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'Doodle while you wait' as Wester Ross artist and potter adapts to coronavirus 'new normal'


By Hector MacKenzie

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Vicky Stonebridge ready to welcome customers.
Vicky Stonebridge ready to welcome customers.

ARTIST and potter Vicky Stonebridge is well used to drawing on her creative resources to make a living from her work in challenging times.

After fearing the loss of her Balnacra Arts and Pottery business during the coronavirus crisis, the Wester Ross artist is now adapting to a radically altered landscape.

She said: “Everyone is talking about ‘the new normal’, but at the moment it is far from normal. I was very anxious at first about the idea of getting the studio open to the public. Everyone I spoke to in the community was also afraid about lockdown lifting – we were angered when we saw strangers and felt unready for the NC500 crowds to come back.

“This wasn’t helped by being all cocooned in our safe community bubble and watching all the news stories from the outside world of angry people breaking guidelines and generally misbehaving.

“In reality, once the visitors started coming back, almost overnight, it was pleasant and refreshing to start engaging with
people again who are happy to comply with the new guidelines.”

“I hope to make the slowed down pace of shopping and visiting an enjoyable fun experience for everyone – grumpy people don’t buy pottery! If there’s one thing lockdown has taught me it’s the importance of slowing down and not being so attached to running around ticking off jobs."

Unable to run her popular pottery classes at the moment – “I’d need a megaphone and better spectacles to give tuition from a two metre distance on how to throw pots on the wheel!” – she’s managing some online tuition meantime.

She said: “I have enjoyed talking to customers in these early days, their different lockdown experiences and perspectives are interesting. Visitors are grateful to find a business open and they’ve been happy to wait outside until there is enough space to let them in. I was worried about people getting bored while they queued, so put out pens and paper for them to doodle.”

Doodle while you wait.
Doodle while you wait.

She’s also planning a gazebo for the inevitable rainy days.

She said: “I hope to make the slowed down pace of shopping and visiting an enjoyable fun experience for everyone – grumpy people don’t buy pottery!

“If there’s one thing lockdown has taught me it’s the importance of slowing down and not being so attached to running around ticking off jobs. Also the importance of socialising and face-to-face interaction with other people. Now of course it’s face mask to face mask, and we’ll all have to get used to not seeing smiles or lip-reading.”

Lockdown was tough money wise as she “slipped through all the cracks for financial aid and it was a scary time”. A comic diary, making cartoons out of stressful situations, could now lead to a second graphic novel.

Fearing the loss of her business she contacted one of her local councillors, Alex MacInnes, for help.

She said: “This broke the stalemate and after a flurry of activity I was able to circumnavigate the difficulties in accessing funding and finally get the small business grant.

The pottery.
The pottery.

"This has allowed me to be able to open up again with confidence, I’ve been able to get the leaky roof fixed, order materials and tool sets for my home learners and it’s removed the stress of how I’m going to get through this winter without this season’s sales. I can’t wait for the clay to arrive so I can get throwing again! I have a few orders for the pottery viruses I made in poor taste!”

Story or picture to share? Email hector.mackenzie@hnmedia.co.uk

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