Equine art and creativity special edition Including Melanie Wright whose work featured on the cover of our December 2019 Stallion Review
We learn to how to produce a commission with artist Michelle McCullagh and we chat with leading equine sculptress Susan Leyland We also enjoyed a zoom conversation with Sarah Haydon of Clarendon Farm Stud regarding her exciting clothing venture Conker and we hear how the Salisbury-based business has got through its second lockdown in three years
Equine art and creativity special edition PAGE 4
Read the pdf page turner here: https://bit.ly/ITB_equineart_issuu2020 or via our digital multimedia edition, best for phone viewing: https://bit.ly/ITB_equineart2020
Producing a commission with Michelle McCullagh
Equine, landscape and portrait artist Melanie Wright
From bloodstock to boutique wear: Sarah Haydon of Clarendon Farm
Equestrian sculptress Susan Leyland
PAGE 22 Art briefs
Parisian artist and equestrian Jeannine Flower Norton Way gallery www.internationalthoroughbred.net
McCullagh’s commission of Dr Geoffrey Guy’s daughter of Multiplex, Seebeedee
How do equine artists go about producing commissions? Debbie Burt chats with leading equine artist Michelle McCullagh about the centuries’ old tradition of producing equine commissions for owners and breeders, a process that was once, before the advent of the camera, the only method of capturing a lasting image of that special horse www.mccullagh.co.uk 4
T IS A tradition that is still very much alive in the 21st century and, thanks to the camera, patrons seeking a bespoke equine artwork no longer have to provide board and lodging whilst the artist works from life with their valued bloodstock for weeks on end. Strong life drawing skills are still the foundation of the craft, however. They are essential for note-taking regarding colours, to capture an animal’s character that cannot always be accurately captured on camera, and for the arrangement of the composition. Fortunately, it is one equestrian activity that has not been curtailed by the current coronavirus crisis; many artists are reporting that they are busier than ever. Such is the case for Michelle McCullagh. Since graduating with a BA in Fine Art from Falmouth University in 2008, exploring the movement of animals has always been the driving force behind McCullagh’s paintings and drawings. Originally based on the Dorset and Somerset borders in 2017 she moved with her husband, the Olympic gold medallist sport shooter
McCullagh working at home in the studio
Peter Wilson, to a small-holding in Wales, close to the Shropshire Hills. McCullagh has set up her studio at home, which has allowed her to accommodate the arrival of two daughters, Robyn and Etta at a time when she has been at her busiest with commissions. She also reports that motherhood has been a completely renewing and invigorating experience, giving fresh impetus to her work. She has also joined a new rural community based within an idyllic landscape of rolling hills and forests, much favoured by walkers and horse riders, and suitable for artists, too – the parish website boasts that the inhabitants have a “fairly wide tolerance for personal eccentricities!”. McCullagh’s most recent commissions have mostly been large scale works in the “ghosting” style that has become her trademark, though they have been interspersed with more standard portraits along the way. Of the origins of that ghost technique she says: “It all started when I was spending a lot of time in Newmarket, watching horses at exercise on the Heath, filling countless sketch books with line drawings”. The constraints of quickly recording
McCullagh’s ghosting technique was successfully used in her commission for the Guards Polo Club
producing commissions Seebeedee in progress, the horse being superimposed over the owner’s house
images at speed meant that it was the top line of the horse’s head, jockey and tail that were constant. Combine that with with the constraints as to where you can stand to view, often with the horses against the morning sun, or on Warren Hill where they gallop between rails obscuring the legs, a new perspective was born. “Back in the studio I realised how much I loved the drawings that captured so much movement, without showing the legs,” she says. “I kept playing with the dark lines until I realised that actually it was better to use the sun, catching the light and the highlights.” As she progressed more colour was introduced to her palette. “Initially the backgrounds were dark and the paintings almost monochrome, however I soon abandoned that as I realised it gave me the opportunity to play with colour – mostly when you paint animals your palette is very brown!” she laughs, before adding: “I then worked up a number of boards with different colours in stripes, to see how I could best mix the background colours. Successfully exhibiting her new, more brightly coloured pieces at the Animal Art Fair in Chelsea gave her the confidence to pursue this avenue. “It felt it was really exciting to use my racing drawings as a reference in this way, though I have also applied the technique to the Royal procession at Ascot and to hounds in the hunting field. “I loved the way I could control the sense of movement, putting more detail in or taking it out – I have
“I kept playing with the dark lines until I realised that actually it was better to use the sun, catching the light and the highlights found that if you put more detail in the painting seems more still, and becomes static.” In earlier pieces she combined this the ghosting technique with standard portraits, a method that she says “is very difficult to get right, without a painting becoming too busy”. Nonetheless, for a commission by Guards Polo Club to mark the organisation’s 60th Anniversary, she felt it worked beautifully. The picture required that she conveyed a sense of the club’s history, using old images of HRH Prince Philip and other club captains, as well as suitable colours to give the piece an “aged” feel. She adds that she found the large commission quite technically challenging as it combined four players, linked in play, galloping across the centre of the piece, overlaid
