One of the reasons why I haven’t written much over the past few months is this little thing. ‘Permanence’ was a work commissioned by the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust to celebrate the legacy of Porthmeor Studios.
The Studios sit on Porthmeor beach in St Ives, facing the Atlantic. In the late nineteenth century, fishermen worked in the building to press pilchards and mend nets. As the fishing industry began its decline, artists started to arrive in the town, lured by the extraordinary light. Porthmeor’s net lofts became studios, and over the course of the twentieth century artists such as Ben Nicholson, Terry Frost, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Patrick Heron, Tony O’Malley, Francis Bacon and Sandra Blow worked there alongside the fishermen who continued their trade. Lack of maintenance and a century of formidable coastal weather took its toll upon a building barely more than a shed built up from an old sea wall. The Studios were close to collapse before funding was secured two years ago to renovate and rescue it.
What struck me about Porthmeor Studios, even more than its history, was its vitality. It’s still a working space for artists and fishermen, and art classes take place regularly in its upper studios where the St Ives School of Painting is based. My fellow editor Paul Tucker and I researched Porthmeor’s history and wanted to contribute to its phenomenal output. We commissioned local poets to write original work, interviewed key people involved in the renovation, and even did a little bit of writing ourselves. Finally, we teamed up with the talented and dedicated illustrator Rebecca Jones and super-designer Dan Bloomfield to create 400 copies, each with a special die-cut cover. The Trust will soon put these on sale.
More information about the renovation can be found here.