Celebrated artist's life story to be told with help from Wrexham Glyndwr University
A celebrated artist who recorded Welsh cultural life in her early work is to have her life story told on a website designed by one of Wrexham Glyndŵr University’s students.
The site will focus on the life of ME ‘Elsi’ Eldridge, a painter whose work ‘The Dance of Life’ hangs in the University’s Creative Industries Building. Elsi, along with her husband, the poet Ronald Stuart ‘RS’ Thomas, shared concerns for the future of Welsh cultural life and the natural world until her death in 1991.
Already a celebrated artist when she met RS Thomas, Elsi is credited not only with developing a striking visual style herself – but also inspiring the poetry of her husband.
Her work and life are set to be explored via the new website, commissioned by two directors of the RS Thomas and ME Eldridge Society. Three final year students on Glyndŵr’s BA (Hons) Graphic Design course produced proposals for the website and recently met the Director of the Society, Susan Fogarty, and Glyndŵr lecturer Pauline Amphlett to discuss the proposals.
Susan explained: “Around five years ago, we started an annual festival focussed on RS Thomas, his life and poetry.
“However, we found that as well as RS Thomas, people were interested in Elsi too. For instance, we came to the university as part of one of our festivals a few years ago to see The Dance of Life displayed.
“We decided we wanted to help ring Elsi into the light alongside RS – she had quite an effect on his poetry. She brought an artistic sensibility and after that, he started to write very differently. We formed the RS Thomas & ME Eldridge Society on Valentine’s Day 2017.
“We started off with an idea for a booklet, to give more information about Elsi and The Dance of Life, but having spoken with Pauline and others we realised the best way to do it was to have a website.”
In total, nine students from the course made initial proposals, and this was brought down to a shortlist of three designs – by Rachel Hughes, from Oswestry, Alexandra Sherwin-Weedall, from Bala, and Emma Bouarka, from France.
Emma said: “At first, when I saw the paintings, I didn’t think they were for me- they were not the type of painting I am usually attracted to. However, as I started to work, I realised just how much potential they held – and I started to see them differently.
“I worked some of Elsi’s details into the website I created as design elements. I want to follow a career in graphic design, and this has been an interesting project to work on for an external client.”
Alexandra added: “I was drawn to the project by how engaging Susan was when she talked about Elsi – I wanted to take that inspiration and make a site which would help to relate Elsi’s life and work and engage people.”
And Rachel said: “When Susan came to present her request, I found it really interesting. A lot of the places she was talking about in Elsi and RS’s life where near where I grew up – I recognised everywhere she was mentioning!
“For the actual project, I like doing website design and it worked well with what I want to do as a career.”
Following the meeting, a final choice will be made as to which design will be commissioned – with hopes for the new site to be online in the coming months.
Susan added: “We are now hoping to launch the new site towards the end of this year- while the students are moving on from Glyndŵr, we plan to come together afterwards, once we have decided on the design we will use for the site, and work together then.”
Pauline Amphlett, senior lecturer in graphic design at Wrexham Glyndwr University, said: “Elsi and RS Thomas have strong links with our immediate area – they met in Chirk and lived there and at Tallarn Green while in North East Wales. The Dance of Life, the painting we now display here at Glyndŵr, was painted in Manafon in mid-Wales and originally sited in the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital near Gobowen.
“We are proud of those links and were very pleased to welcome the society to come and see the painting here – and delighted when they proposed working together to explain Elsi’s life more fully.
“All three students who made their final pitches have come up with interesting ideas for the site’s look and feel. Working for real clients on real projects like this helps students build the skills they need to succeed in their chosen careers – and I will be looking forward to seeing the final design when it is chosen later this year.”
The RS Thomas and ME Eldridge Poetry and Art Festival runs between June 28 and July 1 – for more information please visit their website.
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