with a portrait of HRH Prince Philip’s favourite pony. What made it even more difficult was that the reference images were intentionally all from different periods, using kit appropriate to each era. Securing such work comes through many avenues, and word of mouth obviously plays a large part. When McCullagh provided illustrations for a book commemorating the first 150 years of Wincanton Racecourse, the author and fellow equine artist George Bingham lived nearby. “George already had a few of my drawings, it was a fun project and lovely because at the time it was local,” explains McCullagh. Another former near neighbour is racehorse owner and breeder Dr Geoffrey Guy. When she painted his winning filly Seebeedee, she visited the filly in training at Harry Dunlop’s first capturing her form in both pencil and on camera, however the eventual backdrop was to be Dr Guy’s house. Back in the studio on the canvas the horse came first, and only when she was happy with the outline, filled in quickly with big brush strokes, did she tackle the background brickwork. “I had also taken lots of photos of the house at the same time of day as when I had visited the filly, but it was still quite a challenge to combine them,” she remembers. “When it was finished we had an unveiling party and the filly came and walked up and down in the garden in front of the house, that was a fun experience!” McCullagh has certainly gained a following, and a patient one at that. “One client bought one of my
very early drawings and later kept a catalogue from my 2015 show – he had loved one of the long racing paintings I had exhibited and last year commissioned one in a similar colour,” she smiles. Through lockdown, she worked on another similar piece. When approaching this type of commission, she says: “It’s very different to visiting a horse and producing a straight portrait when the client often has a very fixed idea of what they want. “I’ll do a set of loose compositional drawings, say with five horses, then six horses, perhaps one is out in front a bit more in one. “I will send these to the client, along with examples of previous paintings showing different colour backgrounds. We take it from there.”
A finished picture
She has discovered that there is more to this style of commission than just making a piece of attractive artwork. “I find with the ghosting paintings the client tends to have a good idea of the location in their house and where the finished piece will be – so colours often become quite crucial. Once composition and colour have been agreed I get going – I keep the client updated with photographs once the initial layout stages have passed and there’s a bit of a colour down.” There is still scope for fine tuning once the painting has been started, she says: “With oils it’s easy to alter the colours if need be. It’s same if a horse or rider needs to be changed or emphasised in any way.” Once the piece is finished, regardless of the painting style employed, McCullagh will always offer the client the original reference drawings as part of the process. With clients spread across the country, moving location to some three hours from where she established her career has not affected business, though she admits some travel has been a bit more challenging. The upsurge in commissions combined with the changing circumstances of her personal life has meant that it has been nearly five years since she had a solo show in London. Plans are well underway to remedy this absence, and, Covid19 allowing, the intention is for a major exhibition in the West End leading up to Christmas 2021.
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A unique talent
Leading equine sculptress Susan Leyland is based in Italy and, after after finding her way to equine sculpture, relishes the experience that life in the cultural nation offers, reports Debbie Burt
T TOOK MANY years and a change of location before Susan Leyland found her true calling – that of an artisan sculptor of worldwide repute. Born in 1952 in Whiston, Lancashire, Leyland was influenced by horses from the beginning – her grandfather, who served in the Veterinary Corps in World War I, gifted her a pony when she was just four years old.
From England to Italy
She began painting early on and that talent was recognised by the Royal Academy with her work hung in their children’s exhibitions, but, on leaving boarding school, art was not her first choice of career In 1973 she left her job at Cambridge University to join a school friend living in Florence. The intention was to learn Italian and study art but, to Leyland’s dismay, within a month her friend departed for Venice and she had to swiftly seek employment. It was suggested that the upcoming September Pitti Donna Florence Fashion Week might provide the solution. Leyland explains: “I was so scared, but necessity was stronger. I answered a loud speaker call and went to a fashion house stand. On entering, clothes were put in my arms to model. This was the beginning of eight years working with Ferragamo and freelance modelling.” After a chance meeting at dinner with the man who would go on to become her husband, Leyland was fully committed to Italian life. In 1978 they moved to the house where they still live, some 7kms from Florence in the Impruneta area. With her artistic studies curtailed by work commitments, it was this move that nurtured her interest in sculpture. “Impruneta has been famous since Etruscan times for its terra-cotta, urns, statues and even Filippo Brunelleschi’s herringbone bricks for the Florence Cathedral Dome,” she recalls. “I was fascinated by the work of the artisans. M.I.T.A.L. and the Mariani family took me under its wing and encouraged me to create by giving me clay and by firing the results. I watched and learned from these artisans who inspired me by what they
Above, Susan Leyland, and, left and below her block-work horse sculpture
“Daily breathing in the Italian Renaissance beauty, and living in the amazing countryside of Tuscany so easily stimulates the imagination created.” Leyland continued to draw and develop her sculpture whilst working as a riding instructor, which also helped to hone her observational skills for the equine form. “In 1999 she exhibited in Florence, then Saratoga Springs and feels that it all came together in 2000, when she took the plunge to commit to art full time.
