Since Childhood a fascination for the natural world has lead me to explore wild places, so that I may find and be close to wild creatures. I have always wanted to capture some essence of their lives in some way and while still at school and at art college I would make drawings and paintings of the flora and fauna that intrigued me, these would feed my ceramics.
When Andrew Osborne and I, where offered the chance of setting up a pottery in a isolated farmstead in a beautiful wooded valley, a wonderful opportunity arose, where I could live and work close to nature, my landlord allows me the run of his land and over the years other land owners have allowed me the freedom of their land, where I might draw , seek out moments that I may capture in words or paint. Now each day I go out early to walk the land that informs my work, I carry with me the tools I need to make drawings or just watch the goings on of the forest.
Since 1994 I have been compiling these drawings and observations into diaries and now have at least 26 of these.
In 2007 A&C Black published The Nature Diary of an Artist, a compilation of these diaries. I continue each day to make notes and drawings direct from nature, These are the staring point for my pottery and it is through my ceramics that I may share the moments that delight me.
The Nature Diary of an Artist by Jennie Hale
I can’t remember when wildlife didn’t fascinate me. It started early in childhood. I spent the first twelve years of my life in Scotland. We lived by the sea surrounded by hills so I had much to explore.
To start with, my father used to take me fishing, sometimes on the rivers for trout or salmon, sometimes to sea for mackerel. It was always exciting; chance encounters with some wild creature were always a possibility. There would be Eider and Scoter, Gannet and Cormorant around our boat, deer in the woods and Wildcat in the glens. I avidly collected bugs and filled endless tanks with rock pool creatures, jam jars were filled, frogspawn collected. There were rocks and trees to climb, nests to peer into, burns to explore. When I was six a litter of pups was born under my bed and one of these wriggling bundles was going to be mine. With this pup I had a passport to explore on my own. A young girl and her dog companion left to wander and have adventures. I took to the hills, always trying to go further. When we left Scotland and finally settled in Devon it was with this companion that I explored my new home
This love of adventure and the encounters it provides will always live inside me. I continued to have companion dogs. Each has been a yellow Labrador and each has learnt to sit and wait while I make drawings. They have a knack of alerting me to problems and the way they move often alerts me to some creature my own senses would never pick up.
I hated school and endlessly planned escapes. I always tried to sit by the window and gazed through it constantly, longing only to be on the other side of the glass. But I did have an ability to draw, to paint and sculpt and to run like the wind from an early age and these strengths sustained me.
With these skills I went to Art school to study ceramics then to work as an assistant to Marianne de-Trey, C.B.E. Eventually I set up my own workshop in a remote and beautiful wooded valley in Devon with Andrew, my husband and father of my two children Jamie and Robyn.
It is here that I started to write and illustrate my diaries, at first to inform my pottery and then as work in their own right. This book has been compiled from these diaries. These are some of the encounters, written or drawn, all captured with my pencils, paint or words, that nourish me and always have.
I have been lucky to travel to wild places in this country and abroad and in each landscape, urban or wild, I see nature arrive and survive. It’s that incredible spirit of survival that has always inspired my work and fuelled my sense of adventure.