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Muddy Meets: Sue Read, Painter

Artist Sue Read tells us how her relationship with the sea has influenced her painting, and we also picked her brains on the best places to eat in Bude.

Have you always been a painter?

I grew up on a farm just outside of Bude and have always been very close to nature. Painting didn’t come to me as a profession until my forties after a spell of illness. I’m now a professional painter selling my large seascape and wave paintings from my studio in Bude. It feels like what I was meant to do and has enhanced my relationship with the sea and coast.  As I have matured, I see my role as encouraging and helping women and other businesses and our community thrive. 

What is your day to day working life like? 

My days start early and are varied and the lockdowns have thrown any routine out of the window, but my ideal day is to get into the studio early before I have to think about emails or household duties. You can get so much done before 10am and as we move into Spring, the early mornings are a favourite very productive time of day with no distractions. I usually spend the mornings working, but often give myself the afternoon to catch up with family and friends and will grab any opportunity to get into the sea. 

Has that changed at all during the various lockdown / pandemic and if so, do you think it has highlighted any need for change?

The past year has seen a slower pace which I needed. I feel more relaxed and am going with the flow and weather. I have a greater understanding of the ‘Why’ in my painting. It seems stupid, but there has to be a reason and this questioning has been invaluable for a deeper understanding. I love to travel, but I have loved noticing more detail and gratitude for what is on my doorstep.

What are you doing to promote women/equality in your every day?

The pandemic has above all taught us to be more tolerant and less judgemental I think. There have been some great community initiatives like the Pearl Exchange in Bude where they are supporting the 16- 30 yr olds through workshops, music, art and counselling.

Through this there is a greater understanding across the generations for what it is to be young these days and the pressures from society and social media. I have lobbied council and through social media supported them and even dropped off a tin of biscuits. It’s the little things sometimes and I think that’s what women do well and can make such a difference.

What’s it like being a female business owner (and do you think it differs in Cornwall to UK generally) 

I have never felt I have been treated any differently but  it depends on the business you are in.  I always loved driving tractors on the farm and there is a secret passion to drive big trucks. So it’s great to see more women in haulage and driving buses.  But I think it must have been more difficult for women to be in.

Culture and being brought up in Cornwall has some very long standing thoughts and traditions of a ‘woman’s place and role’, but this is definitely changing and when I think of the businesses I know and are doing well, if they aren’t led by a strong woman, there is usually one behind it!

What more is there to do in terms of equality / parity in Cornwall generally? 

Let people have a voice and respect it. Things are changing and the next generation are feeling stronger and able to stand up for themselves either individually or as a collective, group, so I hope that work will continue and we will see change quickly. Social media is giving people a voice. 

Are people supportive? Good networks?

There is an amazing network of women in Cornwall. We all like a natter don’t we and are never short of a word, which speaks volumes, so we have no problem reaching out to each other and in turn supporting each other in our endeavours. Women are feeling very empowered and have gained huge respect for their efforts. We think and act with our heart as well as our head and I think men are more open to our ideas and are also more open now.

Cornwall as a rural community is leading the way in finding creative ways of working and although there are several initiatives like Cultivator already, I think there will be more creative hubs in the future. It is much needed in North Cornwall.

Do you have any role models?

Lousie Middleton from Kudhva is the first person that springs to mind.  A real ideas person who is challenging the way we think and work, who carries a big smile, who doesn’t always find it easy, but finds some superhuman inner strength to just keep doing it. Avril Greenaway and Emily Scott also. The list just goes on.

I’ve just read ‘Nineth Street Women’ too. Women artists in  New York like Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell who had it hard, in an era where women were seen as ‘ the housewife’,  but their passion for art,  believing in what they did and not giving up, was incredibly inspiring for me as an artist. 
anything else to add?

What’s your favourite Cornish beach?

Through the winter Summerleaze beach has been amazing. It has a breakwater so I can swim safely at high tide or go into the iconic sea pool. 

I think the sea is in my blood. My seascapes are full of the emotion, the feeling of actually being in the water. Through this winter lockdown for the first time I have been taking a dip all year round. I never wear a wetsuit anyway. I find them so restrictive and  I want to feel the water and absorb all those minerals. 

My summer passion has been going back to using a wooden bellyboard. It’s so much more fun than the modern bodyboards. And more ethical.  There is a local maker in Bude who is adding cork to them and he personalised one for me.  (Ed – I would include Sue’s description of how fast they go, but I think your spam filters might catch the phrase…!)

When your first visitors arrive in Cornwall post lockdown, where do you take them first?

Although I would always say the coast, don’t forget the valleys and the moors. It’s where you can escape the the crowds and get amazing views. 

And where will you head to eat?

In Bude, Electric Bakery is a weekly source of amazing bread and Potters is a great new restaurant run by an exciting young couple who have really adapted to Covid.

Further afield, I cannot wait for Emily Scott to open at Watergate Bay. Her food at St Tudy is fantastic and combined with the views over Watergate Bay, it’s a winning combo.

the view of watergate bay from the cliffs

Find more ideas here

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