The following year she was found in London at the Frost & Reed gallery where she was exhibiting some of her drawings, discussing her work with the manager. It was to be a pivotal moment as he told her that “whatever you want to do, it should be recognisable as yours”. “These words had a great impact on me,” enthuses Leyland. “My goal became to create something innovative and modern. I began by re-elaborating my own work to see what could be altered to improve it – I tried lengthening it, flattening it and uniting the base and the horse.” And so her signature Horse Block Sculptures were born, with her first sculptures in this style dated in 2004. However, she also credits her environment for her development. Daily breathing in the Italian Renaissance beauty, and living in the amazing countryside of Tuscany so easily stimulates the imagination. Leyland uses a semi-refractory clay, which is harder to work and contains many small stones which must be “pushed” into the body of the sculpture in order to create the smooth surface of the finished piece. Leyland considers it a hardship worth enduring as once fired “it is beautiful and guarantees a greater resistance to breakages”. It also enables her to work without having to hollow out the sculpture for firing, which cannot be achieved with smoother clays. She recognises that there is always a slight risk, even when shipping bronzes, but that risk is minimised by using professionals to pack and ship her work. The most fragile aspect of her sculptures are the ears, which are always well protected in their shipping crates.
Progressing from Italy and the US, now her global reputation has soared with work shown in exhibitions and art fairs in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Turkey. In 2008 she received the Directors Award from the American Academy of Equine Art, and in 2014 she secured the commission for the World War I War Horse Memorial, erected on the roundabout at Ascot. Explaining the process, Leyland says, “I began to sketch ideas and to read and search war images for
susan leyland “Inspiration is a vision to transform my ideas and energy into something tangible reference. This process took four years, creating more than 200 sketches on the subject. I needed to be able to embody all the WW1 suffering and pain into the Memorial. “I made the maquette [initial small sculpture] in Italy and shipped it to Black Isle Bronze in Nairn, Scotland to be enlarged and cast into bronze. “I reworked all the enlargement
surface and detail before casting and worked on the finished bronze with the bronze foundry specialist.” The horse, called Poppy, is one and a half times life size and was unveiled in June 2018. Situated in an area of remembrance at the top of Ascot High Street, the memorial is now a familiar sight to visitors to the racecourse. Poppy is also a focal point for the Purple Poppy Appeal, which create funds for military and equine charities (www.thewarhorsememorial.org). When the weather allows Leyland prefers to work outside, her studio converted from her horse’s stable and feed shed, situated idyllically in their olive grove garden. When not working to commission Leyland takes her inspiration from a variety of sources. “It comes from being alive and loving what I do, as well as the surprise I am given by what I can make,” she explains. “Inspiration is a vision to transform my ideas and
Above, Poppy, the War Horse Memorial, at Ascot, left, Leyland’s working sketches for her horse block sculptures. Leyland drew over 200 sketches while researching the work
energy into something tangible. Ideas for the bases come from modern architecture and geometry or even a household or technical object.” Sometimes, as with a recent piece, she may find halfway through that her subject reminds her of an animal she has met, halting proceedings to make further sketches and reference to photographs from her collection. On other occasions she has been inspired by other artists, as with the groups of mares and foals informed by the paintings of George Stubbs. She says: “While making a sculpture I am always free to change my original idea as it is the whole piece which must work, the base, the shape on top, the balance, the harmony, the story and this can happen and fine tune only while working on and observing the sculpture. “I try to create relationships in my sculpture. Horse attitudes that can be recognised as human feelings or visa versa. “I like to create interactive pieces too, sculptures with the same shape bases that when their positions are changed create different moods, I also make sculptures of one or two horses
which when the blocks are all placed together create herds.” More recent commissions include five life-size horses for the Fountain of Apollo at Versailles, a project that has been brought to a temporary halt by Covid19. It is a dream assignment for any sculptor, but she would also love to create a Horse Block Sculpture in bronze or marble for a London park or other major city. Of the current situation Leyland reflects: “When Italy went into lockdown I felt the stress of knowing the reasons why this was necessary. “I was really worried listening to news and reactions of the UK and other countries. I had to distance myself from this and began working to music instead of the news. “I worked full-time during the lockdown, considering myself fortunate to live and work where I do, making the most of the glorious Italian spring which is in itself an inspiration to create.” These sculptures are drying out and will be fired in June, a poignant reminder of how art can transcend even the most difficult of challenges.
