Personal projects are precious things. I've wanted to start a project of my own for over two years now but life is busy and running your own business is even busier. I've been striving so hard to build my portfolio and work on as many varied projects as possible; I haven't had the time to produce art for the sole reason I started in the first place: because I love it.
Women Who Own It is an ongoing project exploring how personal possessions tell the story of the pioneering women who owned them.
I decided that 2016 would be the year I put aside the excuses and began a self initiated project, no matter how busy I was, and no matter how scary the prospect. Personal projects are precious because they can breathe new life into a creative practice; just as I was beginning to feel smothered by strict briefs and deadlines. I hoped to explore a theme I was truly passionate about and create work not restricted by page layouts and client identities, and this is the outcome.
I've felt close to Beatrix Potter from an early age. Not only did she undertake a similar profession to mine but she was also a passionate watercolourist with an undying love for painting and recording the wildlife of the English countryside; I sometimes feel as if we would've been friends. But beyond her worldwide celebrity status as an author and illustrator, her personal life has always intrigued me. She was strong-willed and independent - putting her work before finding the husband society expected of her. She was determined to pursue her vision, both in her work and in her personal life - buying Hilltop Farm despite being advised against it and keeping book production costs low with the aim of them being more accessible to children.
Beatrix’s relationship with the natural world was consistent, running throughout her lifetime like a clear water stream. I imagine her as a strong, confident woman without vanity, rambling over the peaks of Cumbria to observe the natural landscape and searching for fungi to take home to study. She was very interested in mycology, and studied fungi from a scientific perspective as well as an artistic one. Her fascination with the mushroom world resulted in paintings that are praised for their scientific accuracy and consulted by mycologists in identifying mushroom species, even to this day. Her focused pursuit towards a better understanding of her subject matter and also the world around her, is a trait I greatly admire and hope to emulate.
She wrote about nature at a time when it had little value in society - when the destruction of land and wildlife was more popular than the preservation. Beatrix left over 4000 acres of land to the National Trust upon her death. It takes patience but also courage to block out the distracting opinions and actions of those around you; she had the strength to focus on her own path and because of this her uninfluenced way of life made her both happy and prosperous.
Beatrix Potter was an author, illustrator, conservationist and natural scientist. She was also a land-owner who collected unusual chinaware, bred prize-winning sheep and studied the cross-sections of mushrooms under her microscope. She was, and continues to be, a huge inspiration to many.
Objects in the Beatrix Collection:
|Bird skull, ink bottle, pen nib, dolls house bird cage, dissected mushroom.|
|Dolls house food from The Tale of Two Bad Mice.|
|Key to Hilltop Farm.|
|Staffordshire porcelain sheep figurine with hollow tree trunk, owned by Beatrix.|
|China cup owned by Beatrix.|
These original paintings are for sale in my online shop, as well as a very special run of Beatrix Collection prints. There will only ever be 20 of these so if you'd like one, order sharpish!
I also made a video to explore some of the themes behind the artwork. Watch it below and do let me know what you think.
I am open to suggestions of women who you think "own it" to study for the next instalment of this project. Please do leave requests and suggestions in the comments. Thank you!