The particular atmosphere of a house, or indeed any building, is something I have been attuned to and fascinated by since childhood, so it was a real privilege for me to meet Bristol artist Sadie Spikes recently at her extraordinary home. An art gallery, installation, studio, family home and guesthouse all rolled in to one, the Curious Cabinet in Fishponds has the most fantastically tranquil and restorative ambience. It is a stunningly light-filled space without suffocating carpets but naked floorboards throughout revealing plenty of warmth and character. There are many thoughtful, detailed touches dotted around, such as a hand written labels for the teas, quotes and notes, bath luxuries, carefully chosen books, fairy lights, baskets of blankets, beautiful crockery - all simple little pleasures that encourage a certain slowing down, mindfulness even, and joy in quiet everyday moments. Despite serving so many purposes and housing a collection of vintage treasures the house feels anything but cluttered. I caught up with Sadie to find out how she does it.
How did it all begin Sadie?
The Guesthouse grew in part from necessity when my 14 year career as an art lecturer was suddenly reduced to nil hours. My partner (now husband) and I had just bought this fairly large wreck of a house, which seemed to shine under the years of neglect it had suffered, and was beckoning for attention. The lovely, slightly naive idea at the time was that I could do up the house, have a business, be at home for my daughter as she was still little, and have a studio art practice. I had already built myself a studio at the end of my garden so it could all begin.
That would have been quite a juggle! Your artwork for sale is displayed on the walls in the gallery areas, but the house itself seems to be an artwork in its own right. What can you tell me about that?
As we grew together (myself and the house) organically over time, I was always aware that language or dialogue was taking place between us! The house itself became another installation of sorts, and I am constantly shifting and responding to the essence or soul that the house most definitely has. It has always felt as if we had a symbiotic relationship; one which grew as I gradually peeled back the layers of an unloved surface, and breathed new life into her with every single brush stroke. I knew she was thanking me. In return, she has an undoubtable peaceful atmosphere that is palpable. Every guest we have had has said so. So I weave my artworks and objects ‘into’ the walls of the house via my paintbrush, and I use the space to create a constant shifting installation with the objects held within that all evoke a feeling or tell a story. There is nothing here by accident. I love it, and it is a never-ending artwork. I have come to understand that everything I do is very interconnected, and it is difficult to discern if there is a line which delineates what is art and what is life!
There are plenty of interesting vintage items around the house but rather than cluttering the place up, like so many collections do, their placement looks carefully considered, curated even, into little vignettes.
I am drawn to objects which each hold their own story in their patina, and am fascinated by the journey that these objects take you on, like portals to another place. My artwork, installations, and objects have always had a strong sense of time and history, and contain glimpses of our shared collective human experience.
Now that you have studied Feng Shui (the ancient Chinese practice of mapping out houses to allow energy to flow so as to harmonise people with their surroundings) do you use any Feng Shui principles in your house?
The course was was an absolutely extraordinary and eye-opening experience. I understood just by the feeling of our house that something other than bricks and mortar was at play, and the movement of energy in our homes impacts us in ways we just don’t even realise. It opened the door to an incredibly complex ancient knowledge. As a result I completely overhauled and decluttered the house over the last year and reconfigured all of the gathered, stagnant stuff. It now feels incredible and almost upkeeps itself, which is amazing for a large five bedroomed house!
What is your vision for the house going forwards?
The next vision for the house, myself, and maybe the vans in our ever-changing journey is to start small, intimate retreats for women in the house to create amazing, life affirming, and creative short breaks that nurture the soul. Sharing skills through a variety of workshops and talks, inspiring each other whilst being recharged in the house’s peaceful atmosphere. By collaborating with other like-minded creative women, I am hoping to create something quite magical in the house. I am currently looking for other women with a vision who love the idea of sharing their skills and talents in a small group setting to come forward and join me; if you have a workshop idea and would like to get involved please get in touch.
These retreats sound amazing. Please make sure I’m first on the list to find out when they start happening! Thank you so much for sharing with me.