About Susannah Bradley (21st April 1944 - 20th August 2008)
Local artist, G&S performer, and who helped raise money for the Mayor's Charity Fund each year through the sale of her wooden brooches
Page created by Peter Hill, copied from the earlier Wivenhoe Encyclopedia website
Susannah Bradley trained as an illustrator at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts, which has consistently been one of the top art schools in the country for many decades. After graduation, while continuing to work as an illustrator, she became an art teacher for a while, but eventually found her dream career in publishing. Before going freelance after the birth of her children, she worked in various editorial roles at Hamlyn and IPC Magazines.
Although the switch from pictures to words brought a new emphasis to her career, Susannah continued to take on special artwork commissions and in the 1990s she began working on individual pieces which may be conventional pictures, or creations (sometimes three-dimensional) in wood, depicting a customer’s home, child, pet, ancestors or even the local pub with her patron sitting outside it!
Susannah’s scale of painting has varied from full wall murals (“but a mural doesn’t have to take up the whole wall – it can be a plant on a shelf or a swash-buckling pirate strutting across an otherwise blank wall” said Susannah) to tiny brooches. In between there were mirrors, letter-racks and her locally-famous cat doorstops which have caused many a real-life moggy to draw back and hiss at the intruder.
Sadly, for all her family and many friends, she died in August 2008 after a short illness.
Susannah used the little black and white snapshots of the early part of the 20th century, with their owner’s memories of colour detail, and created paintings in watercolour, acrylics or oils which give back the vibrancy the snapshot failed to hold. Many people commissioned her to paint a colourful version of an old photograph of a wedding.
Susannah’s brooches may have been tiny but they are instantly recognizable as her work. The Wivenhoe Mayor’s Ball brooches have become extremely collectable. Produced by Susannah as a signed and numbered limited edition with a different theme for each year’s prestigious fund-raising event, these brooches have reflected each Mayor’s personal theme, which have so far included toads, dragons, British birds, and, most recently, primroses.
As a devotee of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas she has made show brooches for both Wivenhoe and Ipswich Gilbert and Sullivan Societies.
Garden plants, bowls or cricket players, local buildings, boats, family groups – beautiful desk pieces with what her customers call ‘good surprise qualities’ made Susannah’s letter-racks ideal presents for personal or commemorative presentations. Each one was individually made after careful discussion with the customer.
Square-framed mirrors make stunning decorations. Susannah undertook commissions for people as a reminder of their hobbies, to mark the selling of a family home with a mirror showing the house and the favourite areas of the garden; a gift for the producer of a show as a thank-you with scenes and characters from the production around it.
A whole room, or a little bit of eye-catching detail here and there? Susannah was capable of producing a whole scene to transform a room.
Susannah painted the Wivenhoe Year for the Wivenhoe Town Council in 2005
A mural depicting many of the many annual events in the life of Wivenhoe’s community was unveiled in the foyer of the Council offices in the High Street, where it is on view to the public during office opening hours.
“This was an exciting if somewhat daunting project, and was the idea of Cllr. Penny Kraft,” writes Susannah. “I was asked to come up with some ideas for the mural and soon realised that the people are what makes Wivenhoe special – our distinctive views and buildings are just extras – so The Wivenhoe Year is the mural’s theme”.
“I divided the year into its four seasons and included as many of the events and activities in Wivenhoe that are open to everyone, with markers such as the start of the school year as summer turns to autumn, and bluebell time in our woods in the spring. There was so much to cram in that, despite the painting’s size, I used a small sable brush for most of the painting, which is done in acrylics.”
“There are a few recognisable Wivenhoe faces (and back views) but it was never intended to be a collection of portraits. I’m not Rembrandt and this isn’t The Night Watch! If people look familiar, then perhaps that’s who I was thinking of at the time; then again, maybe not…”
Susannah Bradley, March 2005
Around 70 people joined a Memorial Walk organised by Debbie and Rob Neve in October to raise money for St Helena Hospice in Susannah’s memory – click here
Susannah’s Obituary given by Peter Hill at her funeral:
To see a pdf version of this Obituary see below: