Artist and designer
Judy Roberts arrived in the UAE in 1983. Her husband, Colin, started a business supplying garden and architectural embellishments to public and private projects around Dubai. ‘I’d started a business designing and making gifts for the tourist industry, which I ran for over 20 years, along with my art which I sold at fairs and exhibitions and supplied for project work,’ says Judy, who although passionate about art never formally trained in it. Colin became known at bazaars as the ‘bottle stopper man’ for his bottle stoppers in wood embellished with coins.
Judy says she was pleasantly surprised when she was interviewed for a feature in what was just the second issue of Friday.
But the biggest surprise was when the magazine was out on May 23, 1997; she was on the cover. That’s not all. ‘I was amazed to get a phone call from a friend on a Friday morning telling me to step outdoors and take a look at the billboards. I did and guess what? My image was on advertising billboards throughout the UAE.’ But then she deserves to be. She has designed nine sets of stamps for the UAE, produced and illustrated a Walking Guide for Dubai, worked for environmental organisations including the Arabian Leopard Trust, illustrated books, won prizes for her falcon paintings, and worked on projects for hotels such as The One&Only Royal Mirage, Sheraton, Conrad and Vida.
Judy credits the desert for inspiring her to create works of art. ‘I first encountered the desert in the mid ’70s when we lived in Saudi Arabia and I was delighted to be able to return to it when we moved to Dubai,’ she says. ‘I’ve always had an interest in natural and cultural history, architecture and design and all of these aspects of my interests were included in my work inspired by my love of living in the UAE.’
The couple returned to the UK in 2014, ‘partly because of the pressure of the level of work required as small businesses in what had become a highly competitive market,’ she says. ‘Also, our age was a factor.’
Judy, who participated in ‘quite literally hundreds of fairs and exhibitions over the years’, admits she misses the UAE. ‘I miss friends – although now a lot have moved – the familiarity, the feeling of safety and its energy. We had the best of times.’
Last May, Colin suffered a stroke which left him partially paralysed and needing 24-hour care. ‘The trauma has been, and continues to be, devastating for us,’ she says.
‘I was not just on the cover but on billboards across the city,’ says Judy