Visit artist's studios and venues in Peterborough and the surrounding areas

Jacki Cairns Interview 5 – Jonathan Clynch

My fifth and last interview is with local craftsman Jonathan Clynch, who creates unique ornaments and curios.  Under the name ‘Jack in the Green,’ Jonathan produces all of his work from recycled wood and responsibly sourced sundry materials.


As with most of the artists I have interviewed, Jonathan is reluctant to call himself an ‘artist’ as such as he is self taught.  I have found it really interesting to find so many artists working locally who have not gone through the art school system.  Jonathan, it appears, is not unusual in the fact his work has evolved out of an innate need to be expressive rather than following a logical career path progression.


These unique creations will be exhibited this year at a shared space in Helpston, with fellow PAOS artist, Pete Hayward. This should be a really fascinating show as I could not find two artists whose work are so immeasurably different to each other. Complete polar opposites, in terms of colour, form and concept, I am intrigued to see how they share a space together.  Please see the PAOS website/catalogue for more details of where and when.  In the meantime here is the interview to give a flavour of what’s in store…


JAC:  Why have you decided to join PAOS this year?


JC:  I had decided a while ago to join PAOS just to see what happened really.  I wasn’t sure how my work fitted in as I see myself as a craftsman and not really an artist as such. I usually do just craft events and I sell on-line.  There is an underground craft movement bubbling in Peterborough and I don’t often get involved in the local craft community that much so I thought this would be a way to open up some avenues and just see where it leads.


JAC:  How did the name  ‘Jack In the Green’ come about?


JC:  About six years ago I was unemployed, I had been unemployed for getting on three years and I felt that in between the job searches, interviews and whatever, I needed to be doing something. So I started doing practical stuff in my garden. My neighbour had some decking that he’d pulled up because he had rats underneath and he randomly asked me if I wanted it.  I said ‘OK’ although I had never been any good at woodwork at school, I was never practical in that sense at all. However, I got some traditional tools and started making it up as I went along. I did not follow any instructions just went with it and this culminated in a wishing well, table, bench and things like that. I started giving them away to friends and family as gifts and that’s when people started suggesting I make them to sell.


Meanwhile, I was being guided into job interviews for jobs I really did not want to do.  I had a background in accounting and really did not want to go back into that. The last straw was when they tried to push me into a job where I would be grading onions on continental shifts of 12 hours, four days on, four days off. That is when my heart just sunk and I asked how I could go about becoming self-employed. The agency gave me some pointers and I started from scratch. Six years later I am still building my business and my work is developing.  I can’t say it’s been easy, it is a struggle working from home and keeping motivated, but at the same time I wouldn’t want to go back to 9-5.


JAC:  Did you like art at school?


JC:  I did like art but I didn’t feel I was that good at it. I have over the years had a go at painting, pastels and things like that.  I am my own worst critic, but actually in hindsight I think some of them are quite good.


JAC:  Have you had any memorable responses to your work?


I do get a lot of good feedback in general but then again when I started out the aim was to target a particular audience who would be interested in folklore, mythology, legends and paganism etc. My business is named ‘Jack in the Green’ after the ‘Green Man’ who is an ambiguous figure often found in churches even though it is a pagan symbol.  I really like the sense of mystery and ambiguity that surrounds it.  I remember one lady wanted me to justify the fact I was selling work with pagan symbols and Christian symbols side by side.  I don’t feel the need to justify it, it is what it is.



JAC: Will you be doing any demonstrations during the PAOS weekends?


JC:  Yes, I will be taking my whittling knives and my pyrograph pen to do some wood burning.

JAC: You’ve already touched on the fact you get a lot of your inspiration from mysticism, legends, mythology and folklore. I am wondering where these interests stem from?


JC:  I had a friend at university who did a thesis about King Arthur and she lent me some books about him. I really got into them and became fascinated especially about this place called Avalon mentioned in the books. I actually fell upon this place when driving and getting lost in Glastonbury in the early ‘90s. I was instantly intrigued and it ignited something in me to such an extent I have made a conscious effort to return twice a year ever since. It’s a very alternative place, and it drew me in. I am from a very conservative, with a small ‘c’, Christian background. Anything out of the ordinary, or anything to do with alternative lifestyles or the occult was seen as very bad, and as a result I had always steered away from that kind of thing.   After reading those books about King Arthur, I started to be fascinated about all these things that I had previously avoided. These interests naturally feed into my work and I am aware that my work is appealing to quite a niche audience as a result.


JAC:  What, if anything, would you like to improve in your work?


JC:  A Druid from Wales said my work had a rustic honesty about it.  That was great and I loved that remark however I am aware that’s not what everyone wants and I would like to be able to produce something that looks ‘cleaner’ and more professional to appeal to a wider audience. But then again that is the people pleaser in me and maybe I should stop trying to keep everyone happy.


JAC:  Do you have a dream project in mind?


JC:   I did have an idea based on these houses that I’d like to do.   It would be good to create a little village, with an old parish church and a rectory, things like that. I had this idea that if I can use a cloth hardener called powertex with chicken wire I can make some really interesting shapes and it will give that cleaner more professional finish.


JAC:  Professionally what is your goal with regard to your artwork?


JC:   Professionally my goal is to continue to improve, to learn new skills and just to expand what I do and to continue enjoying it.  As soon as I don’t enjoy it anymore I will stop doing it.


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