EPISODE TEN - RUTH GIBSON - CERAMIC ARTIST, WORLD TRAVELLER, AND MUD LARKER - RELAX AND ENJOY IT ALL
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Frankie Dewar 0:00
It is the 31st of August dating of the trip. We are in Shrewsbury So that how you we will say is that
Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury's right, yes, but there's arguments as whether it could be shrowsbury too but I'm shrewsbury to be okay and born and bread and we say shrewsbury
Frankie Dewar 0:17
perfect. And I'm with Ruth. Hello, and welcome to the extraordinary ordinary womxn sharing life's adventures. My name is Frankie. And this is the podcast where I interview extraordinary ordinary womxn and non binary folks as part of a 3000 kilometer cycle around England, Wales and Scotland. interviewing people older than myself, to show that you don't just have to do it whilst you're young. You'll hear all about their adventures, and what they get up to, as well as the answers to my big life questions. Like what does authenticity mean? Did you have a clear sense of direction through life? And what advice would you give to your younger self? This is Episode 10. Where I talked to Ruth, I camped out in Ruth garden in an oasis of calm, surrounded by sculptures and Rusty shopping trolleys, you'll find out why. It is an awesome conversation, where we travel around the world dive into the life of an artist. I'm Ruth shares her stories and inspirations from her local brick we recorded in her kitchen. So there's not much background noise. You can sometimes hear her family coming through the kitchen. But I'm sure that just adds to read awesome stories.
Frankie Dewar 1:57
Say for people who don't know who you are, can you give us a snapshot of who you are and what you do.
So I'm Ruth Gibson shrewsbury born and bred. I am 55 years old. And I'm an artist working with clay or described myself as a ceramic artist, I would I wouldn't say I'm a potter, because I don't make pots as sharp as such. And I don't throw pots. So, but I make artwork, out of clay. Very landscape based and inspired by nature. And I also work with a community involving community in clay works again, with a preference or leaning towards working outdoors in nature, which is my favorite place to work really. I live with my partner, longtime partner Dave, who's a events planning officer for Shropshire Council. We've been together for 34 years. And we have a daughter together called Jessie who's 15 years old. And
Frankie Dewar 3:03
Have you always been an artist?
I guess I have really in my heart. I've always been an artist. I mean, I've not been a professional artist all my life, but I've been a maker. And I've been a maker from a very young age. So right through my childhood, I was I was always making things. My initial career choice was to be a PE teacher with art as a second subject and realized quite soon in the process that I wasn't really cut out to be a PE teacher, but I quite liked the art side and post post University and studying and living abroad in Italy. I set up a business hand making greeting cards and and craft items. And I did that for 15 years, which was a successful business, but really not my heartfelt artwork. So there was a there was a disconnect between me and the work I was making and selling. So during that period, I was going to life drawing classes and doing all sorts of sculptural work and I eventually started working for a dance company based in London doing various arts workshops in schools combining with their their dance education and making stage sets actually for this dance company which was which was fantastic. And there was there was always this realization in the background that I had no training for this and really I otter I think if I was going to take it sit take myself seriously as an artist I ought to go and get some training. And at the age grand old age of 35, after a most amazing trip to India and Nepal trekking. I came back and decided to go off and do a degree for the third time in sculpture and ceramics, combining all my loves sculpture, printmaking photography, Clay So that was an absolutely fantastic experience so I didn't really start this ceramic business and being a full time artist until I was almost 3839. And soon after I had a had a baby as well. So, so my my artistic career has been combined always or juggled with being a parent. But that's been an interesting process.
Frankie Dewar 5:23
What's their work life balance like an art?
It's a very good question. And I can't I can't speak for other artists that I'm I'm sort of very motivated and highly driven. So I, and I'm a grafter. So I tend to do incredibly long hours. So I don't have I don't have concerns about not getting started generally. But the discipline to actually stop is quite hard. And especially when you're really engrossed and I now I'm fortunate enough, eventually to have built a studio my garden. And that was after years of finding studios losing studios having nowhere to work and, and not wanting to invest so much money and building a kiln somewhere. So we eventually moved house with the sole purpose really of having a bigger garden to build a studio that has its advantages and disadvantages. It's great in the way that you can come in and do some work in the kitchen or hang out the washing or, you know, I could see Jesse, we're at three o'clock after school, but then I can go back in the studio, it's very much at home. It has the disadvantage that my work. You know, there's and what's incredible as an artist, and what a lot of people don't realize that the background to it is there's a huge amount of paperwork and an emailing and management and sometimes it's two or three days a week at my five day week, or seven day week, what what happens really is work is always at home, and that that's quite a sometimes a difficult balance. So I I tend to go away a lot. So holidays, when it's school holidays, I'm not very good at holidaying in my own home and relaxing because I see, I see the work. And it's weird, really, because as an artist, I think I see life as work and work as life right. But sometimes the definition isn't so strong, it's not like I can put it down at five o'clock. And I have a partner who does and I slightly envy envious of that of that situation. And sometimes it's incredibly busy. And again, in the last few years works been quite successful enough so that I've taken on a couple of assistance. And and that's been great. And they turn up for work quite early. And you know, or they're very good at being flexible, because I'm not a great person to start at eight o'clock in the morning. And I have weird little obsessions that my kitchen has to be in order and tied and things away. Before I start my work in the studio can't leave the house. messy. And that's that's quite unusual for an artist because a lot of artists can work in chaos, and I don't I work in order. And ceramics particularly because it's you have to be very careful of the clay dust which you can you can, you don't want to be breathing in the dust of clay, which is tiny grains of silica, Not good, not good for the lungs, we have to wipe down on time. So I'm very used to keeping good order in the studio, we have to do that. The great advantage now being at this stage of my career and having these studio systems is that it has released me from being this absolute flat out maker to allow myself to do yoga in running and other activities that I love. But I never allowed myself to do and I will allow myself now to do them in the daytime, which it feels extraordinary, you know that I can go out for a walk in the daytime or run. So I think I've achieved something in life. I can do that. So that's that's, that is only happened in the last few years. And I'm 55 minutes. That's that's a much better work balance for me.
