias Terry Brett, with his Good Rabbits Gone 2 book at Pyramid Gallery, York

BERRT deBaldock will be raising funds for Refugee Action York from his second volume of cartoon-rabbit tributes to celebrities and remarkable individuals.

Under his nom d’art, the 92-page book is the work of Pyramid gallery owner and curator Terry Brett, who draws the rabbit memorials at the time of the individual’s death, compiling them for his charity project with his tributes or memories of the person.

“Good Rabbits Gone Volume Two To Infinity covers February 2020 and August 2021, which happens to be the period of the start and possible ‘end’ of the pandemic. Hence the book has a subtitle, The Covid Years,” says Terry, who will hold a charity launch at his gallery in Stonegate, York, on Wednesday, October 6 from 6pm to 8.30pm.

“It looks like a strange diary of the pandemic. We have tributes to luminaries such as Terry Jones of Monty Python, rock’n’roll pioneer Little Richard and television and radio personality Tim Brooke-Taylor, Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn and Bond Girls Honor Blackman and Dame Diana Rigg, alongside the most venerable Bond, Sir Sean Connery.

“But also we have a visual list of several pandemic crises such as ‘lockdown’, ‘beer going down the drain’ and the ‘demise of the office’. All portrayed as rabbits.”

Bertt deBaldock will sign copies of Good Rabbits Gone 2 at the launch, where donations are invited to Refugee Action York, with proceeds going towards the charity’s work in helping refugees settle into life in Great Britain.

Refugee Action York (RAY) was founded in 2002 to challenge myths and misconceptions about refugees and asylum seekers and to raise awareness of the contribution that refugees and asylum seekers make to our society.

RAY works with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from within and around the City of York, providing a safe meeting point where people can seek information and support, learn new skills and languages and form lasting friendships. Through providing this support, RAY hopes to empower individuals to assist them in rebuilding their lives.

In addition to the sessions and services offered by the charity, RAY campaigns on behalf of local asylum-seeking families and their relatives who are under threat of detention and/or deportation.

RAY participates in the annual Refugee Week in York as part of a national and international awareness-raising campaign.

Author Berrt says: “I wanted to do a tribute to a friend and fellow musician and artist, Jean Moss, who died in July aged just 73. Philip, her husband, had been actively supporting Refugee Action York and Jean was a supporter of the charity.

“So I’ve decided to split the proceeds between St Leonard’s Hospice and Refugee Action York. The book will be launched at the event for RAY on October 6 and then there will be another event for St. Leonard’s in November.

“I feel good about supporting RAY, always having been one to welcome migrants from other cultures into our community. With so many negative vibes about migrants into the UK – mostly associated with Brexit – I think it’s now vital that we welcome all refugees, demonstrate that we care and help them to integrate.”

The book itself, paid for by Terry’s business Pyramid Gallery, is being given away. Donations are voluntary. 

“From my experience with the first volume, released last November, people enjoy being given the book. Most of those people have then offered a donation, sometimes via the website JustGiving.co.uk.

“The fundraising page for St Leonard’s is listed as Terry-Brett6 and the fundraising page for RAY is Terry-Brett7, so people can choose which they prefer.”

Pyramid Gallery to launch three exhibitions at once by Emur Aamir, Debbie Loane and Linda Combi in triple celebration of nature

Father Of The Flowers, York artist Linda Combi’s memorial tribute to Abu Waad, The Last Gardener Of Aleppo

ERUM Aamir, Debbie Loane and Linda Combi form the suitably triangular structure of Pyramid Gallery’s summer show in York.

Not one, but three exhibitions will run in two rooms at the Stonegate gallery from Friday (9/7/2021) to September 5.

For Celestial Garden, Manchester ceramic artist Erum Aamir has made intricate porcelain sculptures that fuse her scientific research and artistic imaginations.

“Nature is a source of inspiration for me,” says Manchester ceramic artist and scientific researcher Erum Aamir

Erum was awarded first place for excellence at the 2020 British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate by Pyramid proprietor Terry Brett, winning a solo show at Pyramid as the prize.

“I’m a ceramic artist and nature is a source of inspiration for me,” she says. “I enthuse by the details in depth, therefore I explore through the eye of a microscope. Sometimes the compositions found in the microscopic study and my imagination’s interpretation bypasses what is found in nature.

“This blurred line between reality and created reality intrigues my practice. If only for a moment, one might lose oneself in the curiosity of the composition, perhaps creating a personal narrative with the piece.

Pyramid Gallery’s poster for Erum Aamir’s exhibition, Celestial Garden

“This process of creation and exploration forms a shared experience between us. In my work, there’s always a repetition of single or more than one element which mimics the process of growth by repetition. I like this repetitive action – it’s not a thoughtless activity but is meditative.

“Moreover, the repetitive nature of bringing together many components creates a rhythm and facilitates an active trance of intention.”

Seascape and landscape paintings in assorted sizes by Easingwold artist Debbie Loane will complement Erum’s intricate sculptures in Pyramid’s upstairs front room under the title of The Peace Of Wild Places.

Easingwold artist Debbie Loane at work on the North York Moors

“As a painter, I’ve always sought out wild expanses, the vast open moorlands of the North York Moors or dramatic coastlines of the North for artistic inspiration,” says Debbie, who works from a farm home and studio in Alne Lane, just outside the market town of Easingwold.

“Over the past 18 months, when all our freedoms have been restricted, like so many I found myself seeking solace in the wild places I could find on my doorstep: a morning coffee taken on the doorstep in the morning sun watching a spider methodically weaving its web between a plant pot full of neglect and a wellie boot.

