Recently, one of our Garden Escape customers got in touch with us just to say how much she loved her art studio. Having heard from several customers of garden gyms, annexes and offices, we haven’t spoken to an art studio owner before, so we thought we’d give her a call and find out a little bit more about her garden building and why she is so pleased with it.
As the head of a busy art department in a North London sixth form college, where she worked for 20 years, Jane Wharton enjoyed a thoroughly fulfilling career teaching students across a broad range of artistic media. However, between work and family life, there was little time left over for her to indulge her own creative passion. Upon her retirement, over a decade ago, she wasted no time in unleashing her talents and has been enjoying life as an artist ever since.
Initially, she began painting in a spare bedroom, but soon realised that there was simply not enough space for her materials and equipment. A magazine article started her thinking about the possibility of her very own studio and by 2005 her idea became reality with a Garden Escape tucked away at the end of her garden.
As well as the standard connections to electricity, water and mains drainage, Jane’s bespoke design included a Belfast sink for cleaning all her equipment and a special waste water filtering system to separate out heavy art materials such as clay and printing inks. The high insulation values of the building ensure that Jane can work all year round, whenever the mood takes her, in her cosy haven. In Jane’s own words, “you could live in it really.” Indeed, for several months when their house was undergoing extensive works, Jane, her husband and their three cats did just that.
However, it was with some relief that she was able to boot out the fridge and hotplate; reinstate her easel and portfolio rack and reclaim the space as her own: somewhere to work, to create and basically do whatever she likes. With some classical music playing gently in the background, she can allow herself to become completely absorbed in her art: “anything else going on in the world becomes completely irrelevant.”
If she is working towards an exhibition (she has had three at the Lauderdale House Arts Center in Highgate) she has been known to squirrel herself away for most of the day, several days a week. Whilst her art is very much done for pleasure, the opportunity to exhibit and sell her work allows for her hobby to be self-funding and for her to connect with a thriving local artistic community. Not surprisingly, what with old friends and colleagues and a host of new found fellow artist chums, her social life is very busy too, though she didn’t mention using her studio as a party venue!
As if this weren’t enough to keep her out of trouble in her retirement, Jane still enjoys a little teaching and now runs a life drawing group. The regular meetings take place in the art rooms where she used to teach, but it isn’t unusual for a couple of members (and the model) to join Jane at her studio to continue to work together on pieces. Similarly, she continues to teach young, budding artists undertaking GCSEs and A Levels in the space and her own teenage grandchildren love coming to stay and spending time in there. All in all, it is easy to see why Jane loves her garden haven and it was fantastic to hear how enriching it has been, and continues to be, for her.