Creating beauty out of driftwood in Eastbourne

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Charlotte Harding speaks to one Eastbourne woman who is making the most of what she finds on beaches.

Walking along the coast on one of the many beautiful beaches along the South you may find yourself stumbling on a piece of driftwood.

While many of us will simple step over it and carry on for Jo Collins it opens up a world of possibilities.

“I have quite a good imagination so sometimes when I look at a piece of driftwood I can see what it could become or be part of,” she explains.

“It doesn’t always happen but it is great when it does.”

Through her business On The Tides Jo creates handcrafted driftwood and recycled art sculptures featuring beach huts and coastal scenes.

The driftwood she uses is found by Jo, with the occasional help from the family’s lurcher Bill, the other materials are also either beach-combed, recycled or salvaged.

“I get my inspiration from places I’ve visited and from holidays,” she reveals. “I always have my camera with me.

“In February, I holidayed in Aberdeen and the beautiful Shetland Islands, so some of my cottages have had a bit of a Scottish vibe recently.”

All the pieces are individually cut and sanded down by hand, it is then given a couple of coats of paint before Jo says she can do the ‘fun part of adding the little details’.

“I love making larger harbour scenes and local landmarks,” smiles Jo.

“With the larger creations, I can really let my imagination go and can recreate little seaside scenes.

“The pieces of driftwood I use for these tend to be a bit more interesting to, in their shape and texture where they’ve been weathered and worn by the tides.

“Hastings Old Town is one of my favourite places along this stretch of coastline and in particular, I love the old fishing net huts and the history behind them. I have a little rendition of them in my Etsy shop.”

The time it takes Jo to make a sculpture varies on the size of the finished piece, and the amount of wood and other materials needed to make it.

Jo also takes on commissions and can usually turn them around within two to three weeks.

“I enjoy making the commissions,” she says. “Especially as the places my customers want recreated are special places for them, either their home, favourite place, pub, holiday destination or even work place.

“One of my favourites was making the Sloop Inn in St Ives, Cornwall and that’s only because I’d had a drink in it years ago and could picture exactly where it was.

“Once I receive a commission request, had time to study the photographs, discussed exactly what the customer wants and I’m happy I can actually do it I can usually make them within three weeks. Obviously the closer we get to Christmas my lead time does vary.”

Jo moved from Bedfordshire to the East Sussex coast six years ago.

“My work previously had been working with children with special educational needs in various school settings and having been doing that for the past 20 years I fancied a change,” she recalls.

“I’ve always been ‘crafty’ and I loved my new life by the sea. I thought if I could somehow combine the two and work for myself, that would be amazing. I bought a big shed, my ‘Shedio’ and with the copious amounts of driftwood and other flotsam and jetsam I’d been picking up on the beach, I got creating.

“I said to myself, I’d give it six months, happily that was five years ago and I’m still in my Shedio, still creating and loving it.”

For further information on Jo’s work or to discuss a commission you can On The Tides on Facebook www.facebook.com/onthetides

Her online Etsy shop where ready to post items can be found at etsy.com/shop/onthtide

Or your can follow Jo on Instagram: Instagram.com/onthetides