Frankie Dewar 8:48
And can you talk a little bit about the community projects?
Yes. Oh, yeah. Over the over the years, I've just been engaged to do various public art projects. And, and quite often there is a if it's a commission, they would like a community element of that. So we it's like outreach, but we've always been really keen to not just engage the community in what we're doing. But for them to be able to make elements, ceramic based elements that we've taught them how to make that those pieces actually go back into the piece of public artwork. So they can see their work. They can feel proud about the work they can they can take ownership of the work. So I did a project with a colleague going back to 2005 six when my daughter was a was a baby. And we we got small pot funding from the local council to use reclaimed materials from an old hospital that had closed down and the hospital was going to be regenerated into housing and an office for a housing company. But two thirds of this building was knocked down. And the building had incredible history. It was it was originally a workhouse. And it was a largest maternity hospital instruction. In fact, my partner was born there, this this is cross houses just outside Shrewsbury. So we saw this opportunity to use reclaimed materials from the hospital. So we pulled out bricks and stone and slate to rebuild community facilities such as bus shelters, and benches, and developer and art project all around the idea. And it was it was environment with environmental awareness and sustainability, and upcycling, they would call it these days, I don't think that word was invented, then. Yeah, other projects I've done have been working outside in nature, sort of using natural materials to make impressions in clay. So we were capturing, you know, marks from leaves, or the bark of a particular tree or dead seed heads. Clay clay has that beautiful quality to just take a print or an impression of natural materials, and then we can also use twigs, and as tools to to make marks into play. And quite often, again, those pieces once they're fired, they're obviously they have a long life, they go back into public sculptures, or we set them into Word. And, and it's just wonderful to work out in the environment with people very close to nature with clay, which is Earth dug out of the ground, you know, we're and we're using our eyes to observe in detail, bits of nature, and we're using our hands to transform, what is a piece of clay dug out of the ground into something that's either beautiful or functional. So I think that's a really lovely thing. I mean, Clay, I work a lot with brick too. And and, you know, again, that's a, that the bricks, a brick is made to the size of a man's hand or woman's hand, in order to build some of the largest structures and it's, you know, it's got a huge history that the use of brick in, in house building, and it's always great to talk to schoolchildren to say, you know, namely 10 things made out of clay. And you know, what's the most unusual thing? What's the largest thing you can think of made out of clay and to get somebody to say a house? You know, you don't think that our houses that we live on a predominantly brick, and they're made out of clay? Or how about something in the bathroom, you know, and they wouldn't think that a toilet is made out of clay. But boilers may not play something every day, they always get pots and pans, you know, but yeah, it's quite a fun exercise to get people thinking.
Frankie Dewar 12:31
I mean, I wouldn't have answered either of those things. I don't know what
we would do. Then there's unusual things like bits of things inside our iPhones are made out clay or paper in a magazine glossy magazines has some ceramic clay material into it. telegraph pylons had, that the structure that the wires go around are made out of ceramics, you know, this is just, it is quite fascinating, really. And it's a huge history. archaeologically, you know, we've learned about past lives through pottery, it's, it's so it's it's a much bigger subject than just making pots, which is also wonderful. That's
Frankie Dewar 13:12
fascinating. And it sounds like nature and the outdoors sort of flows through your work quite a lot. Yes,
it flows through my work and has flowed through my life, really. So it's where I feel happiest and most comfortable. And I was brought up in a family that were outdoor lovers. And with four young kids, I think it was also a cheap way of entertaining your children. We were dragged up mountains quite often kicking and screaming ice ice to invent ways that I've been injured to pretend I couldn't get to the top of mountains. But you know, and I look back, but of course, it's in your blood and it now now we'd love it. And we've spent a lot of time in North Wales and also camping, you know, so
Frankie Dewar 13:54
I say what sort of trips have you done?
