OPEN STUDIO: Anne Mason with her latest piece, inspired by the fells near her home and studio at Folly Top, Eggleston
OPEN STUDIO: Anne Mason with her latest piece, inspired by the fells near her home and studio at Folly Top, Eggleston

A dale artist is opening her “studio in the wood” to the public after the pandemic led to her exhibitions being cancelled. Editor Trevor Brookes reports.

ANNE Mason has been drawing and painting since she could pick up a pencil.
“I was forever drawing happy pictures with a sun to please my mum – that sort of thing. Then when I was seven years old at school in Eggleston, a farmer’s son saw one of my pictures. ‘You are an artist – do mine’. That’s what he said.”
Anne told the boy that he would never learn how to paint if he let someone do his work.
“So I showed him instead,” she recalled.
That early lesson in life led to Anne following a career path as a landscape artist and art teacher, running workshops at her Folly Top home. However, the coronavirus has meant she has had to rethink her autumn classes this year.
Many of the students were nervous about getting together after lockdown and meeting government guidelines has proven tricky.
“It would be impossible for me to open windows for ventilation in a November gale at over 1,000ft in Teesdale and expect people to sit and freeze,” she added.
Anne has also had to cancel three exhibitions in the dale. However, she is keen to show her new work so decided to use her wooden studio as a gallery this year.
Ventilation isn’t a problem and there’s a roaring fire to keep the chill off.
The studio-gallery is now open for people to safely view and purchase Anne’s art. She will also be selling cards and taking commissions for Christmas.
Anne said: “It’s sad to say that apart from Chris Mouncey’s shop, in Barnard Castle, my art doesn’t really have a presence in Teesdale. You can see it in Keswick and Muker, but there’s no real outlet here. That’s why I have turned my working space into my gallery shop.”
Anne, who grew up in the house next door, knows Teesdale’s fells like the back of her hand. Her inspiration for art is ignited on long walks with her dogs.
Rather than painting “plein air” – she says it’s often too cold for her fingers – Anne prefers to take a snap on her camera and work from it later. She dislikes wide angle lenses because of their distortion, much preferring the natural perspective a 50mm lens offers. Her latest work, titled “no electric, no phone, and no water” is a depiction of a redundant cottage on Eggleston fell.
“It was about 3pm on a winter’s afternoon and it had that lovely light. There’s a bit of artistic licence as the building is redundant but I brought it to life and put a light on,” said Anne.
“I'm attracted to places where there aren’t people – the top of Teesdale and Swaledale and the North-West Lakes. But I don’t want to be a one-horse artist so I’ll get in my van with my dogs and might go to Mull in Scotland,” she said
Anne was born in Darlington but moved to Teesdale as a child.
“The headteacher at Eggleston was an artist and I thought, ‘I've landed here – he is going to let me do a lot of art’. And he did. I've always loved the natural world and the environment. Even my abstract work is on the natural world, like the soundscape that birds make,” she said.
Her home overlooking Romaldkirk faces the westerly wind and the pines next to her home have been shaped by Teesdale’s gales.
“The house rattles and moves when the winds are bad,” she said. On more peaceful evenings, she watches the sunset. “I know exactly where the sun sets for any month,” she said.
The “studio in the wood” will be open every Sunday until Christmas, from 11am to 4pm in September and October, and 11am to 3pm in November and December.
Visitors are asked to park on the laybys at Folly Top and walk the short distance, looking out for the signs to the studio