Mary Wardle: artist, writer and photographer

The doors to the garden were flung open so we could bring the outside in as we talked about Mary Wardle’s life and loves.

She is a philosopher, writer and artist, but if you were forced to pick just one word to describe Mary, for me it would be poetic.

There is a gracefulness to her gestures and each word she utters is charged with the emotion of someone passionate about all that exists around her.

Mary’s life is centred on her work as a printmaker, photographer and garden designer and her loves are quite clearly nature and her 21-year-old son.

It is Adam, her son, whom she credits with bringing out the artist in her and it is the constantly evolving landscape that inspires her work.

Mary’s home is tucked away in The Dale, Wirksworth. Many thousands of people will have wandered around it over the years, as she opens it up for the town’s festival and also the celebration of its hidden gardens.

Sharing is important to her and is key to what she does.

“I get great joy in existence and I have some skill in being able to express visually what I am experiencing, and I want to share it,” she explained.

Mary was born in Derbyshire but admits that as a teenager she wanted to move away as soon as she could, and found herself in Canada by the shores of Lake Ontario where she studied philosophy.

On her return to England and the orchards of Kent she added a degree in Landscape Architecture and then embarked on a career in horticulture and garden design.

Creating gardens is a passion she has had since childhood when she was spellbound by the magical transformation of a packet of tiny seeds into a rainbow of flowers.

Even though printmaking is now her primary occupation the drawing board in her sun-filled living space is hosting half-finished plans for new gardens and I express surprise that she is still continuing with that work.

“I can’t stop,” she said emphatically.  “I need the physical. I need to be outside. I need to be out making and exploring. 

“Over the years I have gone for interviews for various office jobs but that is not a life for me. I know I am always going to work independently in some form and now I want to combine the printmaking and gardening,” she said.

When aged 42 Mary was unexpectedly blessed with her son and she had to rethink her life’s journey. 

She had reached the stage when she thought she wouldn’t be a mother and the happiness he has brought her revealed itself as her eyes lit up at the mention of his name.

“It was Adam who made me an artist. While I was caring for him as a baby I had one day a week to myself and I went out walking with a sketchbook amid the rich geology of the limestone uplands near my then-home in Macclesfield,” she explained, adding: “It was there that I also saw my first collograph print and became fascinated by the technique.”

Mary is largely self-taught as an artist and works with found objects, metals, paper, textiles or even foliage. She says with a broad grin that she tests the materials to their limits and only the welfare of her press constrains her experiments.

“My printmaking celebrates the rich surface textures and colours that saturate the places and spaces I explore on my adventures. I enjoy experimenting and  am open to anything and everything.”

She uses photography to take notes of moments that, as she puts it: “fall in on us, sometimes like quiet angels, other time as pyrotechnic eruptions.”

Her poetic prose accompanies both the photographs and prints on occasion and especially in the books she has created.

Mary has been invited to exhibit at the 2018 Ashbourne Festival. The organisers wanted her to showcase her photography but, as yet, the artist is undecided about exactly what she will be revealing to the public. Whatever it is it will be captivating that’s for certain.

Go to http://www.ashbournefestival.org for details.

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