Artisans by the sea

PUBLISHED: 08:47 08 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:36 20 February 2013

Artisans by the sea

Artisans by the sea

Eastbourne is a seaside resort par excellence. The sunniest place in Britain and blessed with abundant natural beauty. It is also home to some of Sussex's most skilful and talented craftsmen and women. Kate Eastman met them hard at work

John Warren

John threw his first pot in 1962 and started his pottery with a friend in 1967 after studying at Loughborough College of Art & Design.
The most interesting aspect of my work is to try something new. The excitement of anticipating whether the reaction of the various materials is right or not.
John is most proud of a very early piece of work that he wishes he owned today. The earliest piece of truly personal, decorative work I made was a 30 cm square, flat sided bottle shape with a scraffitti dragonetched onto it.
It was made for an exhibition in about 1969. I was desperate to keep it and put a price on it of 100, 10 times my weekly wage at the time, thinking that no-one would be able to afford it, but it went the first day. I have a slide image of it, but I would prefer the pot!

David Cowderoy
clockmaker at John Cowderoy Antiques

David studied antique clock restoration at Westdean College, Chichester and qualified at distinction level in 1978.
I have been a craftsman for 32 years. Clock making is in my blood and I have at least two clockmakers in my ancestry from the early 1800s.
Davids father set up their business in 1973 where antique clocks and musical boxes were his specialty and the tradition continues today.
Our shop is in the centre of the thriving Little Chelsea area which has the Town Hall as its focus. Although the town has changed radically from Victorian times, it is still a lovely place to live and work.
The most interesting aspect of my work is the sheer variety and the sense of continuing a craft, which has existed for hundreds of years. The thing that most often amuses me is the number of times the only thing wrong with a clock is that its owner has forgotten to wind it up!
It was a piece of work that David completed whilst still a student that he is most proud of, I was given a clock which was missing most of its wheels. I was able to work out how many teeth were required for each wheel from first principles and then cut the wheels myself. I have been told that the work I did then is still being used to teach todays students at Westdean.

Ruth Fisher
stained glass window designer

Ruth has been making stained glass since she startedher degree in architectural stained glass at Swanseawhereshe got first class honours.
Stained glass is an ancient craft, and for me it is a real privilege to be part of the continuing history, she said. Glass is just a magical material which has the power to penetrate the soul. It is constantly changing depending on the light around it, and yet has remained unchanged in its technique for hundreds of years.
When a small studio came up for sale in Eastbourne, Ruthcouldn't resist the opportunity of living by the sea and working with glass, it was her perfect combination.
My inspiration comes from the energy of the sea and the light reflecting on its surface, coupled with the greenness of the downs. How could an artist working in glass wish for anything more, thats why I love Eastbourne.
Thejob Ruth is most proud of is the set of four windows at the Langham Hotel in Eastbourne, which are of local landmarks including the pier andbandstand. Each window are over a metre square, which in itself was quite challenging from a making point of view, said Ruth. I love all the windows and the difference theymake in the restaurant is amazing. I thinkevery craftsperson enters their chosen field for the love and passion of the material, and the huge satisfaction it gives to the artist and client alike. I consider myself to be in the fortunate position in that I love what I do and where I live, and I am contributing to the history of some of Eastbournes lovely houses with work that will inspire and last for generations to come.

Rod Neale

Rods shoe menders shop is a landmark in Eastbournes town centre.
He first became fascinated with the cobbling trade 55 years ago when he learnt from his father, a war invalid, to make light leathers, slippers, writing cases, purses and handbags in their middle room in Eastbourne. He got a Saturday job a year later and became a shoemakers apprentice when he was 17, the year his father died.
I started when I was 11 with my dad, Im a snob not a cobbler, a proper repairer that has completed his apprenticeship is called a snob. I was 23 when I finished, it took me seven years in total, explains Rod. In the late 50s there were 93 shoe repair outlets in Eastbourne they were on every corner.
The most interesting part of Rods job is meeting people, I meet different people everyday and most are very interesting, Ive got some really good friends from having this shop. I think thats why I am always busy because I spend a lot of time with people to give a more personal touch.
Rod has made galoshes for undertakers who, after trampling through muddy graveyards, would remove them before going into the church or crematorium. He has also made and mended shoes for Danny la Rue and Harry Secombe.

Sam Fanaroff

Coming from South Africa, Sam initially got a job in a factory in London.
I was on the maintenance staff responsible for all the systems but if everything worked we didnt have much to do. We were making a product for the navy and there were offcuts of metal, I used to take a few bits of copper and make things from them, like ashtrays.
I would give them to my colleagues and they would buy me a pint of beer at lunchtime. Then a friend said why give them away, why not sell them? So I made six pieces and took them to a gallery in St Johns Wood. She paid me 11. In those days I earned 4 a week.
This work was seen by the lady who ran the craftsman market at Heals in the late 50s and she saw my potential and she took me under her wing and encouraged me and that was the beginning.
Now 83, Sam has been working as a coppersmith for 50 years. I dont call myself an artist I call myself a maker but people see art in what I make. My work has touches of Mondrian, Malevich, Mackintosh, Calder or the whole art nouveau movement, at the end of the day my object is to produce an honest piece of work, with ripples of the great evident but with an added definitive touch.
The most memorable request was for six chastity belts, explains Sam, a chap came into the studio asking if I was broad-minded, I explained Ive done all kinds of things but my experience in these are very limited! It turns out they were making a Carry On film and the director wanted to give each major actor a memento of a small chastity belt, so Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams and four other actors each had one.

Latest from the Sussex Life