“The spider was completely at one with its environment knowing at once in that moment what it was supposed to be doing. How that spider taught me a lesson!”

Pyramid Gallery’s poster for Debbie Loane’s exhibition, The Peace Of Wild Places. Ignore the closing date: it WILL be September 5, not September 3!

During the past lockdown when home-schooling and simply staying afloat financially became Debbie’s priorities, her creative endeavours shifted to focus on wider things. Such as? “Tree planting 1,400 new native trees on our land; sowing seeds; teaching myself new things to do with my hands, like crochet (maddeningly); making paints with natural materials and running for many miles through the landscape, both around my home and on my beloved North York Moors,” she says.

“Consequently, my relationship with nature has deepened, as has my understanding of why I paint and what I’m painting. That spider has taught me to trust my creative instincts, to pause when I need to, to explore when it is calling. Most importantly of all, I have discovered the landscapes and wildness that I need are as much within me as out there.”

In 2005, Debbie established Lund Gallery in converted farm buildings next to her studio. “To give me time to concentrate on my own practice, the gallery no longer has regular opening hours; it opens for pop-up exhibitions and events,” she says. To keep up with her gallery news, sign up to her mailing list via mailchi.mp/648cd8024ee3/debbieloane.

Linda Combi in her York studio

York artist Linda Combi will complete the trio of exhibitions with The Last Gardener Of Aleppo , a series of original collages and mixed-media artworks and giclee prints that form a moving tribute to Abu Waad in a charitable show in aid of The Lemon Tree Trust and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In 2016 Krishnan Guru-Murthy presented a Channel 4 News story about “The Last Gardener of Aleppo” that introduced viewers to Abu Waad, whose name means “The Father of the Flowers”.

“This genial Syrian ran the last garden centre in the besieged city of Aleppo, assisted by his 13-year-old son Ibrahim,” says Linda, who first exhibited these works in a Covid-curtailed run at the Angel On The Green, Bishopthorpe Road. “Abu Waad told us of his love of flowers and plants; about how their fragrance, beauty, and resilience were life affirming and joyful.

Linda Combi’s poster for The Last Gardener Of Aleppo fund-raising exhibition for The Lemon Tree Trust and the UNHCR

“We watched his large hands gently planting seedlings, pruning trees and making bouquets of roses for his customers. Despite the on-going bombardment, the growth and renewal within Abu Waad’s garden made it a ‘small oasis of colour and life’ amid the death and destruction.”

The Channel 4 film portrayed the bond between Ibrahim and Abu Waad as they worked together in the garden centre. “We see the father stretched out on an old settee during a tea break laughing with his son; a picture of relaxed contentment. But one can also detect fear and stress in the eyes of both of them,” says Linda.

The story closed with the death of Abu Waad, killed by a barrel bomb that landed near the garden centre. “His oasis is now closed, and Ibrahim is left without a father, lost and tearful as he visits his father’s grave,” says Linda.

“It is a devastating end, and so it felt important to me to celebrate Abu Waad and Ibrahim and their work in the oasis they created. I’ve illustrated the words of Abu Waad, which so perfectly describe the joy that plants and flowers can bring to us all.

Blue Flower, from Linda Combi’s series of collages, mixed-media artworks and giclee prints

“However, hope returned earlier this year when I was contacted with news that Abu Waad’s son, Ibrahim, had been found and is living with his sister and an uncle in Syria.”

Ibrahim hopes to continue his father’s work as a gardener. “So far we’ve helped him buy a solar energy system,” says Linda. “The Lemon Tree Trust is aiming to help Ibrahim with seeds and equipment for his life as a gardener. My piece, Ibrahim’s Hope was made after receiving this good news.”

A percentage of proceeds from picture and card sales will be divided between the UNHCR [the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency mandated to aid and protect refugees] and the Lemon Tree Trust charity that helps refugees create gardens in migrant camps.

Pyramid Gallery’s opening hours are: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturdays, 10am to 5.30pm; Sundays, 12.30pm to 4.30pm, but please check by texting Terry Brett on 07805 029254 to check a specific Sunday opening.

‘If you know anyone with REALLY big walls,’ Corrina Rothwell’s cacophonous abstract paintings await upstairs at Pyramid Gallery

Subterranea Nostalgia: “Really big walls” will be needed by whoever buys Corrina Rothwell’s large abstract painting at Pyramid Gallery, York

CORRINA Rothwell’s abstract work Subterranea Nostalgia is the largest ever painting to be exhibited at Pyramid Gallery in curator Terry Brett’s near-30 years in York.

“It measures 1600mm by 1600mm. That was fun, getting it upstairs!” says Terry, whose gallery is housed in a National Trust-owned 15th century building in Stonegate. “The painting has a real impact. If you know anyone with REALLY big walls, it would be perfect for them!”

Nottingham artist Corrina favours mixed media and acrylic on canvas for the abstract paintings assembled under the title of The Cacophony Of Ages, both on the first floor and stairs at Pyramid and online until July 1.

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett stands by Corrina Rothwell’s painting Subterranea Nostalgia. In the foreground is Eoghan Bridge‘s sculpture Selby – The Art Of Balance

In her words, Corrina’s works are “expressive, evocative abstract landscape paintings with a sense of yearning, balancing chaos with order, light with dark, the hidden with the visible, history with modernity and beauty with decay”.

