Wild flowers and grasses feature strongly in Angie Lewin’s designs – from fabric to wallpaper, wood engravings to ceramics. She lives and works in a restored croft in the north of Scotland Artist and printmaker Angie Lewin knew early on that art was going to play a strong part in her life.
Her grandfather was a village blacksmith in Cheshire and when her father took over, he developed it into a light engineering business: ‘As a child I remember being impressed by his sketches illustrating whatever was being made in the workshop. There was a clear, informative quality to them that I greatly admired.’
The landscape where they lived on the edge of the Peak District was a strong influence too with its rolling hills criss-crossed by dry stone walls. ‘During my last year at primary school we’d spend a day in the fields each week studying
nature. I’d sit there in the grass for hours on end, drawing whatever was around me,’ Angie recalls.
She and her husband Simon, a website designer, now live in Morayshire, in the north of Scotland, although their business, St Jude’s, which specialises in textile design and limited-edition prints by Angie and 11 other artists, is based in Norwich.
Angie Lewin in her own words
How did you find the croft?
Simon’s family is from Edinburgh so we made regular visits from London or Norfolk. About 12 years ago, on a walking break, we came across a croft with an L-shaped steading.
Both were derelict and required complete renovation and it was a while before we were able to start the project but we knew that eventually it would be a great place to live, work and walk.
Where do you spend most time?
I spend a large part of the day in my studio. The roof apex is higher than we’d first envisaged – at least two feet of dung and straw were removed before building began. The large window was positioned so I can sit at the table where I work and look out across the hills. Pens and pencils are near at hand, as is my 19th century Albion printing press on which I produce most of my prints.
What do you collect?
We’re inveterate collectors of art and ceramics, so it’s important that there’s a place for everything. We asked Mary Arnold-Forster of the Scottish architectural practice Dualchas, who designed the steading, to include large built-in
bookcases and display space. And all the walls are painted white, creating a calm backdrop for the artwork.
The end wall provides space for books, ceramics and the feathers, seed heads, stones and shells that I’ve collected on walks. The furniture is a mix of old and mid-20th century pieces.
Why name your business St Jude’s?
Our former home was called St Jude’s after the patron saint of lost causes. We just liked the name.
a foundation course at art school in Cheshire, I went on to study sculpture at Central St Martins in London. But as soon as I discovered print-making I knew that’s what really interested me and changed courses. Bernard Cheese was one of
the excellent tutors who helped me, and his daughter Chloe Cheese now shows with St Jude’s.
Mid-century artists such as Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden have been a strong influence on me, and also on many of the artists with whom we collaborate.
How would you describe yourself?
Although I spend a lot of time drawing plants, I wouldn’t call myself a botanical artist. I try to capture the essence of a plant rather than make a botanical rendition that is correct in every detail. Indigenous wild flowers such as hawkweed, yarrow, dandelion, scabious and yellow rattle all feature in my work and currently I’m keen on lichen.
Do you have green fingers?
We are very exposed to wind and deer, so it’s a case of being realistic and practical. We’ve put in a windbreak consisting of rowans, birch, larch and willow with clematis, hellebores and orange pyracanthus planted closer to the cottage.
I went on to do a postgraduate year in print-making, then worked as a freelance illustrator before embarking on the RHS General Certificate in Garden Design at Capel Manor. Students had to keep a plant sketchbook in which we recorded our descriptions and drawings of ten different plants every week. It forced me to focus on the colour, form and texture of a wide variety of species and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
How do you relax?
Walking the dogs ensures inspiration is never far away – whether I take the path along the nearby River Spey or meander across the hills, the landscape is a consistent feature in my work.
What about friends and family?
Living so far from London, and indeed Edinburgh, means friends have often driven for days to get here, so they generally stay several nights. When we have a full house, Simon and I decamp to the steading so we can get up early and carry on with our working lives without disturbing sleeping guests.