Artist Joanne Tinker has no regrets after swapping the big city for a home by the river in Yorkshire. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Tony Johnson.
When Joanne Tinker decided to trade in her tiny London house for a home in Yorkshire, she had a long list of “must haves” on her property shopping list.
They included a studio/workshop, home office, close proximity to shops and a swimming pool, plus a good school for her daughter, Annie. Ilkley proved to be the ideal location and a four-bedroom house by the river with plenty of square footage was “the one” thanks to the stunning rural views at the rear.
“We had lived in London for almost 20 years and had a very small three-bedroom house. I’d started to think about what we could buy up here if we sold up,” says Joanne, who studied silversmithing and jewellery design at university before diversifying into wall-mounted works of art influenced by her love of recycling.
“When I started looking I couldn’t believe how much extra we could get. Moving to Yorkshire also meant I could be near my family so that was another reason to return. The front of the house is on a busy road but the compensation is that there is the amazing river view from the back and our garden slopes right down to the water. It’s magical and it looks different every day. It’s like having an ever-changing picture.”
The house had already been renovated and Joanne and her husband Owen are slowly stamping their own tastes on the interior. They are also planning to knock the kitchen and a reception room at the front into one big open-plan space.
Their priority when they moved in last September was to get Joanne’s studio set up so she could continue to work from home. It is now in the old dining room at the front of the property with shelves for her books and finds, along with a store room crammed with her favourite materials, including foil, champagne bottle tops and Action Men.
Brightly coloured foil chocolate wrappers are most useful, much to the delight of Owen and their two children, Annie, 16, and Tate, 20, who are ordered to unwrap their chocolates very carefully.
Easter is a favourite time of year when the hunt is on for cut-price eggs: “Chocolate wrappers are usually small but at Easter you can get large pieces from the eggs and bunnies, which give me scope to make something bigger,” says Joanne, who recently splashed out £100 on some Austrian chocolate decorated with portraits of Mozart. “It was an extravagance but I couldn’t resist,” she adds. “Most of the time I use foil that friends and family collect for me. I love using it because it’s glitzy and shiny and it looks delicate but it’s quite tough.”
She moulds it into tiny goblets, which are then framed and wraps them round objects, including Action Man heads, keys and scissors. Champagne tops, which she collects from bars, are sculpted into miniature chairs and they are always framed in multiples and in rows.
Joanne’s work is highly original and very collectable, which reflects her popularity among clients at London Woolff gallery.
Her scrapwork clothing and accessories appeared in Dennis Potter’s television series Cold Lazarus and are on permanent display at the Science Museum in London. The Royal Academy, the New York Museum of Art and Design and the White Rabbit Collection, Sydney, have all exhibited her work.
In Yorkshire, her champagne chairs feature in the Alternative Wedding Show at Kath Libbert’s gallery at Salts Mill, as she also does bespoke commissions using champagne tops from weddings.
“I love working with throwaway material. I started by making jewellery from tin cans and plastic tubing and had a stall in the Corn Exchange in Leeds before I moved to London. My big breakthrough was in 2007 when I started making work you could put on the wall and my goblets piece was accepted by the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition,” says Joanne, whose latest venture is making foil letters.
Her work leaves little time for decorating but she and Owen have transformed the bedroom into a restful haven, painted white and with a smart, grey bed from Barker and Stonehouse. Other furniture includes inherited pieces, like the suitcases in the hall, which were her grandfather’s, and items from South Africa, where Joanne lived until she was 11.
More pieces of furniture and objects keep appearing now that Joanne has discovered the thrill of buying at auction. She is a regular at the Andrew Hartley salerooms in Ilkley.
“I’m hooked on it. There are so many bargains. The mirror in the downstairs loo was only a tenner,” says Joanne, who gets her London “fix” when delivering pictures to the Woolff gallery.
“I miss not being able to get on the Tube and go to exhibitions and I miss my friends in London but I love living here,” she says.
“I can walk out of the door and up onto the moor or into the woods. I can’t wait for summer so I can go paddling in the river. I might even get myself a kayak.”
joannetinker.co.uk. The Alternative Wedding Show runs until June 12 at the Kath Libbert jewellery gallery at Salts Mill, kathlibbertjewellery.co.uk