“Corrina has been practising art for more than 25 years,” says Terry. “Brought up by artist parents, she worked in digital illustration and design and before that she was a textile artist, selling machine-embroidered artworks.

“That explains the dress patterns that appear in her artwork, juxtaposed with industrial and derelict buildings from her childhood growing up in Lancashire and then Nottingham.

Undertow, by Corrina Rothwell

“These dramatic, bold paintings with handwriting, dress patterns, urban photos and the occasional splash of gold leaf would be perfect for any space.”

Corrina has been an artist for most of her adult life. “An aborted attempt at academia saw me leaving my European Studies degree in my second year at Hull University in 1989, and I never did get round to doing an art qualification,” she says.

“However, I was raised by artist parents, so art was pretty much instilled in me from a very early age. Until recently, I was working as a digital illustrator, designing and publishing my own successful greeting cards range. Before this, I practised for 14 years as a textile artist, exhibiting and selling machine-embroidered artworks nationally and internationally.”

Drama And Doggerel, by Corrina Rothwell

Corrina has always loved using paint. “I’ve dipped and out of it over the years, but never pursued it with any consistency, but I believe now that painting is my true calling,” she says.

“I feel more at home and more myself creatively than I have done for a long time. Ultimately, I’m a ‘hands on’ kind of artist, and while I enjoyed digital illustration, the desire to get my hands dirty was too great to ignore in the end.”

Over the past few years, her work has evolved rapidly as she figured out what she wanted to say as a painter. “Initially I was essentially painting illustrations, which didn’t work,” she says. “I moved away from figurative work and began focusing on abstract shape and colour, which felt quite uncomfortable and alien to me, having always worked with a narrative.

“I’m particularly drawn to old factories and urban industrial landscapes,” says abstract artist Corrina Rothwell

“Still, I continued to trust my intuition and gradually became more at ease with producing artwork without a story. Ultimately, however, that lack of narrative has proved itself to be something – subconsciously – I couldn’t ignore.”

So much so, without intent, buildings have started to appear in Corrina’s work. “I say without intent because I didn’t plan to use them. I just answered an urge to put them there,” she explains.

“I’m particularly drawn to old factories and urban industrial landscapes and, given that I grew up in the cotton-mill county of Lancashire, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where this attraction comes from.

Blueprint For The Future, by Corrina Rothwell

“I’m becoming more involved in this concept of history and narrative, which has emerged out of my subconscious and into my artwork, and it’s leading to paintings which I feel good about in my soul, which satisfy me on a deep level. It’s a rich seam to mine, and the exciting thing is that I’ve only just begun!”

Don’t forget, Corrina’s “contemporary, nostalgic and thought provoking” paintings in The Cacophony Of Ages can be viewed online too at pyramidgallery.com .

“This exciting collection flows beautifully both online and at the gallery,” says Terry. “It’s such a formidable show.” 

Pyramid Gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturdays, 10am to 5.30pm; Sundays, 12.30m to 4.30pm, but first text Tery Brett on 07805 029 254 to check a specific Sunday opening.

Built On Soil And Stories, by Corrina Rothwell

Christmas Collection and “Free Stuff” at Pyramid Gallery keep Terry Brett busy

Paintings by Anita Klein and ceramic vessels by Barry Stedman in the Christmas Collection at Pyramid Gallery

THE Christmas Collection exhibition is under way at Pyramid Gallery, York, initially online but with plans for the gallery to reopen on December 3, subject to this week’s upcoming tier-ful Government guidance.

The main feature of the festive show is a collection of linocut prints and acrylic paintings by Australian-born Anita Klein, complemented by ceramic sculpture by Blandine Anderson, glass by David Reekie, Cara Wassenberg and Layne Rowe, bronze elephants by German sculptor Eckhard Wahning and a Lockdown Dragon fest by Morag Reekie.

Look out too for collagraphs by York artist Sally Clarke, screenprints by Mychael Barratt, abstract collages by Danny Barbour, a ceramic elephant parade by Ann-Marie Fieber and ceramic vessels by Barry Stedman, plus new jewellery by 50 British designer makers.

The Christmas Collection show will continue until January 20 and everything will be available online at http://www.pyramidgallery.com

A second show, The Glass Collection, will be opening on December 7, presenting work by Dreya Bennett; Fiaz Elson; Hannah Gibson; Jon Lewis; Yoshiko Okada; David Reekie; Morag Reekie; Layne Rowe; Will Shakspeare; Helen Slater; Cara Wassenberg and Darren Weed.

Again running until January 20, it also will feature art glass for sale in the permanent Pyramid Collection by Colin Reid, Bruno Romanelli, Peter Layton, Anthony Scala, Bruce Marks and Joseph Harrington.

During Lockdown 2, Terry has placed a table outside the shop with copies of his cartoon memorials book, Good Rabbits Gone, on display to raise money for St Leonard’s Hospice with a target of £3,000 from donations to justgiving.com/fundraising/terry-brett5 or in the cans on the table.

Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett with a selection of “Free Stuff” on the table outside his shop in Stonegate, York, during Lockdown 2

In addition, he is giving away “Free Stuff”. “Some people are intrigued as to why I’m doing this,” says Terry. “I decided I needed a ‘Feel Good’ project and a way to interact with people during Lockdown.

“Sitting in a shop all day that is closed is not very stimulating, but this has been a very positive and uplifting experience for me. It has cost me nothing as everything I’m giving away has been paid for a long time ago – some items over 20 years ago – and it’s felt very cleansing. The stock-room shelves are looking tidier!

