Meet Adele Froude a remarkable artist based in the Yorkshire Dales and inspired by nature

From the door of her snug artist’s studio, Adele Froude doesn’t have to venture far to be inspired by the natural world. “We’ve got swallows living in the barn and we’ve got hedgehogs. The mother had a baby recently… Nature comes to me.”

Artist Adele Froude in her Long Preston studio. (James Hardisty).
Artist Adele Froude in her Long Preston studio. (James Hardisty).

And she’s right. In the course of our hour-long conversation a flurry of finches, tits and thrushes dive bomb the bird feeders hanging outside the door just a few feet away.

Adele moved to Long Preston six years ago, with her husband Simon, and instantly felt at home. “It feels like this is where I’m supposed to be,” she says.

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It’s not hard to see why. Nestled along the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this is a corner of Eden if ever there was one. To the north the landscape rises to the fells, moors and verdant valleys of the Yorkshire Dales; to the south are the wetlands of the Ribble Valley which, in turn, sweep upward towards the wilds of Bowland.

A selection of some of her artworks. (James Hardisty).

It’s an ideal location for an artist whose work revolves around wildlife and nature. In an exhibition last year, entitled As Dusk Exhales – she explored the natural wonders of the Yorkshire Dales through a collection of intricate, textile sculptures along with a series of atmospheric impressionist landscape paintings.

Adele draws, paints, sculpts and makes textural artworks. There is a story behind her work as there is, it turns out, behind the studio from which she creates it.

The stone cottage where she and Simon live dates back to 1671 and her studio, she discovered while having it renovated, used to be the village dairy. “Before we turned the inside into a studio you could see where the wooden posts had been which were used for milking,” she says. “Apparently it provided enough milk for the village.”

She still has one of the hand blown glass milk bottles with the words ‘Long Preston milk’ written on it.

Adele paints using a variety of materials. (James Hardisty).

However, while Adele may appear to be living the rural dream as an artist, it hasn’t always been the case. She grew up in the north Midlands and after leaving school she initially worked in the retail sector before later retaining as a nurse.

She spent 20 years in the NHS working all over the country and became a Clinical Nurse Specialist in 1998 in London but later had to leave due to workplace trauma.

It was at this point that she decided to follow a passion that dates back to her childhood. “I think I was born with a pencil in my hand and when I left home I would paint on anything I could get hold of. I’d borrow old brushes, anything.”

Adele has been a professional artist since 2013 when she took part in her first art exhibition, in Skipton. “I thought I would do art to try and get better so I started a Facebook page and it began to organically grow.”

An example of her textile sculptues. (James Hardisty).

She is largely self-taught which gives her work a vitality and means it is unencumbered by the weight of dogmatic dos and don’ts. “You have to experiment and take risks as an artist otherwise you don’t grow,” she says. “A lot of artists create the same thing over and over again, and most artists have one discipline, they paint or sculpt.”

Adele, on the other hand, works across disciplines, everything from folklore-inspired wood carvings to animal portraits, which are the source of many of her commissions. She also makes striking textile sculptures of ravens, hares and pheasants that use natural fibres and are hand-stitched. It’s a painstaking process and can take up to a year to create a large piece. “I don’t believe in short cuts,” she says.

Her work clearly resonates with people and has been exhibited across the North. She has already been involved in five exhibitions this year, including a show entitled Yorkshire Tales in Skipton, two online international exhibitions, and one at Platform Gallery in Clitheroe, which continues until next month.

She also recently had a piece accepted by Ryedale Folk Museum, and her latest multisensory solo exhibition, Betwixt here and Somewhere, is being shown at the Craven Arts Hub in Skipton until next weekend.

Van Gogh famously painted with a palette knife and Adele, too, uses all manner of tools to work with, including a garden trowel, spatula, carpentry tools and even a piece of seaweed from Northumberland. And it’s not a gimmick, she says. “They can give texture and I like texture in art, it gives a sense of warmth.”

She also works with ink, oils, acrylics, charcoal and wax, and even created her own phonetic language for swallows and ravens by recording their sounds and studying them.

She learned about phonetics and incorporated this into one of her previous exhibitions, Preternatural Forest, at Mill Bridge Gallery in Skipton. “I had this idea of a multisensory exhibition,” she says. “What I created was a whole range of sculptures and textiles with sound and scent and I created a narrative to go alongside them that included aspects of folklore.

“So as people walked through they could hear a storm approaching and then it arrived and dissipated and then the birdsong came in, and when you got to one part you could smell the woodland because I’d hidden some oils. So you were seeing things, you were hearing things, you were reading things and touching things.”

It proved popular with visitors and gave her the confidence to plough her own artistic furrow.

Her studio is dotted with ephemera that has an emotional connection to her, be it a shell found on a beach, or an old brass stopper picked up on her travels. Though she doesn’t keep many of her own creations in the studio. “I don’t like to surround myself with a lot of my own artwork because I don’t want to end up repeating what I’ve done before.”

One thing she is repeatedly drawn back to, though, is nature. “There’s an innate beauty in nature that’s often missed,” she says.

“I won an award for a dandelion sculpture. A dandelion is something people normally pull out of their garden, but when you get down and look at it you realise how beautiful it is. So nature is very important to me in many different ways. I find it fascinating. For instance, why do swallows only make a noise when they perch? They don’t make any sounds when they fly. I wondered why that was so I researched it and it’s because when they’re perched is when they’re mating or looking for a mate.”

For Adele, art is not only a passion, but a form of therapy. “If people ask ‘how do you wind down?’ I say ‘I do more art,’” she says. “Art to me is like air, I can’t go long without it. I have to do something each day, even if it’s just ten minutes because it grounds me in what’s important.”

And what is important to her is authenticity. “It’s about being connected to what you’re doing. The aim is not just to create a pretty picture.

“The only way to evolve through life is to try different things and as an artist if you keep repeating the same things it’s no longer authentic and it’s the authenticity that’s the X-factor in the art, that’s what people connect with.”

Betwixt here and Somewhere runs at the Craven Arts Hub (Old TBS bank), 89 Caroline Square, Skipton, until August 28. For more details about Adele’s work visit https://www.adelefroudedesigns.com/