Life is a Four-Letter Word: Erica Frances George – Part 1
Erica Frances George is one of those creative individuals that Pembrokeshire seems to specialise in… She is a truly original artist and an appealingly honest person. But be warned. She also loves to swear. So this two-part look at her life and her work may feature the occasional, but usually apt, expletive.
Part One: Erica’s Life
Erica, 47, now lives and works in Brynberian but she had many adventures before settling in Pembrokeshire, where she produces works of art in which her wit is combined with words, paper and scalpel.
This most unconventional woman says she comes from a conventional background: “I grew up in east Devon. My mum was a teacher and my dad was a farmer.” And she and her brother and sister had “an idyllic childhood – with freedom and space”.
She went to university and studied science in the late 1980s/early 1990s “because I thought it would be a good thing to do”. However, she became disillusioned. “I was studying biology and ecology. And everything we were being taught was about joining things up. But the more I went through the degree, there was no joined-up thinking… No communication between one department and another.”
And she became aware of the role in education of Big Pharma and the likes of Monsanto. “The big monsters dictate things,” she says. “They paid for the research projects, and the projects paid for the lecturers… So they controlled what we studied.”
As someone increasingly aware of green issues, she found this disconcerting. “I did finish my degree. But I also went travelling. I had a year in Italy as part of the degree. And I finally graduated in 1996.”
It certainly wasn’t wasted time. She had been able to study environmental politics and landscape archaeology. “And I could write a bloody good essay!” she says.
After graduating, she went travelling for several years with her first husband, Paul, by horse and cart, mainly around the South-West. “We travelled between cider apple picking and asparagus harvesting – we were itinerant farmworkers. It was amazing. We met such fantastic people. And I learned to trust in the universe and to live very light-footed.”
But travelling was extremely physically demanding, and in 1999 they decided to head for Pembrokeshire to settle at the Brithdir Mawr community near Newport. “I got pregnant on the way,” says Erica. (Her daughter, Grace, now 20, grew up at Brithdir.)
“Most people who moved there were downsizing,” says Erica. “But our living space in the wagon had been smaller than most people’s toilets. So when we moved into the community, we upsized!”
But, as Erica herself admits, community life “can take a toll on marriages”. In 2008 she and Paul separated, and she and Grace moved on.
“Then I fell in love with someone [her second husband, Justin, who is a picture framer] and we now live in Brynberian – where we share a studio.”
In the second part of this feature, we’ll look at how Erica’s lifelong love of writing, words and making things led to the creation of her own original brand of artworks and prints… “Do no harm, take no shit” is just one of her inspirational pieces – and seems to sum up her approach to life. To see more of her work, visit www.ericafrancesgeorge.co.uk.
Justin George’s framing business is called George The Framer – www.georgetheframer.co.uk.
Next week we will take a closer look at Erica’s work…