Bucks Mills Artist Residency

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be Artist in Residence for a weekend at the National Trust’s Bucks Mills Cabin. It was a wonderfully creative and relaxing weekend spent sketching, painting and gathering inspiration.

I’m ashamed to say that I knew little to none about artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards, former owners of the cabin, before my residency, but finding out all about them has been fascinating. There’s an informative film about the pair, part of the ‘Out and about: Queering the Museum’ project, which takes a deep dive into their lives and works – it’s worth a watch if you’re interested in finding out more.

During my time at Bucks Mills, I compiled a sketchbook of snapshots, views and people I felt inspired to paint. I completed the sketchbook at home, and filled it with an account of my experience.

Below you can see the sketches and paintings I made during my residency at the cabin, and read the words I wrote in my sketchbook.

“Bucks Mills Cabin is a tiny little stone built dwelling, tucked away on the steep slope down to the pebble beach. Once owned by respected artists Mary Stella Edwards and Judith Ackland, the cabin is now under the care of the National Trust, and used primarily for artist residencies, which is how I came to spend a weekend in this idyllic location.” 

“Twist the key in the old-style lock, push open the door, step over the threshold and you enter a tiny room, caught in time. A little round table sits in the window, a tiny cooker to one side, and next to that a small wood burning stove. Crooked shelves hold cups, teapots and all manner of receptacles, and a small pantry is bursting with pots, pans and kitchenware.”

“Upstairs – a little bed and a bureau with boxes of paints, paintbrushes and odds and ends such as cutlery and a jelly mould. Another wood burner would have once heated the room, and the window, like downstairs, looks out over the turquoise sea. On the horizon is Lundy, and along the coast the white houses of Clovelly tumbling down the cliffs to the harbour.”

“My weekend here was blissful, sketching, painting, taking reference photos and relaxing into my surroundings. On Sunday, I spent a joyous sunny morning painting in gouache down on the beach before heading back up to continue in the cool sanctuary of the cabin. I had numerous visitors, intrigued to discover what was inside, having ‘walked past many times, but never been in’. It was a privilege to be able to share the space with them. It’s not hard to see why Mary Stella and Judith, who were life partners, were determined to buy the cabin when it came up for auction, and why they spent months at a time living and creating here.”

“One man told me that his father and grandfather both used to come down to the beach as children. Their time here may have overlapped with Mary Stella and Judith. It got me thinking about the many people who have enjoyed Bucks Mills throughout history. There were certainly lots of people about the weekend I was there, stopping off while walking the coast path; holidaying at the nearby caravan park; or staying in the village. Some were local, some looking to move here, some even visiting from abroad. I sold a few prints during my residency, and I was delighted to hear that one was heading over to ‘granny’ in New Zealand, and another reminded its new owner of the ocean around her native Zanzibar. People watching was almost as interesting as chatting to the lovely visitors who popped their heads into the cabin. Down on the beach, families were swimming and sunbathing, couples were deep in conversation. I watched, listened and soaked it all in. I wonder how different the scene may have been 100 years ago. Besides fashion, for once, perhaps, it may not have been so very different at all.” 

“Back up the hill from the cabin, I spent some time sketching in the olde-worlde village with its thatched rooves, foliage arches and the stream which fills the air with the constant soothing sound of trickling water. The dappled shade from the trees was welcome on my way back to the car.”

“I left Bucks Mills with a sketchbook full of sketches, a finished painting and a sense of calm that only a weekend of painting in a beautiful place (and time off from parenting two small children!) can instill.”

“Bucks Mills Cabin is a special place, and I’m thankful to Mary Stella and Judith for buying it, enjoying it, and donating it for other artists and creatives to experience its magic.”

I will be exhibiting the above painting during Devon Open Studios from 10th – 25th September 2022, when it will be available for purchase. There will also be the opportunity to look through my original sketchbooks.

One reply on “Bucks Mills Artist Residency”

Heya Clare,

I have loved reading your blog about your time spent at Bucks Mill.

I am currently studying an MA in arts and place at Dartington arts school and am writing a case study about Bucks Mill.

I wondered if I could ask you some questions about your experience? How did you find out about the opportunity? Did you have to pay? Were there certain rules and ideas for the outputs that you made?

thanks in advance, hope to hear from you.
Claudia 🙂

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