Plymouth woman turns old sea charts into whimsical works of art

Starting an art business is one thing, but being a self-taught artist makes Hannah Wisdom’s feat all the more impressive. Originally from Essex, an administrative employee by trade at the University of Plymouth, Hannah’s work and the expertise she must have acquired are entirely her own.

Appearing at the Southampton Boat Show as well as an exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham last month, she would like more local people to know about her work, particularly in time for Mother’s Day. Hannah has a hard time explaining to people online what her job entails, which is why she prefers people to see it in person.

“I am a textile artist. What I do is take old nautical charts and breathe new life into them by stitching directly onto them to create artwork, but I have no formal artistic training,” she said. “I have always sewn and done decorative work with fabrics and embroidery.

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“I got interested in free-motion embroidery, which is what I basically do. I had a little blister moment and thought ‘what if I sew on paper’? J tried and it worked!

“I have original artwork that I created by stitching onto the board and then my printers take a 3D scan of the original artwork which captures the height and textures so you can see the stitches and definition. At this stage, I have a regular image that I can then print on different items.”

Hannah’s main work in this style of artwork in 2019 was a cormorant, a large, black, almost reptilian bird. Often assumed to be greedy, they are expert fishermen.

“There is a poem about a cormorant, called ‘The Common Cormorant Or A Shag’ by Edward Lear that my father taught me when I was learning to sail. I thought if I created a Cormorant on a map and that I had a map of the Eddystone with me I could relate this place to the Cormorants because we have a sense of history they will always have been there I also put the poem there.

Lockdown was the perfect opportunity for Hannah to take stock of how she wanted her business to grow and thanks to a local art gallery on the Barbican who had shown interest in her previous work, she now has one.

“I now have a small studio and gallery in Mount Batten which is a lovely place to visit for people to see my work. We are in Western Hanger which has a lovely little community of artists,” he said. she declared.

“Having Kaya Gallery take some of my items and be so supportive, it gave me the confidence to go further.”

Going further is exactly what she did, to Southampton in fact, and then she set her sights on the Midlands.

“Last year I attended the Southampton Boat Show which was very successful. When people see my work, anything to do with charts and maps, it triggers memories of those places or when they have sailed close to there,” she said.

“When I saw there was a new boat show starting this year, I thought ‘try it out’. I approached them, there was space available so I took that but wish more people knew about it here in Plymouth too.

Hannah’s website can be found at: and her studio at Western Hanger PL9 9SJ is open Thursday-Saturday 10am-3pm.

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