Kicking off our One Degree of Separation series I want to start with local artist Claire Swindale, Greenwich’s most decorated and decorative Photographic Designer and Digital Artist. Having travelled the world to find her inspiration, at home she’s everything we love about England… Colourful, eccentric and quirky
We find Claire, she prefers Swin, in the BOG (Ben Oakley Gallery) tinkering with Tarantulas after decorating Dot (her prized Morris Minor) the previous evening for the Halloween edition of Park It In The Market car event. (Yes this has taken that long to get written)
I’m here to delve into the Swin and find out what’s shaped her into becoming this beautifully colourful Greenwich character.
She was born in Barnet but her family hails from Birmingham, her mum and dad met at Fort Dunlop and the rest is history. Her hero, aka dad, is her guiding light first having been a PT Officer in the RAF and then represented Great Britain in the Shot Putt, Discus and Hammer events before becoming a PT instructor. He was, and still is, the creative force in her life and guided her hand into watercolour and pen and ink creations from an early age.
Swin is a twin, her brother Julian is creative in a different way, he designs and builds 'stuff'…?
It was however, the camera though that really grabbed her attention, having picked up her first aged 10 she quickly taught herself to use it.
It was also around this time that she developed an obsession with Adam Ant, following him around the country (not stalking apparently, it hadn’t been invented yet)
In later life she worked as a Product designer for a Creative Agency and was responsible for designing the first ever ‘Happy Meals’ boxes and toys for McDonalds.
After 5 years she took herself off on mini world tour lasting 8 years. Visiting India, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. But it was in Nepal that she really found a connection. She feels close to the people, the landscapes, the energy she feels there is refreshing. She now speaks (pigeon) Nepalese and still has a close association. She donates a percentage from her work to local charities and is going back in February to help with some rebuilding after the 2016 earthquake.
I wanted to find out about her unique fashion sense, you’d definitely notice her around Greenwich, she says on reflection she seems to wear clothes that amuse and have sentimental value and doesn't mind being different. She remembers growing up and having a catsuit that she wore to death, and her disappointment when she grew out of it. Another favorite memory was a lime green and brown skirt outfit with brown cork platforms, which proceeded to split in half as she ran for a bus… Interestingly Swin doesn’t own a mirror…?
So here we are back in Greenwich, she loves the place and she is the place. She loves everything about it, the pubs, the river, the history, the Ben Oakley Gallery and the local residents and artists that frequent the area. Her favourite place in Greenwich to keep her trekking boots in check is the view from Point Hill and thinks the best thing about area is the people and the feeling of community.
What’s she working on now? She’s currently preparing for a show in New York where her style and interior designs are flourishing. Also she’s developing a drag queen collection and designs incorporating sex toys, you gotta love her…
It’s been a joy spending a couple of hours with this remarkable woman, in closing I asked her where should my One Degree of Separation tour take me next. She says speak to Geoff Keen At The Pelton Arms, apparently an institution that can’t be missed.
The Swin is totally lovely, say hello to her of you ever see her around the streets of Greenwich or Blackheath, you can’t miss her…