Meet Fiona, one of our many brilliant suppliers at The Sill Shop

We love to support local businesses in and around Northumberland National Park, as they’re the people who let our visitors remember their trips most by letting them take home a little piece of Northumberland, whether that be food, drink, books, artwork or jewellery, all of which can be found in our very own Sill Shop.

Our new, special ‘Meet the Maker’ blogs are here to help highlight our brilliant suppliers and spotlight the products they create! As well as giving you a little bit more insight into the people who make your favourite local products.

This time, we’re featuring Fiona Carvell, an award-winning pastel artist based on the Northumberland border, but we’ll let her tell you the rest.

Can you tell us what you make?

I am a pastel artist. I create original pastel paintings and also make limited edition giclee prints from these. I paint a wide variety of subject matters and have won several awards for my still life pieces. My seascapes and landscapes are very much inspired by my walks and runs in Northumberland.

Where is your business based?

I work from my home studio in Shotley Bridge, on the border of County Durham and Northumberland.

What inspired you to become an artisan producer?

I have always wanted to be an Artist. It was just a question of when it would be.

Can you describe how you started the business?

I became a full time Artist in 2015. My work began to be selected for exhibitions in London and I made a leap of faith, leaving a salaried lecturing post (in Graphic Design and Drawing) to see what might happen! I have always created artwork and have a wealth of background experience in design and teaching, all of which has helped enormously in building my business as an Artist.

Can you describe your creative process when developing new products?

It varies quite a bit. If I am working on landscapes or seascapes, I will go out walking and sketching for a few days, gathering material, drawing and taking photographs. I never look to re-create a photograph, rather present a response to the environment. It is important to me to physically experience being somewhere, amongst the elements, as this translates into how I might draw something out. I work quickly when working plein air and then take these sketches back to the studio to develop them into something more finished. If I am working on a still life piece, I draw directly from life. I will take quite a long time in setting something up, looking at the light, arranging things. Sometimes a still life piece can take days or weeks to create as I have to wait for the light to come around to the same point each day. There is a lot of movement in still life!

What sets your products apart from others in the market?

Each artwork is completely unique. Even if I paint the same subject several times, it will never look exactly the same. I don’t do prints of all of my work, but the ones I choose to have are always very small in number, a limited edition, each signed by myself. So when they’re gone, they’re gone! I am very honoured to be a member of The Pastel society of America and The Society of Graphic Fine Art/ Drawing Society and have won several awards for my work. So, when someone buys my work, they have that quality assurance that professional recognition brings.

Can you describe your typical day?

I don’t think there is a typical day! I may be out sketching or having a studio day and happy getting covered in colour. There are also days when I might be driving hundreds of miles to deliver paintings to galleries in Scotland or Manchester or packing pictures off to London and days when I have to do very dull admin! Exhibitions need to be planned and hung and then there’s always the fun bits of attending openings and private views. Highlights for me in 2023 so far have been receiving an award at The Mall Galleries in London with the Pastel Society and then attending the Royal Academy Summer Show preview – my first time with the RA, and very exciting.

What are the key values that guide your work?

I have to be ‘grabbed’ by something. I have to connect with my subject matter in order to be able to draw and paint it. Drawing is hugely important to me, and pastel work is a real crossover between drawing and painting, which is so interesting. I am an ideas person and like to create artwork that reflects ideas.

How do you market and promote your products?

As well as taking part in national exhibitions and in galleries, I do connect with the art world and followers of my work via social media, although nothing replaces seeing artwork in reality.

If you’ve found yourself enthralled in her art before or are perhaps looking to be amazed for the first time, you can find Fiona on her social media accounts below. You can also find her high-quality prints inside The Sill Shop when you visit.

Instagram and Threads – @fionacarvellpastelartist

Facebook – @fionacarvellart