Art is crucial to our health and well-being. Many of us are missing going to galleries, and others are missing getting together in painting classes. New Valley News spoke to art teacher Fiona Charter who found she had extra time on her hands when she was furloughed.

“I was teaching part-time in schools and running workshops at Salisbury Museum,“ she explained, “but, with no work, lockdown gave me a rare opportunity to concentrate on my own art which means that for the first time in my life I can finally call myself a full time, jobbing artist!”

“It has been important during lockdown to create your own space, if it’s possible. I’m so lucky to have a garden and studio in the heart of Downton,” Fiona said. She works in the studio set up in a purpose-built shed which houses a kiln and clay store. She outlined the process: “I’m a ceramicist, making hand-built plates and dishes using grogged terracotta clay. With a layer of white slip (liquid clay) painted over the surface, I use underglaze colours (like watercolours but which will survive the kiln firing) and then scratch through to the terracotta beneath. The dishes can have several firings as I build up the underglaze layers before the final glaze firing.”

What does she draw inspiration from?

“With time to spare I’ve loved studying nature in detail,” she said. “Inspiration for me is the countryside around me – I’m lucky enough to live between the New Forest, the Downs and the River Avon. All the birds and animals I paint on my plates I’ve seen from my garden or when walking the dogs.”

Much time has been spent looking back over her teaching past. Starting at the Salisbury Arts Centre and a children’s pottery class, Fiona moved to the Salisbury College of Art, teaching life drawing and 3D Studies on the Fashion and Textiles and Foundation courses, then taught Sculpture at Southampton University, producing drawings for a rubber stamp company in her spare time – “I can still see my dinosaur stamps in the Natural History Museum today!”

“Over lockdown I have missed the teaching,” she admitted, “but have made the most of being in my studio in the garden.” She highly recommends that if people can create their own space which is theirs and set aside time to draw, scribble or paint it helps these days go by.

To see Fiona’s work visit Fiona_Charter_Art