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Claire is a visual storyteller living in Rotorua, New Zealand.

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I produce illustrations with pen and ink, and watercolour, and create narrative-rich oil paintings. My art is often described as whimsical and wistful, mischievous, magical, emotive and personal.

Often gravitating towards outsiders – the rebels, rascals and misfits – My own experiences as a traveller and newcomer have helped me observe life from the fringes. Through my work I encourage you to drift and dream. Reminding you of your own memories, struggles, hopes and fears. Above all, I give you permission to play and to embrace the circus that is life, I shine a light on our messy mistakes and imperfections, with the belief that our vulnerabilities can become our super-powers, and that at the heart of everything, is love.

Growing up in the English countryside I was a dreamy child, rarely without a pen or a book. Accused of having my head in the clouds, art seemed a natural progression for me. The illustrations of Arthur Rackham, Shirley Hughes and Kate Greenaway strongly influenced me as a child. I loved the Brothers Grimm tales and the adventures of Pippi Longstocking and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. School didn’t hold much interest for me, so I left early and went to university. I completed a two-year arts diploma, followed by a BA (Hons) in fashion and textiles at Liverpool University – which explains my enduring fascination with colour, pattern and textures, and why the clothing worn by characters in my art is so important! My work today is still influenced by the likes of Gustav Klimt, Frida Kahlo and Marc Chagall.

While studying, I was offered a year-long work placement at the Tate gallery. The skills and experience I gained there enabled me to run artist-lead workshops and ignited my passion for sharing the creative process with others. My business, “Time for Art”, was born and I split my time between teaching community based art projects and making contemporary embroideries. These pieces were richly stitched stories created using old sepia photographs and watercolours. Eventually, the commissions began to come in and my pieces became bespoke “embroidered memories” for my clients. My work was sold extensively through galleries and the Crafts Council in the UK and Europe. A large commissioned piece is still housed at Bankfield Museum in Halifax, and another at Earby Community Centre in Lancashire.

I have always travelled and my adventurous spirit was calling. So, with a one-way ticket to New Zealand, I embarked on a completely new lifestyle on the other side of the world. I have never regretted the move. New Zealand’s stunning landscape and friendly people soon became home. However, with three young children, a life that revolved around Playcentre and no art connections in my adopted country, my creative output stalled for several years. Nonetheless, my time at Playcentre enabled me to develop my group facilitation and leadership skills – valuable tools for my future business.

Finally the day came to get back into my art. But the embroidery felt too fiddly and I simply had an urge to paint and play. Believing that as an artist you always have to delight yourself first, mixed media became my wonderful messy creative outlet. As Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way says, “progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.” My own motto became, “there are no mistakes – only layers!”

Yet my characters longed to emerge. The hints of stories and scribbled personalities seemed to resonate with people and I had much success with my humorous “Mother Star” blocks. At the same time, I was silkscreen-printing textiles, exhibiting prolifically in group shows and awards, teaching art classes to 5-70 year olds and, on top of all that, running a family. Life was a huge juggling act. I knew I was doing too much and sensed it was time to be brave and realise my long-held dream of writing and illustrating. Somehow, over four years my first children’s book, Little Wing, was published. Printed at MOTAT on the old Heidelberg cylinder press and hand sewn, Little Wing won two gold awards at New Zealand’s Pride of Print. The limited first edition sold out and I have since released a more affordable, full-colour, soft cover version of the book. Working with Penny Webster, My second book was also an award-winning project. Dining With Vikings is a legacy cookbook of supreme quality, and once again showcases my skills as a character illustrator.

I have only recently moved to Rotorua and I delight in morning walks by the lake, where my carnival of characters begin to take shape in my imagination. I often have to hurry home to draw and write before the moment leaves me. I live an inspired life so that I can inspire you. I am always stimulated. Every conversation, everywhere I go, there are moments to freeze. Memories, people and places all blend together with a good dose of make-believe. Neil Gaiman explains it well in The Graveyard Book:

“We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story.”

~

Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book