This weekend I'll be moving into my new studio at Maws Craft Centre in Ironbridge. Its made me all nostalgic for what's led me here, and my utter love affair with Shropshire.
I moved to Shropshire six years ago. It was a big scary decision, but I knew at that point that I needed to leave London, even though it was where all my friends, house and job were. I'd had enough of city living, and craved the clean air, space and green of the countryside.
I grew up in Worcestershire, the county just south of Shropshire, so it didn't feel entirely new territory for me. There was something reassuring about being back on the River Severn, even if it was a bit more upstream from what I was used to as a child.
Ironbridge - a town of many stories
I ended up working for a small landscape architecture and ecology practice in Ironbridge, and soon fell in love with the quirky old town, precariously squidged on the steep valleys either side of the river. I loved its rich heritage, and the transformations it had navigated over the centuries: from being a little Shropshire settlement; to a booming town at the heart of the Industrial Revolution; to a derelict and scarred site on the outskirts of the growing new town of Telford; and now a restored natural landscape with a bustling local community and thriving tourism sector.
One of the many places in Ironbridge which reflects the rich heritage of the town is Maws Craft Centre. This used to be the factory of the world's largest tile manufacturer, Maw & Co., which at its height was producing over 20 million tiles a year, and shipping them around the world to royal families, cathedrals, public buildings, and even warships.
The factory closed in 1970, and two thirds of the site was demolished in the following years. The Telford Development Corporation saved the remaining site, and then sold it to the newly established Maws Craft Centre Limited, who had a vision to renovate the unique building and convert it into a thriving arts, crafts and business centre.
Studio at Maws Craft Centre
I've regularly visited Maws since I moved to Ironbridge, and looked around with envy at all the artists and makers in their beautiful studios. When one of the units became available earlier this summer, I jumped at the chance - it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as I was quickly outgrowing my attic studio at home and in need of a permanent place to make and run workshops.
I'm still pinching myself that its mine. It feels such a fitting tribute to my love of Ironbridge and my gratitude for everything that it has given me and enabled me to do over the past six years.
I get the keys to my new studio on 1st October, and will be spending a few weeks just settling in and getting everything sorted. I plan to have a launch event towards the end of the month, so keep your eyes peeled for further announcements. For the time being, I plan for the studio to be my private workspace, but I'll regularly be opening the doors for workshops and open studio events. I hope you'll come visit me soon.