How can I achieve or create in only one life time all that presents itself as possible? There is not a day goes by when I don’t have an idea to create something and not a day when I feel I have failed to do so.
Tom twists wire stems encrusted with the tiniest of shells from the nearby beaches to form richly coloured bouquets of flowers under glass domes. Floral shell arrangements displayed under glass domes during the late 18th century mark perhaps the pinnacle of this form of shell artwork.
Tom uses tweed wools in his version of stump work finding the uneven distribution of colour within the thread ideal for his purpose. Having spent many years painting en plein air Tom is quite used to having an audience while he works but a man seen stitching in public has to be seriously good.
Never having broken the umbilical Caledonian cord of his childhood and those informative years spent on the Mull of Kintyre Tom returned to the solitude of Scotland’s west coast to restore his croft house and building a much dreamed of studio. His early years spent dealing in antique country furniture led naturally to an appreciation of folk art, as well as a love of old ruins and vernacular architecture. Inspired in his oil painting by the Newlyn and St Ives school of art he never lost sight of the irrisistable charm and artistic innocence of the naïve. His exceptional creative talent combined with the lack of any academic training has produced a truly unique artist.
You will find Studio 17 at the end of the road leading north east out of Stornoway. Tucked neatly behind the original Old Tolsta farm stone barn, a site which now with Tom’s find of a Neolithic axe head dates back some 6000 years. Here you are immersed in an extra ordinary world of creativity from oil paintings, feather bird picture, shell work and textiles. Tom lives to create, with no distraction of TV, telephone or internet connection. If todays idea of luxuary is having time to oneself then he has lived a truly charmed life.
Enter his studio and you will find it filled with “tools of the trade”, artist’s easel central, with paint, sketch pads and jugs bristling with brushes. Bobbins and discarded yarn fill shelves along with shells, animal bones, drift wood and feathers, while sculptures, needlework and finished canvases are displayed throughout the gallery. Sheep and wool are a way of life in the Outer Hebrides and they soon began to influence his creative work. The scent of peat and the rasp of Harris Tweed enhance his folk art images of local sheep while the intricacy of his stump work embroidery will remind visitors that he is now part of that noble tradition of embroiderers that stretches as far back as the middle ages.
There are days when fluff and feathers fill the studio as Tom glues the smallest of bright plumage to imaginary birds. From freshly plucked road kill he is able to reassemble species of birds hitherto unheard of. His time spent in the world of antiques and above all else a life without distraction has enabled Tom to perfect the techniques required to create such a variety of work.