Cornwall Today. May 2016. Easy As 123
Since coming to Cornwall, Stephanie Kirkham has found success in both art and music.
Cornwall-based artist and singer-songwriter Stephanie Kirkham has enjoyed a busy 2016 so far. Her third album, Tiny Spark was released in January and she is currently putting together an exhibition of her most recent artwork in preparation for Open Studios from May 28th to June 5th
She first threw open the doors of her studio at Townshend, near Hayle for Open Studios 2015. “I’d never exhibited my art before, so it was great to be a part of something that was happening already” says Stephanie, who is softly spoken with an accent that betrays her Lancashire upbringing. “It’s such a great idea – you don’t feel so alone, and yet you can still do your own thing in your own way. I had no idea if anyone would come, but around 130 people dropped in. It gave me so much confidence, and I’m really looking forward to it this year.”
She works in colourful acrylics, building up layers before sanding and scratching to reveal patterns and textures. The area around Gwithian, with Godrevy lighthouse to the east and St Ives to the west, has become the most recent muse to her work and many of the paintings on display are inspired by her emotional relationship with the rocks and ever-changing colours of this stunning shoreline. “Just touching and feeling the rock gives me a sense of self”, she says with conviction.
Stephanie grew up in the Ribble Valley, just north of Preston, and spent much of her childhood “making music, painting and daydreaming”. She made the move south-west two years ago, to be closer to her partner– Carlton Sandercock of Townshend-based label Easy Action Records.” We’d known each other a long time, and he has always championed my corner. We were spending so much time driving up and down to see each other – and I felt so much at home in Cornwall, as soon as I stepped off the plane at Newquay.”
“I was just beginning to get my act together, I’d started working with a great guitarist in Manchester, and Cornwall was a long way from everyone I knew. But as soon as I moved down here, things started to happen for me.” Mitch Adams of 3S Films filmed her painting, which can be seen on her website, she met guitarist and singer-songwriter Kai Skjervik, who is now a major collaborator, and she has been offered a month-long run in August at the prestigious Penwith Gallery in St Ives.
Visitors to her Open Studios can expect a bonus on June 3rd, a live performance of tracks from Tiny Spark. The sheltered covers on the south coast, such as Poldhu and Prussia Cover provided inspiration for the title track, which was born after Stephanie sat in the sunshine and closed her eyes until the sunlight filtered through and began changing shapes and colours. She describes the album as “snippets of holiday feelings”, with postcard-like titles including Bon Voyage, Kiss Me Quick and Dreamboat Song. It’s a bright, feel-good album, perfect listening for a summer’s day, and infectiously upbeat, with accompaniment and production by the Grammy award-winning Phil Thornalley (who has worked with Natalie Imbruglia, Pixie Lott, Bryan Adams and the Thompson Twins).
The hugely catchy track Easy As 123 was co-produced by Mads Hauge (whose CV includes songs for Natasha Bedingfield and Eliza Doolittle), and has been featured on the European TV campaigns for Peugeot and EDF, and Miracle Gro in the US. This comes as no surprise, as her style, poppy and light, brings to mind the likes of ad-friendly Feist, Noah and the Whale and female singers such as Ellie Goulding. I’m amazed to discover Stephanie is 46 – her voice, her style and her photos had led me to believe she was far younger. “I feel so young at heart, I don’t think I’ll ever properly grow up. I’m a serious thinker, but I need to find joy too.”
And where better to find joy than west of the Tamar? “When I came to Cornwall, my goal was to find great musicians to work with, for gigs and the new album, and to get my artwork on the wall. All that has happened within 18 months, so I’m really happy”, says Stephanie.
“Coming here to Cornwall, I feel more grounded, more settled. I feel at home here. I don’t need to be anywhere else – I don’t think I’ll ever leave.”
Stephanie will take part in Open Studios at the Chapel in Townshend from May 20 to June 5. Tiny Spark is released by Easy Action Records. Find out more about Stephanie’s music and art, visit http://stephaniekirkham.com. Look out for Stephanie and Kai at Mazey Day in Penzance (June 25) and Holifair at Gweek (August 12 to 14)