outdoors trip so my, I was very lucky to connect with school friend who is also we're both sporty and into the outdoors and the grand old age of 30. We're very keen on geography as well as a subject and I think that has that connection to the physical landscape. And me and my friend Sally decided that 13 we'd like to go youth hosteling. And it's not possible to do it now, because I've tried to encourage my daughter that you can't go youth hosteling independently under the age of 16. But we were 13. And we booked four days in the Peak District. And it was incredible. I mean, our parents were both teachers and trusted us and said Yeah, go for it to girls age 13 set off with rucksacks we plan direct, we did it all ourselves. Our parents had absolutely nothing to do. I don't even remember sharing the route with my parents. So we looked at the map, we looked at the youth hostels, it was so exciting to say we're going to walk from there today, you know, maybe 13 miles a day. And to just use a mat I remember the thrill of using a map unknown you'd got from A to B and you'd followed lines. on a piece of paper and that first trip, you know, it rained absolutely nonstop. It really did and we didn't see we had rubbish cameras but we didn't see anything anyway but it didn't didn't deter from the adventure the sense of adventure and freedom. And of course that setters for many more of those every year we did another one I think the following year we went to the Yorkshire Dales and went to Marlin Cove and Scotland had good weather then we took we took another friend of three of us and by the age of 16 In fact, I was 15 we booked to do the Pennine Way, which is I can't remember the miners you know, I can't remember it's 300 or something. Anyway, it's walking it starts in Derbyshire and goes to Scotland querque at him but we decided madly to do it the other way around. So we started in Scotland, one of our parents took us up to Scotland, three of us me Sally and her brother Chris. And I had my 16th birthday on the Pennine Way that's carrying a lightweight tent cooking in the very first day we find the wrong mountain by mistake. We had argued over some map reading I remember that. And we must have been I don't know get where we're getting water from because we we did some wild camping basically. Sadly, by day eight, we did get severe severe food poisoning because it was the first time we hadn't cooked for ourselves. And we've we arrived early in a market town called Dalston, the highest market town in the country. I remember that. And we got there early. So we decided to treat ourselves to fish and chips. And the fish and chip shop was a Chinese shop. And we had spring rolls, and they didn't look good and they didn't taste good. And we were violently sick and diarrhea for two days. And it really put us out of sync with the whole trip. And I remember ringing my mom who is the pickup parents saying begging her to pick us up and she refused should not get better and get on with it. And that was typical. Okay, but no mom, we can't we could we couldn't do anything. We were so weak. So eventually they came picks up so that cut that trip short that we did eight days. That was 16. And then at 18 we did the big cycle trip to the Lake District recycled up the lead district all around the Lake District mostly pushing our bikes up passes. boiling hot summer came back really, really bad. And cycling down the other side of these passes. But I don't think we cycled 1000 miles in a couple of weeks. So I was at when I did that. And then I my next adventure was going off as a as an 18 year old to live in Italy on my own having never been abroad ever with my family never flown I actually wouldn't get on an airplane. So I went by train took me two and a half days to get there. Took a rucksack with all my stuff for a year. And I was quite shy 18 too. So that that was quite a major adventure really, and probably changed the course of my life, you know, came back after a year to pa college. But that was then I decided not to stay in that career.
Can't remember the question
Frankie Dewar 18:02
So what did you do after
so then so then over the years we've done quite a few trips, traveling traveling trips. Oh my goodness, could tell some stories we we've been to traveled right across America hired a car had car crash in the middle of America, Grand Canyon. All those sorts of things we did an MA This is with Dave, actually the first year I met Dave 1986 we hitchhiked around Europe. Again with my little lightweight tent, my tent. My I've got to tell you this. My rucksack was my 18th birthday presents. That was my pride and joy Burke house blue rucksack. And I still have it. And Jesse uses it. So it's been going that's wrong. my tent was my 21st birthday present and a brilliant little lightweight tent. And only it fell apart camping at the coast a few years ago. But Dave and I traveled around Europe for two and a half months. And we mostly were hitchhiking, we just basically had no money. I was I was 20. And he was he was 30 a great adventures and I wish I'd wish I'd had an Audio Diary at that time. The most exciting thing was all the different people we met hitchhiking, but the best bit of the journey was traveling here and we got home from Florence in Italy back to Shrewsbury in two and a half days. And every one of those lifts was amazing. From a guy that picked us up in Belgium. We got into this land rover and he said Oh, can you flip that switch and turn it over to gas which I didn't know or understand Really? What? That a vehicle drawn off a gas bottle at the time. He took his he took us into his hometown and the name of it is Ghent it was Ghent which is actually a big city. And he said, I'll I know somewhere for you to pitch your tent in the night it'll be fine. So it's and before that I said oh I'll take you to meet some of my mates. They run a restaurant and they make Trappist monks beer so we went we just followed this guy. He took us this restaurant fetters and poured, he didn't literally pour the beer down. But we bought it down ourselves. And it was very, very strong. So by the end of the evening, we were very, very drunk. And we couldn't see the guy anywhere. But somebody said, somebody recognizes that I will show you where you're camping lead us through the streets, you know, quite naive in a way we're following people through the streets. So that's where you can camp. And we were inside the middle of a monastery that had been turned into a hippie commune. But we didn't know and we were so drunk, we could hardly put the tent up, it was pitch black, and woke up in the morning with chickens around and all sorts of people get you know, that was just one of these. One of the strong memories. Another one was a guy picked us up in Switzerland, I think it was Italy, Italy Swiss border. And he drove very fast. And he was a little bit, he was a little bit scary. I didn't feel very comfortable with him, he was very red eyed. And he said, he'd just been on a camping trip. And the back of his car was just complete chaos. There was tents and cucumbers and underpants. And, and he would drive with a beer cannon his hand and I thought, I'm not particularly happy about this. I don't feel very relaxed. And there's something about him that I didn't feel quite comfortable with. And mostly drove to Switzerland, in the dark. And eventually he pulled over and he said, I'm so so tired, which is why he was red eyed. He said, I'm so tired. I'm just going to have to pull over and sleep here. So he won't his seat back and me and Dave had to try and sleep in the back of his car. And the next morning, he said, Do you think you could give me some cash, he hadn't got enough cash and maybe couldn't access cash to pay for petrol. So we did that.