“There are over 60 magnetic bracelets that have been sitting in boxes on shelves ever since we decided not to sell them anymore about six years ago. These are leather bracelets made by Antonio Chimol in Barcelona. Nicely made. I sold hundreds of them in 2008 to 2014 and they served the business well at a time when it had been affected by the financial crash.

“I still wear these bracelets…but they were a nuisance. Some customers would spend up to an hour with bracelets all over the counter, trying to choose one. Sometimes they would be purchased as a gift and then returned for a different size. So, we simply put them away in the stock room.”

Terry has a further £2,000 to raise yet. “Please come and say hello if you are in York, pick up a book and put a few coins in the cans. The table will be outside the gallery from about 11am every day, except Sunday, until December2.”

Should Pyramid Gallery reopen on December 3, the shop will accommodate two groups at a time, with a maximum of six people.

The book cover for Good Rabbits Gone, Terry Brett’s compendium of cartoon farewells, “scribbled” under the name of Bertt deBaldock and now published to raise funds for St Leonard’s Hospice, York

“We will have an extended-hours booking system on the front page of our website at pyramidgallery.com. Private viewings for one or two groups of two may be booked early on each day.” says Terry.

“Or, after normal hours between 10am and 5pm, customers will be able to enter the shop with a maximum of two groups or a total of six people in at any one time. You will be able to book a half-hour slot, so that you can browse at leisure in the gallery.”

In the meantime, Terry is offering a Click and Collect service, “Or you can just collect if you don’t like to click,” he says. “For this, please phone on 01904 641187 or 07805 029254, to let me know what you are interested in, and I will gather items together to show you at the door. We can manage a selection and purchase without you needing to actually come in!”

Reflecting on a running a gallery in a year in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic, Terry says: “Pyramid reopened to the public at the end of June. During June, the website worked well for us and July and August were reasonably good with sales over the counter, but about 20 per cent below normal.

“I took half the staff out of furlough in September and October and this meant that we really needed to be back to normal sales level. We achieved that in October and sales have continued to meet normal targets since.

“Even with the new lockdown, the gallery closed and all staff back in furlough, I seem to be getting enough online sales to keep afloat.”

However, Terry paints a grim portrait of the impact of Covid lockdowns. “I think that York will see a lot of businesses close due to this current lockdown. Nevertheless, because I’m able to work the business completely on my own, I can reduce overheads to a minimum and still survive. The only real problem is that I’m working 12 hours a day!

“I look forward to having my staff back on December 3, but if lockdown measures were to be extended beyond December 2, then I’m not sure if any city-centre shops could survive. We normally have sales in the three weeks up to Christmas that are equivalent to June, July and August sales combined.”

Thankfully, the Government is on the brink of announcing when “”non-essential” shops can re-open.

NEWSFLASH

Pyramid Gallery WILL reopen on December 3 at 10am.

How saying farewell to David Bowie in rabbit form set scribbler Terry Brett on his way to penning cartoon book for hospice UPDATED 24/11/2020

Bertt deBaldock’s first #GoodRabbitGone: David Bowie

PYRAMID Gallery owner Terry Brett has set a target of £3,000 to raise for St Leonard’s Hospice, in York, with his book of self-penned cartoons of celebrity memorials, portrayed as rabbits.

While his shop in Stonegate, York, has been closed for the second lockdown, Terry has placed his books and a collecting tin on a table outside. “To help things along, I’ve been putting framed pictures and small craft gifts on there that can be taken away for free or a small donation,” he says.

“So far, after three weeks of collecting, including donations via Just Giving, I’ve raised more than £700 for the hospice.”

It all began with the exit stage left of David Bowie on January 10 2016, the day the music died in a year when it died again and again and again. Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael on Christmas Day.

Bertt appropriates a prop comedic effect from Acorn Antiques for his goodbye to Victoria Wood

“I had to do something when I heard about Bowie’s death. So I drew him as a rabbit. Bertt x,” explains the introduction to Good Rabbits Gone, a cartoon compendium of death notices for “inspiring individuals, all of them ‘one in a million’, who passed into their own preferred alternative dimension during the years between 2016 and January 2020.”

Bertt deBaldock is the nom de scribble of Terry Brett, colour-blind artist, ukulele player, long-ago chartered surveyor and now long-running proprietor of Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, York, whose book is available in a limited-edition print run of 300 copies.

Why rabbits, you may be asking. “I grew up surrounded by fields that were full of hares and rabbits,” says Terry. “The hares are very proud and confident creatures, but rabbits are extremely vulnerable. They are more successful than hares, because they are constantly on the look-out for trouble. Nice that the meekest creature on the planet is also one of the most prolific and content.

Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett, aka cartoon scribbler Bertt deBaldock, with a stand of his Good Rabbits Gone books outside his shop in Stonegate, York

“The cartoon image was inspired by my two daughters’ pet rabbit that I looked after. I’ve been drawing a cartoon of that rabbit in a comic-style Christmas card for 25 years. When Bowie died in 2016, I drew the rabbit with a lightning flash [from the Aladdin Sane album cover], just as a way of acknowledging the man. Then I put it on Twitter and it started an obsession!”

That very first #GoodRabbitGone read: “Ground control to Major Tom, There’s something wrong! 10 January 2016, age 69. The man who sold the world”. “Bowie was such a vulnerable young man trying to find his way as a performance artist who fortuitously discovered he could write brilliant songs and re-invent pop music to express himself,” says Terry.

