Phil describes his path as an artist.:
“Having grown up in a very large family of seven boys, we learned to make our own entertainment – mainly out in the streets. Our formal education may have been lacking, but we used our imaginations. By using any material that came to hand, we made dens and go karts.
“Being self-reliant and creative held me in good stead in adulthood. I attended art and bricklaying classes and gradually became more interested in using discarded items to make models. On visiting Ireland, I was given a milk churn which I turned into a figure of a very strange large lady. I was then fortunate in acquiring a derelict gypsy caravan which I proceeded to restore to its original glory. This still resides in my garden.
“Making items for the grandchildren widened my collection of oddities – a windmill was followed by a beautiful, hand-made giraffe called Geraldine and her monkey companion on a swing. Butterflies shaped out of metal, small animals, a very Banksy-inspired mouse-house. I made a village of colourful bird boxes with a tweet shop, garages, various motor vehicles and small aircraft.
“To fashion a very unusual collection of musicians dressed in bright and individual stage costumes, I decided what was needed was aluminium sheet. I cut the shapes form the metal sheet and added ‘found objects’ such as one half of a set of headphones for the singer’s microphone, and a brass tray for the tambourine. I call this very cool group ‘The Reflections’.”
Phil and Jill Sortwell have opened their garden to the public for a weekend in August over many years. It takes its place amongst a small number of unique ‘art gardens’ such as the Gibberd Garden in Harlow, Ian Hamilton-Finlay’s garden in Lanarkshire, and Portmeirion in North Wales.