But the next morning, he seemed completely different character. And he said I'm, I'm going to take you know, to my hometown and to, to my work and where I, where I work, and he was a physiotherapist in a very plush five star hotel, took us to the hotel gave us towels said, Hey, we're going to have a swim, have a shower, bought us lunch, and then drove us to the drop off point on the motorway to get us on to the next part of the journey. You know, and these things, these things, these gifts, that people the kindness of people was quite amazing, which is why I'm always interested in supporting younger people today and sharing students come to the house and lovely Frankie during her journey, you know, it's a continuum of, of trusting people, and I have other friends that those sorts of lives, you know, where they maybe live a life without cash and go and see, you know, Satish Kumar did it he walked out of his home with no money, he says, I'm going to walk out of India and, and trust that life will support him. And you meet amazing people if you if you do that. But then the the big, the big, the biggest highlight of my life, the biggest and best trip was my trip to India. And that went on to Nepal and just phenomenally I had a had a focus on having massages during Nepal. And I could have written a book on all the different styles of massage and who were then all the little stories that went with that. But it was a very, very creative trip for me. I had a very creative response to the landscape and meeting people. And I don't know, I if I sat and drew or if I sat and did a sand sculpture on the beach, I'd get crowds of people coming around, you know, sort of being you know, sort of maybe I don't know if they hadn't seen it was just it was just very interesting. I soon realized it was a way of engaging with people and if I didn't have a language if we if we couldn't speak you know, little kids in Nepal I could I could make art with them or do drawings or juggling Another thing I was doing quite a lot of juggling and playing ball game. So it was it was a lovely trip of meeting people in a different way creatively and but walking and in Nepal, we did the Annapurna circuit, which is generally takes about three weeks and you climb almost not from ceiling paccar I can't remember what height it was. But you climb up to 17 and a half 1000 feet over to over maybe eight to 10 days. And the different landscape the different can't think of the right word. Geographically the changes from tundra you noted ice to desert you go through so many different changes. It was incredible and the meditative state you get into walking every day. In very stunning scenery and meeting very humble poor poor people but we stayed mostly in people's homes. Very simple homes with a cookie on one one pot on one fire. And then we got up to you know when you climb to 17,017 half 1000 feet there's obviously a lack of oxygen you have to apply amortize and the way you did that as you had to climb high in the day and then drop down low at night and it's it helps you the oxygen in your brain adjust. So we did quite a bit of that. And then the day we have to do the longest day is called the throng law pass. And we had to be up at four in the morning and and climb for maybe 10 hours before you go down. again. So it was a very, very early start. And I think I was quite nervous and we'd hardly slept. And the day we woke that morning, we woke up, it was a whiteout. It was just blizzard conditions. And we had a guide, we were lucky, there was two of us just took me in, and my good buddy, Rebecca. But we had a guide, he was only 16. And I wasn't he done this a few times, but it was a way of earning money for them. Now I think about it. He was Yeah, he was very strong, he carried our bag too. So we've put packed all our stuff into one bag. And he'd been recommended to us by a friend that we'd met out in India. And she said, Go, if you go to, if you go to Nepal, higher Krishna, you know, go just go and find him on streets, just ask for Krishna rainbow. And it worked. And he was he was a really nice guy. And he had had done this a few times. And he knew all the people and places good places to stay. But the point of climbing into the mountains in a blizzard with a 16 year old, I didn't feel very confident at that time as a 35 year old woman. And I did have the effects of lack of oxygen in that I couldn't quite breathe and it gave me a stitch sort of feeling. And every few steps, I had to stop and bend over and leave a pain and have a bit of a massage. So that was that was quite difficult. And then Rebecca got it higher, closer to the top where she could hardly walk. But we did this we did the
the walk in the snow and eventually it cleared. And then you walk down and down and down and down. The other side of the path is completely different landscape again, but stunningly beautiful, much more barren. But we almost walked down hill them for two weeks. And it was a strangest feeling. Because if you ever just go climbing in, you know, I was used to climbing in mostly in England or Snowden and Scotland, Wales, and you do a climb in a day you go up and you come down. But if you've gone up and up and up and up and up, then you've got you coming down and down is weird getting up. And I felt like we were walking into the middle of the earth. You know, just how could we keep going down? We went down more than we went up. It was just I just remember thinking that was really weird feeling. But yeah, it was absolutely fantastic trip. And I always swore I'd go back if I had kids and take my kids. So I haven't done that with Jesse. So maybe one day, I'll go back there. Now my adventures are much closer to home.
Frankie Dewar 27:17
What's their things to do now?
