One wet and windy morning a car crash on a country road transformed a young woman’s life. For the next six months she worked hard to rebuild herself, writing a bucket list for motivation. High on that list was the desire to work with wood.
Today, Joey Richardson is an acclaimed wood artist selling in the USA and UK. She is only the third recipient of the prestigious QEST Award of Excellence, and a Liveryman of the 400 year old Worshipful Company of Wood Turners.
“I had always wanted to work with wood,” explained Joey. “Growing up on a farm, there was always wood around, but woodwork wasn’t an option at school. My back was badly injured in the accident and I spent six months off work, with hours of physiotherapy, but as soon as I could walk again I enrolled in night school. On my first course I made a bookcase, a stool and a walking stick!”
Joey fell in love with wood turning and over the next decade took classes with a professional Turner to develop her skills. She continued to work at the bank and also had two children. Eventually, she gave up the job to work part time on the family farm and focus on her wood work.
At one class, Joey had an accident and severely cut her finger on a saw. To help her recovery and rebuild her confidence, Joey’s tutor decided to enter one of her pieces into a turning competition. It worked. Joey won a runner up prize which included a cash award. Competitions became a way for Joey to earn money and build up her work-shop.
In 2003, Joey applied for a Bursary award from Worshipful Company of Turners. The application was declined. Two years later, however, the Company contacted Joey to ask her to apply for an award.
“At first I said no, but they convinced me to apply, saying they had been watching me develop,” said Joey. “It was the right time to apply. The first time the money would have gone on equipment. The second time, I had everything I needed so the money paid for a trip to the biggest wood symposium in world, in America. And I spent time with some incredible wood artists. That’s where I learnt airbrushing.”
Entering competitions had forced Joey to develop her work and think outside the box. Platters and bowls grew into abstract floral pieces. With the skills learnt in America, she was able to refine her work further and introduce colour.
Joey’s reputation continued to grow and leading galleries in the USA began showing her collections. In 2012, she successfully applied for a QEST scholarship. Set up in honour of the Queen Mother’s 90th birthday, the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) seeks to protect and develop crafts throughout the UK. The grant has enabled Joey to expand her work into new mediums.
“My work is very intricate, but I knew a guy in America who could cast it in glass for me,” continued Joey. “From there came the inspiration to cast in bronze. But there is a lot of work involved in casting, so I had the idea to get a 3-D print so that it would be easier to cast. I went to the University of Lincoln to have it scanned in using their equipment.
The university invited me to do a part-time MA in Fine Art. I had left school at 16, but they took my work into account. So now, I’m doing that, which is great because I’m developing other skills that I need.”
Joey’s big ambition is to organise a major exhibition exploring wood and the concept of wood as a fine art medium. Through her connections, she has a tree trunk from the Sandringham royal estate, which she has used to make a piece. The plan is to share the material with other artists and to acquire more timber from other royal estates. The scheme is at an early stage with the focus currently on securing funding.
“The plan is to get people out of the high tech world and back to nature,” explained Joey. “You will come in and see a forest, where children can climb on trees. Then visitors will go through to see how wood is used in our day to day world, such as furniture. Finally, there will be a fine art exhibition, showing how wood can be turned into fine art. I really believe wood can become the next hot collectable art form.”