Wright Melanie Wright was looking forward to an exciting spring with a planned “Horses for Courses” exhibition scheduled in London for May and based on a large body of work put together in Newmarket. The exhibition had to be cancelled due to lockdown, but as Sally Duckett discovers new plans are underway for the equestrian, portrait and landscape artist, who was our December 2019 edition cover artist www.melaniewrightartist.co.uk
Our December 2019 issue with Wright’s “Riding Out At Hull Farm” featured on the front
HOSE OF YOU with memories able to stretch back to December 2019 (a lot has happened in the world since then) will remember the beautiful image (left) we used on that issue’s front cover, our annual showcase of equine art fronting up our December Stallion Review of the Year. It is a lovely, wintery scene brilliantly painted by Melanie Wright, called “Riding out at Hull Farm”, produced while Wright spent a residency with her local NH trainer Charlie Longsdon. Wright is an equestrian, portrait and landscape painter based near to Longsdon’s yard at Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire and she was probably genetically orientated to be an artist – three of her Victorian era ancestors, all brothers, were members of the Royal Academy.
Finding a life with art
“Funnily enough I did not discover that about my background until later in life, it was a sort of rumour until I found out more, but my grandmothers were both artists, too,” explains Wright. “My paternal grandmother drew watercolours and exhibited with The Watercolour Society, she painted landscapes mainly. We grew up very near to her and she was a great influence and I used to go and paint with her. My other grandmother was based in the south and she was a commercial artist in London in the 1920s. “It skipped a generation with my parents, but both my grandfathers were very ‘horsey’ – one grandfather loved his hunting, while for the other it was polo. So both influences were there for me really. My father was farming then in North Yorkshire and I was a member of the Bedale Pony Club and grew up riding – I had a typical Pony Club childhood.” The fun pony and painting days were left behind for Wright in her early adult life when working life emerged – she left Yorkshire and headed to London to complete a design course and embark on a design career. However, the desire to produce creative artwork had not left Wright, she had continued painting through her move to London, and she returned to college to study at Heatherleys
Two of Wright's three artistic ancestors, the brothers John Faed (left) and Thomas Faed (right)
School of Fine Art in Chelsea. “The painting was always the calling, but the design option had been the ‘sensible’ option for work, but I really wanted to paint,” laughs Wright, that ‘sensible’ route of guaranteed work being one that a girl brought up in rural North Yorkshire might well have been expected to take. The formal art course led to work
for Wright as a portrait artist based in London, which she concentrated on for a number of years, and she came to painting horses almost by accident. “I was in Somerset staying with friends and they asked me if I had considered painting horses? “Once I started I did not look back, the minute I did that first portrait I thought, ‘why have I not been doing
Two pieces produced by Wright through her residency at the British Racing School
this all the way along?’” she laughs. The artist then set about merging into one her upbringing, her understanding, her knowledge and feel of the horse from her childhood days of riding, alongside her artistic skills, enthusiasm and formal training. “I am very excited by the movement, the spectacle and atmosphere and, for me, that is
what equestrian painting is. I love equestrian sports, I love the landscape, I love the outdoors, and as far as painting style is concerned, I find, and continue to find, exploring and capturing movement the most fascinating aspect,” says Wright, adding: “I still love doing portraits and I do them on occasions, but I just find that very ‘still’ now. Producing the movement, it is a challenge. “The interesting thing is to draw the horse and the conformation correctly, but then let it go and going on a further journey with the image; removing and almost sort of editing on canvas, injecting something else so that the horse is not stilled like a photograph, it is part of everything that is around it.” Wright loves all the differing equine fields and has produced work across all aspects, but having had two residencies in the world of horseracing her work of late has been largely focused on the Sport of Kings.
Residency at the British Racing School
An in-studio exhibition showcasing the work she had put together at Longsdon’s NH yard, led to contacts at the British Racing School (BRS) and subsequently a two-year residency at the school, working on-site and around Newmarket.
