The amazingly talented, creative, unusual gardener and artist, Rob Winterson, who goes by the name of @Wintz_Art online, has been a part of Copperdollar for a very long time. In this beautifully written interview, he has shared his story with us about how he got involved in the immersive theatre company, his struggles and his triumphs as well as why he believes that Copperdollar Studios is so important.
Would you be able to tell me how you met Kt and how you got involved in Copperdollar?
I met KT & became involved with Copperdollar through my very good friend & fellow artist Jim Sanders, and good friend of KT, who’s amazing work was seminal in creating Copperdollar’s ‘look’ at Glastonbury & other venues. I’ve known Jim since the early naughties, having met through our mutual love of art, we’d worked together a lot on joint works, spending many a night drawing and discussing all manner of things artistic and far beyond; we’d done quite a bit of partying too! Jim had told me all about working at Glastonbury with Copperdollar; I was, of course, dazzled by the whole thing & frankly rather jealous so I hassled him for quite a while to see if there was any way he could ‘get me in’!
As it turned out, Copperdollar was expanding its presence at the festival at that time & had been given a new larger venue space which included an outdoor area. Jim had told KT about me & the fact I was a gardener; this rung true with her as her family were growers and so she has a deep love for plants & horticulture. KT was looking for a way to enhance this new outdoor space at Glastonbury & contacted me to see if I’d be able to help at the 2013 Festival!
I’d previously had a show garden at Hampton Court Flower show, quite a different setup up many ways but was confident in my ability to create a ‘show garden’ and this was the approach I took from the off. By then I’d been a self employed Gardener for many years & had good plant knowledge & had grown a wide range of plants, plus had access to a large greenhouse at one of my work places. I met KT and we instantly connected; I was in awe of her achievements and well aware of the talent of the crew and the dedication that was expected; party people for sure but incredibly hard working too.
Aside from my desire to work at Glastonbury was my overwhelming ambition to expand my creative horizons at that time and this fitted the bill perfectly. I had a young family which I was, and still am, completely devoted to, and love as any father would. The intensity of new family life and all the responsibilities and hard work that go with it had, however, meant that I’d lost my way as an artist somewhat and with that, a lot of my self confidence. The excitement of being offered this opportunity, the honour of being able to be part of this amazing crew at such an amazing festival and to be able to contribute to that creatively was overwhelming; my family thought I was mad, as we were skint and had two young children so in some ways it seemed counter-intuitive, but something deep inside me just KNEW I had to be involved, and that this was an amazing opportunity too good to miss. And so I said yes…
What has been the biggest highlight for you in terms of Copperdollar achievements?
The four gardens I constructed for Copperdollar at Glastonbury between 2013-2016, for sure. As mentioned, I felt privileged to be able to creatively contribute to Copperdollar and the world class, world famous festival. My approach embraced this privilege to the maximum.
“I was aware that people were going there to have the time of their lives and the memories of those precious moments of freedom would last a lifetime; I was adamant that my work would be to enhance their experience to the maximum and I set about growing and acquiring plants in order to make that happen.”
As a night venue, I decided to use night scented plants such as Tobaacco flowers as one part of this; scent and smell are often overlooked but intrinsically help to form memories beyond the physical experience itself, which can then be returned to in an instant when smelt in the future. Many of the plants & herbs I used had scented flowers or aromatic foliage. As Copperdollar is based around Mexican Day of the Dead, I sourced many plants which were native to that area, especially round the beautiful Shrine area where revellers could find moments of peace amongst the chaos and acknowledge those who had passed; it was adorned with Marigolds, herbs and varieties of Sage all of which had highly aromatic leaves. An old shed I had in my garden at home was revamped and brought to the festival, becoming ‘the shed’ (!), my base when I was performing in the show as the gardener; it had a secret passage into which revellers could descend to emerge from the shed to the surprise of others. Performing and being part of the show itself too was an amazing experience.
Creating the garden tested me to the limit to be honest; preparations occurred alongside my usual work & family life; months of selecting or sourcing plants & growing them to show standard, to ensure they were flowering or looking their best for the key moment, the whole show setup, performing in the show itself and then the takedown and return to so called ‘reality’!
What a truly amazing experience though; I’m very honoured to have contributed & hopefully help enhanced many peoples Glastonbury & Copperdollar experience. I’m proud of what I achieved personally and the confidence it’s given me going forward. But moreover, Copperdollar is an immense group effort, a coming together of like minded, hugely creative & talented folk; I made many new friends and was greatly inspired by their work, but the biggest thing I took from my experience was the awesome power of what can be achieved when people work together for a common cause.
How did you get into your field of work?
Well, I’m an artist and a gardener and I find the two are perfect partners, gardening both for inspiration and as a way I can earn money without selling out my drawing skills; my drawing is very organic in nature & draws heavily on what I see as I work across beautiful Sussex. I was always drawing as a child and this continued into adult life. I was also always in the garden as a child, ferreting around in the shrubbery looking for insects and spiders so in hindsight, progression to gardening, though not til my late twenties, seems logical though it was never planned. In a roundabout way, I always wanted to be ‘an artist’ (whatever that means) & that’s why I moved to Brighton, but it’s a hard way to make a living, and when I was young never considered I could realistically ever be one; it’s a very whimsical thing, dependent on many factors beyond the artists control, though with social media I think this has improved with artists now being able to reach to literally anyone in the world who has a phone. Gardening allows me to make a living doing something I love, whilst not being reliant on my art for an income, thus keeping it pure.
So after working in crappy shop jobs, I took a course in basic gardening at Brighton College at Stanmer Park. I had a bit of a scoop at the end of that course in that a joint design I did with another student got chosen to go to the Hampton Court Flower show, at which we won an RHS Silver medal. So from the off I had employed show quality standards to my gardening work and my artistic eye was helpful in imagining planting schemes & designs. I then became self employed and now work for a variety of long standing private clients, mostly doing maintenance but also design & planting. Glastonbury & Copperdollar gave me a chance to take my gardening in a new & creative direction, and the confidence that gave me led to me stepping up my artistic output too, drawing as often as I can & trying to take my work to the next level. I’m really focused on my drawing/art at present and have a renewed drive & determination to push it forward so that I can eventually lessen my time gardening and spend more time creating drawings, with the eventual aim being an even split between the two.
What advice would you give to others trying to follow in your footsteps?
Hmmm, just do what you love, work real hard at it and try to become as good as you can at it. Be patient. Persevere. Be determined, even in times of doubt; use it, and your set backs as lessons. Take your work seriously but never yourself! At the same time and always, foster your friendships and keep your friends close. Be loyal to them. It is often through your good friends that opportunities will arise; Take them when they present themselves, especially if they push you a little or even if they seem impossible! Learn to recognise serendipity synchronicity. But most of all, have lots of fun; enjoy this precious life you’ve been given. It doesn’t last long and there’s much to be discovered!
That’s all brilliant advice! And finally, what do you like most about the Copperdollar Studios?
I visited the studios several times during their construction, and at the launch I exhibited some of my drawings during the opening weekend, a rarity for me, and of course, brought in a load of plants to embellish and enhance the Studios. I invigilated on that weekend too.
The Copperdollar Studios are an amazing thing primarily because they offer a space for creatives to put their ideas into practice & the Studios act as a Hub to bring creative communities together. KTs dedication to the creative arts and her ability to attract talent is legendary and the studios seem, from my perspective, to be an extension of her hugely generous personality and ethos. A thriving art scene needs places in which it can be based and where artists can come together, swap ideas and inspire each other. Copperdollar Studios is that place.