Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fish and Ships Coastal Art Studio & Gallery ::: The Ins and Outs Of Our Passion

You and I were students at one point in our lives, learning the ins and outs of our passion, and trying to find our way towards making a meaningful impact on those around us. With hard work and perseverance, we enjoy life doing the things we love every day, just like Andrew Ruffhead, owner, artist, and designer of Fish and Ships Coastal Art Studio & Gallery

Andrew studied painting and printmaking at Brighton College of Art in the UK, and then continued his studies at the Central School of Art and Design for printed textile design. He went on to work as a textile designer producing fashion, furnishing fabrics, and wallpapers for internationally known companies like:

Andrew as a student at Brighton College of Art
Andrew also had a knack for teaching, and taught at Chelsea School of Art, Loughborough College of Art and Design, and became the University of East London's Head of the Department of Printed Textile for 15 years till 2005. But Andrew's passion for art didn't stop there, that was just the beginning!

He went on to work for the National Institute of Fashion & Technology in New Delhi, and also the National Institute for Design in Ahmadabad, India, where thereafter he became a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and is now a former Chair of the Fashion Textile Discipline Group along with many other countless accomplishments.

One outstanding accomplishment to note is two years ago, Andrew's cyanotype print, "Cactus Corner" was put on show at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition for three months. The Royal Academy was founded in 1768 by George III and 34 founding members, whose mission was to establish a public venue for exhibitions and a prominent school of art open to all artists of distinguished merit. Since its establishment, every year a Summer Exhibition is held for artists world-wide to come together to sell their works, and features over 10,000 pieces.

Eight years ago now, Andrew launched is own studio and gallery, Fish and Ships Coastal Art to produce his own line of prints, coastal maps, cyanotype photography, gouache drawings and paintings, upcycled marine life driftwood decor, custom commission works, and much more.

I was so excited to connect with Andrew and his wife Sarah, and had the opportunity to ask Andrew a few questions about his career and coastal living. 

1. Why did you decide to leave the world of textile design and university level teaching to start your studio and gallery, Fish and Ships Coastal Art? 
Although I had been a successful Head of Department in Printed Textiles at the University of East London, and had lectured at Chelsea School of Art and the like, and designed freelance for fabric companies...I felt that I needed to produce more of my own work, and sell directly to the public. Working as a designer for large companies is rather anonymous, and lacked the interaction and feedback that one gets from working and selling to the customer on a daily basis.
I also met my wife, Sarah, and relocated to the stunning North Norfolk coast. I started working at home and selling through fairs, etc. We then converted our garage into a gallery, and obtained planning permission to open as a business - and Fish and Ships Coastal Art opened and as evolved.
I enjoy working for myself, and what is supposed to be a "retirement" business has turned into a full-time occupation! I enjoy the variety of art that I do: painting, drawing, prints, and wooden fish, lobsters, whales and crabs made from recycled beach-found ephemera. I love it!

2. Tell us what inspires your different types of artwork pieces.
I am very inspired by the environment in which I live; the light, the big blue skies, the beach and the wide open spaces. I enjoy walking along the sands and the marsh searching for old pieces of fishing boats which I fashion into fish, whales, etc. New life from old. I like the idea that I am "upcycling" found pieces into something that someone would like to buy. When I walk along the shoreline, I am inspired by the changing boundaries of land and sea. My work explores the relationship, the muddy shallows, the tidal races, the ever-shifting sands, and the lives that are contained within them. I find interesting pieces of wood, such as a old keel from a yacht I picked up recently, that lent itself to be made into a whale artwork.    

3. When did you begin painting? Do you remember what your first piece was?
I was always interested (and quite good) at making things as a child, in fact, at age five I can remember making a 3-D artwork with fish and starfish made from cellophane and cereal boxes - a sign of things to come?! I have always been interested in water, light, and surface, and when I was studying Fine Art at Brighton College of Art as a student, I did a lot of bright colored coastal abstracts.

4. What is your favorite thing about living in Burnham Market, Norfolk, England?
I love living near the sea - living on the "edge" so to speak. This area attracts a lot of visitors, so as well as the vistas and landscape changing, the people change, and come and go as well, so it makes it more interesting, never static.
Burnham Market is known as "Chelsea-on-Sea", as we get many people coming here from London. We are lucky to have the best of both worlds, a lively, cosmopolitan village with independently owned boutiques, galleries, delis, etc, coupled with the vast beaches just a mile away. I am fortunate to be able to run Fish and Ships Coastal Art from home, so I can be flexible about opening, and I have met a lot of very talented and creative people since living here.  

5. What is your favorite beach or destination to travel to?
Again I love contrasts. My favorite beach for dog walking, peace and quiet and the marshes nearby is Brancaster Beach here in North Norfolk, which is a quick hop in the car and then a ten minute drive. It is different each time I go because of the tides. I also love the Caribbean beaches we visit every January - again, very inspiring. I collected some lovely pieces of coral and beautiful sea fans from the wild coast of Barbados this year. But basically any beach...there is always "treasure" to be found. I have also just brought back from Southern Italy some precious pieces of blue and green fishing boat to make into fish for a commission I am doing for a restaurant in San Diego.

6. What do you hope people will see or feel when they buy, or look at your artwork?
I hope that people enjoy coming to my studio and gallery, as I am always "at work", so they can see some of the process of creating. Each artwork, drawing, print, coastal map I do is individual and handmade, and therefore unique. It is satisfying to know that someone loves what you do, and I always get a buzz from selling my work. I think it is evocative of the coastal area where I live, they can take a bit of it home with them, and I also like to think I have a good sense of humor, so I hope my work makes them smile.

Andrew sells his artwork online direct from the Fish and Ships Coastal Art Gallery & Studio, and is able to ship to customers worldwide! Visit the gallery to see pieces for sale like the below by clicking here

Find Andrew and Fish and Ships Coastal Art Gallery & Studio on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.


  1. Hi Tiffany-HUGE thanks for this-it looks great.Best, Sarah and Andrew Ruffhead

  2. Love Andrew's work - really captures the essence of our beautiful coastline, and it looks even better in real life!

    1. Absolutely, I hope to some day visit the area, it is beautiful!

  3. I am so impressed,It's beautiful, and very beachy. Love those colors.

    beach art

  4. This INFORMATION is so nice so sweet,...


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