So yeah, so
you know, I've got a 15 year old daughter and apart from lockdown, she's at school. So I, we don't tend to go off and have those sorts of big adventures. But also to keep my personal sanity as as parenting a 15 year old teenage girl. I think my my adventures are more close to home. And there were the women of similar age and mindset. So we still feel very adventurous in our mind and our spirit. It's the spirit of adventure. And we call them micro adventures. So we might just go on our bikes and going campout on the local hill with no tents at all. We've done that we've done that in lockdown, five, five of this went and just you know it's a two hour bike ride. It's just a lovely feeling to go and do that. And then I spend a lot of time in our local Brook, which is 510 minutes from home. And I've paddled in my own little craft that I sort of invented down this Brook which can be very very shallow, you know, it's a few inches deep at times. So if you took a canoe on it we have taken once a big Canadian canoe, but you that's a heavy thing to lift in an app, if you get a tree across your your, you're trapped you have to lug the canoe around and I didn't want that I wanted easy access. So I bought a big rubber ring basically put a piece of wood across it because I wanted to sit upright, and then an oil from another boat, probably a little rubber dinghy or something because I'm an I like to kayak generally as my method on the river. So this thing is a bit more like a coracle. But it was a cheap and quick way of getting on the river. And I've been mud locking is the word for it. I've been gathering found items out of the river, partly to clear it I mean this this river is is in a beautiful nature of the last five k of it. It's 25 kilometers long. The last five k runs through South excuse me into the river seven in the town center. And the last five k is a local nature reserve and it's protected and it's beautiful and people use it for dog walking and all sorts of fishing and but it is juxtaposed by businesses, housing estates very, very close to the river's edge. Some of them I'm gobsmacked how they ever got planning that it's got this sort of very hard edge to it and in places and not so attractive to some people. You know, pre lockdown, people would choose to get in their car and walk up the hill with their dogs. I think that would be the preference that obviously you can get down the brook walk your dog but so I wasn't using it so much So apart from I'd run down there regularly but in lockdown you know it was the only place we could go was to go within walking or cycling distance. So the river just became this huge focus for me and for many other people actually. But because it's it has a lot of built environment around it, it's become a dumping ground I can see for possibly builders or people doing their own DIY, the things I've pulled out of it. You know, there's a ton of bricks in it for a start, but there's a lot of concrete I've pulled wheelbarrows I build a shovels. And so I've been fascinated that people have treated this river really with a bit of disrespect over the years and has seen it as an easy dumping ground. And then of course there's endless shopping trolleys, the end I don't know how but I think somebody enjoys taking shopping trolleys, there's courses, there's asda close by there's a little Sainsbury's close to it, there's another Sainsburys. So you know, these these trolleys end up in the river. And of course, they can be a hazard to the wildlife and I had a bit of an obsession of wanting to get them all out. And I've pulled out at least seven out of the river during lockdown. And to me, they're they're quite they've got beauty to them when they're all rusted and covered in in layers of mud, or they've got twigs in them. And being an artist and interested in sculpture, I wanted to upcycle them and I have a plan to build structures from the one will be a house of clay on a on a shopping trolley. Another one I want to project I've been doing a lot of filming of the river, and of movement and of light and shadows. And I'm going to project a film of the river inside the shopping trolley, and I might build it into a nest and then have the projection of the water. With the sound coming out as well. I obsessively listened to one track one song by pair of stellar all the way through my running in lockdown. And it talks about it was incredible because it was very poignant. And it talks about in this in this dark time, you know, hope is all we have. And I couldn't believe that I was I was just really into the music of this song. But I hadn't listened to the words. And then I started listening to it. It's like yeah, how to listen to the grass growing up, you know, which is really being mindful and in the environment. And then it's then it talked about building your highest of clay by the river. And I'm thinking here I am always wanting to build my house to play. And here I am loving this river. I thought this isn't this is absolutely my song. And so I want to build this house of clay on the shopping trolley and project the song coming out of the house. There's a very personal response to my my river lockdown project. But as well as that I realized, you know, so many other people are enjoying this repetier. And I'm fascinated by whether people had never been down there before. You know, I wanted to do a survey, I thought there's people here I know with maps haven't got a clue where they're going. And there's so many ways of finding a way down to this river of through these housing estates. And so I and I bumped into friends I said, Have you ever been down in pool and they were saying now second, how can I How can I find this out? So that was one one sort of questioning I was I was thinking about you could sense the business of it from having run there all winter and not seeing a soul to loads people being down there.
