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Elizabeth Sykes - Islay House Square

Batik artist Liz Sykes, and her husband Dave, have lived on Islay since 1974. Both she and Dave had given up their occupations - Liz a microbiologist in journalism and Dave a technical translator - to come and live on Islay and they were running a small letterpress general printing business, starting with a hand-operated Adana in Dave’s parents’ ex-coalshed. They also printed for tourism, with Liz doing pen-and-ink drawings for what was upgraded to a hand-fed Victorian power platen press, up the hill in Damaoidh. They produced their first 'Islay Calendar' in 1976. To expand sales to the mainland, Dave spent a day selling calendars depicting traditional crafts from a suitcase in the streets of Paisley - because their by-laws didn’t require a hawker’s licence. The Paisley police were unimpressed by this, and only forty minutes were spent not being moved on by them! In 1979 Liz was one of the founder members of the Islay Arts and Crafts Guild, which began to organize craft fairs for locally produced work. Liz had been given some Indian batik in Bahrain, and in 1982 decided to try the medium, partly to add colour to the craft fair displays and partly to involve her children, Kerry and Bran. She became hooked on the beautiful wax-resist process that builds up the pictures using repeated dyeings. She exhibited at annual trade fairs in Aviemore, Glasgow and Harrogate. Continue reading....Gradually, the reputation of this unique artist grew and more and more people would make the extraordinary journey up the track and across the field to their little house on the hill above Port Charlotte. Picking their way through the chickens and saying hello to the pigs and goats, potential customers would join Liz in her kitchen studio, where she was producing ever more elaborate and arresting work. In 2000, Liz took a huge step forward when she became the first business to take a unit in the Islay House Square craft complex at Bridgend (2nd picture). Describing it as a 'great adventure, a dream come true', she is now able to work in a light, comfortable studio, rather than on the kitchen table. There is always coffee on the go, and it is a lovely environment in which to browse and admire the work of this long established and most influential Islay artist. While many of the batiks are of Islay subjects, even those which are not somehow portray the spirit and light of the place and many thousands of people from all over the world now choose to enhance their homes with some of her evocative images. More information and a gallery of her work is available on her website at www.islatran.demon.co.uk

This story was published with kind permission from the Ileach Newspaper

Tag: liz sykes art bridgend

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