Artist restores East Runton village sign
11:00 10 January 2013
A north Norfolk artist and performer has carved a successful second career, restoring dilapidated and weather-worn village signs.
Cromer-born Fiona Davies, who is well-known among local people as a talented folk singer and step dancer from a famous seafaring family, previously worked in jobs ranging from a solicitor’s clerk and nursery assistant, to taxi driver and waitress.
But, keen to hone her artistic talents, she enrolled at Norwich University College of the Arts, graduating with a degree in fine art three years ago. She has exhibited her paintings and sculptures at galleries in Norfolk and London, but, after a friend put her name forward to revamp Gimingham village sign in 2011.
Afterwards Fiona sent out information to every parish clerk in Norfolk, and went on to win contracts to work on signs at villages including Edingthorpe and Beeston Regis locally.
Before starting work on a sign, Fiona, who is the daughter of Cromer fisherman and lifeboat coxswain the late Richard Davies, researches its history, looking at the images it depicts and going to great lengths to return it to its original state.
“Village signs are artworks in themselves, they are part of the history of a place, so I like to make sure that, under my paint, there is still part of the original work,” she said.
After taking the sign down, Fiona treats it for rot, carefully repairing any damage and removing the old paint by hand.
“If the damage too extensive, I can create a resin copy, so that local people can have a new sign and display the old one in the village hall,” she explained.
Fiona has just finished restoring the sign at her home village of East Runton, which, on one side, depicts a fishing scene and, on the other, shows the village common, with a windmill, pond and viaduct.
She now hopes to expand her business further, and is even considering writing a book on the history of village signs.
“I love what I am doing as it is heritage and art, and that is what I am all about,” she said.