The other thing I was aware of obviously, you know people living on their own in lockdown, I'm lucky I'm fortunate enough to have a partner and a daughter but there are people on their own and felt more fearful and, and sometimes I'm not going the everybody's response was different, wasn't it and people you know, passing people by the river and how how you turned your face or the distance anywhere. There's there was all that going on. But I was thinking particular people with, with mental health issues, everything was amplified, or feeling claustrophobic and not coming out and so on. And I was aware of a friend that lived down there that never really came out of the house. So I was making little artistic installations along the river just from found objects. I was finding old ceramics and bricks, and photographing them and sharing them on Facebook and the people quite interested in so I encouraged a friend to come out the house the first time in ages just to come look at these. And then I set her a little treasure hunt that took her all because she said there's areas that she'd never been so I said, I'm going to set you this treasure hunt. And that was a really magical little sharing. And again, I thought this why just do it for a lovely friend. You know, I'd love to share that with more people. So I started thinking about the whole idea of a community, group and experience and, and I it's weird because I'd set 2020 pre pre COVID as a time of transition for me and my own work because work has been relatively successful. But there's a point when I feel that I'm just making to sell work in galleries and shows and if you get into have that sort of rapid repetition of making, you lose a little bit of something. And the problem is it's successful and people want that work. And the galleries want to see some uniformity and continuation that work. I need something else I need to be moving on all the time. And I thought, well, I could continue that work that I need to explore another way of working. So 2020 is my year for exploring that. So I'd already decided to take a bit of time out from the making, and then then locked down caves. I thought right now this is it. And so there was the pulling out of the materials. And I've not just pulled out shopping trolleys, there's been so many interesting bits of all bits of metal and everything. And I want to recompose those in a in a whole ceramic exhibition. Sorry, I was getting I was talking about community. So the other thing was I I'm used to running community projects, but they're mostly projects have been offered to me, I thought I'd add like one that I've come up with the idea. And I watch. So it's really is my passion. And I thought, well, let's let's set this around something that some people will appreciate. And we found a pot of funding that was around well being which seemed absolutely perfect, focusing on environment, place, and people. So I've been exploring that over the last few months. And because Facebook was quite a good way, and I do quite a lot of my work through Facebook, I get people coming to workshops. from Facebook, I decided to set up a rybrook Facebook group, it's called rybrook wonders. But then you set up a group because that's public, and it's more interactive. So we've got rybrook wonders group. And within a few weeks, we've got over 300 members 370 I think now, and it's lovely because people are doing their own thing, and they're sharing their stories, and they're sharing bits of history or their childhood and you know what it means to them. So this it's really it's really nice, and I think oh gosh, I started that.
And I sometimes post is reboot wonders and I sometimes post as Ruth and I Ruth as Ruth I put in the wacky arts things Facebook is facebook, and we can all have that has, we have a lot of issues with it. But um, what what inspires me to keep using it is that other people say we absolutely love your posts and keep posting. And if two or three people, it makes two or three people feel happy, and inspired. I think that's a good enough reason. In fact, it's lovely to have those sorts of compliments. I never want to bore people or say look at me on top, you know, look at what I'm doing. Sorry, I'm getting on and on. And I haven't really
Frankie Dewar 37:31
got on to this is just gonna say when you're finding the things in the river, how, how do you find them? And how do you get them out?
Well, sometimes a little tiny things. So and it's usually after a run. So after a run is something I've loved doing is after running quite hard, I'll I'll go to my favorite spots. And I have all my favorite places along the river, I have a meditation spot, there's a beach where I can dance and do check Tai Chi. Once you've run you're very much in your body and out of your out of your mind. I don't like to say that but you know, you're not so much focused on Brain Stuff. And so it's a really nice opportunity to then to go into the flow of movement. And quite often that takes me in my shoes, I don't mind I'm always wandering into the water because I can see these little things sparkling and apart from having my obsession with bricks because I've worked with bricks for 20 years, you know, tiny little pieces of shards they're called brick shards that are softened by the water. I just knew those appealed to me and they're easy things to pick up the bigger bricks I was making sculpt I was hiding and then making sculptures with and then taking photographs and then sometimes I'd bring those home when they were just little when is a run and I I pick up rubbish so quite often I do a big litter pick and then go and put it in a bin and I found lots of dog poo bags unused that had just been dropped probably by accident not been noticed. So I'd always keep a few dogs. I never bought any there are other people's so I'm recycling and I just make sure I only took enough to fill a little dog so they're little tiny pieces but you know that the hunting for beautiful ceramics I've got some really old ceramics and some old pipe you know clay pipes at the river and what about
Frankie Dewar 39:18
the shopping trolleys? They
Okay, so the shopping trolleys, yeah. So so the shopping trolleys, some of them are very submerged and quite difficult. So you sometimes think oh, this one's absolutely entrenched into the abyss become part of the river bank or it's become part of the riverbed and it's impossible to get I have once pulled on one and it came into two pieces and I didn't like it because I was leaving sharp metal in the water which I thought that's not good for the fish or the otters. There are otters in the book. The big shopping trolleys that I have got I've invited a friend so in lockdown It was a friend's birthday and I said she'd seen absolutely no yes and what more do you want? Would you like to come on one Aris adventure center a little map I said meet me here and we go for a little picnic and a little shopping trip. It's the first shopping trolley we got out actually. So me and Adele, hold the shopping trolley. Absolutely caked in mud and all sorts and I took it back to Sainsbury's just for a laugh and took photographs of us outside. But if what happens then is I'll go and take my little van close to the brook as possible and we can carry we can go and pick it up later. So I have been seen you know, I can carry the a lot of these things home. When I've done a big trawl, I've gone with a friend. And we've we've taken stuff from the middle of the river in my little paddling boat. And we've gathered that and I leave little collections on the side of the bank, and then I go back and I remember where they are go back and pick them up later. So I've got, you know, boxes and boxes of treasure. And I sometimes paste them. And I note where all the shopping trolleys are. But there's there's at least five that have just become part of the river. And I talked to the council and they said, oh, there's none left in there. We took we took them all out a year ago. I said, Well, you've missed at least eight. Those are amazing. But I think now they won't be old and rusted. Because I've probably got most of those most of those out.
