Sherborne artist Richard Bramble inspired by the sea
PUBLISHED: 11:38 06 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:38 06 August 2014
Sherborne artist Richard Bramble's latest work has been inspired by a life-long fascination with native seabirds and his passion for protecting our marine environment
Puffins are known as the clowns of the sea, says Richard Bramble, “there’s something comical, playful and amazingly characterful about them.” The Sherborne-based artist is cradling a mug of tea emblazoned with his own watercolour design of one of his much-admired feathered friends. Along with the oyster catcher (“a noisy, agitated bird”); the elegant tern (“there’s plenty of them in Poole Harbour fishing for sand eels”); and the majestic diving gannet (“you can spot them off Portland Bill”), these four iconic sea birds make up Richard Bramble’s new limited-edition British seabirds collection. The new range is the result of a life-long fascination with native seabirds and a childhood spent fishing for flounders and sailing around Poole Harbour and holidays spent diving for lobsters in the Outer Hebrides. “It’s a bit like Raymond Blanc picking peas with his grandmother as a young boy,” says Richard, 45, with a smile. “Those early childhood memories so often inspire your passions in later life.”
A fervent conservationist, Richard has teamed up with the UK charity, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), to launch his new collection, with a percentage of each sale going towards protecting the UK’s shorelines and wildlife, and making our seas fit for native seabirds. “Protecting the marine environment is something I really believe in,” says Richard, who grew up in Bournemouth and learnt to dive off Chesil Beach as a school boy. “Going under water and seeing what was there – the whole hunter-gatherer aspect of it – has gone full circle and turned me into the conservationist I am today. Our seabirds’ lives depend on the health of our fish stocks, coasts and seas, and their numbers are a good barometer of how well we are looking after these environments, so joining forces with the Marine Conservation Society seemed like the right and natural thing to do.”
Step inside Richard’s light-filled studio, a converted cowshed adjacent to the farmhouse he shares with his wife Sarah, and the lure of the sea becomes immediately apparent. A seascape of Canford Cliffs painted for an exhibition at Poole Arts Centre when he was 23 and fresh out of Slade School of Fine Art in London vies for wall space with framed original watercolours of everything from iridescent mackerel and moody looking John Dory to crabs, lobsters and mussels. Latterly, Richard has been inspired by the bucolic surroundings he has enjoyed for the past nine years. He has been meeting local farmers and painting their animals – among them Gloucester Old Spot pigs, cockerels, rare-breed sheep and Holstein-Friesian cows - but one gets the feeling that, despite his affection for Sherborne, the market town where he went to school (Richard attended Sherborne School on an art scholarship from 1980-86), it is beside the sea that he really likes to be.
“As a painter I’m really a coastal person – I prefer seascapes to landscapes - and every time I head for the sea, whether it’s to fish, sail, dive or to kite surf, I feel like I’m coming home,” he says.
“Just like anyone who likes being on the water, or going for coastal walks, you begin to develop an interest in seabirds, you become a bird watcher. And of course you have your favourites. You come to realise that each bird has its own character, and that is what this new range is all about – capturing the spirit and essence of these birds and celebrating their differences.”
For those familiar with Richard Bramble ceramics (he now has a following that stretches as far afield as America and Australia and reportedly includes the Prince of Wales and Cherie Blair), his artist’s studio down a single-track lane in Silverlake, just outside Sherborne, is where the magic begins.
From early sketches and original watercolours, the designs are later silkscreen printed on to transfer paper and placed on the glazed ceramics, from dinner plates and tea pots to milk jugs and egg cups.
The range also extends to homeware items such as clocks, tea towels, bath mats and aprons, all of which are sold from his studio shop, his stall at London’s Borough Market, via his website and from selected shops like Rick Stein’s gift shop in Padstow.
With Richard’s passion for wildlife it won’t come as any surprise to hear that he plans to cast his painterly net wider to include spider crabs and sea bream, as well as hares (which can be found in the fields below his house) and otters (“I can really get up close to them when I’m fishing in the Hebrides”). And with the Dorset coast just a 40-minute drive away, one thing is for sure - he’ll never run short of inspiration.
“Creativity lies in evoking the spirit of a species and capturing its character as you perceive it otherwise you might as well just take a photo. For me the great thing is being able to drink tea from my tern or puffin mug in north Dorset and be transported back to Poole Harbour or the wilds of Scotland.”
Where to buy
Richard Bramble’s Seabirds Collection is available through richardbramble.com and selected shops and department stores. Prices start from £3.75 for coasters, £8.50 for 11cm bowls, £8.95 for a 19cm dinner plate. Visitors to his Dorset studio or to his London Borough Market stall (Weds – Sat) can have their ceramics personalised for free with a handwritten inscription.
Dorset Magazine Reader Offer - 15% off
Richard Bramble is offering readers of Dorset magazine 15% off the entire Richard Bramble range until the end of the year (excluding existing and set offers). Just enter the code DM14 when ordering via the website (richardbramble.com) or bring a copy of the article with you to the artist’s studio at The Old Dairy House, Silverlake, Sherborne, DT9 6SN (01935 815236 or 07970 651544).