Friday, 21 March 2014

The day Heather met Heather

Just some of the material promoting all this art in the Medway
Long, long ago (back in the 1970s) I was a student at Bath Academy of Art. This was a small college with around 300 students which was partially housed in old Nissen Huts in the grounds of a Georgian house called Beechfield House. These huts were a legacy from WWII when the RAF was stationed there.

The ceramic studios were in the old coach house, the sculpture school had it's own hanger-like building in the grounds and the cafeteria won an architectural award. The library was housed in a gracious stately home called Corsham Court and many of us lived in charming 18th century workers cottages where the walls were not vertical and nor were the floors quite horizontal. I recall quite a number of students were based at Newton Park (another big house with sprawling grounds) who we never got to meet.

The time I spent there were certainly three formative years – the design principles I learned then still inform my design decisions today – but I do try to avoid viewing my student days there through rose tinted spectacles. It's very easy to recall the gorgeous peacocks strutting around the grounds at Corsham Court and to forget how hard I found the course work.

Rochester Castle from an alley
But, I do remember meeting a very nice student in the etching studio or maybe it was the print shop. This was Heather Haythornthwaite and she was into etching. So on Monday last, 17 March 2014, we finally met again when I paid a visit to her neck of the woods. She's still into etching in a big way and runs the Hazlenut Press out of her house. We had a blast chatting about old times and looking at her black and white photos of fellow students. I chucked out all of my work from college back in the early 80s which I don't regret except that I also threw out a small sketchbook I had made in bookbinding class and never actually drew in it and I was reminded of it while Heather showed me round her house.

Heather gave me a proper tour of some of the artistic charms of Rochester and Chatham starting at Café Maroc and I was staggered at the range of opportunities there are to practice as an artist in the Medway area. It's ironic that I live in Hackney, the London borough that has the most concentration of artists living and working in London, and I'm finding it difficult to get involved in Open Studios and regular exhibitions. Anyway, whingeing aside, Heather and I are looking forward to possibly doing some work together.


Anonymous said...

Glad your reunion went well. I love Rochester. My sister lives there. I am not so fond of Chatham though, like 2 different world even though there is only a few miles between them.

Heather James said...

That was my first visit to Rochester. My parents met in Chatham when they were serving in the Navy in WWII. They didn't have any romantic memories of the place though. :)