Frankie Dewar 41:11
You talked a little bit about running. Is that something you started doing in lockdown? No. But
I've been trying to run on and off since around about the age of 50. Having been a very sporty fit, youngster and continued to play in competitive sport, netball and badminton and basketball and circuit training till my 30s. I think it stopped when I did my degree in ceramics, which became my quite obsessive nature. So that became my obsession and the sport stopped. And really, I didn't do much from having my daughter, I regret it. Now looking back why I didn't continue. But I sort of, I put on weight. And I sort of just accepted that this was what happens when you become a mom in your mid 40s. So and then I had this most amazing inspirational friend who had done something similar having not had a sporty background, but she'd she'd gained weight over parenting to two lads. And being a single parent and rant about just before her 50th I think she just very quietly took herself off and did Weight Watchers and last a lot. She just like she stepped out of one body into a new body. It was unbelievable, because we hadn't seen it for a little while. And that was a very physical, you know, transformation in front of your eyes in a way. But not only that she took up running at the same time having never run in alike. And wow, you can you can do that. And not only that, She then went on to race and do mountain running and has retrained as a physical trainer and keeps runs two or three fit clubs a week. And she does the outdoors for I think it's called fit up to 40 with Sal but most of us are probably over 50. And such an inspiration to me and I went on a trip with her to Germany for a weekend and we talked and did running then and I really saw her her fitness and felt my unfitness, shockingly, you know, and I thought there's no reason why I can't do this. Apart from I'd had a physio that said don't start running at your age, which was like, I will start running it. I'm not going to be told not to. So I did do couch to five K. And I did it two or three times. And I did it very, very quietly. And I did it in my cemetery, which is absolutely beautiful. So did all my initial running in the cemetery. And when I feel confident enough, I'll go down to the river. So I'd only really been I'd got up to five k twice. But it was only last autumn that I was running it regularly three times a week. That was my aim by Christmas actually. So really, the beginning of 2020 was running three times a week regularly. And when lockdown happened, I said that's that's it exercise is just going to be my thing I do maybe have a break from my normal arts practice, but I'm going to keep fit. So I did and he's still running. And I still running. Now I do have slight pain developing in my right hip or my right and my right knee and I think possibly old injury. So I've been really careful and just monitoring it and doing loads and loads of stretching. I do yoga as well. I do Tai Chi, so they they keep me mobile. Yeah, I'd love to be able to keep on running. Seriously. I love it. Yeah.
Frankie Dewar 44:38
Usually I talk to people about their journey and their life, but I feel like we've talked a lot about it. So yeah, I skip that and I'll get to go straight in. I've
Frankie Dewar 44:46
got a section that's kind of around emotions, right? And I've asked everybody about what do you think your authentic self means? What do you think is
God I hate things like that? I think I'm probably is it is recording, I think I'm probably living my most authentic self right now. But I think it takes a lot of time in life to, to know your authentic self, and to live true to your heart really, and to your passions and to follow to follow those. And of course, throughout your life, there are times when it's impossible to do that, and I think the weight of responsibility can take hold, particularly, you know, as a mother, as somebody you know, with as a homeowner with a mortgage with responsibility to looking after the home, holding down jobs, you know, we all become quite serious. And my authentic self is incredibly playful. It is weird because I I knew as a child, I was more playful, I don't know, I sensed it. In my family, I was more playful in spirit. And I, my parents tried a little bit to crush it, because my mum found it embarrassing. And I was a bit silly and jokey and daft and she just didn't like that. If we were out in public, you know, I wasn't allowed to make a joke at a dinner table, it is a bit weird. Or, or clap too loudly in a concert, you know? Anyway, so so now I'm through yours, I'm totally accepting that this is how I am. And the playfulness and the creativity work very well together. And I think it inspires others. And I'm only just learning to recognize that I do inspire others. And it's inspiring people to be playful and that it's okay. And it's okay, at whatever age, I'm going to have questioned it quite deeply because I can see that obviously it embarrasses my daughter for me to behave in a certain way. But then I have to, I've questioned the appropriateness of certain behaviors of a woman of a certain age out outdoors, you know, what does it look strange doesn't mean paddling down the river and do I just look like this strange artists, you know, and people do call me mad. And my parents actually think I'm quite mad. And I say I'm not mad. I'm I'm actually really happy and really loving what I do. And because I love what I do, other people are attracted to that, I think. And I think you do what you love with passion and you share it with others. And what's more authentic than that.
Frankie Dewar 47:13
What do you think bravery is
bravery is doing doing anything you're fearful of it can be the tiniest of things can take bravery, it can be a bravery can be smiling at somebody like that you feel shy about and that's, that's brave, and it's stepping over. It's, it's taking yourself out of your comfort zone. I've got a friend who goes off and does two weeks camping on her own in a tiny little tent on a bicycle with very little money. And we all say to Oh my god, you're such an inspiration, Marian, you're so brave. And she says, I'm just as scared as anybody else. But she says I need to do it. And I want to do it. And it's not brave. So So we've had these conversations about bravery. I'm still very fearful of the dark and and being out in the dark and, and also in the middle of the night because I think the demons are stronger in New York. You know, everything can look gloomier and more fearful at night, I was a very, very scared child. I was scared of the dark. And I think it's because I had a vivid imagination. Because we didn't have a television. So if I ever saw anything on television, it was too too powerful for me. So I remember being scared in a room full of people as a child with the television on. Nobody understood it. And I was scared to go to bed. So I'm somebody that you know that that the whole anxiety thing. I've I've had to deal with that. And panic attacks, you know, and bravery is to do something that you you're scared of, you have to feel it and do it anyway. And we have to not stop ourselves doing things because then we become trapped. But I do I like to I really like to acknowledge the tiny steps of bravery, you know, that we that everybody has to make and and that we all have fear. we all we all think we don't we we think we're the only ones maybe that are anxious over something, but I think everybody can have anxiety and fear. And it's just to have somebody to hold your hand or to encourage you to do it.
