The Glorious Anniversary: Interview with Rosy Tydeman

Rosy Tydeman is a wonderfully talented lady; she’s the hands behind the marvelous La Vie En Rose Makery, and, together with her son Derry, runs The Glorious Art House. Below, I speak to her about her life, her art, and the one-year anniversary of the Glorious.

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It was your one-year anniversary on August 25th. Can you tell me about your opening day?
You know, I can’t remember! That’s terrible, isn’t it? We were all just so tired. It took six weeks to do the building up, and we went at it full-on, everyday, and we loved it. For me it was like taking the cork out of a bottle – I had so much I wanted to do, and given the chance to spend six weeks doing up a building was like a dream come true.

You only had six weeks?
It could have been indefinite, but we had to get launched. For me, the way I described it at the time was like changing my medium from textiles to café. It was these long, 14-hour days of bliss. The first time we played music up here, I was painting the stairs, and it suddenly hit me it was really going to be a café! Just hearing the sound of crockery – the buzz of it – was great. That launch day was seriously near the wire – we were still finishing the bar, and touching things up and probably with paint still wet! It was a crazy weekend, and I remember being amazed and how quickly everyone responded.

Did you always know this was the décor you wanted?
This room [first floor] evolved. I didn’t know what colour to use, and then Penny MacBeth appeared and said we could have this amazing wallpaper, and it’s extraordinary! She’s such a generous lady. That led to the blue, and it all came together.

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I already had a vision for downstairs from years of pouring over Mexican books, and knowing what colours I love, and what they do to people. I knew I had to have yellow, a sunshine marigold – a sunny yellow – especially for the ceiling. The gallery was always going to be white, and the loo I found easy.

It’s such a cute loo!
It’s very sweet, isn’t it? It was here already, all the way up there – we put a decent basin in and made it up. I laid the floor in there, that reclaimed black and white. There was a lot of learning; I’d never done tile-cutting, so I got a tile-cutter and learnt how to use it. It was mad, really!

It’s very impressive.
There’s a bit of a fine line, really [laughs]. The blue halls are very important. I saw it in Barcelona about a year and a half ago. Gloria and I went there for a little three-night treat, and one of the buildings there was that blue, and I call it ‘Barcelona Blue’. I looked for it for so long and suddenly saw it, and I think that was the only conscious colour I saw and knew we had to use, especially with the red and brown and dark wood. It’s got its own special glow.

It’s interesting that there’s stories behind even the colours.
There often is a story behind everything, isn’t there? Bit of a journey.

And what did you do for your one-year anniversary?
We did kiddies’ party games! We thought “What’s appropriate for when you’re one?” so we had fancy dress, party games, pass the parcel right through the day. I don’t know who won the final pressie because I went home, but it was daffodil bulbs, so hopefully it went to someone with a garden! I felt so emotional all day from people coming in with cards and presents. Lily from Otton’s Haberdashery bought us a cake with ‘Happy Birthday’ written on it, and John from Circles, who comes in everyday at 8am sent up a bottle of pink bubbly and a card. I’m going to cry soon! You just don’t expect people to go to so much trouble. We’ve been so lucky. People support us and they’re so loyal. We wouldn’t have done so well without it.

That’s so lovely. And for the fancy dress, you were dressed like Frida Kahlo. How did she come into your life?
I don’t remember the first time, but the minute I saw her image, and secondly her work, but mostly just her, I was captured. I saw the film ‘Frida’, and seeing the way she lived her life with all that. The pain and the passion and the intensity of her. That’s the way to live. Vibrancy, intensity, honesty – that’s what it is for me. She wore her heart on her sleeve, and was so expressive and so real. And that guy she was with! I think he’s fabulous in a different way, but what she put up with – my goodness! – but she did it because she had that conviction somehow. When people come into the café, like Gus from Taco Macho, he always calls me Frida because of the building – so when we decided to do fancy dress, I didn’t have to think twice.

You looked great!
Did you like the monobrow?

I certainly did.
I started off trying to get away with it but the staff bullied me and said it’s not the same without it, and they’re right, really – it’s not her without it.

It’s interesting that it was a statement, too.
That’s it! I feel like she took every little thing and – just because of her boldness – she made everything cool [laughs]. What a woman.

And how about you – where were you born?
In North Wales, Bangor – amazing backdrop to a childhood, although I didn’t know it at the time. Those beaches and mountains! It’s dramatic scenery, and I like a bit of drama [laughs]. My dad was an English lecturer and he used to put on plays, so there’s a lot of theatre in my background. Mum was very, very artistic. She said to me, “If I’d really pursued it, I never would have fed or clothed you.” I think she have been all-consumed by it, and she very much put us first. She’s left behind quite a lot of her art.

What did she create?
She drew a lot. What’s precious to me now is her doodles, the little drawings she did while on the phone. She was a feminist, but her priority was to be a mum and housewife, so her creativity seeped out there – making dolls’ outfits, and clothes for us as kids. Her mum sewed, she sewed, she taught me to sew, so I’ve always made stuff. That led to me sewing my own clothes, and then into shoe-making.

