I suppose you could say I am a classic case of someone
proving you can become a successful artist in your mid forties without any
training at all. I left school at sixteen and apart from this standard
school education I have never done a days training in my life. It has always
been my belief that if a person really wants to do something they will. When
someone says to me they canít cook my immediate response is ďAnyone can
cook, you just need to want to do itĒ.
THIS STORY ABOUT HOW MY BUSINESS GREW
IT GOES ON AND ON AND ON AND ON - SO, IF YOU HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO
PLEASE GO TO ANOTHER PAGE
PS. Many people ask me if I am the famous pianist. The most I can play on the piano
is the chopsticks. I can not sing either! As a painter I like to paint to music, Tchaicovsky, Ravel, Vaughn Williams, Leonard Cohen, Star Sailor, Enya, Damien Rice,
Kruder Dorffmeister, Scott Walker, Stranglers, 69 Love songs, Jeff Buckley
19 something to 2003
-As a child I dreamed that when I grew up I
would be a writer and artist; but it was only a romantic dream born from the
hippy era. In fact if someone had said to
me five years ago I was going to earn a living travelling the word selling
my paintings I would have laughed. Five years ago I didnít even know I could
I loved art at school but I was never so
good that the teacher told me I should go to art-college. I was however,
good at craft, cooking, dressmaking and pottery. It gave me tremendous
pleasure to think up new ideas, new recipes, dress designs, anything where I
could use my hands and be creative. As a child I lived with my aunt and
uncle. My aunt was a marvellous cook and my uncle a kind and generous man.
- One of my earliest memories was playing with some left
over pastry. I shaped it into little cakes and biscuits and baked them on
the old black range. My uncle tasted the coal blackened, well handled
"cakes" and declared them to be delicious. I think that was when I
subconsciously decided cooking was for me. Although it was another twenty
two years before I actually took up my first job of cooking in a Guest House
in Sandown on the Isle of Wight.
COOKING FOR ACCOLADES
- After a short stint cooking in guest houses and taking
on catering concessions at Seaview Yacht Club and Brading Haven Yacht Club I
ventured into running my own restaurant. But first I must thank a gentleman
called Commander Peter Martin. His wife Yvonne did the catering for the
Seaview Yacht club but she took a rest during the busy month of August. They
advertised for someone to do run the catering that month. I turned up, 24
yrs old ,in a mini skirt, probably looking far too young and reckless to take
on such a post. But Peter Martin, a man in his 70's who interviewed me while
watching the Changing of the Guard on a sunny Saturday afternoon took a
chance and gave me the job.
For 16 years (from 1980) I was chef/proprietor of my
own restaurant called "Lugley's" -
named after the street in which it resided - on the Isle of Wight. It
was my obsession and passion and my dedication was rewarded with accolades
in publications such as The Good Food Guide and Egon Ronay. It was a thrill
to be written about in the Times and the Guardian. I even appeared on a few
TV programmes. Good Morning with Richard and Judy, and some regional
programmes promoting the Isle of Wight. I found cooking one hundred percent
creative. From the shopping for ingredients each morning to the creation of
dishes using these ingredients throughout the day. I made absolutely
everything. From the bread to the ice-cream. From the stock pot to the petit
fours. Over the years I developed favourite recipes, many of which I am
adding to this web site on the recipes page.
COOKING FOR ROYALS
- After reading a review of my cooking in the Saturday Telegraph a local
lady called Mrs Terry asked me to cook a dinner party for her during Cowes
week. It was to be on a Sunday, my day off. I said it wasn't possible. She worked very hard to persuade me. I was adamant I was not going to give
up my one day of rest. Catering is totally exhausting and a day of rest is
essential. She then, in a last ditch attempt said, "Last year Princess Anne
and Prince Phillip were dinner guests." I quickly did a back peddle -
there's no shame when such an opportunity arises - and said "I've never had
the opportunity to cook for royalty before, perhaps I had better come and
discuss it with you before I decide".
I gave them sautť scallop and bacon
chowder, tarragon chicken with local asparagus, and fruits of the
summer jelly with rose petal ice cream.
The party included, Prince Andrew,
Prince Phillip, Prince Edward, Princess Alexander and Prince Michael of Kent
plus a load or vice marshals and commanders. Prince Phillip was particularly
impressed with the wobbly jelly.