“I think he struggled with the stardom and hid behind invented personas. But in the end, he became himself again – and really quite nice. We all do this. Even Donald Trump might! (Though he probably hasn’t got enough decades left to do so).

In each cartoon valedictory, “drawn in a rush at the time of passing” for publishing on Twitter and Facebook, the wording and imagery feed off each other: affirmation of how we recollect both visually and verbally.

Firestarter extinguished: Bertt’s farewell to The Prodigy’s Keith Flint

““His invented personas were an important part of his act; that’s why it felt good to draw an image of Bowie on the day he died. On later Good Rabbits, I started to try and capture the subject’s face and character,” says Terry.

“I find great satisfaction in the process of reading up about the individual and then trying to capture the character. The words chosen to go with the cartoon become important later, to add humour or some sort of gravitas.

“I’m trying to express some sort of reason as to why that individual gained notoriety. It’s not always easy, but in the process of finding importance I become quite attached to the character. If I cannot find something that feels important, I wait until an image comes that amuses me.”

2016 turned into the annus horribilis of impactful deaths: Sir George Martin; Sir Terry Wogan; Ronnie Corbett; Victoria Wood; Muhammad Ali, the knock-outs kept coming. Was it a pure coincidence that Terry started the series that year?

And finally: Bertt responds to the news of the passing of newsreader Richard Baker

“It was because Bowie’s death moved me,” he says. “I also learnt to play and sing The Man Who Sold The World on my ukulele on the same day, which I played at our band rehearsal that evening.

“This was the year that I turned 60. I was quite shocked that someone who had been such an important part of my culture had died in his sixties. When you are 50-something, old age seems decades away. At 60, you suddenly wonder ‘where did the previous decade go?’”

Bertt’s 2016 list took in R.I.P. America, 8 November 2016, The Day They Elected To Trump. “I have a general rule, not to do politicians or make political comment. I am apolitical, as is this rabbit,” he wrote. “However, I felt so sad to witness this day. It felt like morality and fairness had been washed away.”

Terry says: “I’m naturally inclined to think of myself as left of centre and last year I joined the Green Party for the first time, just to encourage them. I’ve been an environmental campaigner since the 1980s, when I was on the Greenpeace payroll as a fundraising coordinator.

“I felt very sad to see Trump elected as president, so I drew the flag as a rabbit, with all the stars sliding off,” says Terry, recalling his reaction on November 8 2016

“Having said that, I was born into a very right-wing society and have respect for the views of many people I know who have right-wing views. To me, party politics are a distraction from the main issues such as respect, kindness, fairness and love for one another.”

Trump’s election resulted from left and right arguing between themselves about ideology, suggests Terry. “They should be more focused on core values and they would find that they want the same thing, which is the respect of others,” he argues.

“Trump’s objectionable behaviour and the pedalling of false opinions stirred up a crazed following that has been very detrimental to society in the USA and here in the UK. I felt very sad to see Trump elected as president, so I drew the flag as a rabbit, with all the stars sliding off.”

Terry used to keep a list of deaths through the year, writing them down in a notebook by the side of his bed while listening to Today on BBC Radio 4. “But the internet has made me a bit lazy; it’s so easy to look them up now!” he says.

Terry Brett holds a copy of Bertt deBaldock’s cartoon book, compiled in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice

Good Rabbits Gone Volume One In A Million takes in, for example, Sir Roger Moore (Shaken: 14 October 1927; Not Stirred: 23 May 2017), Sir Ken Dodd (Tickled to death 11 March 2018) The Prodigy’s Keith “Firestarter” Flint (Sparked: 17 September 1969; Snuffed: 4 March 2019). Note the witty yet poignant wording each time.

“When I draw the cartoon, I scribble a few words that come to mind. Later, I started to put them in the book and erased the original words,” says Terry. “I started to think of synonyms for ‘birth’ and ‘death’ that were appropriate to the individual – maybe a line from a song lyric or song title.

“In the case of barcode inventor Norman Joseph Woodland – my favourite of all in a late addition to the book – I wrote ‘Barcoded Sep 6 1921’ and ‘Beeped December 9 2012’. I like to imagine him reading it and laughing.”

What qualities make someone qualify at Bertt’s pearly gates for a memorial testimonial? Cultural icons? Influences on Terry’s life? His book shelves? “I need to feel a response and I need to feel stirred to make the effort to draw something,” he says. “I miss quite a lot of people and later feel I should have included them.

Terry Brett’s favourite: Bertt’s check-out to barcode inventor Norman Joseph Woodland

“So, the first quality is probably their notoriety, then I start to look at what they actually did. Some of these people I knew nothing about until they died. And there are two, Bryan ‘Yogi B’ Smith, my yoga teacher, and Don Walls, a wonderful poet, who were important to me in York but not at all famous.” 

Volume 2 is taking shape through 2020. “A few of my favourites are Vera Lynn, with a Spitfire and Hurricane flying over the white cliffs of Dover; Tim Brooke-Taylor; Terry Jones, as a naked rabbit playing the piano with the phrase ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’; Nobby Stiles, holding the World Cup in one hand and his false teeth in the other,” says Terry.

“There’s Toots Hibbert, the first musician to use the word ‘Reggay’ (sic); guitarist Julian Bream (Picked 15 July 1933; Plucked 14 August 2020); Peter Green, of Fleetwood Mac; actress Olivia de Havilland (Gone with the Wind)…

“…Supreme Court Judge and women’s rights campaigner Ruth Bader Ginsburg; Honor Blackman; Julie Felix; composer Ennio Morricone, entangled in spaghetti; the astronomer Heather Couper, and Beatles photographer Astrid Kirchherr.”

