Spreading Her Wings with the Femmes Fatales – an Interview with Clare Shaw 

We first met Clare Shaw (44) in August 2016 and she immediately became one of the ‘wolfpack’. We’d previously seen her beautiful artwork all over social media, on which she asks her loyal followers to name her paintings, so we were excited when she approached us to offer one of her stunning prints as a prize for our event at White Lodge Shooting Ground. Liane Burton drove to Clare’s Lincolnshire home to collect the prize and ended up spending the day there, chatting, meeting Clare’s hens (affectionately named after various Emmerdale characters!), viewing her gallery (where the magic happens!) and forging a lifelong friendship in those few short hours.

We’ve seen Clare emerge as one of the most well-known, most in-demand wildlife artists (the waiting list for a Clare Shaw commission is huge!) in the country, with a vast client base, art gallery exhibits and now an exciting new venture (more on that later!), but her success hasn’t come over night. After a difficult period in her life, she used her art as a means of therapy, and what has emerged since is something truly beautiful. Here, Lydia Abdelaoui finds out more about Clare’s journey;

(LA) “Clare, your artwork is simply stunning. When did you realise you have a talent for painting”?

(CS) “I did A level Art but after that never really painted again. I had a life changing part of my life in 2012 where I hit rock bottom. Part of my recovery was painting and it was there that I realised my future path was being laid out for me.

“I carried on painting the animals I see around me and some sort of fire was ignited in my heart and I have followed it ever since. I believe that it’s what I am meant to be doing and so far things have gone from strength to strength. I moved to the Wolds in 2013 and that’s when I started to capture the game bird and veered into sporting art”.

 

(LA) “All of your paintings depict wildlife, when did your love of animals begin”?

(CS) “I’ve always been a muddy sort of girl, even when I lived in London I’d come back to the countryside at weekends. Riding from a young age and always having dogs has kept me outdoors but it was really when I moved up here I was inspired to paint the world around me. 

“As I started painting again I was so passionate about the movement of the birds, the fluttering of the wings and the personalities that each of the animals have I wanted to try and capture that in art. There are thousands of wildlife artists but my work  tells a story, it captures a snapshot in time and every day when I look out of my window I’m overwhelmed by how nature works, how it changes each day”.

 

(LA) “Do you shoot”?

(CS) “Hmmmm… Well, I try!! I’m rubbish. I pick up at the local game shoot with my labs, Winnie and Florence, all through the Season and I accompany Will (her partner, Will Haggas) who is an incredible shot, but I had never picked up a gun until I joined the Femmes Fatales.

“I saw one of your posts on Facebook, offered a print as a prize, Liane picked it up and invited me along and that’s where this whole wonderful relationship began! It just worked and continues to do so.

“I love being part of this group it has helped me try and improve my shooting , I have made some great friends and it’s fantastic for my career as well as we are all like minded ladies. I can’t wait for the next Season to start, I might even be brave enough to have a go on a game day this year”!


Clare’s very first Femmes Fatales event, August ’16

(LA) “Last year, you kindly turned a photography of my partners black Labrador, Frankie, in to a beautiful work of art after I commissioned you to paint her as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately, in the weeks before Christmas, Frankie sadly passed away – this heaped the pressure on you capture her perfectly in the painting.
On Christmas morning, the beautifully framed piece of art was unwrapped to bittersweet tears in my household – you’d really captured her personality; How did you feel about finishing the painting, knowing that we’d had to make the difficult decision to put Frankie to sleep”?

(CS) “Oh gosh it was so sad! I didn’t know if you would want me to carry on with her as it was obviously so painful for you . But I was honoured that you trusted me to complete the painting of her and still give her as a gift on Christmas Day. I was nervous but determined to get her spot on. I really tried to get her soul into the piece and create something that you can both look at every day but also have fond memories of her every time you look at it”.

 

(LA) “Were you nervous on Christmas morning, knowing that the gift was being unwrapped?”

(CS) “Too right! I’m always nervous about all of my commissions when they are received as gifts but when there is a sad story like yours I’m extra nervous and filled with anxiety but thankfully you loved it and to date I haven’t had any disappointed customers”.



‘Frankie’

 

(LA) “Have you ever turned down a particular commission request”?

(CS) “Hahaha! Yes, someone’s guinea pig!! I was asked to paint this black shiny little Guinea pig for a child and there was no way I could take that on… They all look the same and I don’t see the personality (sorry to guinea pig owners!) but it really not my bag.

“I do get asked to do people with dogs etc and I tend to recommend other artists as I’m just not comfortable with painting people and because my style is so unique I don’t think they would look human”!

 

(LA) “Can anyone send you a photograph and have you create a masterpiece of their beloved pet”?

(CS) “Yes! I love doing pet commissions. Working dogs are a favourite but I’ve done cats, horses etc too”.

 

(LA) “Tell me about ‘Serenity’ your gorgeous Kingfisher painting”.

(CS) “Oh yes, Serenity! We had a resident on our lake for a few years. I often saw him when I was walking the dogs. Sadly last January he must have dived in and frozen while in the lake fishing and he died. Rather than leave him I had him immortalised by taking him to our local taxidermist. I then painted him as if he was still sat watching over his lake and we have him here in the house, alongside the painting forever. In fact since then, kingsfishers are becoming a firm favourite amongst my customers and I’m being asked a lot to paint them”.

  ‘Serenity’ (centre) surrounded by more of Clare’s beautiful Kingfishers

 

(LA) Clare, there’s no denying you’re a bit of a character! You have a HUGE personality and it’s always a pleasure to have you along at our events because you’re so warm and friendly towards the newcomers. It’s really important to us that new guests, especially those turning up alone, are greeted and made to feel welcome and comfortable during the day – How did you feel at your first Femmes Fatales event”?