“It is all about noticing what you see in a split second on a racetrack. That is a blur to the eyes really, but I am not painting blurs! “Everyone at BRS was fantastic and really helpful, they introduced me to people at the Jockey Club Estates and to trainers Sir Mark Prescott and James Fanshawe; they thought really carefully as to who would be on board with the idea, it was a fantastic help,” says a thankful Wright aware that the sheer size and scale of Newmarket could initially have been a little intimidating for the painter. When staying in the town, Wright boarded at the college, getting up early with the students heading out to watch them on first lot, being put through their paces for their exams and being trained. She would chat with them over breakfast, and really aimed to become part of the set-up. “They are doing amazing work at the school; they are inspirational people, it was a real eye opener and privilege,” she enthuses. Wright made the most of her time and went racing, painted on Warren Hill and had mornings in Sir Mark’s and Fanshawe’s yards. She found that she loves to concentrate on the moments leading up to or after a race, things that have happened, or are just about to happen, when the atmosphere can be at its height. “It was a wonderful opportunity,” she recalls. “When I first met Sir Mark he said, ‘You are going to want quite a few months just looking to see what you might like to paint,’ and he was right, you need to discover subjects yourself, find out what speaks to you. “I am so glad I went for two years not just one; you could spend a lifetime painting at Newmarket! I am happy that I got the most out of it, and I will be back.” Sadly, this spring’s coronavirus lockdown has had its impact and halted Wright’s subsequent plans – from her work produced in Newmarket, Wright was due to hold an exhibition at D-Contemporary gallery in Mayfair entitled “Horses For Courses”. “It has been delayed to November now,” she smiles ruefully, adding: “I had 50-odd paintings wrapped and
ready to go, had done the publicity, we had two private views planned at D-Contemporary and were about to send the invites out. It then became increasingly clear that it was not going to be able to happen. “We have rescheduled to November 4-14, all being well. I don’t think we will do a big splashy private view as they are always very crowded, but we’ll
work, ranging from portraits to scenes, sketching, and the range of mediums that I work in too, that is important to me,” says the artist. Unable through lockdown to get out to training yards and racecourses to paint, Wright has divided her isolation time between painting her young whippet Fin and teaching her regular painting group, classes which have morphed online from face-to-face tuition. “I have been longing to draw Fin for ages,”says Wright. “He is three and a half years old and I had not drawn him since he was a puppy. He is all about movement and shape, I have loved
Out and about: Wright loves nothing more than to get outside and paint
see nearer the time. I will probably do a couple of videos to put on my website about my art-making process, and there is more online that we can do linking to the work. “Fortunately, the paintings are all wrapped up and the scans – produced so the paintings can be reproduced – have already been taken, so I can’t go back and change anything! It is good as I will see it afresh again, and I am looking forward to seeing them all hanging together in a big space.” While the main focus of the exhibition will be Wright’s work from Newmarket, with scenes from BRS, the racecourses, images from the gallops and the training yards, it will also include some of the NH work done at Longsdon’s yard, some polo and dressage images, as well as her broader landscape paintings. “As an equestrian artist, I am keen to show off the broad remit of my
drawing him – and it is not a million miles away from painting a racehorse. I sit and watch him racing around and have really enjoyed it.”
The love of teaching
Teaching is also been a long-standing passion for Wright. “I always done taught. I love it and it is around 30 per cent of my entire work,”she explains. “I have a Friday morning group of about five of us and this spring it has moved online which has worked really well, though I am not sure I would set one up from scratch on zoom! “I like to teach traditionally, I like take people right back to drawing basic shapes, cones and squares, discuss what line is, what colours are and offer a basic training. “Artists have to have the tool box, even if they want to paint horses.”
Last year Wright took a group of six of her students to BRS where they worked on work ranging from portraiture with students leading out the horses to stand, to working on Warren Hill, at the July Course and then with time spent admiring the equestrian masters at Palace House. “It was such fun and I would definitely do it all again,” says Wright. “Again the school was really helpful and said we are welcome to go back again whenever.”
Selling her work
The hustling and selling of her work, the commercial realities of life as an artist is something that Wright’s early working life prepared her for, that “sensible option” taken immediately after school, reaping its rewards now. “I am very glad I had my training as a commercial designer as it was geared around going out and making a living as a commercial artist,” she explains. “I enjoy meeting people, finding galleries to exhibit but am very glad had that training and had that experience working with clients on quite large projects.” Wright still does work on human portraits, and paints the odd landscape, too. “If people ask for a portrait of themselves or their child, I say that it has to be to my style, I won’t work against my natural style and instincts. “I won’t work from just a supplied photograph either, I like to take my own photos and get to know the horse or individual. I need to make the connection with the subject, for me that feeling can then come through in the painting.” As for the future, Wright says: “My style is always evolving, I am never standing still with it. It evolves anyway, I am always pushing it a different directions, for instance, my landscapes are much more abstract than my equine work. “I like to develop and challenge with new mediums, different colours, a like experimenting, like the variety.” Wright is looking ahead and despite lockdown changing her commercial plans, there is no stopping the artist as she continues her quest for capturing equine movement on canvas. http://dcontemporary.com 23 Grafton Street, Mayfair, -W1S 4EY
boutiques ... IT ALL COMES alike to Sarah Haydon of Clarendon Farm. Sally Duckett caught up with the multi-talented lady to discuss her six-year-old venture into selling ladiesâ€™ clothes. Her shop Conker is in Salisbury, a town that has certainly had its fair share of issues to deal with over the past two years
Photo by Debbie Burt
Left, Clarendon Farm Stud in Wiltshire, above, Haydon leading up at Tattersalls, right, Conker in Salisbury sells clothes that are a bit “different” than those in the big stores
ANY IN THE bloodstock and racing world know Sarah Haydon through her role as partner with husband John at Clarendon Stud Farm, the breeding and consigning operation and, until this spring, home to the late stallion Double Trigger. However, since 2014 Haydon has also worn (literally) a very different hat – that as owner and manager of Conker, a boutique ladies’ clothes shop, based in Salisbury. The outlet began life after Haydon, something of a self-proclaimed clothes’ junkie, decided to broaden her horizons, and after a family conference it was decided that she could follow her enthusiasms.