THE END OF ONE CAREER AND THE START
OF ANOTHER - Catering is immensely exhausting. I
dedicated myself to reaching for the top. But staying there was stressful. I
was constantly worrying about the quality of the dishes and always fearful
of complaints. I even had to put up with trivial complaints. For
instance I didn't do burgers or the menu was too short. By the time I was
forty I was worn out and incredibly unfit. So I made a drastic and literally
overnight decision to
give it all up. I did so just at the right time. Two weeks later the property
market crashed and we saw years of home losses and heartache across the
nation. However, I was suddenly unemployed. What happened next was,
unbeknown to me, the start of my new career. Old customers from my
restaurant started to ring me up asking for my recipes or advice on how to
cook a particular dish or ingredient. I obliged for a short while until
someone suggested I write a cookery book. I eventually wrote five regional cookery books
called the What's Cooking series, a book called Cooking on the Move: for
caravan owners and The Herb Growers Recipe Book. I published
them all myself. Over a two-year period I sold some ten thousand books. I have
published some of my recipes on this site.
The cost of self-publishing isnít cheap and I certainly
couldnít afford to pay someone to illustrate the books so I thought I would have
a go myself. Armed with library books and dealing with a subject I new
intimately - food, within 6 months I had my first set of illustrations. When I look
back at that first lot of work I can see four years on, how much I have
improved and I hope I will continue to improve for many years to come. The
more I paint the more bold and confident I become about the watercolour
medium that I use.
PAINTING PICTURES FOR A LIVING -I feel incredibly lucky and sometimes itís as if a
genie has jumped into my body and given me a precious gift that he may,
without notice, take back at
any time. Consequently I have this desperate urge to take
advantage of this piece of luck while I can. I now paint around 2,500
pictures a year.
It all really began one Christmas when I
was so hard up I couldn't even afford to buy Christmas cards. So I painted a
selection of Christmas trees, crackers and holly wreaths. I showed them to a
friend who said I should try selling them at a Christmas Charity fair. So I
booked a table for £5.00 at the local hall. I sold all the cards. I went
home and painted some more and sold them again the next week. In the end I
was so busy painting and selling cards that I ended up having to buy some
printed cards to send to friends. I then put my mind to painting every day
cards. I chose to produce three sets of four cards, apples and pears, farm
animals, and vegetables. I sent a selection to the Country Living Magazine
and the Saturday Telegraph magazine. Country Living loved them and did a
tiny feature in their Emporium page. The Saturday telegraph also did a
feature on their Easter shopping page. Suddenly I was on the phone taking
orders. So that is how it all took off. Very quickly in fact, just a matter
- A local artist who is now a good and valued friend took my pictures into
her gallery called Inside Art. Sadly it is no longer there. Janet
Sheath was hugely encouraging and told me about all the art and crafts shows
she went to around the country. I didn't even know such shows existed. I
took up her advice and tentatively booked three shows with and organisation
called Rainbow. I was amazed by the set up. Huge
marquees in the middle of a field in the middle of no where. Within 30
minutes of opening the show it was as packed as any Ideal Home Exhibition
show. Thousands of people streamed past my stand. I did several shows with
Rainbow but I felt I wasn't doing as well as I should be. I then changed
organisations and joined the Rural Crafts Association. They took marquees
within the body of another show such as Badminton Horse trials, The Royal
Agricultural Show, the Game Fair and Southport Flower Show. My turnover
greatly increased with this organisation and each year customers now return
to my stand either to add to their collection; to finally buy after looking
at my pictures for a couple of years or to buy presents for friends who have
seen and admired my work hanging in their home.
FOOT AND MOUTH
- This was a huge tragedy not just for the farming community but for many
related businesses. Many of my colleagues including my self found that the
majority of our shows for the year had been cancelled. Panic. What do we do?
Many people got part time jobs and others went to the wall. I decided to go
for broke and quickly rang up the Country Living Magazine. They had often
asked me to take a stand at one of their shows but I had always declined
because they were so expensive. What with the stand price and extras such as
lighting, accommodation in London and meals you are looking at a minimum of
£2,000. When one is used to paying £400 - £500 it is a scary leap up to
£2,000. I did however, know people liked my product, but did they like it
enough to pay for my costs and make me a profit? It is also very painful
having to sell original paintings just to pay for a stand. But under the
desperate circumstances I could see no other option.
Fortunately they let me go into the New
Designer's Hall which was fractionally cheaper. Albeit still £800.00 plus
extras. I can't say I did brilliantly. Possibly because the New Designers
hall is a little out of the way and not every one found it. However, I could
see the potential and in fact everyone that did find me showed huge interest
and purchased. I booked there and then for the next Spring Show on the
provision that I could go downstairs on the Mezzanine level. The following
year my sales improved and this year they improved dramatically. I now think
nothing of paying £2,000 for a stand.
