From Science Researcher to Artist on a Dutch Barge

I have always enjoyed art. In fact, at school, my grades were about equal between science and art. But I chose to follow a career first in the NHS, and subsequently in Neuroscience research and teaching, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was what brought me to Lechlade-on Thames, where I reside on our Dutch barge Skûtsje with my husband Martin, our Cream British Shorthair cat Frobisher, along with our other two boats Lark Rise III, an English narrowboat, and Aaltje a small Dutch barge that we are renovating. 

Dutch barge
Our barge Skûtsje at Hommerts, the Netherlands, on our way home

We brought our Skûtsje (yes, very confusing, our boat is a Skûtsje type Dutch barge, and we gave her the same name!) home from Friesland in the north of The Netherlands. I knew nothing about boats, and it was a steep learning curve travelling down through the canals and Zeeland in the Netherlands, and then on to Belgium, France, across the English Channel into The North Sea, and finally all the way up to the top of the navigable Thames to Lechlade. 

In 2019, with the imminent closure of the programme I was teaching on, I took the plunge to leave the university altogether. We decided to set up a static narrowboat accommodation business on Lark Rise III to help pay the bills and her mooring fees. 

In the meantime, whilst we were waiting for the first customers to book the narrowboat accommodation, we decided to do our Christmas shopping. We bought a rock painting kit for one of our relatives, and as it was on a three for two offer, I bought one for myself as well to have a go. I loved it, and in particular, I loved using acrylic paints! They were bright, easy to use on many surfaces, and quick to dry. All was going well both with the narrowboat and my discovery of painting, and then lockdown struck, killing the narrowboat business temporarily, and leaving us with half our normal income. 

Whilst we waited out the lockdown restrictions, I decided to clear out the cupboards. In doing so, I discovered my long lost box of pastel pencils and a pile of watercolour paper, and I decided to have another go at drawing, and to my amazement, I was hooked on that too. I drew and sketched a friend’s blue British Shorthair cat for practice, followed promptly by painting our own Cream British Shorthair. I didn’t have any proper pastel paper, so I just used the watercolor paper I had found. The results weren’t fantastic, mainly due to the wrong paper. Still, I was thrilled with them, and to top it all, when I posted the British Blue on my Instagram account (without revealing who he was), my friend instantly recognised him as her cat, result!

Pastel picture blue British Shorthair cat
Dennis, my friend’s adorable British Shorthair cat
British Shorthair cat cream
Frobisher, our cream British Shorthair cat.
Blue female British Shorthair cat
Female British Shorthair. Using pastels on Pastelmat paper

After that, I experimented with painting (rather than dotted art) on stones and tea light holders, and I was also pleased with the results. I soon got commissions for painted stones and tea light holders from friends and family and some sales from a display set up in the narrowboat over the Summer.

Bumble bee on flower
An art stone commission for a friend who loves bees

All of our items are made on the galley table in our boat, Hence the name Crafty Boaters. However, it does mean rather a lot of eating off laps when I am waiting for the plaster casts or resin to dry! But so far, it has worked out well. 

Once the second lockdown hit, Martin and I decided to organise our own Crafty Boaters Christmas Market in Lechlade, involving local artisans, which was a great success and an excellent way to meet people. Our next step was to go online, and this is why I took the plunge with TBCH. We also plan to broaden our range a bit next year to painted wooden boxes. 

Even with all of the ups and downs this year, I don’t regret changing my career. I enjoy being creative, and I feel that it has been an enjoyable step forward for me so far.

Visit shop:

Leave a Reply