BEING thrown out of school for decorating her classroom ceiling with ink has not hurt Pat Ellmore’s chances of succeeding in life.

The 79-year-old sculptor will be among 60 other artists throwing open their studio doors next month for Swindon Open Studios.

Pat, who grew up in Bedford with a father who worked wartime night trains across the country, will host visitors to her stunning Longcot home and studio – boasting views over the Uffington White Horse.

The sculptor, who as a young woman rowed for England and ran at London’s famous White City track, was always interested in art.

She drew caricatures of her teachers and, after being expelled from school and given a job with the Post Office, carved scenes into rubbers.

But it was only after having children that she started carving – initially working up designs in wood.

Pat said: “When my six kids were here and doing their homework, I used to do a bit of carving each evening.

“I started off as a wood carver in the mid-1970s. It was when all the Elm trees came down. We had a local farmer who didn’t know what do to with all his wood.

“It’s a lovely wood. It’s got such a lovely grain in it. You can start off with one idea, but then the wood takes over. Some of my best works are accidents.”

Six months after she started carving, Pat entered her work for display at the Federation of British Artists’ Mall Galleries in London’s West End.

One of her first works was a figure of her 10-year-old daughter, Heidi. It's still one of the few pieces she will never sell.

She was the only female wood carver whose work was displayed. “I think they just loved my work: I took it down on the Friday night and, on the Monday, I got a letter saying they’d given me three letters behind my name.”

The letters – RBA – signified she had been accepted into the Royal Society of British Artists.

Over the years, she has done more work in stone. Blessed with a wicked sense of humour, she enjoys carving portraits. A favourite is pop singer Robbie Williams, worked up as a stone Green Man.

Now, she teaches stone carving at her home, with her oldest student aged 86.

Pat said: “People think you have got to be strong to do stone carving. As it happens, I am strong – my dad said I could pick him up when I was three years old. But with a lot of the stone you could cut it with a bread knife.

“When people start it, they tend to keep on. It’s something they get to enjoy.”

Visitors can see 80 of Pat’s sculptures set in her one-and-a-half acre gardens if they visit during Swindon Open Studios.

Her home, Nutford Lodge, beside the King and Queen pub in Longcot, will open on the weekends of September 9-10 and September 16-17, 11am to 5pm and Wednesday September 13, 1pm to 5pm.

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