When artist Jo Allum isn’t creating things to sell at her gallery in Woolacombe, she’s snorkelling and beachcombing, searching for more inspiration and ideas

Words: Anna Turns

I first fell in love with Woolacombe 21 years ago when I arrived on holiday, and relocated the following winter. I love to paint with acrylics and create rugged ocean scenes that reflect the spray and energy of the waves and the landscape along this part of the North Devon coastline.

On calm summer days I’ll go snorkelling around Combesgate and watch the jellyfish and the spider crabs. I’m inspired by the beauty of details, such as reflections in ripples of water, and I like the challenge of recreating the sea’s movement in paint. On a sunny evening, we’ll head down to the beach or to Barricane, a little shell cove, and watch the sun set.

At this time of the year, I’m often beachcombing, searching for new ideas and materials along the shoreline, while my partner, Andy, surfs. The winter swells bring in a lot of driftwood. In the gallery studio I have boxes and buckets of it, collected and stored, ready for the right project to come along. At the moment I’m making table lamps with some big chunky pieces of weathered wood. The whole creative process, from having an idea to collecting the materials to creating something that didn’t exist before, is amazing.

Sadly, I also find a lot of plastic litter, so I created a lino print with an environmental message – all kinds of sea creatures surround a plastic bag and plastic bottle highlighted in red. It gets people talking and helps spread the word – we all need to do what we can to look after the coastline, and keep it healthy and beautiful.

As well as painting and creating things with driftwood and sea glass, I also make ceramic air plant holders and keepsakes, lino prints and cushions in fabric printed with my own designs. Three years ago, I started up my own small clothing range called ‘We Who Wander’, printing designs inspired by surfing and coastal life onto T-shirts and hoodies for kids and adults.

I also showcase other local artists and makers in my gallery – there’s so much nostalgia surrounding British seaside holidays and a lot of visitors want to take a little piece of Woolacombe home with them.

The West Country Gallery is at 5 South Street, Woolacombe, Devon EX34 7BB (westcountrygallery.co.uk).

For more ‘Coast Characters’ click here, or keep up to date with the feature in the magazine.