Art from the sea: a Q&A with Lizzie of Driftwood Designs…

Lizzie Spikes driftwood paintings

Lizzie Spikes driftwood paintings

If you’ve picked up Issue 6, you’ll know how inspiring a visit to the coast can be during the coldest months, thanks to our “Blowy Walks on Winter Beaches” feature (take a sneaky peek here). And at this time of year there are fewer places that are more fantastically wild than the coast of West Wales, which Lizzie Spikes of Driftwood Designs calls home!

Lizzie paints the most gorgeous pictures, depicting the culture of the sea, coast and culture of the isolated Welsh county of Ceredigion, often using driftwood foraged from the area’s magnificent beaches. We were so knocked out by the freshness of Lizzie’s vision, not to mention in love with the idea of using things rejected by the sea to create art, that we just knew we had to share her work with you!

And so Lizzie kindly agreed to not only answer some questions, but also do us a photo story about one of her beach combing trips – come back and read it here tomorrow!

Lizzie Spikes Q and A

Your Dad was a lobster fisherman, is that where your love of the sea began?

I was bought up in and on the sea – my Dad used to fish from a small boat that he kept moored on a shingle beach, and during the holidays my Brothers, Sister and I spent hours playing on the beach while he checked his lobster pots, or sitting at the bow of his boat watching as he pulled in nets. My boys now get dragged miles along the coast and I hope that when they grow up they will have the same love and respect for the sea.

What were your first artistic influences, and did you start painting the seashore, its people and wildlife at an early age?

We lived in a farmhouse on the outskirts of a tiny Welsh village in the middle of nowhere, and on Saturday mornings a friend of my Mum’s used to hold an art class at her house up the hill. There we did papier-mâché, collage, pottery, painting and drawing, and learnt to realise our ideas and feel the satisfaction of making and creating. Every Summer, Hayley (the brave art teacher) used to pack us all up and take us to a barn down in Llangrannog, which is a pretty village down the coast. We used to camp and spend our days drawing the coast and its characters, swimming and playing rounders. I love the bold, bright imagery of the coast against the beautiful blues and greens of the sea and sky.

Were you brought up where you currently live, or did you move there after art school?

I was brought up near where I live now in Ceredigion… I went away to art school for a year and then got drawn back to the sea and sky! It was a fantastic place to grow up and I want my boys to have some of the freedom that myself and my siblings had.

When did you start to incorporate driftwood into your work, and why?

I started working on driftwood when Jacob (my eldest son) was a baby and did so mainly because it was a free and satisfying canvas. I love walking the beaches and coming across pieces of driftwood that have elements to their shape, form and colour which dictate what they should become… I find blocks that I know will make perfect harbour walls, curved pieces for fish and wide boards for stretches of sky. I have always found the wood far more inspiring than a blank canvas or piece of pristine paper. I also like that my work gives a new purpose to the old and unwanted pieces of flotsam and jetsam.

Lizzie Spikes pegs and shelves

Which aspect of your work do you find the most satisfying?

My favourite part of the process is undoubtedly finding the wood – pushing on just one more bay to see what has washed up! I also enjoy designing the pieces – taking the wood and putting them together to make canvasses and scenes.

What do you find most inspiring about your local area?

I love the Georgian town of Aberaeron – it is a town of brightly-coloured, John Nash-designed terraces built around a large central harbour, and even on the greyest January day it is beautiful.

What are your plans for 2013?

I plan to carry on enjoying my work… I have an exhibition down in Cardiff in the late Spring, and I want to base my collection of work on places from along the length of the newly opened Wales Coast Path. I am spending January and February catching up with commissions and exploring bits of the coast that I don’t know. Last week, my friend Rowsie and I went North to Portmeirion and Porthmadog and this week I want to go south to Fishguard and St Davids. There are so many beautiful places to see and capture in wood and paint.

Finally, what’s your Simple Thing?

My Simple Thing would have to be treats baked by and shared with friends and family, and maybe a cup of Earl Grey too… My neighbor Thomas just bought me a tin of homemade shortcake that has made my day!

Lizzie Spikes prints

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