THIS MONTH: THE HAMP­SHIRE ARTIST In our new se­ries, we cel­e­brate home-grown en­trepreneurs who have turned their hobby into a thriv­ing busi­ness – draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion and sup­port from the rural area in which they live

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - words by kate langrish pho­to­graphs by nato wel­ton

Cham­pi­oning home-grown skills, we meet peo­ple mak­ing the most of their hobby. This month: the artist

the early months of a new year are one of artist Vicki El­der’s favourite times in her shop. “De­cem­ber is so busy that I barely have time to breathe,” she says. “For me, the calm that fol­lows is al­ways a re­lief. The fes­tive rush has fin­ished and I can open up my paint palette again.”

Vicki owns The Fox in the For­est – a lit­tle store sell­ing her work and that of other lo­cal artists and crafters – in the pretty mar­ket town of Ring­wood on the edge of the New For­est. When she’s not serv­ing cus­tomers, she can be found qui­etly work­ing away be­hind the till, cre­at­ing del­i­cate wa­ter­colours of the wildlife she en­coun­ters when out walk­ing in nearby wood­land. “Most cus­tomers don’t even no­tice I’m paint­ing,” she says. “I’m quite dis­creet; I have my wa­ter­colour paint palette and some brushes tucked un­der the cash reg­is­ter, and I work on my lap.”

Vicki opened The Fox in the For­est just over four years ago, fol­low­ing a pre­vi­ous ca­reer in re­tail that she had fallen into rather than planned. “Grow­ing up, I al­ways painted and wasn’t re­ally good at any­thing else, so I pre­sumed I would be an artist,” she says. She com­pleted a foun­da­tion course at Lin­coln Col­lege of Art, and was all set to go to Fal­mouth Uni­ver­sity when her fa­ther sadly passed away. “I didn’t paint for quite a while af­ter Dad’s death,” she ex­plains. “I felt I needed to stay at home to help my mum.” A se­ries of jobs took her from a pasty shop in Corn­wall through to man­ager of an up­mar­ket cloth­ing store in Ring­wood, Hamp­shire, ten years ago, but all the while she was busy paint­ing and craft­ing in her spare time. Then, in early 2011, af­ter a par­tic­u­larly stress­ful day at work, she de­cided it was time to make a change and pur­sue her dream: “I came home and told my hus­band that I wanted to start my own busi­ness. I’d even thought of the name: The Fox in the For­est. It was af­ter a paint­ing I was do­ing at the time, but I hadn’t ac­tu­ally de­cided what the busi­ness would be.”

For a few months, Vicki con­tin­ued with her job and be­gan cre­at­ing a stock­pile of her paint­ings in the evenings and at

The Fox in the For­est, has a felt mouse above the door: “It’s only ever chil­dren who no­tice it,” she says. “They look around much more than adults”; Vicki with some of her paint­ings; her book Shop Mouse is sold to raise money for char­ity

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