Shoe-making?
Self-taught shoe making. I used to make some atrociously strange things in the beginning – when we made something that would fit on a foot, we’d be so happy. Derry’s dad always wanted to make shoes, and we got some tuition eventually. We had a little shoe business up in Sheffield. A few years after that, I went into glove-making for theatres. Actually I just showed up at their door. I’d just split up from him and turned up and said “Do you need shoes? I can make shoes!” and the lady said “No, but we need gloves – we’re doing Three Musketeers and need three gauntlets.” I said I couldn’t do it, and she said “If you can make shoes you can make gloves!” – she was a fantastic lady. She gave me a book about it and a space, and it was great. It was lovely because I got free tickets to see the shows, too. After glove-making, I went into Steiner teaching. A real patch-work life!

A life that’s been lived.
Yes. Experimental. It’s revolved around the kids – anything I can do with them, so teaching seemed logical and I did enjoy it, but it was so full-time. I wasn’t getting enough time with my own kids, even though I had 26 lovely ones. The bit that remained was the felt-making and I thought I could teach adults instead, and have more spare time. That lasted quite a while.

Do you still make clothing?
Occasionally I make my own clothes, like this dress [see above]. I quite like the challenge of making something I’ve not tried before. Sewing machines I love, especially when I discovered the free foot, where you can release the teeth and the needle is on a spring-y thing and you can stitch in circles and do writing. When I discovered that I almost couldn’t sleep, it was so exciting! All I’d done before that was go up and down, but this thing welded bits of frayed fabric. That was a big moment for me. And the other was the embellishing machine – the barred needles, hammering the fleece in, so you don’t have to wet it, rub it , roll it – any of that. I’m a cheat! You can get the same effect that would take hours. If you want to sell, you can’t necessarily put all those hours in. I do put a long time into design, and can spend hours on one drawing, so anything that helps cut the time cuts the price down. I know some would frown on it because it’s not the ‘pure’ craft, but that’s what works for me.

It’s still something you’ve poured your heart into.
Exactly. There’s so many different ways of doing art, as long as there’s feeling in it.

And your design ideas! What’s the inspiration behind them?
Birds is a big one. I had a whole lot of time drawing women letting birds go, or birds flying around. I did a series when Gloria was a baby; I was very interested in the woman – the mother – and the constraints of looking after someone. I suppose it’s connected to my own mum; your life can contract, so the woman releasing the bird was that release. That bubbling up of being alive, and sometimes I get overwhelmed by that feeling. I loved experiencing motherhood, but there’s another side where you feel like you’re not in touch with your inner self because you’re changing nappies – the not-so romantic bit [laughs]. You have to celebrate motherhood and the strength of being a mother, so I drew these big women with birds flying around them. The birds are from those days, the freedom of spirit. Also people and love – because love makes the world go round.

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How about your clocks?
I like the faces and the symmetry, and the eternal round-and-round with no end. They’re totally incongruous – they shouldn’t be made out of felt. There’s something a bit rebellious about them, making it fun because time can be limiting, but if you have a squidgy clock, then it makes fun of that – and they’re not accurate, y’know? It’s all play. With the Grandmother, it was very important that you could hug and squeeze her. It messes with your senses and reality a little. And I think it’s magic because right after I made it, I found out I was becoming a grandma!

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“A Grandmother clock, not Grandfather – she’s curvy!”

Aw, congratulations! And you had the frilly kickers workshop, which really challenged the idea of art-making being a solitary thing.
I played with that myself. It depends on what sort of art I’m doing. Sometimes I need to be alone – I used to try to work with a friend and she found it worked so well, and I’d keep going wrong because I was too busy gabbling [laughs]. But I think making a pair of knickers in a group is great – there’s nothing you really have to think about, as it’s very simple, actually. There’s just something nice about women coming together to make pants! I was thinking about making boxer shorts, too, because it’s a bit sexist at the moment. Nothing wrong with Frida Kahlo boxer shorts.

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What’s a favourite of your own pieces?
‘Letting Go’ – it’s autobiographical. I was getting out of a hard time in my life. I made it upon moving to Exeter more or less, so it’s a “Let things be as they are, and enjoy it.” The peace of accepting a situation that you maybe didn’t choose, and turning it into something else, and that’s what the café came out of, actually – so that one means a lot to me.

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What advice you might have for anyone who wants to do down the same route?
Just do it, and don’t fear it. Fear is one of the worst things in life; it’s such a holder-backer-er! Maybe there’s a better word?

I think it’s charming and I’m going to use it.
One of my massive influential ladies is Marianne Williamson. She wrote a book called ‘A Return to Love’, and says love and hate aren’t opposites, but rather love and fear. I think fear and judgement – judgement of ourselves and others – are the worst things in life, and if we let that go, we can do anything. It’s about giving what you’ve got to give. We’re all here to be generous to each other.

What’s next with the café, your art?
Garden, garden, garden! I’d love to do mosaics, and there’s little embellishments I’d love to add. I don’t want the café to ever be finished, but rather a work in process, so hopefully you come back in three years, and there’ll be embellished bits, changed chairs – keeping it alive. We’re looking at maybe doing language conversation groups, maybe some life drawing, a little film club – more of that sort of thing. Toby’s working on live music nights. There’s lots more exhibits coming, really exciting shows. We’re full up to Christmas! And the Fore Street Exhibit! That’ll be really great.

What’s your favourite part of owning the café?
There’s so many creatives here already, and that’s my biggest treat. They have their meetings here, ideas here – that buzz of people and café society. It makes me so happy! It was totally what I wanted it to be. We don’t have to do anything – it’s just happening, and that’s fantastic. I want it to go on like that, people to use it and keep it moving.

To keep up with Rosy’s art, go here.

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