James Joyce – on his new studio in Somerset
Working from Frome
Originally from Wolverhampton, James studied at Walsall College of Art and Kingston University, and has lived and worked in London ever since. Until just recently, when he decided to move from East London to Frome in Somerset, where he now has a studio as well as his home.
We chatted to James to see what prompted his move and how he’s settling in to his new surroundings.
What prompted the move to Frome?
It’s been a long time coming. My wife Alex and I had been visiting our friends in the West Country for many years and each time we’d fantasise about moving out there. We’ve bored our friends for years talking about moving to the country, but never actually doing it. There were a few factors which finally gave us a push: our two children were aged 7 and 10 at the time, and as a family we were outgrowing the space we had. To buy a bigger house the size we wanted in London would have been a stretch, plus our children were at an age where it was now or never to do a move like this while they were still young. We were also in the middle of lockdown which had become pretty tedious in London, so we sold our place in Stoke Newington in 2021 and moved to a small village about ten minutes outside of Frome. The house we bought was built around 1770 and was renovated internally before we moved in.
Did you know the town before?
A little bit. We’d heard good things about Frome itself over the years, but we moved during lockdown, so there wasn’t much happening in the town when we got here. But now there is plenty of stuff going on in the local area. The main event in Frome is the independent market on the first Sunday of every month. The roads are closed and the whole town, is taken over by craftspeople, food stalls, live music and vintage traders. It’s a great atmosphere.
Was it a challenge finding a new studio in close proximity to your new home?
Coinciding a house move and a studio move simultaneously was tricky. I found a very small studio space initially, which I had to take short term, but since then I have moved again into a bigger space in Frome. I have a plan to renovate an outbuilding in our garden (see photo) and make it a studio. I’m looking forward to getting that project started soon.
What have you changed in your studio compared to your old one?
It’s pretty much the same in terms of contents. I probably should have thrown more stuff out. But it’s a much smarter studio than my previous one. The main thing that’s changed is I have bigger windows and look out at trees.
What have you gained from moving to Somerset?
Space both physically and mentally, nice walks, great views, and a dog called Reggie.
Do you think your more rural location will influence your art?
I’m open to it, it might do with time. I’m out walking in open countryside most days with Reggie, which can be a great time to clear your head, and, of course, being around nature is inspiring.
What do you miss about London, and do you find yourself back there quite a bit?
I thought I would be back there more than I have been, but it turns out I don’t really need to be there that much. It’s an adjustment to move out because it’s so different to the life we had. London is great because there is so much you can do, but I don’t really miss it. I’d lived in central London for over 25 years and whenever I go back and stay with friends it’s kind of like I’d never left. It’s like a second home, it’s easy to slot back in because it’s so familiar, but I’m always happy to come home to the countryside.
What are your new favourite local spots, from shops to pubs to walks?
Catherine’s Hill in Frome is full of independent shops and cafés. I like the menswear store Assembly, Rye Bakeryis a great café and bakery in a former church. I like to Hauser and Wirth in Bruton to look at the exhibitions and I’ll often pay a visit to the Hole and Corner shop while I’m in the area. The Talbot in Mells is one of my favourite pubs. There are plenty of nice walks, I’m fortunate to have a great walk straight out of our house. Also the walks around Mells and the trails around Alfred’s Tower are pretty epic. It’s great when you find a new walk, there’s still lots to explore.
Photography by Catherine Garcia