Artist and de­signer

Friday - - Anniversary Special -

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

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