Early life |
I was born into a Jewish family of Ukrainian descent. A recent DNA test revealed that my ethnicity is 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. My father, Barry Fealdman was curator of the Ben Uri Art Gallery from 1950 to 1974, which featured Jewish artists, and we lived above the gallery from 1950 to 1960 (aged 3 to 13). So I was exposed to art on a daily basis. I started drawing from a very early age, and showed promise, winning awards in art competitions. I really wanted to be an artist, but was discouraged by my father who had first hand experience of the struggles of many artists to make a living. So I dropped art at 14, and did very little creative work for the next few years, although I enjoyed visiting art galleries wherever I travelled on holiday. I started drawing again when I was a politics student at Bristol University during the exciting years of 1968-69. After graduating in the summer of 1969, I went on holiday to Morocco, and in the desert, had a life-changing personal encounter with God. Soon after my return to England, I started practising Buddhism.
Married life and Jamaica
In 1970 I met a Tibetan lama, and studied with him for a few years. It was in December 1973 at the lama's house that I met my husband, a Jamaican musician, writer and artist. We had two children, and lived our life focussed on the love of God, expressed as an exploration of a variety of faith traditions. We read the New Testament together daily. I worked professionally in university administration, then trained as a teacher. When my children were small, my husband became ill and wanted to go home to Jamaica. I got a teaching job, and took the family to live there in 1982. After two years, my husband died; I decided to stay in Jamaica for my children's sake. Shortly before his death, we had bought a house in Kingston. He had not seen it, but gave the area his approval, as he had known it before coming to England in the 1960's as a good residential district. However in the intervening years, it had become ghetto, so I found myself a lone white woman with two young children living in the Kingston ghetto. Life was tough. I earned my living running a craft business producing patchwork and quilted textiles and selling them at craft fairs. It was during this time that I met an Australian quilter who opened my eyes to the possibility of using quilting to create art. I then started making textile art, which was exhibited in various shows. I was invited to teach a course in quilting at the Creative Arts Centre at the University of the West Indies, and also led a workshop at the Edna Manley School of Art. I set up community projects teaching quilting skills to women in Kingston and in rural Jamaica.
Return to England
It was during this time that I converted to the Catholic faith. I had become ill and was unable to work over a long period of time; reluctant to prolong unecessary hardship for my family, I made the decision to return to England in 1995. I quickly realised that I had to learn how to use a computer, and enrolled on courses first in desktop publishing, then in web design. This became my creative outlet: I designed and produced the first website for Westminster Cathedral, and I had the honour of being invited by Cardinal Basil Hume to build a site for him. I continued to produce textiles for family and friends, and one or two art quilts. My life was mostly occupied with my family, my spiritual journey in the Catholic faith, and with professional work as a project manager and teacher trainer. As my faith journey developed, I found in creating art an expression of prayer: on my annual retreat I spent several hours each day in the art studio making work based on the Scriptures. During these years, I became a grandmother.
I become an artist
In 2018 after retiring, I moved from London to Wolverhampton. Investigating the City's Art Gallery, I was delighted to discover that a drawing class was offered for the over 55's, "Still Lively", initially funded by the Arts Council, now directly funded by the Gallery. At last it was my opportunity to develop my skills in drawing which happened at weekly two-hour teacher-led sessions. My latent skills started to flourish, and I soon began to produce finished pieces, starting with copies of work in the Gallery, then making original art work.
Then came coronavirus. I visited Rome in the first week of March 2020, and went into lockdown a few days after my return. With no other calls on my time, I went into retreat mode and started to produce drawings: now I had the time to spend longer on each piece than the 2 hours in class. I produced over 30 pieces of work during lockdown, with support from teacher Sam Hale and fellow students via our WhatsApp group. For the first time I recognised myself as an artist.
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