Artist on File: Sian Fenwick
Clare Kendal Bate met with SIAN FENWICK, an artist who specialises in unique vintage inspired keepsake jewellery and wall hung collage. ’ I am inspired by colour, texture, form, memories, keepsakes, heirlooms, fabrics, vintage, birds, family, childhood, textiles, nursery rhymes, storybooks, travel, photographs, my students and life!”
Sian was born in Bromley in Kent but as a child her father’s job meant the family moved house quite a lot. When they eventually settled in North London, she met and married a Bushey boy and they have a lovely house and studio/workshop in this pretty part of Hertfordshire.
She began her career at 21 after graduating from the London College of Fashion as a hairdresser, wig-maker and beauty therapist. She was in the industry for around 20 years, when in 2004 she decided on a change of direction and took a degree in Applied and Media Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. Her thesis was around the subject of beauty and repulsion. After finishing her degree Sian began making jewellery which she showcased and sold in the salon where she worked.
Sian creates her own digitally enhanced mementos inspired by her holiday watercolour illustrations, which are transferred to special paper that shrinks when baked.
With an eclectic mix of new and old she creates individual beaded trinkets as unique keepsake jewellery.
After graduating from her Arts degree she concentrated on running her creative business full time.
Her collages are very beautiful, made up of family keepsakes and heirlooms. They reflect memories of childhood with fabrics and photographs which are personal to her. ‘I compare my layered collages with the layers of life. I am interested in the way a small fragment of a bead, colour or image can trigger those unique feelings of nostalgia. They are glimpses of the past’.
‘My mother and grandmother were both skilled seamstresses and passed down their knowledge to me. I really believe that it is important that sewing and embroidery techniques are transferred through the generations, otherwise a very useful and creative art will be lost‘.
One of my fondest memories as a youngster was the treat of rifling through my mum’s sewing and button boxes, it turns out this was Sian’s too. Using all these wonderful treasures in her collages she has created some very touching, sweet and lovely time capsules of days passed. She runs day courses from her workshop to tutor clients to create their own collages. They can use the thousands of beads and craft materials available in her studio and incorporate some of their own mementos.
Sian loves to visit vintage fairs and junk shops to collect her treasures and gathers inspiration from what she calls ‘the intriguing discarded fragments of a secret past’.
In 2008 Sian ran a workshop with the sixth form students at The Watford Grammar School for Girls. It was so successful and popular that she was asked to be the Artist in Residence, and runs art and textile workshops with all year groups.
Sian's role is to set an example of good art practice and to increase the students’ knowledge and develop their skills, by mentoring, encouraging, inspiring and enabling them to produce art with confidence. One of the projects Sian created with the Year 13 girls was a collaged boot.
It was made using different techniques, like a family photograph transferred on to fabric and layered with beads, buttons, lace and her grandmother’s elegant glove.
She also tutors an adult evening class at Watford Grammar School for Girls in mixed media textiles.
Sian works with ASCEND and has been running creative workshops for 3 years. The charity aims to counteract the problems of unemployment, social deprivation and learning disabilities in the Watford area. As a craft tutor she teaches a weekly class, introducing new arts and crafts skills in a fun and friendly atmosphere.
The Watford branch of MENCAP has also commissioned Sian to create a triptych to celebrate their Diamond Jubilee this year. One panel will represent the beginnings of the charity and has sepia tones with a slight turquoise thread running through, whilst the second panel will show the current celebrations and keeps the same tonal colours but with more of the turquoise threads. The final panel will feature the work of some of the current members, representing their hopes and dreams/ambitions for the future of MENCAP. The panel has been funded by Watford Girls Grammar School and will feature in an exhibition later in this year.
If you would like to see more of Sian’s beautiful work please visit her website: www.sianfenwick.co.uk
by CLARE KENDAL BATE