Gone Western: RIP composer Ennio Morricone, as recorded by Bertt

Terry finished the book in Lockdown 1 but the pandemic has prevented him from holding a proper launch at Pyramid Gallery. Instead, copies are available by emailing pyramidgallery.com or ringing 01904 641187, as well as from the table outside Pyramid Gallery. A suggested donation of £10 should be made to St Leonard’s Hospice at justgiving.com/fundraising/terry-brett5.

“It’s going well and it’s wonderful to be able to chat to people about it,” says Terry. “So, thank you for donating to a wonderful hospice that could not exist without public support.”

Terry’s father, Maurice Brett, founder of Stevenage Flying Club, died of prostate cancer in 2002. “He checked himself into a hospice only 24 hours before he died. I don’t think he could come to terms with it until he went to the hospice,” he says.

Olivia de Havilland has gone, as depicted by Bertt

“He was working on a magazine article about a vintage aeroplane three days prior to that. Going to the hospice gave him control and was a way of making the decision to let himself die. Hospices give the terminally ill dignity. They are run independently from the NHS and rely on fundraising. I hope they are still around when my time comes!”

Contemplating what gravestone humour may lie n store for Terry himself, he says: “Mine could say…something like ‘Borrowed a pencil: 19 April 1956; Burrowed with a pencil: ….,’ but I’ve always been a really bad time-keeper, so I think it should be ‘Late Again’.”

Covid-19 2020 has been a year of vulnerability, fretful uncertainty of both present and future and an increased awareness of death, making Good Rabbits Gone all the more pertinent.

“We’re all having to come to terms with our mortality,” says Terry. “Mine was the first generation in human history to be able to expect to live to over 60. Maybe that was a short-lived expectation. I hope not though!” 

The front cover of Good Rabbits Gone, Volume One In A Million, as “scribbled” by Terry Brett’s artist alter ego Bertt deBaldock

Should you be wondering No 1.

Why use the name Bertt deBaldock?

“A particular friend in my youth always called me ‘Bertt’ and I was born in Baldock, well, a mile away in a tiny hamlet called Bygrave, in north Hertfordshire,” explains Terry.

“I use the French preposition ‘de’ in the same way that it is used in the name ‘DeBrett’s’, which is basically a list of the most influential people, many of whom are deceased or about to be.”

Valedictory to Vera: Bertt’s last note for Vera Lynn

Should you be wondering No. 2

How does colour-blindness affect you in your artistic work, Terry?

“I’m red/green colour-blind…a bit of a handicap for anyone involved in the arts.  I prefer to call it ‘colour confusion’,” he says.

“I can actually see all colours, but sometimes one confuses another. I can tell green from brown, but sometimes get them mixed up.”

Ceramicist Barry Stedman’s terracotta vessels go on show at Pyramid Gallery

One of Barry Stedman’s terracotta vessels from his new collection at Pyramid Gallery, York

CERAMICIST Barry Stedman is completing a hat trick of exhibitions at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York.

On show are 12 distinctive constructed terracotta vessels, complemented by a few from the gallery’s own collection.

“All are available for purchase from our website, pyramidgallery.com, but we would not want to distract anyone from coming to the gallery to see them on display,” says owner Terry Brett. “The gallery is open with restrictions to one or two groups at a time.”

Ceramicist Barry Stedman: Explores contrasts of light and shade, hard and soft, warm and cool, rough and smooth

Stedman’s studio in his Buckinghamshire home is “the place where clay, colour and ideas come together”. “My intention is to use the vessel forms that I make, loosely thrown and altered on the wheel or constructed from slabs, as vehicles to explore contrasts of light and shade, hard and soft, warm and cool, rough and smooth,” he says.

“I’m interested in the way edges meet and overlap and the rhythms, tensions and harmonies created between colours, spaces, lines and textures in form and surface.”

Stedman tends to work in series influenced by natural phenomena, places and emotions, developing ideas from drawing, painting and previous firings. “I like the warmth and brightness of earthenware, using slip, oxides and underglazes over a red clay body,” he says.

“The surfaces are created in layers, firing in between, using thin washes, wiping back and building up rich zones of colour. I then glaze chosen areas to add further depth, tone and texture.”

One of a dozen: Another vessel from Barry Stedman’s latest Pyramid Gallery collection

Stedman came to ceramics later in life after a career in retail. “I’ve always been interested in drawing and mark making and when I discovered ceramics at evening class, I was seduced by the possibilities of clay as a way of expressing abstract ideas of colour and form,” he says.

“I completed an HND in 3D design at Barnfield College, Luton, and was lucky enough to be accepted on the ceramics degree course at the University of Westminster in Harrow.  It’s here that I was encouraged to really explore and develop my ideas.

“I now have work in various galleries in the UK and abroad and have taken part in many ceramic shows and exhibitions, and I’ve done some teaching and technician work too.”

Barry Stedman: Ceramic Vessels will run until the end of October and is open from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday.

What happened when Jo Walton got a rust stain on her jeans and it wouldn’t wash out?

Gold Glimmer, by Jo Walton

AFTER 26 years under Terry Brett’s stewardship, Pyramid Gallery is showing signs of Rust…but in a good way.

On the first floor of the Stonegate premises in York, he is exhibiting rust prints and paintings by Rogues Atelier artist, upholsterer and interior designer Jo Walton until the end of September.

