Open Studio: Hannah Elizabeth

As children we build forts from old boxes and climb trees as if we are scaling castle walls. We jab sticks up into the sky as we fight invisible dragons, wear daisy chains on our heads as if they were precious jewels and hunt for fairies in the hedge rows. When the summer storms roll in, we drop our treasures and run back home, out of the rain. We are put straight into the bath (to get the mud off our knees) then if we are lucky a chippy tea and an hour of telly before bed. As we grow older we play make-believe less often, eventually we swap den making for bill paying and slowly the magic slips away.

A box is just a box after all, a daisy chain is not a golden crown… but that isn’t the case if you are Hannah Elizabeth, because even though Hannah is a grown up now with bills to pay, she knows something you might have forgotten.

Located somewhere in the countryside, a short car journey out of Blackpool, after some complicated instructions, an argument with the satnav and a step back into the magical summer days of your childhood, you find yourself at Hannah’s home-studio.

Drawn to the area by a connection to their family history, Hannah’s family moved to the derelict farm ten years ago and set about the business of breathing life back into the land. When her partner joined her there, they started to carve out their own little haven just off the farm yard. A few short years later stands an impressive wooden structure adorned with Hannah’s handy work (dreamcatchers made from the branches of a tree growing in the garden and hanging baskets bursting with tiny brightly coloured pansies), standing in the middle of a sea of buttercups. This main building on the property has been created from two reclaimed log cabins joined together by an assortment of wood and has all been stained a deep brown to create one large living space.

As you enter through the front door, your eye is drawn to the window that fills the back wall, framing a lavish wild garden while allowing daylight to pour onto the corner sofa positioned below. Fairy lights drape from the beams, an array of crafts and trinkets are nestled on the shelves. The space has been filled with treasures, button tins and yarns, objects with memories and endless potential all at once. This is where Hannah spends her evenings in winter, in front of the fire, making her wares from the things she has found or been gifted.

It is over the buttercup sea at the ‘Gypsy Van’, an old 1950’s Vickers caravan built in Morecambe and brought here six years ago, that Hannah does most of her thinking. Sometimes sitting on the trampoline hidden behind a copse of trees overlooking the cow field and then out onto the miles of countryside is where she ponders her next venture.

The cats she and her partner share their home with play in the grass as Hannah walks barefoot to show me the veggie patch and chicken run. There is only the sound of birdsong to be heard. Remote and removed from the distractions of the modern world, time seems to go a little slower. Then conversation turns to talk of her hard drive, filled with an archive of images that form her trade as a photographer and you realise that even here, this fort in the countryside, must contain all the trappings of modern life, you just don’t notice them.

The garden is a constant inspiration for her dreamy photography and a great place to source materials for her crafts. Hannah has big plans for the future of this space. She wishes to add willow trees in a range of colours and maybe a few goats to trim the grass. She wants to open her home and studio to visitors so that they can share in the joy that this place has given her, a place she can now call home after years of travelling.

Hannah will never leave here if she can help it, they have built their lives here with their bare hands out of other people’s forgotten objects and their own creativity. A place that is so connected with her family’s past, the flow of the seasons and the inspiration for her practice, it is more than her home and studio, it is where she belongs. This is the place that the skills she learnt as a child have come to fruition.

As we pass under the archway heading back towards my car and the world beyond, I am sorry to be leaving. This place is enchanting. Then something stirs in the hedge row. I think it might have been a fairy.

For more information about Hannah’s work visit her website, or her photography or craft Facebook pages.

Images courtesy of Jill Reidy.


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