Louisa Waterford Prize
New Beginnings - A Dialogue with Nature
Furniture-maker Rob Elliot has been selected as the very first winner of the Louisa Waterford Prize.
Rob, from Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, handcrafts one-off pieces from naturally-felled elm. His Flow Desk and Chair installation, was the judges' unanimous favourite. They also commended Northumberland artist Hannah Forsyth's monoprint and Scottish Borders glass maker Michael Hunter's Lascaux cave drawing vases.
See more photographs from the exhibition at the bottom of the page and find our more about Rob and his work here.
Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford moved to Ford Castle in Northumberland following the death of her husband Lord Waterford in the mid-1800's. She was already an accomplished amateur artist and moved in London's elite artistic circles. She'd been tutored by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and was good friends with art critic and author John Ruskin
Louisa is also known for her philanthropic work. When she lived at Curraghmore in Ireland, with her husband, they built hundreds of new houses and a school for their estate workers, as well as setting up sustainable craft industries to provide employment.
Although still grieving when she arrived at Ford village following the death of her husband in a riding accident, she set about improving the lives of the estate's tenants, by re-designing and improving its houses and building a new school - now Lady Waterford Hall.
Louisa spent the last 37 years of her life at Ford and transformed this tiny village in the wilds of Northumberland, into a model village showcasing the very best of Victorian arts, crafts and architecture.
At about the same period, the writer Augustus Hare wrote about Ford, ‘The whole place is unique. The fountain in the centre of the village is worthy of Perugia, with its tall red pillar and angel figure standing out against the sky. All the cottages have their own brilliant gardens of flowers, beautiful walks have been made to wander through the wooded dene below the castle, and miles of drive on Flodden, with its wooded hill and Marmion’s Well.’
Today the well-preserved buildings stand as her legacy.
Louisa also completed another huge project, painting life-size watercolour murals for the school's walls. She spent over 20 years creating the Biblical scenes called "Lives of Good Children", using the villagers as her models.
These huge artworks reflected a revival of monumental painting and fresco in Britain at the time.
Well-known Victorian artists George Frederic Watts and Edward Burne-Jones, who were among Louisa's friends, urged her to ‘Paint one of her designs on a sufficient scale, and with a degree of completeness that may satisfy posterity that there lived in 1866 an artist as great as Venice knew’.
Her murals certainly fulfilled their wish.
Though Louisa and her work isn't as well known as her male counterparts, the murals remain unparalleled by any other woman artist of Louisa Waterford’s generation across Europe. They, along with more of her artwork displayed at the hall, are now visited by thousands of people each year.
The Louisa Waterford Prize commemorates her work as an artist, philanthropist and as a woman who was ahead of her time.
The inaugural Prize exhibition featuring 24 finalists, was staged at Lady Waterford Hall, surrounded by her famous murals.
The winner of the 2022 event was chosen by a panel of 4 judges, Dr Peter Burnum from The Guild of St George; Kate Mason, CEO of The Big Draw (which was founded by The Guild); Lady Joicey (chair of Lady Waterford Hall Trust) and Vicky Smith-Lacey, the hall's curator.
The title was unanimously awarded to furniture-maker Rob Elliot, from Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, for his elm Flow Desk and Chair. He was presented with a prize worth more than £500 in cash and other benefits. Find out more about Rob and his designs in a special Spotlight On feature.
This year's Prize was supported by Ford and Etal Estate, the Guild of St George (which was set up by John Ruskin in 1871 as an educational charity for art, craft and the rural environment) and The Tin Shed.
See the work of all the finalists here
Below are more photographs from the exhibition, including the commended artists' pieces.