“We had always done the horses and I have always been very hands-on at home,” she recalls. “We had a family loss, my sister died of breast cancer, and it made me realise that there is a life outside of horses; we can all get so tunnel-visioned! “I have always had an interest in fashion and clothes and decided that I wanted to open a clothes shop – it was a family decision as we needed to work out how it would affect the farm at home and how we’d cover the work.” Now, six years further down the line, Haydon has embraced her role as fashion extraordinaire. “It has gone well, we have a very diverse clientele and we offer clothes that are not generally found on the high street,” she explains. “The clothes are a little bit different,
“The clothes are a little bit different, affordable and make you feel good! I love it! affordable and make you feel good! I love it!” The just-get-on-with-it attitude that Haydon has, something possibly fostered in the equine world, saw her dispel doubts when heading into a world far removed from mucking out, covering mares and leading up at sales.
“I didn’t know anything it and flew by a wing and a prayer!” she laughs. “I was aware of certain trade shows and took advice from a few people, who were very kind, and once the agents, who supply the clothes, know there is an opening for a new store, they appear, I can assure you! “You have to be very selective, be tight on your buying and buy for your own clientele. The clothes range from occasion wear but not formal – I can go to Royal Ascot in an outfit I have sourced from the shop – to casual leisure wear, such as jeans. But the buying decisions are always based on quality and affordability and just being something different.” Haydon admits that her own style decisions do influence the clothes she buys, however as would be expected
commercial decisions hold sway, too. “There is an element of both of those things – I have to like an outfit otherwise I can’t put my heart into selling it, but there is always a commercial level. If there is something I know will sell really well, it will drive me to liking it because I know it will sell! “I always like a label that is a bit more ‘out there’ because I have a few ladies that like something a little more quirky; funnily enough it is always the more ‘mature’ ladies who will go for something that is very different as they are more confident in their style. The younger girls tend to be more cautious in their buying and, of course, money comes into it too.” The difference that the boutique
“I have to like it otherwise I can’t put my heart into selling it – but there is always a commercial level, too. If there is something I know will sell really well, and that will drive me to liking it! experience is offering Haydon in her role is not wasted on her, and she is embracing the new avenues that are opening up, while realising that there is actually more to life than selling racehorses! “I have met some amazing people doing it, you don’t realise that these people are about and have done, and are doing, amazing things,” she says, adding: “People are also very kind, sometimes it is very easy to lose sight of that. “There are very kind people in the
Haydon loves to offer the personal touch when selling her wares and even when selling her wares online this spring
horse world, too, but it is also a very hard world because it is so moneyorientated as there are such big numbers involved. What I am doing is a smidgen in the scheme of things. “I love the horse world and I would never drop out, but his has opened up my horizons. “I still love going to the sales and meeting the usual faces and I never want to lose that – but this is just a very different ball game.” The farm foaled down around 20 mares this spring and continued walking-in to stallions through lockdown, the M25 run to Newmarket considerably easier with the lack of traffic on the roads this spring. And for Haydon it is also important that she gets to the races and equine events, and wears items from her store – she is her own mobile mannequin. “I am very aware that I need to wear things from the shop – I realise when I go to ‘horsey’ things that require me to look smart, people now look me up and down and you can tell
they are trying to work whether that outfit came from the store. They will then ask, ‘Is that in store?’ and I will say, ‘Yes, come on in!’ “If people see it on someone they are more far likely to look at it and buy it, rather than pull it off the rail. It is very interesting how buying decisions are made.” Haydon does make some comparisons with the selling process at the bloodstock sales, but they are limited. “To some degree, yes you are still selling whether it be a horse or a shirt, but when at the bloodstock sales, the viewers have preselected, or largely have, and they are on a mission to buy. “When someone comes into the shop you never know what their agenda is. “Some come in and stand in the middle and say, ‘I am going to a wedding, and I don’t know what to wear!’. “So you go through everything with them –that is fine and I enjoy it, I and
sarah haydon wants to wear and then we do a small video of her walking out of the door, pretending to be on the catwalk! “It is just 10 seconds long no more than that and it goes on facebook and instagram every Friday afternoon. People now complain if we don’t put it up!”