(CS) “Oh gosh I was so nervous! I don’t do big groups of girls very well, I’m much happier with blokes! But despite that I went along and I was made to feel so welcome, we had such a laugh and apparently when I got home I was buzzing for days, Will said I just went on and on about it! Since moving to Lincolnshire I have found it hard to meet ladies, but now through the Femmes Fatales days I have a group of really good friends, some of whom I know will be friends for life. I’m very grateful to that one Facebook post”!

 

(LA) “What made it so fun”?

(CS) “It was so relaxed, no competitiveness, no bitchiness, just good old fashioned fun! I loved it and still do. I wish I could get to more but life seems to get in the way! Every girls that goes seems to want the same thing out of the day and that’s rare to find these days. It was also an added bonus that I got to meet Emmerdale actress Sophie Powles who was also a guest on the day, as you can tell by the names of my hens, I’m a big fan!”

(LA) “Describe an average day in the life of Clare Shaw”;

(CS) “I get up at 5.45am with the dogs (Clare also has a Terrier named Noodle!) walk them, then get a couple of hours work in before my beloved Will gets up. Usually painting, but recently a lot of my time has been taken up with my new range of silk scarves. Then I see to Will, then it’s back to my studio for the rest of the day. I’m booked up until next year on commission work so it will be that or if I have a space I’ll do a new pheasant piece to sell.

“I second every other weekend and had the week in Cheltenham with my daughter, Daisy who’s 12, so time is quite limited here in the studio so I’m generally working flat out every day. I’m also learning each day as I’m new to the game and now with the scarves I’m learning about retail, lead times and wholesale so it’s a little more complicated than it was when I was just looking out of my window and painting a pair of sparring cock pheasants”!

 


           Family; Clare with partner Will Haggas, and daughter Daisy

 

(LA) “Your work is being exhibited at the House of Bruar gallery and you recently visited as ‘Artist in Residence’. How did that go?”

(CS) “It was great! Being Artist in Residence gave me a chance to show and illustrate exactly how I work. My technique is so unique no one else, to my knowledge, uses it and so it was incredible to have an audience watch me and see a painting develop over the three days. As usual I was very nervous but I soon got into the swing of it and had a great time.

“It was also nice to meet customers. The internet, which is where most of my business is based, means you lose that personal contact with people, the time I spent at the House of Bruar meant I got chance to meet them and show them how crazy I am in real life! I don’t think I upset anyone? Well I’m back there in August so I must have done something right”!

 

Clare at the House of Bruar Gallery

 

(LA) “You recently launched a range of stunning new silk scarves; How did you choose which of your paintings to use? Do you have a favourite”?

(CS) “Yes, the scarves. I designed and made them simply because I couldn’t find any I liked last year. Each scarf I found was dark, a repeat pheasant pattern, or just really old fashioned. It suddenly occurred to me that my paintings would lend themselves perfectly as they are so vibrant and energetic and the silk would literally just soak up the colours! I knew I’d use ‘Turf War‘ as it is my favourite piece (I will never sell the original) and it kick started my career so that was the basis for the first design.

“The second design I wanted to use larger pheasants and create a circular motion and my painting. ‘Wing and A Prayer’ lent itself perfectly as the top pheasant it literally parrying over the other one with a huge wing span. I worked with a student at the Chelsea Design School, she put what I had in my head onto a computer screen and that’s when it was born.

“It was important to me to keep the whole process local and totally British made. The silk is printed in Gloucestershire, where I am from. The packaging is all through a contact I made through Femmes Fatales and it’s been amazing to do. I have made bespoke boxes and wanted to give the scarves a Hermes feel to them. They are limited edition so once they are gone that’s it! I will create some new designs next year but still keep the range very limited. I still can’t believe I have created a range of scarves, I have to keep, pinching myself”!

 

 

(LA) “I noticed the gorgeous display (along with some of your prints) at the Royal Berkshire Shooting School when we were there for the Femmes Fatales Cup recently. They were being admired by many of our members! Where else can we buy them from”?

(CS) “The rest of the stock will be at the RBSS in the next couple of weeks. My website is currently being redesigned to cope with the sales and they are also in A Humes, plus hopefully at the House of Bruar very soon as well”. 

 

(LA) “You recently joined forces with the girls at Alford Smith for a photoshoot to showcase your scarves along with their range of Tweed clothing. How did that come about? I can imagine it was a fun day”!

(CS) “Yes it was amazing! Louise (Alford) kindly offered a while ago for me to go along and we share the day with the photographer. It was fantastic, again relaxed, chilled and just flowed so well.”

“The setting was stunning and my scarves worked really well with Louise’s clothing. It was a perfect day”!


 Clare modelling one of her beautiful silk scarves

 

(LA) 2017 has been an exciting year for you so far! What else have you got planned”?

(CS) “Sleep! No, seriously, it’s the fishing season now which is my big passion and I can’t wait to get up to Scotland and get in that river! I will be concentrating on getting the scarves into retail, looking at Liberty, Selfridges&Co, Harrods and such. Obviously it will be Christmas soon so greetings cards and commissions will start in September and I’m taking bookings for that now.”

“I’m also designing a range men’s silk ties. These will compliment the scarves, but also bring some colour and vibrancy to the men’s market. The ties out there are OK but I think they need a crazy fighting Pheasant or strutting Partridge to compliment their tweed suit on a day’s shooting”!

 

You can keep up to date with Clare Shaw on by following her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.