Printmaker Bridget Tempest deserves a Blue Peter badge for her wonderfully creative handmade home. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Bruce Rollinson.
Every picture tells a story and in the case of printmaker Bridget Tempest it’s almost always an epic. Her latest project has involved a long and painstaking study of woodland close to her remote home.
The exquisitely beautiful images are achieved by sitting in the wood in all weathers, through all seasons, while etching onto a copper plate. The drawing is followed by multiple processes involving her old etching and lithography presses. One picture takes a year to complete. Her love of landscape and her intense observations are obvious in everything she does.
“The landscape we inhabit shapes us just as we shape it through the stewardship of our environment. The loss of connection to the land becomes the loss of ourselves,” she says on her website.
She voices her passion and concerns for the countryside as she walks me over the stretch of moorland that leads to her cottage, near Skipton. Thought to date from the 18th century, her home was a farm workers’ dwelling on the Broughton Hall estate but had been derelict for 15 years before her brother Roger had the property renovated and extended for her. A successful entrepreneur, he rescued the estate and revived its fortunes helped by a creativity that clearly runs in the family.
He has a flair for architecture and design while their sister Annie is a cartoonist best known for Tottering-by-Gently in Country Life magazine. Bridget says their artistic genes come from their great-grandmother, Eleanor Blanche. She was a Victorian dynamo who was both scholarly and artistic. She even had her own woodwork room in a dark, tucked-away space in the upper reaches of Broughton Hall.
Bridget’s studio couldn’t be more different. It’s contemporary and light-filled with huge windows revealing vast panoramic views. She works in there almost every day with her dog and two budgies for company. Bridget gets her “people fix” from teaching art students at Craven College two days week and from the printmaking workshops she runs.
She is, by all accounts, a wonderful teacher, which is not surprising. She is warm, friendly and expressive and the same can be said about her home.
The rooms are colourful, cosy and full of finds and treasures that reveal Bridget’s love of nature and her globetrotting adventures, which have included living with the Ashaninka tribe in the Peruvian rainforest and living in the Californian back woods with a gold miner.
Most obvious is her connection with Turkmenistan. There are Turkmen slippers for guests to wear, rugs and wall hangings. They result from a seven-year cultural exchange she set up between Britain and Turkmenistan. “I went there 17 times and it is a lovely place, though I had a few run-ins with the authorities so I’m now banned,” she says. “But it’s fine as I’m not so nomadic now.”
Since settling down in her cottage three years ago, Bridget has made it her own, having started by painting the walls with Broughton Hall estate leftovers, She mixed them together to create new shades, including a pink that she used for a mural in the bathroom.
“I love using stuff people don’t want. I’ve got no money but I’ve got lots of imagination. I’m very Blue Peter,” she says. There are numerous examples, including the “dog’s armchair”, which she found in a local charity shop, the old shawl repurposed as a curtain and the studio desk made from old exhibition boards flanked by two chests of drawers.
The tiles in the hallway were liberated from a skip at the hall. She designed the layout of oddments and cut and laid them herself after watching tutorials on YouTube. “It was two weeks of knee and backache but I’m really happy with it,” says Bridget, who also made her own kitchen shelves after teaching herself carpentry skills.
Her love of learning new things extends to her art. She trained at the Ruskin School in Oxford, where she discovered her love of printmaking but her most recent experiments are with film-making. Her art films can be seen on her website. Expire is about the destruction of wild places and is a mix of her mono prints, sound and film footage. Seclude is about a family property in Oxfordshire and features her late father describing his memories of it.
She teaches film studies and loves watching movies on her laptop. She hasn’t had a TV for ten years and doesn’t miss it. It means that the focal point in her sitting room is the open fire and the bookcase that Roger had built-in exchange for some artwork she did for him.
The rest of the furniture is a fascinating mish-mash of a few Broughton Hall cast-offs, upcycled second-hand bargains, gifts and handmade items.
The stand she commissioned for her mini prints lives in her bedroom when it’s not on display and doubles as a coat rack. It was made by one of her ex-students, who is now an artist and carpenter. Also on the first floor is her favourite room, another sitting room with a picture window taking in the big moorland skies and spectacular sunsets. It provides more inspiration for her work.
“I spend a lot of time in there,” she says, adding: “This whole place has a good feeling and that’s why I’ll probably stay as long as possible. It’s a happy house.”
To see more of Bridget’s work and for details of her printmaking workshops, which cost £40 per person per day for groups of four and above, visit bridgettempest.com