The Dales are the primary source of inspiration for printmaker Anna Tosney but her distinctive, pared back style is almost certainly influenced by her childhood and some great genes. Her mother, Irmeli, was born in Finland and grew up in Denmark, so her home always reflected her native Scandinavia. Anna’s late father was an architect and she inherited his attention to detail.
“I grew up in the Dales and have always loved it, but our house was always very different to everyone else’s. My mum is very creative and preferred a more minimal, Scandinavian style,” says Anna, who now divides her time between her flat in Shipley, her mother’s house in Skipton and her studio at Bar Lane in York.
Irmeli bought her cottage 14 years ago and it’s tucked away close to woods, where Anna likes to walk her border collie, Flossie.
A former woodman’s dwelling and barn, it overlooks a stream and the castle walls. “It didn’t fit the brief because it didn’t have a large garden or a garage but it is in a lovely, peaceful position,” says Irmeli.
Over the years she and her husband have revamped the property. They replaced the dining room window with French doors that now lead into a refurbished sun room. They also created a stunning cantilevered patio with a glass balustrade.
“The old patio was collapsing so putting a new one in with steel footings was a big job but it’s a great space and it’s south-facing,” she says.
When Irmeli first came to England in the early 1970s, she was surprised by the fitted carpets and the clutter. “We had wood floors and rugs in Denmark so I was taken aback that I couldn’t take the carpets out and air them. Every room was patterned and had a different feel so there was no flow,” she says.
“Now, Scandinavian style is quite common thanks to Ikea. I can remember being pleased when it opened here.”
She and Anna also love The Home at Salts Mill, Saltaire, which stocks Iittala vases and Marimekko products.
Furniture is a mix of old, inherited and new and everything has to be beautiful and have a purpose.
The toy cupboard in the sun room is from Denmark and Irmeli painted it and bought new handles from notonthehighstreet.com. She also revamped the Lloyd Loom chair with fabric from Miss Print and a lick of Farrow & Ball paint.
“I’ve always enjoyed making and revamping things and that’s from my Scandinavian background.
“I was brought up in a family that made things. My father even built our house.”
Most of the walls are in F&B’s James White and Strong White, though the bedroom has Cole & Son’s Woods wallpaper, which reminds her of Finland.
Decorative pieces include family pottery from Royal Copenhagen and Arabia, along with Anna’s original artwork.
The pictures reflect the surrounding area and Anna’s ability to quietly observe and recreate expressions, gait and mood.
“When I’m not in the studio, I can often be found stalking farmers and admiring sheep and cattle.
“I like going to Skipton auction mart and agricultural shows and I go walking a lot,” says Anna.
“I love to watch the sheep, farmers, birds and drystone wallers in their natural environment, so I spend many hours out in the countryside. I’m obsessed with farmers. They have a special way of standing and they are always leaning on something.
“There is also something special about the local landscape and weather, which plays a great role in my work. “
Her aim is to distil the essence of a subject into a bold, simple form that still retains the atmosphere.
“I love absorbing my surroundings, paying particular attention to colour and shape. I’m inspired by beautiful, usually rainy, skies, trees, sheep, fields and the slightly humorous scenes I come across.”
Anna has a printmaking degree and a masters in ceramics and worked in Spain and Denmark teaching English before becoming a full-time artist.
Her speciality is drypoint and monoprint techniques and she also runs printmaking workshops and is planning a range of cushions and aprons.
While Anna is confident in her work, she enlists Irmeli’s help when she exhibits it. “She’s brilliant at visualising where the pictures will look best and she helps hang the work for me.”
Her mum, of course, is her number one fan. “I love Anna’s pictures,” she says. “I am lucky to have an ever changing gallery of them.”
Anna’s originals and her cards are stocked by Hawksbys, Haworth; Smithy Gallery, Kettlewell; Blue Tree Gallery, York; and the Bowery Gallery, Leeds. They can also be seen at Art in the Bar at The Angel, Hetton, until April 6. www.annatosney.co.uk