Frankie Dewar 49:11
And what do you think happiness feels like?
Unknown Speaker 49:17
That's a really good question, isn't it? I feel it a lot these days. And it's it probably sounds quite corny, but it's definitely being in the moment. And knowing right now this is this is good. I can feel it just being in the garden or just being outdoors or by the river or, or running there momentary feelings, it's not a permanent state. You know, we all think I will if I do this, that and the other you'll become happy or happier, but that it's just a it's just a feeling an emotion that comes and goes and some days I can feel fantastic and feel really happy and the next day is just all changed and something shifted, or for no apparent reason. It might be something in my subconscious or a dream or and and it's got Or it could be something you've heard on the news, or it could be something somebody said, and you've taken it personally or the wrong way, you know, and those moments of happiness is gone. And it like all all emotions, you know, we aren't our emotions, they just come through as, and I tried to teach my daughter that you can feel angry or sad or depressed. I said that you are not your emotions, you know, they're just things that come and go. And happiness is just one of a number of emotions that we all experienced.
Frankie Dewar 50:30
Do you have any female role models? Who are they, and why?
I just think all women, when I had when I gave birth, I looked at every single woman who had given birth and become a mother in a different light. I was truly truly gobsmacked at the whole experience. And if you you can go through that, and then look after these children. So I think most mothers I have huge respect for, I think it's it's not a big pedestal thing, really. And I think most people who, who've struggled and come out the other side are wise. And
Frankie Dewar 52:14
this is the last question. What's the one piece of advice that you would gie to your younger self?
To my younger self? Yeah, would be to relax, enjoy a bit more, you know, be confident in yourself. less less self critical? Take the inner critic, not the inner critic on its head.
But yeah, how
can you say that to yourself? none of it matters. Really. They're all big questions that I struggled to say succinctly in a in a sentence that Yeah, probably a younger self, definitely not to worry so much. But that comes, I remember thinking, how do you become confident? I want to be more confident, how do you become confident, at a very young age that the only way to become confident is to do stuff that makes you more quite as experienced, isn't it? And I'd say take risks, Say yes, say yes to everything. And take risks. Don't be Don't be scared. Or if you're scared, just acknowledge that it's, it's normal to be scared and that everybody else is probably feeling the same way. As all those sorts of things. Really. I remember somebody giving me some advice that I really liked. And it was to do with around probably having anxiety, and I can still get anxious, and it's not a good thing that I will get anxious on depending on who the person is. I'm talking to him where I think they sit in some sort of hierarchy. No, that's not a good, I need to knock that on my head. Dave's very good at everybody is equal. My brother's very good at that, you know, not being fearful of some big wig comes into the room. And this counselor, it was a cancer, I think, who said it to me, and she said that her father had said to her as a five year old girl, she said, always walk whenever you walk into a room, just walk into a room as though you're equal to everybody. Never think there's anybody in there better than you, greater than you but never think there's anybody in there that's worse, and you just treat everybody equally. And it's quite a hard one to live by. Because I can I sense it when I know. If I'm running a workshop and I hear of a certain name on the way I'm going, Oh, my God, I've got that person coming is particularly if it's your peers or somebody who's super talented, brilliant at their jobs, I suddenly get anxious. And I don't know why. And I think they're only coming to play with some play. They they're coming to take what you can give. They're not comparing themselves. You know why we compare ourselves to each other. It's one of our big things. We have to really try to drop a comment the question, What did you ask me?
Frankie Dewar 54:52
You answered it completely. Thank you so
Frankie Dewar 54:59
much. Wow, what incredible advice to end the interview and to end the season with. I love this episode. I find Ruth's voice so soothing. And I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. It is the end of season one. Thank you so much for everything you have done so far, to help support and grow the podcast every time you recommend it to a friend every time you share it on your Instagram stories, every single review every single rating, and follower and person who signs up to the newsletter. It really really does help and I wouldn't be here without you. Season Two is coming out soon. And I'll be talking to 10 more awesome people about their adventurous lives as I cycle further and further north. If you want to keep up to date in between the seasons, the best place to go is to our newsletter that you can find via the website or the show notes. Or give us a follow on social media. You can find us on Instagram at extraordinary ordinary women, Facebook at extraordinary ordinary women. And on Twitter. You can find me Frankie underscore Do we have some pretty exciting news coming up. I've just set up a Patreon account to help the podcast to keep going and keep growing. As I'm recording this, I already have two awesome folks lined up. Thank you so much to Mildred and Jen for their support. Thanks to their help. I am halfway to covering the podcast expenses, making it more sustainable to keep running in the long run. Thank you so much to them for their help. The support from Patreon really will help me to make the podcast the very best it can be. If you'd like to find out more you can visit extraordinary new women.com forward slash support. And until next time, keep on being extraordinary.