Mabel Pakenham-Walsh, a woodcarver, has died aged 75.
September 27, 2013 3:51 PM   Subscribe

"Her wood carvings were made from ironing boards, breadboards, old ships' timbers and in one case an old wooden toilet seat. Her jewellery was made from a cut-up caravan." (Obituary.) There's not much on the web about this woman, but what there is, is gold.

Documentary photographs, 1975, Homer Sykes.

Slides from Photostore, the Crafts Council Archive.

An interview made to coincide with her 2012 retrospective at Ceredigion Museum. In the interview she talks about her upbringing, her convent boarding school, where there was nothing to do in the evening but read the bible - "Found the begats didn't match up. Ever tried that?" - failing her driving test - "It made me a better pedestrian, let's just say," her acquaintance with other artists, and her relief sculpture.

On the work of Mervyn Peake, an aquaintence: "I just can't understand that people just didn't buy it...he was a financial nincompoop, like myself."

On drawing inspiration from local legends: "There are tremendous stories round here. The Bishop of (Somewhere) was murdered on top of the hill in The Field of Blood. If I was carving I'd go to town on that. The locals were murdering the Bishop for some reason."

On the unfortunate owner of the Leg of Bont, buried after amputation: "What the first aid was I don't like to think."

27 minutes long, and every word a gem. It gives a portrait of a cultured, wry, driven, singular artist.
posted by glasseyes (7 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this - she seems like such a fascinating person and artist.
posted by misterbee at 4:52 PM on September 27, 2013

The interview was a hoot. The carvings are unique.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:13 PM on September 27, 2013

I love the juxtaposition of a self-deprecating grandmotherly type who actually spent a bohemian life living hand-to-mouth while pursuing her singular art...
posted by jim in austin at 5:36 PM on September 27, 2013

What a lovely, creative woman.
Another remembrance of her.
posted by islander at 5:58 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

From a comment, at islander's link: "Mabel was always keen to try new experiences, including on the culinary front. I vividly remember once expressing an interest in African food, specifically goat meat, wondering whether it might be available in Aberystwyth. Two hours later I found a pack of goat cutlets posted through my letterbox in Bridge Terrace. Whence she sourced them, I shall never know.... I would like to pay tribute to her as one of those rare people who think outside established patterns, make their own judgements and can show great kindness."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:08 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks, islander. I'd never heard of her, read the obituary (I have an obsessive Guardian habit I'm trying to break) and went looking for pictures. And then, transfixed. The work has a wonderful quality of changing while you look at it, like a sort of shimmer about it. Seems fuzzy and clumsy and then the detail and delicacy resolves out of the blur. A proper original, and yes, I bet she was a hoot to be with.
posted by glasseyes at 3:43 AM on September 28, 2013

Forgot to say, what a lovely memorial post that is, islander.
posted by glasseyes at 3:53 AM on September 28, 2013

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