Muddy Meets: Winnie Lyn, Artist

Taiwanese business woman turned Penzance artist Winnie Lyn talks seeking fulfilment, the Penzance Art Festival and being a woman in the arts.

What prompted your move to Cornwall?

Until 6 years ago I was a well paid, well-travelled Taiwanese business woman living a life highly valued by some. But I felt unfulfilled and decided move to Cornwall and discover a more meaningful and fulfilling lifestyle.

Five centuries ago Portuguese explorers discovered an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean and named it ‘Ilha Formosa’ (beautiful island). This island is now known as Taiwan and nowadays visitors say the most beautiful thing about this island is it’s people.

Having travelled to over 35 countries I have found the people of Penwith (Cornwall) very beautiful too. As well as amazing natural scenery and wildlife, the art community here is very open and supportive.

What is your day to day working life like?

When I first came to Cornwall I was amazed to discover that the local people often have to have multiple jobs to support themselves and sure enough I too now live that lifestyle. It might sound exhausting but actually I enjoy the work I do and I am so lucky living in Cornwall!

“Very busy and so have-to-be very flexible” is the best way to describe my day-to-day working life. I often have to juggle many things at a time, mix match different tasks that could be done in one trip or on one occasion. But it can be very enjoyable and fun because what I do are mostly art related works.

I work as a volunteer in a number of different art organisations including Penzance Studios which support local artists helping them to promote their work and promoting Penzance as an artistic destination. I also run a small AirBnB to earn a living and maintain my wildlife garden and allotment. I create paintings, drawings, ceramics and sculptures for exhibitions and local art sales.

Has that changed at all during the various lockdowns / pandemic and if so, do you think it has highlighted any need for change?

Yes… quite a lot… we all became much more cautious and distanced. We lost all of the town artistic activities and now we have very limited interaction with friends, less eye contact, less smiley faces and, most of all, no income.

Government resources were not allocated for small, self-contained business like mine or to a lot of artists in Cornwall.

We also need to encourage people to shop locally again to support small business, avoid unnecessary packaging materials, use less plastic and reduce our carbon footprint.

What are you doing to promote women/equality in your every day?

One important thing I have learned here is that women/equality doesn’t necessary mean women should get more attention or more assistance. I know it sounds weird but it’s so true that a woman can empower herself by doing it herself!

And my biggest break through is that I practiced and realized that there are lots of things I can do it myself! (Proud face)

I have learned how to use power tools and to fix problems within my own power. Not that I don’t have love and support from my family and friends, I always have good ideas and suggestions from them, they often offered help too! But fundamentally I do not expect a man to do it for me anymore!

What’s it like being a female business owner in Cornwall – is it the same experience in Taiwan?

Personally I found female business owners often made the world/life more beautiful, they are more likely to put in more thought on extra touches that make people around them feel loved. In addition, female business owners often have to cope with running their business as well as their physical condition during their periods. (In Taiwan, it is law that women are allowed to take sick leave every month during their periods).

In Cornwall, there are relatively more small local businesses that are owned by women and I believe it’s one of the reasons why Cornwall is such a beautiful place to live.

What more is there to do in terms of equality / parity in Cornwall generally?

Cornwall needs more government resources to support these small local businesses! Cornwall can be the place to promote environmental commercial activities, such as shop local, plastic free…

What’s the general vibe among women in the art world?  Are people supportive? Good networks? 

Yes, most certainly they are! Women artists I know are all very warm, caring and supportive. Possibly the reason why nowadays there are more women committee members in most of the art societies.

In Penwith, before the pandemic, my life was so busy and enjoyable because there are so many art related activities and events to attend to, most of which were often hosted or initiated by women artists. I hope we don’t lose this momentum because the restrictions of the pandemic.

Do you have any role models?

I wouldn’t say I have a role model of life but I do feel, more and more, that I behave like my mother. I think people naturally learn from their mother and embrace their love feeling safe.

Can you tell me more about the Penzance Art Festival?

Penzance Arts Festival will be held on the 4th ~ 20th June. Here in Penwith, we have an incredible amount of artists who live and work locally.

Although there may be some restrictions still the festival will be a great opportunity to visit Penzance, experience the art atmosphere here and shop for local artworks!

In June, my husband Andrew Swan and I will also have a small art exhibition in our favorite gallery, Daisy Liang. And Penzance Studios, a local artist organisation with 66 members, will have a grand exhibition called “Into the Light” in the Gallery of Penwith School of Art, a famous historical building in Penzance.

What’s your favourite Cornish beach?

There are so many beautiful beaches in Cornwall… When I first came, I might say Porthcurno Beach is my favorite. But now, I will say the beach near home. Between Penzance and Marazion, the Long Rock beach is where we will go swimming, sun-bathing, low-tide stroll or just sit there with a cup of hot chocolate!

What’s special about Cornwall to you?

I enjoy natural and wildlife with a lot of walking, camping and swimming!

But actually the best part of living in Cornwall is that you don’t need to go somewhere special. We are already living in it!

Walking past a garden there are squirrels which approach you for food or working in my allotment we have robins helping me to clear slugs. Strolling along the Promenade the view is always amazing but different all the time. Turnstones search for food, sea birds diving and coming out with a fish in its beak, seals popping up and playing in the bay. Life here doesn’t have to be dramatic, here in Cornwall there are small events of happiness all around us!

When your first visitors arrive in Cornwall post lockdown, where do you take them first that shows Cornwall in all it’s beauty?

There are so many great places to show off, and I will arrange different things in different seasons! Some of my favourites include Botallack, Trevaylor woods near Gulval, Porthkidney Sands, Porthgwarra bird conservation area and the walk from Cape Cornwall to Gwynver beach.

And where will you head to eat after lockdown ends?

Lots of places – Honey Pot Café in Penzance, the Mackerel Sky Seafood bar in Newlyn and I’ll be buying fish from Stevenson & sons fishmonger in Newlyn.

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