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Artist Clare Brown­low

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Artist Clare Brown­low, who paints with a pheas­ant feather

From an early age, I was al­ways draw­ing and had my first sketch­book at the age of four,’ says Clare Brown­low of Pheas­ant Feather Art. ‘I wanted to draw and paint rather than read books – much to my mother’s dis­may as she’s an English teacher!’ Such was Clare’s tal­ent that she was of­fered art schol­ar­ships at var­i­ous schools, even­tu­ally tak­ing one up at Up­ping­ham School in Rut­land.

After school she took a gap year in Kenya, where she de­vel­oped a love of African wildlife be­fore go­ing to Ed­in­burgh Col­lege of Art and Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity to study Fine Art and His­tory of Art. After grad­u­at­ing, Clare worked for an in­vest­ment man­age­ment com­pany. ‘But I al­ways har­boured a long­ing to paint,’ she says.

Clare’s hus­band Char­lie en­cour­aged her to go back to art school so she at­tended Leith School of Art in 2008 where she spe­cialised in large at­mo­spheric land­scapes and seascapes in oil. She dis­cov­ered she was preg­nant with her first son, Harry, dur­ing the course and gave birth one week after her end-of-year show. After she fin­ished the course, she moved with Char­lie and Harry to the coun­try­side, de­ter­mined to com­bine her cre­ative side with be­ing a full-time mum. ‘I grew up in army quar­ters, but I loved go­ing to Ire­land and the Isle of Man where my grand­par­ents lived, so mov­ing to the rolling land­scape of the Scot­tish Borders was idyl­lic.’

Then, in 2009, Clare was vis­it­ing her par­ents in Nor­folk and, quite by chance, picked up a pheas­ant feather of her fa­ther’s and started doo­dling. Feel­ing in­spired, she took some pheas­ant feath­ers back to Scot­land and ex­per­i­mented with them, dip­ping the quill in ink and do­ing a se­ries of draw­ings at her kitchen ta­ble. The un­pre­dictable splash­ing ef­fect caused by the point of the quill catch­ing the grain of the pa­per cre­ated a unique tech­nique with an aes­thet­i­cally ap­peal­ing sense of move­ment. ‘With the spat­ters it was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to any­thing else I’d seen or done be­fore,’ she says. ‘I had found some­thing unique as no one else paints with a pheas­ant feather, and no two pic­tures I pro­duce are ever the same.’

What started out as a hobby grad­u­ally grew into a busi­ness, Pheas­ant Feather

Art, some two years later with many of Clare’s de­signs fo­cus­ing on Bri­tish wildlife, in­clud­ing pheas­ant, hare and deer. ‘I also started paint­ing chick­ens and pic­tures of friends’ dogs, and peo­ple loved the re­sult and sug­gested that I should pro­duce sta­tionery and prints, so I did.’

Clare started tak­ing stands at fairs to get her work known and clients ad­vised her to put her de­signs on place­mats and crock­ery as well as other home­ware prod­ucts.

Her range has now ex­panded to in­clude kitchen­ware, such as tea tow­els, oven gloves and Aga cov­ers, mugs and cush­ions. She also works on com­mis­sions of any shape and size.

Clare sources and finds man­u­fac­tur­ers for all her prod­ucts in the UK – ev­ery­thing, apart from the place­mats, is made in Scot­land. ‘I take great pride in this as it’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to support lo­cal busi­nesses,’ she says. ‘It can be a chal­lenge to find the high­est qual­ity prod­ucts to use for my art­work that will have a rea­son­able re­tail price for cus­tomers.’

She has also em­barked on a num­ber of col­lab­o­ra­tions with or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as Ed­in­burgh Zoo, Bow­land Brew­ery and Re­ally Wild Cloth­ing. Sup­port­ing char­i­ties is some­thing Clare loves to do and she has worked closely with Tusk Trust, Born Free Foun­da­tion, At­lantic Sal­mon Trust, Coun­try­side Al­liance, and the Game &

Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Trust. Twice she has been short­listed for Wildlife Artist of the

Year and ear­lier this year ap­peared on

BBC’S Coun­try­file. ‘I couldn’t be­lieve the re­sponse. Peo­ple were so un­be­liev­ably kind and I had the most in­cred­i­ble rush of com­mis­sions. There were some very mov­ing sto­ries of im­ages that peo­ple wanted me to paint and I was so hon­oured to be asked.’

Clare works at home from her stu­dio at the top of a ram­bling old Vic­to­rian farm­house close to the River Te­viot in the heart of the Scot­tish Borders. ‘Where we live is mag­i­cal. We are sur­rounded by wildlife here, which in­spires me so much. There are ot­ters in the river, hares, pheas­ants, deer and co­pi­ous amounts of gar­den birds. It’s the perfect en­vi­ron­ment for the chil­dren.’

Th­ese days, she jug­gles the busi­ness around bring­ing up her two chil­dren, Harry, seven, and Alfie, five. ‘I am so lucky to be able to do what I love as a job and also be a full-time mother,’ she says. ‘I think it’s im­por­tant to show chil­dren that you can be who­ever and what­ever you want. I also think that cre­ativ­ity is es­sen­tial in child­hood.’

Of all her de­signs, it’s pheas­ants (not sur­pris­ingly) and bees that are her favourites. ‘Bees are just those crea­tures that al­ways make peo­ple smile!’

☎ CLARE BROWN­LOW PHEAS­ANT FEATHER ART, » 07768 619777, CLAREBROWNLOW.CO.UK.

What I love most... ‘the fact that ev­ery day is com­pletely dif­fer­ent and i get to paint a whole range of won­der­ful things and meet some amaz­ing peo­ple’

Clare at her desk, where she wraps prod­ucts ready to send out to cus­tomers.

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