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Thursday 23rd November
Sarah - Sculpture
Looking towards St Mary's Church from Eel Pie Island Sarah is an artist and free-lance arts consultant with a studio on Eel Pie Island. She has worked on the island for three years, initially assisting the boat builders in the boatyard, then in 2008, she set up a studio practice and now works as a sculptor in between maintaining her free-lance career.

Trained as a woodworker Sarah came across the island when she moved into the area in 2006. "I was attracted to the island first by the boatyard and still love the unique environment - I am constantly inspired by the work that goes on here and there is just such fantastic stimulus everywhere you look as the boatyard is full of old machinery and materials.

Also the environment and community nature of the island means there is a lot of cross-fertilization of ideas. I am always looking closely at what the boat builders are doing as there is so much to learn and I find there are lots of crossovers between boatbuilding and sculpture in terms of forms, material and techniques. So I am very conscious of the relationship between Eel Pie Island and my art work and itís very special to have a studio here."

Until 2007 Sarah worked at the Royal Court Theatre as a senior arts manager, "but I had to start making my own work again."

Most of the artists are balancing earning a living with making art, often supplementing their income with other things, so thereís a lot of coming and going, though some people are full time artists and work on the island every day. The studios are not display cases but areas where people work; they are open to the public twice a year so the artists have the opportunity to gain further stimulation for their work from visitors and visitors get a chance to see inside workshops as well as to buy and commission work.

Whatís very special about this set up is that there is a community of 22 artists, who are themselves, part of the community of Eel Pie Island which is in turn part of the community of Twickenham.

"Thereís a sense that there has been a community in this area for centuries, all of which has grown up around a working river. The boatyards are an intrinsic part of the history of the local area, and seeing boats here reminds me that they are part of that heritage and culture. Thankfully, due to the current owners of the two boatyards on the island, there are still constant boat renovations going on. Two years ago, I was lucky enough to play a small part in helping to restore one of the last remaining wooden tugboats on the Thames here. Thatís something quite exceptional."

Sarah would be really keen to see the strengthening of the physical link between the riverfront and the town. For instance, the idea of knocking through one of the shops in the main high street to make a throughway to the river. This could help transform Twickenham and orientate the town towards the river making it the heart of the area.

Another idea Sarah would love to see is having a place on the riverfront where you could combine arts and culture with a mixed economy of artists and artisans plus workshops for the community and young people to experience a diverse range of arts and crafts and learn the traditional artisan skills and techniques of boatbuilding.

Sarah believes that creativity is inherent in everyone and would love to see workshops being run. There is certainly a lot of creativity on Eel Pie Island covering many art and craft disciplines, for example, antique restoration, glass, ceramics, jewelry, mosaic, painting, pottery, printing, sculpture and textiles. In the boatyards there are professional shipwrights, restorers, engineers and mechanics, as well as those with age old skills such as steam bending. A completely unique combination of skills, talents and passions, all on our doorstep.

Perhaps it is time that Twickenham town centre embraced this culture once again and united the town with the island. (2009)

Eel Pie Island Home Page

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