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The Secrets of Crawley Mill

Andrew and Jessica Parker

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Esther Lafferty
Crawley Mill

Husband and wife artists Andrew and Jessica Parker work in neighbouring studios at Crawley Mill. The studios have an extensive frontage beneath the towering chimney along a pretty stretch of the Windrush and tucked off the beaten track in this hidden Cotswold valley – signposted by a bright yellow taxi – they showcase two very different types of art as part of the Artweeks Christmas Season virtual art trail.

Jessica’s Kingfisher Studio, named for the birds who flit right past, is a haven of colourful landscapes, buildings, woodland and the coastline, painted in a loose and expressive style rich in texture. You can imagine stepping into one of the works and finding yourself in a windswept Famous Five story, roaming beautiful scenery from a bygone era where there’s a perhaps a touch of mystery. This year she has concentrated on the beauty of old, derelict structures from barns to abandoned boats. Jessica likes to work in mixed media using often-recycled collage pieces which add both texture and interesting illustrative surface design.

In the next door-studio, the story and the whimsy loom larger than life. Andrew shares Jessica’s desire to recycle and is a magpie on a giant scale: the items that catch his eye are large and unusual pieces of retro memorabilia – whether vintage cars or extreme sports-related. With his son Will, he then upcycles and repurposes these salvaged items into statement art and furniture for the home and garden whilst staying true to the original styling. Visitors can expect surprises such as car-seat sofas, a drumkit tables, Box Brownie lamps, musical instrument lights, shotgun cartridge coat hooks along with other fun quirky one-off pieces.

As a teenager, Andrew ran a stall on London’s Portobello Road selling old Victorian bottles and pot lids he’d scavenged from waste ground. “I always liked things that were different from the norm, individual and unique items – I would never have chosen something crisp and new from the High Street,” he chuckles.

“Now I work on a larger scale, and I never know what I am looking for until I see it – I have used everything from unwanted cutlery, pallets, to car parts and even aeroplane wings. I once picked up a series of four three-metre tall wicker horses – the Four Horses of the Apocalypse that had been stage props for the Royal Ballet’s production of King Arthur. They were broken and unloved but Will and I restored them and finished them with a glass resin. They now stand at the entrance and gallop within the grounds of an adult learning centre,” he smiles. “We are currently repurposing a wrecked 2CV which I think could become the coolest BBQ in the country!”

And fresh for the winter, Andrew has a series of ski gondolas from the Austrian and French Alps which he has converted into unique solar powered garden pods with new seats made from hardwood and complemented with a snowboard table that will bring a flavour of the annual Alpine adventure to Oxfordshire lawns all year round. For the home, shop or office there are retro ski chair lifts salvaged from both the French Alps and an Aviemore mountainside where they’d been lying for 25 years. Andrew and Will have designed and fitted curved leg pieces of galvanised steel which enable the chairs to be freestanding and a hard wood seat with the option of a ‘ski-boot’ light and a ski tip side table to match.

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