MARKET LED -
I have learnt a lot over the past
four years. Unlike my restaurant business which, if I am honest was a bit of
an ego trip, cooking for accolades was what it was really all about. With
my art business I am completely market led. It is true that I do not paint
commissions but I do only paint what people want to buy and live with in
I have also made sure I have grown
slowly. I began with small local shows, at £5.00 per day for a stand. Then I
progressed to large local shows, for £20.00/day. Then I ventured onto the
mainland, thanks to artist friend Janet Sheath who encouraged me, where I paid up to £300 per stand. At the
time this was a huge amount of money. I took notice of what people said in
passing about a picture. I developed a thick skin. Although I have
to say people came to my stand because they were attracted to it. If they
ignored a picture for several shows I dropped it. I most definitely didn't
run before I could walk.
So many times have I seen new designers,
students just out of college, at an expensive Country Living Show having never done a show before. But
because friends said their work was commercial or their art college told
them their work had popular appeal they had made this huge and expensive leap into an
unknown, untried and untested world of commercialism. I have seen glum
faces, worried faces and disenchanted faces as they have failed to make the
necessary sales to cover their costs. I think, "If only they had had some
wise advise about this highly competitive market place before they spent
their savings or borrowed expensive money from the bank". The worst thing is,
totally deflated, they do not return to the show the following year and worse than that they
probably give up altogether. A talent lost to the rest of the world, due
simply to misguided, excessive
encouragement from none business minded advisors.
It takes time to discover your market
and the kind of people who will buy your paintings. I still make the odd
mistake. Do the wrong show. A particular example was Spirit of Manchester
organised by Clarion Events run at the GMEX and known locally as the
Graveyard of Manchester. In this instance everyone did the wrong show.
Something like 146 people wrote a joint letter of complaint to the
organisers. Exhibitors were so upset that the majority of them didn't
re-book so the 2004 Christmas show has been cancelled. But I never compound the mistake. Learn quickly
and move on. I stick with what I know and test the water with new venues
with great caution. i.e. spend as little as possible until you are sure the
venue is for you and that the organisers are delivering what they say they
will in return for your money. In fact I rarely do a launch show unless I am
absolutely certain it will work. I also tend to drop shows after three or four years. Give
them a break and return to them a year or two later, when I can return with
some new images or products.
I paint anything as long as it has
a connection with kitchens, dinning rooms, restaurants etc.. Although I have
seen my paintings in hallways, bedrooms, sitting rooms, holiday homes and
offices. I love
painting big pictures and in particular farm animals. I am fortunate enough
to live a rural existence and in the past have kept sheep, ducks and geese.
Geese have such
quirky movements and sheep are quite the opposite with that kind of
what-planet-am-I-on attitude. I try to capture the character of the
creatures without them looking 'cartoony'. This is most evident in my hen and
cockerel paintings. I love to use my colours in a bold
way, splashing the paint all over the place - including the walls oops!. I am an impatient person
and want everything to happen yesterday, that is why I like watercolour
techniques which I find very quick. People often ask me if
I use inks because my colours are so strong, I don't. Best of all I like the freshness of white paper and I use
this as my main colour.
TECHNICALLY - for those who are interested, I
nearly always use Chinese brushes, the bigger the better. I don't use any
specific paper, although I find Archers watercolour paper little too
absorbent. I use the wet into wet painting technique most of the time. My
palette consists of red, yellow, blue, grey and brown. I keep my palette (on
old plastic container that came with some pork chops five years ago) clean
and I constantly change my water.
PROGRESS - My pictures can
now be found on Aprons with Attitude, place-mats, tea-towels, napkins, gift
wrapping paper and greeting cards under the Angela Hewitt Designs Label.
The Isle of Wight
Naturezones - October 2010
In 2007 I was
looking to buy a flat for investment purposes I ended up buying 10 acres of land close to the source of the River Medina on the Isle of Wight.
Many years ago I watched a programme about the life of
Sir Peter Scott and his driven ambition to create the London Wetland centre. This programme had a huge affect on me, I felt truly inspired and I vowed there and then
that one day I was going to do the same - little realising that dream may just come true. At the time I was running Lugley's restaurant and I didn't even know I
could paint. That I believe is the secret of goal setting. You don't actually write your goals down and work out a plan. They are little ideas and dreams festering in
the subconscious. It is as if there is another person in your "being" working in the background moving you towards your often consciously forgotten goals. Of
course instead of buying an investment I purchased a very expensive hobby. It may have been cheaper to buy a yatch!