In these Covid-compromised times, the works can be viewed Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm, with access restricted to a maximum single group up to six people or two separate groups of one or two at any one time. Alternatively, take a look online at pyramidgallery.com.

Jo’s works are abstract, inspired by horizons, whether rust prints on paper and plaster, combining rusted metal with painting, or seascapes on gold-metal leaf.

“Jo uses rust and rusted metal sheets in innovative ways to create art works,” says Terry. “Iron filings are used as ‘paint’ and as they rust, reactions occur, every painting being unique and unrepeatable.

“Jo also uses oils to paint sea and landscapes onto gold and silver lead, resulting in deep, rich and unique paintings.”

Art Rust Disk, by Jo Walton

Her artwork reflects both her childhood in Australia and her days, as a young woman, spent sailing oceans, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean.

After many years of travelling, Jo returned to England, studying fine art at Bradford University and now exhibiting all year round – until the Covid lockdown – from her York studios, Rogues Atelier, an old tannery in Franklins Yard, Fossgate, that she shares with jeweller and fellow York Open Studios exhibitor Emma Welsh and international textile artist Robert Burton.

In her “other life”, Jo is an upholsterer, initially learning her skills from making cushions and sail covers for yachts when living in Greece. She gained her City and Guilds qualification in modern and traditional upholstery and has taught the subject for many years for City of York Council.

“Occasionally, my skills have the opportunity to blend into a ‘huge blank canvas’: interior design,” says Jo, who founded and designed the Space 109 community arts centre in Walmgate, York, in 2006, along with creating and teaching many of the art and community projects there.

She later converted three empty shops on Bishopthorpe Road into Angel on The Green, a bar and café and home to comedy nights and exhibitions that had to “flow with a solid theme throughout”. “It was quite a step to move on to a bar from a community project,” she says.

“The rust is forever changing, as are the solutions of chemicals on its surface,” says artist Jo Walton. “No two prints are ever the same. It feels like alchemy.”

In between, Jo created the Rogues Atelier studios, where she takes on upholstery commissions and runs upholstery and cushion-making workshops. In Leeds, she has designed the interior of Rafi’s Spice and the Bluebird Bakery, both in Kirkgate Market.

Defining her artwork, Jo says: “My paintings are an attempt to capture memories, an intrinsic feeling, a distant dream. As a child I travelled to and from Australia by sea. Since then, in my adult years, I’ve spent many days, nights, years, sailing around the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, in the Gulf of Aqaba, the Red Sea, the Irish Channel and Bay of Biscay. Each day and night providing a wonderful visual feast of clouds, sea, sun-setting and moon-rising.

“I used to deliver yachts worldwide with a minimal crew. Then, the birth of my daughter Blythe served as a beautiful anchor, which landed me in England.

“These images are ingrained in my mind and surface through my art, always seeking the horizon and the contrast from the sun or moon. I work on gold or silver metal leaf to illustrate the ever-present light when on the sea.”

Jo has always been fascinated by rust, the colours from burnt orange to umber, its weathered, changing surface and slow development. “The colours resonate with my childhood; memories of Australia with its red earth, running around farms with metal shacks, rusted corrugated roofs, broken machinery,” she says.

“I’ve collected pieces over the years – not knowing what to do with them but unwilling to let these beautiful ‘lumps of junk’ go.”

Rust print, by Jo Walton

Eventually, Jo discovered the method of persuading the surface rust to leave its metal and imprint onto paper and fabric. “This has now rendered my objects useful, as well as beautiful. The process is slow and always experimental with only a relatively small amount of control over the end result, which can never be repeated exactly.

“The rust is forever changing, as are the solutions of chemicals on its surface. No two prints are ever the same,” she says. “It feels like alchemy.”

Jo finally found the confidence to produce work by carefully rusting the metal and presenting it as the art in its own right. “It was the initial impact of the rusted object that always mesmerised me,” she says.

“The method to preserve and prevent further rusting of the metal plate has been researched, tried and tested by myself over the past five years to the point where I’m in no doubt of its durability.”

Here Charles Hutchinson puts a series of questions to Jo Walton on the subjects of alchemy, rust, painting, sailing, horizons, studios and teaching.

Oil On Steel, by Jo Walton

Is your work a meeting of science (chemistry) and art: the very essence of alchemy?

“It does feel like alchemy to me but I can’t say I’ve studied the science, apart from how to preserve the results.”

It is always said an artist never knows when a work is finished, but eventually has to let go? How do you reach that moment and is it more difficult because of the unpredictable behaviour of the materials you use?

“With the rust pieces, it’s always small adjustments and then waiting to see the results the rusted metal will give. It’s done when it resonates a certain chord for me – same with the paintings. It can be a long process.”

How did you discover your rust-removing technique: was it serendipitous – like the invention of glass – or was it experimental, with a method being applied?

“I got a rust stain on my jeans and it wouldn’t wash out. As a trained printmaker, I thought I can do something with that! So, I started playing with my rust collection…there was a lot of trial and error before I got some really satisfying results.”

Flame Forest, by Jo Walton

At sea, when sailing, you have the horizon in perma-view, but you are always in motion with the movement of the sea below. In your artwork, do you seek to freeze a moment and then for the viewer to release it again?

“I guess so, although you can be in the middle of the Atlantic and sometimes it’s as flat as a pond! It’s like sailing on a mirror. 

