Anyone who is familiar with the picturesque Wiltshire town of Bradford On Avon and who was a local artist in the 80's will recall the Brewery in Wine Street. My late half-sister Barbara, an accomplished Trompe 'oeil painter, rented a studio there for £1 a week and went on to create fabulous works of Art for Pop superstars and even a Hollywood film producer. I recall she had painted the old beams and walls in her studio in this semi-derelict building. There were holes gaping in the roof and bits of corrugated iron placed below to channel the rain water. It was a beehive of creative activity, housing stained glass artists, potters, woodworkers et al.
Egyptian Porphyry chess board and pieces designed and made by Jeremy Broun
and painted by Barbara Broun 1981.
Circa 1985 I rented a studio below Barbara's at £5 a week for a short period. I used it primarily for storage as I had sold my house in Bath and was thinking of emigrating to Australia out of rust ration that modern furniture was not appreciated in Britain. What I do recall was that bats inhabited the Brewery and whilst property speculators closed in on all quarters there was a conservation order on the building to protect the bats and that basically kept the rents low for a artist craftsman to struggle to make a living.
Today I was invited to a New Year breakfast at a friend's house near Bradford on Avon and one of the guests, an elderly man, resides in a flat at The Brewery. The developers eventually got their way, but interestingly when I mentioned the bats back in the early 80's he said ' oh they are still there and there is a hole in the roof for them'!
One of the reasons I was able to focus my own furniture on innovation and go against the grain was because I kept my overheads low and this studio similar to the converted cattle shed I rented initially in Bath at £3 per week was vital to that creative survival. The artist craftsmen who resided in Bradford on Avon largely left as property developers moved in and were fragmented around the county or simply had to grin and bear increasing high rents. The conservation of a few bats may seem more important than the patronage of artist craftsmen and little wonder the field I was a pioneer in has become a very expensive playground - possibly now excluding the truly innovative?
I welcome the New year in holding hope that change will occur. The news that Viscount Linley (who once asked me to make his furniture) is no longer trading in his furniture business has implications for this luxury craft and I guess we can go two ways, either become even more expensive or pitch it within the grasp of ordinary people, but then not enough ordinary people are excited enough to live with fabulously modern furniture that lasts so that it can be made on a rational basis (batch production) so the dye is set or at least for a while longer.
In this New Year I'm not quite sure where to go and age isn't exactly on one's side but then I was never certain, just passionate about making new things in wood. All a bit batty really and perhaps one should hang upside down in the dark for inspiration!