2008/9/ - We have just entered what many commentators and
politicians claim to be the worst recession since the 1930, even possibly a depression. having gone through one big recession when I actually recall the day the phone
stopped ringing, 1st September 1994. A month previously I had decided to close my restaurant. I was suffering from exhaustion after 15 years of hard, physical, slog.
But I also had a feeling that economically something was not right. (I was an avid watcher of the news and something must have hit a chord). Compared to some I got
off lightly. It was the end of the summer season. Everyone had gone back to school. I had plenty of money in the bank. I paid off all my bills and closed my "baby" Lugley's restaurant. I made the decision not to sell it because I couldn't bare the thought of someone else using a name I had shed blood , sweat and tears to
create. (80 hours a week, 50 weeks a years for 15 years). Beside I always believed that I would go on to use the name as part of my brand and even re-open in years to
come. I came out with nothing other than a marvellous reputation for good cooking and no debts.
So here we are again, but this this time I hope I am better prepared - although
not really knowing what is round the corner I am not being smug.
Over the past few years I have set up many project. I love projects. Something
new, something creative. If I get an idea I have to try it out. My husband often says he lies in bed in the morning, in fear wondering what mad idea I am going to
come up with next. The problem is having the idea is not enough. I have to go out and do it - not always to much success - but at least I had a go. Something critics
can never brag about. I always say that without people like us critics would be out of a job.
The Angela Hewitt Designs Ltd business, I have to say grew too quickly. It was
like living in a constant panic 24/7. My suppliers could not keep up with the demand for my products, consequently I could not keep up with my customers demands. I
was letting them down with orders, late deliveries, incomplete deliveries etc. It all got very complex to the point were, after collapsing on the floor in tears of
frustration and despair, I decided to put the brake on. Having run a restaurant where letting the customer down just didn't come into it, an ethic I have lived
by for all of my life, I was suddenly victimising my own beliefs and values. I cancelled all orders from suppliers, told all my customers I had sold out of all my
stock apart from greeting cards. Then I sat down and reassessed my business. What was making the most money (profit margins)? What was I in control of 100% of the
time? What gave me the most pleasure?
I decided to concentrate on design, greeting cards and selling the brand. Dexam
International took on the license for my Aprons and tea-towels. I promoted the branding and sold some of my designs to other companied who pay small royalties for my
images. With my mind free of the previous pressure I began to concentrate on developing my creative thoughts. It took me to places I never thought of.
Wight Good Food Guide - I was approached by a brand new Island magazine to write
restaurant reviews for them. Having discussed it with the proprietor I told him I would be out of a job six months down the line as there were not enough good
eateries on the Island to review and I could not put my name to bad eateries who paid for advertorial. I was even at one stage asked to write a review of a place from
an interview over the phone. Needless to say I was appalled. It did however, make me think, maybe romantically, that there was a need for a guide that recommend the
best places on the island and with my qualifications I was perhaps the right person to do it. I set up the Wight Good Food Guide web site. I also thought it would be
good PR for my art business and bring people to my art web site. I then thought it would be a good idea to resurrect one of my cookery books "What's Cooking on the
Isle of Wight" and incorporate into it the Wight Good Food Guide. it proved a huge success and I am now working on the second edition, which is going to be called
"The Wight Cow Dairy Cook Book" and "Wight Good Food Guide" or something along those lines. Which brings me onto one of my other projects...
The WightCOW - Artist train themselves to think
creatively. It is a long slow process over many years. Then there comes a time when you have more ideas than time to do them. Needless to say not all of them work.
This is when artists (if they want to make a living) have to train themselves to think commercial-business. It is really difficult. At college artists are trained to
be true to themselves even if you do go hungry in the process.
Having come from a small business background I had a
bit of an edge, but even I fell into the trap of not giving in to my beliefs and I have wasted hours convincing myself that the public want something I believe in
even though I was blinded to the fact they were not the slightest bit interested. Now I test the market with everything.
Creative ideas pop into the head - the magic moment -
it is difficult to say where they come from but when you spend 80percent of your working day thinking something has to come out of it. The idea of the wightCOW
was a pop into the head moment. Then after a visit to Marth'as vineyard where I discovered the Black Dog concept it gave me the idea to do something similar with the
WightCOW idea. For more go to www.wightcow.co.uk