“I seek to preserve a notion, a dream-like memory of those experiences. I love watching people view my art:  some glance and walk straight past and others stare for a long time. Some of those people have sailed oceans too and bought my work. That means so much to me.” 

Why is light so important to you in your work?

“I use gold metal leaf to catch and reflect the light in the way that water does. It’s symbolic of the light on the sea.”

How do you achieve that burnished quality in your works?

“Paint and remove, paint again… many thin layers.”

“I love watching people view my art:  some glance and walk straight past and others stare for a long time,” says Jo Walton.

Is it more challenging to work to a limited range of colours or do the works gain more from bringing out everything from that palette?

“My paintings have been compared to etchings, which are fairly limited in colour, but I guess it’s just what I do with that subject matter. With portraits or other subjects, the palette will be totally different.”

You had to forego your sixth successive York Open Studios in April, amid the lockdown. What’s next for you?  More exhibitions? Any commissions?

“Covid has wiped out any plans that were in place for most artists and makers. Hopefully next year will be better. I’m very fortunate to be exhibiting with Terry at Pyramid. As far as commissions go – they are carefully considered!”

How does your interior design work, such as for the Angel on The Green on Bishopthorpe Road, differ as an artistic challenge from your artworks?

“Strangely, not much different artistically. I was still seeking to balance the overall image but on a huge canvas, with more ingredients, a lot more planning and paperwork. The big difference was working with a team of great people, which was a lot of fun.”

Rogues Atelier: Jo Walton’s workplace in Franklins Yard, York

What has the Rogues Atelier studio brought to your artistic life?

“The possibility to work big, make a huge mess and to participate in events like York Open Studios and the other fairs we do as a group of artists. Rogues Atelier is so central in York that we have a lot of visitors and interest in what we do.”  

Do you still sail? If not, do you miss it?

“I stopped sailing when I ended up back in England. I do miss it and often wonder how I’ve ended up so far away from the sea.”

How is the teaching going?

“I don’t teach art anymore as I found that the energy I give to it takes away from the energy I need for my own ideas. I do still love teaching though and hold regular courses in upholstery.”

What is the first piece of advice you give in your upholstery classes?

“Good question. First piece is how to avoid injuring yourself! Second is to not to attempt a winged-back armchair as your first piece…” 

Jo Walton is exhibiting Paintings and Rust Prints at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, until September 30.

Raw Umber on Gold Leaf, by Jo Walton

York Printmakers make their mark in online summer exhibition run by Pyramid Gallery

Jane Duke: One of more than 20 York Printmakers members on show online

YORK Printmakers are taking part in an online exhibition put together by Terry Brett for Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York.

More than 20 members of the association have submitted work for a show that will run until September 6, with more works being added daily.

On show at pyramidgallery.com are works by Carrie Lyall; Jane Dignum; Emily Harvey; Judith Pollock; Charlotte Willoughby-Paul; Lucie Ware; Michelle Hughes; Bridget Hunt; Chrissie Dell; Jane Duke; Sally Clarke and Jo Ruth.

See, linocut print, by Lucie Ware

Exhibiting too are Marc Godfrey-Murphy; Lyn Bailey; Lesley Shaw; Russell Hughes; Gill Douglas; Shaun Wyatt; Janice Simpson; Adi French; Greg Winrow; Sally Parkin and Patricia Ruddle.

“As a response to the Covid-19 social-distancing measures, Pyramid Gallery is open only to one person or group at a time,” says Terry, the gallery’s owner and curator.

“So, here is the show, for you, from the comfort of your sofa and laptop, or mobile device. Oh, how things have changed, and so much technology has been developed and embraced!”

Carrie Lyall at work in her studio

Putting his salesman’s hat on, Terry says: “Here’s the thing…if you enjoy looking at pictures on a screen, do you need them on your wall? Of course you do!

“On the screen, you can only properly see one at a time. There’s no creative effort on your part, so you cannot feel part of the creative process that is art. When you position pictures on the wall, however, you’re engaging with the space – your space – and the artwork.

“You’re creating a new artwork from those two elements. You are the artist, just as much as the creator of the artwork you have purchased and the designer of the building. You are not merely a purchaser of someone else’s work, but are a fundamental part of the creative community that creates art.

Beach Huts, Mudeford, linocut print, by Marc Godrey-Murphy

“Artists need you. You give affirmation of their artistic endeavour. You inspire them to create more art. You enable them to be artists. The art is not complete until it has been chosen and arranged in its space.”

For this show, the gallery commission is reduced. “That means the artists can either sell at a lower price or receive a bigger payment for work sold,” says Terry. “The artists will deliver or send the items as they are sold.

“Pyramid Gallery will promote the artists via our newsletter, website and social media all through the rest of summer.”

Wind Whispers, collagraph print, by Sally Clarke

Terry adds: “Although we will not be displaying the work in the gallery, we would love to know how you display the work when you place it in your house. Please send us pictures and we’ll put those online as well.”

Founded in 2015, York Printmakers are a diverse group of printmakers with a passion for print and a shared love of meeting each month at The Knavesmire pub, in Albemarle Road. 

Members use a variety of printmaking techniques, such as lino and wood cuts, collagraphs, screen printing and etching, to produce original limited-edition prints, covering a wide range of subject matter, with styles varying from illustrative to abstract.

In a closing message to art lovers, Terry, the Pyramid Gallery team and “all the wonderful artists in York” say: “We are all in this Corona thing together. Hopefully, art and creativity can help us all through.”

York FC Crowd, linoprint, by Shaun Wyatt