It’s been an interesting year for Winslow artist Thommi Freeman, who is one of many local artists taking part in the Bucks Open Studios in June.
Mrs Freeman, aged 71, who is halfway through studying for a BA Hons degree in fine art at Oxford Brookes University, also beat off stiff competition to take part in BBC2 TV programme Paul Martin’s Handmade Revolution last summer.
Mrs Freeman, known locally as Veronica, has lived in Winslow for 40 years with her husband Michael.
She worked as a legal secretary at Embleton and Smeath solicitors, and later for the NHS, until suffering a major heart attack at the age of 60 followed by bypass surgery in 2003.
She creates brightly coloured hats, slippers and accessories out of wet felt, and began her part-time art degree course in 2010.
“I’ve been creative all my life,” she said. “I love working with my hands. I was a spinner – that was my hobby.
“I turned to felt 30 years ago because I like the use of colour and form. I love vibrant colours, and it’s very quick.
“If you knitted a garment, it would take you weeks. Felt is quick by comparison.”
A friend forwarded her the invitation for amateur craftspeople to take part in Paul Martin’s Handmade Revolution, via Facebook.
Thousands of people entered the competition and Mrs Freeman made it through to the final 25 to take part in the filming.
Although she didn’t win the contest, Mrs Freeman said: “I enjoyed getting as far as I did. It was a terrific experience. It’s given me more recognition and it’s given me such confidence.”
She is due to finish her degree in 2016.
“I feel what I’m doing now with the degree is getting myself out into the wide world, meeting people of all ages and that is a boon in life. It stops you thinking about yourself and getting very introspective.”
“Doing the degree and being recognised as an artist by my fellow students has given me confidence to the extent of putting myself forward.”
Her fine art is sculptural installation work using textiles and natural materials, inspired by her family’s past.
“My family’s legacy is the sea. My family were fishermen. They were also weavers, I’ve found out, in the Pennines in the 1700s.
“It’s just gives me so much to hang on. Your mind starts boggling, thinking about what you can do.
“I’ve got the idea I’m going to look for an old rotten hull and do something with that.”
Bucks Open Studios runs from June 8 to 23, with many local artists and groups taking part in Buckingham, Winslow and the local villages.
Thommi Freeman will be exhibiting her felt items at Penny Heydon’s Dragon Barn Studio, in Haddenham.
Pick up a brochure from libraries or visit www.bucksopenstudios.org.uk