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People and a pottery wheel

Posted 16 June 2017

The new retirees: four people who found their artistic outlet

Tony Watts (@tonywattswriter) talks to four people who have unleashed their inner creativity in retirement – and are finding that the rewards can be financial as well as artistic.

  • Four retirees who are expressing themselves creatively
  • There are health benefits as well as artistic and financial ones
  • Passing on their knowledge makes their skill extra special

Few of us take the risk of trying to earn a living in the arts, but saying goodbye to the nine-to-five allows retirees to take up new pursuits.

There’s even a chance you could earn some money. Whether it makes you money or not, a conversation with a pension expert can help you work out how you can be on target for a retirement spent indulging your artistic passions.

How Brian was able to focus on creativity

Brian Davies has enjoyed photography throughout his life, but having a successful career in the civil service, not to mention a family, meant it was a hobby which only received a fraction of his time.

Retiring at 59 gave him the opportunity to unleash his ‘inner David Bailey’.

‘I’ve been able to build my camera collection,’ he says, ‘allowing me to move into other areas, such as macro photography: taking pictures of small objects in incredible detail.

I’ve acquired new skills, including Photoshopping. I used to develop my own black and white shots, so this is an extension of that.

Brian Davies

‘I’ve also acquired new skills, including Photoshopping. I used to develop my own black and white shots, so this is an extension of that. Digital cameras are really useful.’

Photo of an owl

Photo credit: Brian Davies

Brian has built a studio in his garden, where he regularly works on another favourite specialism: portraits.

‘It started with my granddaughter,’ he says. ‘I’ve taken pictures of her since she was born.’

Living close to the International Birds of Prey Centre has opened another avenue for Brian.

‘Getting close to these amazing creatures is a privilege,’ he says, ‘and if you have fast enough shutter speeds you can capture them in flight.’

Setting up his own website has led to him selling his work. ‘Being commercial isn’t a priority,’ he says, ‘but what I make helps cover some of my costs.’

Brian’s top tip: ‘Focus on something you enjoy – whether that’s landscapes, people or street photography – and develop your skills from there.’

How Mandy started seeing the big picture

Mandy Sutton retired four years ago from her work as an educational adviser for pre-school children with special needs and, after a lifetime ‘dabbling with pen and ink’, found time to move into a host of other media.

‘I’d always wanted to see how I’d get on with watercolours and acrylic,’ she says, ‘and I’ve been working with hot wax painting too.

‘Someone who’d seen my work on Facebook got in touch and put a lot of my work in their café – and that sold out really quickly.

Selling your work is quite odd to begin with because you put part of yourself into whatever you create.

Mandy Sutton

‘Selling your work is quite odd to begin with because you put part of yourself into whatever you create. It’s like letting one of your children go!’

Picture of Mandy Sutton and some of her artwork

Photo credit: Anona Williams

‘I’ve met some lovely, like-minded people on courses and through the groups I’ve joined,’ says Mandy. ‘One group goes into beautiful gardens on a summer’s evening, where we all set up our easels.’

Mandy’s top tip: ‘If you can't go on courses for any reason, there’s a huge amount you can learn by watching the experts on YouTube.’

How Nibs and Brian started selling penguins to Antarctica

When Brian Fowler and his wife Nibs were young, they were both told by their parents to forget any artistic aspirations – their priority was earning a living.

Both now spend a large amount of their time creating magical works in clay – including penguins that are sold to tourists taking cruises around Antarctica.

Nibs followed many of her school friends into the tobacco factories in Bristol but even there she found an outlet for her artistic bent.

You build a bonfire, place the work inside and come back the next day to find these wonderful gems

Brian & Nibs

‘I became their fastest cigar maker,’ she says proudly, ‘which involved making the most cigars you could out of the different shaped leaves.’

Mandy and Nibs and some pottery

After starting in engineering, Brian finally found an artistic outlet as a signwriter, before running a team of designers in an advertising agency.

The move into pottery came about when Nibs, after raising her family, went back to work, assisting the occupational therapist in a mental health hospital.

‘I started doing a lot of different crafts,’ says Nibs, ‘then discovered a wonderful kiln in a dusty corner.’

Nibs acquired qualifications in pottery. Brian was intrigued and joined in.

‘You build a bonfire, place the work inside and come back the next day to find these wonderful gems.’

‘The next stage was to fire our own work in a specially-built kiln in the garden,’ says Brian, ‘while some goes into a pit. You build a bonfire, place the work inside and come back the next day to find these wonderful gems.’

Their work soon found new homes although, as they point out, the money that comes in only really pays for materials.

‘More important to us is the health benefits it gives us – and others,’ says Brian. ‘You’re exercising your mind, which is essential as you get older. Many people come here to learn how to work clay, glaze and fire.

‘We have some incredibly creative grandchildren and they’ve gone on to do their own work in very different fields. We’ve also been able to raise money for charity.’

Brian and Nibs’s top tip: ‘Don’t worry if you’re not very good when you start. Everyone can create art if you’re given the freedom and confidence, and you’ll get better with practice!’

Sometimes it’s worth the wait to do what you love. After fulfilling family lives and careers, people can often find time for a creative outlet in retirement. There can even be financial and health benefits to stretching your creative muscles.

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