my girls know our stock really well. “Then others come in and if you say hello they immediately reply with, ‘I am not buying anything!’ “And that is fine, but they have come in for a reason. So everyone approaches it differently. “Then the husbands – that is always very entertaining! Some are uncomfortable, but some have a good eye and will pull things out and suggest items.” Despite the world changing to one of online buying and a digital tech, Haydon enjoys the physical presences of the shop and getting to know her “ladies”. However, the world of social media has not been ignored by Conker, and again the importance of the human touch and the wearing of the clothes is important. “We just started out of nowhere doing ‘facebook catwalks’,” explains Haydon. “One of the girls who works for me, she will go and choose something she
Sadly, due to the virus, the catwalks are not taking place at the moment, the store having shut on March 23. Haydon has bowed to the inevitable and has put a few things to sell online via facebook, but admits it is harder to market the outfits without anyone to model for her. Many of the clothes have also made their way to home at Clarendon and Haydon smiles: “John says it looks like a warehouse here at the moment! “But it is just a matter of getting things in front of people to remind them we are here and we are trading. I have a very loyal band of customers and they do support me.” Owning a new shop based in Salisbury has not been the easiest experience over the past two years – and Haydon experienced a first local lockdown in the spring of 2018 after the novichok incident, when Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent, alongside his daughter Yulia, were poisoned. “We were shut down then from March to June in 2018, it was a similar situation to now but was very localised. “It was frustrating in a sense as they did not tell us when we could reopen – they themselves did not know. I have been much more relaxed about this,” she says, adding: “But it was hard, the tubes were found 50 yards from the shop so we had cordons all around us. “People were then very scared about coming to Salisbury, they were scared by the novichok. But, when we did reopen, people came back – they weren’t restricted by money and job worries, which might be the situation now.” Shortly after the incident Conker moved into a bigger shop, which means that the now-required social distancing measures will not be an issue. Haydon expects reopening to be a gradual process, and is planning to make those first few tenative steps from June 15.
She is mindful that she has a shop full of summer clothes and orders for winter (made last February) due to start arriving in August. “My ordering for this coming winter was mainly done back in February, but for some unknown reason I was reluctant and was tight on my buying. I don’t know why, I just could not get on with it. Now with the benefit of hindsight looks to have been a good move,” she recalls. “Some of the labels and fabrics come from China and Italy and they have been affected manufacturingwise. One of the agents told me that she did not think I would get all of may orders anyway as the fabrics can’t currently be sourced.” At the start of 2020, Haydon was very hopeful of a good year and was busy selling clothes to suit the ladies heading on a cruise or going hot climes in the winter. She is hopeful that people will once again be keen to treat themselves once movement is less restricted. Haydon’s passion for her venture is evident and even through lockdown has been taking direct phone calls from her loyal crew of customers, personally selecting items and sending out clothes. She enjoys the role she has created for herself and gets a great deal of satisfaction, a pleasure which, in turn, is creating her commercial success. “I love it when someone walks past, pokes head in and says, ‘I wore that dress loads and loved it, I had so many good comments about it!’” Ever the sales woman, Haydon concludes with that personal touch: “We are online – conkerboutique. co.uk – and we have a Conker facebook pager. But people can always contact me direct, and I can find it or something for them.” So here are all the links and details, and once movement and life has returned to some sort of normality, if you are looking for something new to wear to the races or to a socially distanced garden BBQ, we highly recommend a visit to Conker.
The loss of Double Trigger “It was very sad, he was 29 so you have to expect it, but it was a shock and upset us deeply. He could not have done it in a better way – he was in the arena, skipped about and then went. He had been a very healthy horse the whole time we had him. “In fact he was a bit of enigma – he was unbelievable in his attitude and would take the ‘rip’ something awful, but he’d never hurt you. If you happened to be walking behind him, he’d kick out but never get you. “He was with us for 22 years. When I rang and told my sons, they were horrified and they had to come home for the weekend. “Ron [Huggins, owner] was very upset, too. Trigger had done a lot for him and his family, given them some great days out, horses like that don’t come along that often. We had a lot of letters and phone calls, too. “He was just always here kicked door if did not feed on time, every morning heard him neigh when he heard the feed bucket rattle – I am starting to miss that.”
