Featured artist

Stella Benford


Stella has been an FPAA member for many years. She comes from a creative family and was resident potter at Wicksteed Park for 20 years. Since leaving there, she has produced a prodigious amount of work - paintings, pottery, papier-mâché figures - and most recently, welded metallic sculptures.

She is inspired by the work of many artists - including Chardin's still lifes, Vermeer's atmospheric interiors, portraits by Rembrandt and Velazquez, ceramics by Hans Coper and Grayson Perry, and Rodin's sculpture. Many modern artists and friends also inspire her.

Stella has won numerous prizes for painting over the years, and feels very proud to have two paintings in the Public Catalogue Foundation book for Oil Painting in Public Ownership.
» Visit Stella's website

Interview with Brenda McKetty, December 2014

Brenda: I believe you have known FPAA Founder John Black for a long time.
Stella: Yes, I knew him long before the Shed days, when he had a gallery in Wellingborough and held Life Drawing classes in the cellar.

Brenda: Have you had any formal art training?
Stella: Not really. I won the Art prize at school and went to evening classes at Tresham College to learn pottery, where I obtained an O-level in art.

Brenda: I know that one of your sisters paints. Are the rest of your family creative?
Stella: My brother David, who lives in Hong Kong, paints and he is currently writing a book too.

Brenda: You were resident potter at Wicksteed Park for 20 years. How did that come about?
Stella: I was working in the pottery & crafts department at Henry Gotch as a technician, when I had the idea that Wicksteed Park could do with a potter. Luckily the manager at the time was making a lot of changes and he agreed with me. So as well as me, he brought in quite a few crafts people and it proved very popular.

I had already been exhibiting my paintings and pottery before I started at the Park, but I found that I was kept pretty busy and didn't have enough time for my own work. Eventually I became bored with the monotony of doing the same things - although my dragons were very popular. I was being drawn back to painting - then when the rent was going up, I decided to leave.

Brenda: You work in so many ways. Over the years that I have known you I have seen you painting, producing all kinds of ceramics, life-size papier-mâché figures and, most recently, large metalwork sculptures. What next? I did like the smaller metalwork pieces you showed at the last FPAA exhibition.
Stella: Yes, I was pleased with those. I realised that the big metalwork pieces are too heavy for me to manage and I can use all my previous experience to make some small scale pieces using a combination of ceramics, wood and metal.

I've recently illustrated a children's book. I was approached by the author, who had seen my work at Jessica's Tea Room and thought that it would be just right for her book.

Brenda: Do you do some form of artwork every day?
Stella: Yes, I love it so much. And if I have been out during the day I work on into the evening. But if there is one thing that I have learned it is that I must be true to myself and only take on work that I will enjoy. If you do something that you are not enjoying it will never be successful. But, as always I have a head bursting with ideas, so who knows what will come next.


Acrylic and mixed media triptych. View from the top of my road. Wind farm and interesting electric poles etc.


Acrylic. A painting of my granddaughter.


Acrylic. Painting for book illustration.

Golden Lanterns

Acrylic painting. Inspired by many of these growing in my garden.

Green Man

I love the image of the magical Green man to be seen on churches and many old buildings.


The natural beehive shapes inspired me for this sculpture.

Hospital Blues

Mixed media collage, depicting my husband's grandparents' wedding. He came home injured in WW1 in 1917 and wore his 'Hospital Blues' on his weeding day. He then returned to the front, and came home in 1918.

Hungry Fish

A metal sculpture constructed of recycled metal using a mig welder and plasma cutter.

Jet Stream Meets Dawlish 2014

Mixed media collage depicting the great storms last winter.

Misty Willows


Mushroom Planter

Stoneware. I particularly like making pierced ware - it is very satisfying to cut into the lather hard clay, and works well with the turquoise glaze.




Acrylic painting for repeating on textile.


Oil painting of a model who used to sit for us at John's life group.


Again, this acrylic was inspired by a natural beehive. It was used in the book The Adventures of Princess Ebony.

Silver Honesty

Acrylic. I love the magical translucency of this plant.

Smoky Dragon

Ceramic - almost my trademark! I made many of these whilst at Wicksteed Park - and still do. Using an incense cone, they have skoke coming from their nostrils.

Stoneware Pots

I am inspired by my own collection of salt glazed wine jars and bottles. I love the texture of their orange peel surface.

Tea For Two

I make this by throwing all the little shapes and joining them together at leather hard drying stage.



Two Old Friends

These were two actual trees that had wonderful shapes in the bark, to which I added a little fantasy with magical fairies, castles etc. It was eventually used in a book The Adventures of Princess Ebony.

When Water Fills The Hungry Land

Mixed media using black clay, metal and wood. This was inspired from the floods last winter, and darker thoughts of global warming.




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