Eric and Christine Moss spent 25 years holding on tight to their dream of moving to the country and becoming full-time artists.
Their patience and persistence finally paid off. The couple gave up their previous careers, sold their home in Harrogate and bought a rural, riverside cottage in the pretty village of Asenby, near Thirsk.
The life-change has not only made them much happier, it has enabled their work to flourish.
After years of being part-time artists, ceramicist Eric and Christine, who specialises in wire sculptures, are in demand and their art is increasingly collectable.
Eric, who worked for a local authority as a graphic designer, exhibits at ceramics fairs and events and his contemporary pottery features in galleries across the UK. He also takes on commissions.
Christine, who gave up her job as an administrator for a software company, has an enviable reputation as both a maker and a teacher. She runs workshops on sculpting using wire, mesh and upcycled metal, and has a healthy order book of commissions.
New life in the country
“Moving here has made a big difference to us. We are a lot happier,” says Eric, who is about to throw open the doors of their home for the North Yorkshire Open Studios event, which takes place on June 1 and 2 and June 8 and 9.
Those who visit may think that Crane House in Asenby, near Thirsk, is a newish-build as the exterior has been re-faced but the property is 200-years-old and started life as a trio of tiny terraced homes.
“It took us months to find the right place to buy because we had a big ‘tick list’.
“We cast our net wide from Nidderdale in the west to the east coast, north to Thirsk and south to the fringes of north Leeds and even up to Northumberland,” says Eric.
“What made us move to this house, which is in a village that we had never even visited before, was a stretch of riverbank on the River Swale, which was included in the sale.”
The riverside is a magical place where kingfishers, egrets and otters are regular visitors.
Other compelling factors were the view and the large garden, which included a woodturner’s workshop, which was perfect for use as a shared studio.
The house had also been renovated, which meant that Eric and Christine didn’t have to waste valuable “art time” on a project.
Restyling to suit
They have, however, made it their own by adding character and colour by completely redecorating.
They have also installed a new kitchen and bathroom.
“The old kitchen had cherry wood units and black floor tiles so it looked very dark. It looks and feels a lot brighter now we have lighter units and a pale limestone floor,” says Eric, who adds that Christine is in charge of the decor while he is the handyman who tackles everything from wallpapering and tiling to joinery.
The furniture is a mix of pieces they brought from their previous home, including a Habitat dining table that has stood the test of time, along with Calligaris chairs, and items that they picked up at auctions.
Christine, who has a degree in fine art, loves upcycling and among her prize finds are an antique sofa that she bought for £50, a marble-topped washstand that she had made into a sink for the bathroom and a garden bench that looks perfect in the guest bedroom.
The couple have also collected an impressive amount of work by other artists and makers over the years.
There are paintings and prints by Emerson Mayes, Richard Snowden, Mark Hearld, Janis Goodman and Kim Coley, among others. Sculpture by Nichola Theakston and Nick Mackman and wall-mounted, stainless steel candle holders by Pete Rogers.
Their own creations also feature in almost every room. Christine made the tree in the sitting room from wood, wire and mesh with leaves carved from old biscuit tins. The lamp at the bottom of the stairs is an “assemblage” by Eric, who brought together an umbrella stand, an Ikea lamp and one of his ceramics.
His pottery HQ is the garden studio.
“Christine was going to share it but she likes to work in the dining room so I’ve more or less got the studio to myself,” he says, pointing to a space packed with a wheel, kilns, shelves and workbenches.
A Raku specialist, his pots inspired by seed pods are top sellers but he is now best known for his highly original and carefully engineered, modifiable ceramic sculptures, which he calls Cermicano.
“It is a bit like Meccano but ceramic and I got the shape idea from a conker shell. Some of it is in two parts and very tactile, offering a variety of display compositions, which invites the observer into the sculptural process,” says Eric whose inspirations include everything from marine life to plants, ringed planets, flower bracts and mechanical aero/spacecraft engine parts.
His latest work is hollow 3D tiles, inspired by a seed shape. They can stand alone and also work in a frame as wall art.
No longer tied to a nine to five regime, Eric and Christine now spend much of their time making art.
“We often work seven days a week but it might be 5pm till midnight and that’s the beauty of being your own boss,” he says. “ If you want to go out for the day with the dogs then work at night, you can.”
*Eric Moss is one of 101 artists opening up their studios as part of the North Yorkshire Open Studios event, which takes place on June 1 and 2 and June 8 and 9. For more details visit www.nyos.org.uk. Eric’s website is www.ericmossceramics.co.uk