Reopening on June 15 www.conkerboutique.co.uk www.facebook.com Conker, 9 The Maltings, Salisbury, SP1 1BD firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Debbie Burt
art in brief
own words Norton Way Gallery Norton Way Gallery has been promoting contemporary fine art since 2007, dealing exclusively in original pieces. Placing a strong emphasis on representational art the gallery works directly with over 40 highly skilled, painters, sculptors and printmakers. Hosting a continually changing show of unique and captivating pieces with nature as the central theme, the gallery has a wonderful selection of oils, watercolours, bronzes and ceramics. These are beautifully complimented by a strong catalogue of etchings, linocuts and wood engravings. The gallery regularly exhibits pieces by Michael Alford, Phil Greenwood, Collette Hoefkens, Susan Leyland, Colin See Paynton and Anne Songhurst. Susan Leyland’s monumental and evocative equestrian work is renowned worldwide. Her smaller fired clay pieces, including her ‘One and Only’ series, sit perfectly among the menagerie of wildlife, displayed in a variety of media, at the gallery. Collette Hoefken’s neo-romantic paintings portray an ideal and secretive vision of the British countryside. Rolling hills and hidden glades provide home for her cherished wild and domestic creatures. Visit the gallery or arrange a private viewing appointment. Further details can be found on the website or by calling the gallery direct.
www.nortonwaygallery.com 01462 685 139
Artist and Equestrian (Paris-Barbizon-Gordes) “I returned to my paintbrushes in May 2017 at the encouragement of a dear friend, following a 30-year professional corporate career and my family’s return to France in 2015. Today, I live my life celebrating my passions, oil painting and my horses who will on various occasions feature in my paintings (#PassionPigmentsLife). “I work in oils. It is the subtleties of this medium, the finesse in use, and the ability to create deep lush colors and luminosity that give me the greatest satisfaction bringing a blank canvas to life from an idea. I love to squeeze the beautiful pigments out of the tubes onto a pristine palette … mixing and pushing colors to their maximum … to create something new, tangible and expressive. “My artistic style is defined by the subject I am painting: derived from a fusion of specific colors, format and techniques that I want to use to preserve a special moment in time, to portray the beauty and energy of the subject through color and contrasting light, and to evoke a feeling...an emotion....a sentiment. Each painting is an evolution in itself whether it be a cityscape, a figurative portrait or equine art.”
art in brief
Elizabeth Armstrong Elizabeth Armstrong is a contemporary equine artist who seeks to convey the emotion and movement of her subjects, working in a variety of mixed media including oils, watercolours, ink, charcoal, horse hair and cloth. Horse racing features strongly, however polo, dressage and other equestrian disciples have all been inspiration for her lively and colourful work. She is artist in residence at Royal Windsor racecourse and witnessed Richard Hughes’s ‘Super 7’ winners in one evening, when commissioned to record that
achievement, she produced the painting in seven days. Working closely with both Cheltenham and Newbury racecourses, she has provided paintings for the recent developments at both tracks. This month she has released a new print of ‘Enable winning the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe’ which is limited to an edition of 25 (sized 18” x 24’). Please contact her for further details and delivery options. www.elizabetharmstrong.co.uk email@example.com Tel: 07976 800 002
Jeannine Flower Artist â€“ Equestrian Paris â€“ Barbizon - Gordes
Self-taught emerging artist from Philadelphia and today living in Paris and Barbizon, with her horses (showjumpers). Exhibits at various art salons and personal art exhibitions in the Paris/ Fontainebleau region and recently selected for 230th Salon des Artists Francais - Art Capital (Grand Palais, Paris, Feb 2020) Artistic expression is individual and unique: it comes from within. I love w orking in oils to mix and push the colors to their maximum, through light and movement, to capture the beauty and elegance of this powerful yet sensitive animal.
JCWFlowercreations.com +33 (0)188.8.131.52.97
“Enable” ridden by Frankie Dettori (116x89cm oils on linen, 2020). As I build out my art portfolio since May 2017, I had yet to paint a racehorse since my last painting of Big Red, Secretariat, in 1983. I chose to paint the beautiful filly, Enable, ridden by F Dettori to celebrate 2018 winning of both the Arc and the Breeders' Cup Turf in the same year. The idea was to capture her in an open outstretched movement on the grass flanked by the twins spires of Churchill Downs. (Source material: Coady Photography)
“Into the final straight” (100x81cm, oils on linen, 2020). I wanted to paint the final push coming out of the bend to the finish line with a fusion of color and light to give a sense of that the horse is coming at you as if you are there on the track. (Source reference: photographer, Clarence Alford).
Commissions on request
ELIZABETH ARMSTRONG 'PUSHING IT ALL THE WAY' - oil pigment and charcoal on canvas
Contemporary equine art capturing movement and emotion, commissions undertaken in oils, watercolours, ink, charcoal, horse hair and cloth
www.elizabetharmstrong.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org @ArmstrongArt
00 44 (0) 7976 800 002 @armstrongfineart