Broken slates and rusty nails make art with a difference in Shrewsbury

Broken slates and rusty nails – were all part of an art show with a difference at Shrewsbury’s busy Darwin Shopping Centre.

The exhibition came from Birmingham and features an unusual collection of work from a seven-strong company of artists.

One of them is Shrewsbury-based Dea Paradisos who has spent nearly seven years working alongside self-employed builder husband Richard Benjamin, as a roofer and bricklayer, and also using her City and Guilds carpentry skills.

And while not too many builders would be blown away by the textural beauty of broken slates or collect rusty nails for art work, Dea sees the beauty in the unusual and is going back to university this autumn for a Masters in Fine Arts.

She is one of the seven exciting artists who form the FAM art collective who havd their work on show at a pop-up exhibition in Shrewsbury’s Darwin Centre.

The artists, Shrewsbury-based sculptor 23-year-old Katie Ecclestone, performance artist and sculptor Jonny Graney, film artist Craig Green, paint and print specialist Louise Blakeway, graphic designer Katharine Wade,  and performance and installation artist Sarah Fortes Mayer, all met and graduated in Fine Art last year at the Birmingham City University in Margaret Street.

Their unusual display, premiered in Birmingham recently, is on show in Unit 38, on the Middle Level of the busy Darwin Centre and should create plenty of interest.

“We are a very diverse group in terms of age and artistic practices,” said 51-year-old Dea, who lives at Spring Gardens, Shrewsbury. “Being able to make use of an empty unit at the Darwin has been a wonderful and amazing opportunity for us.

“We have a wide range of art on show from prints, design to sculptures, installations, performance and film.”

South African born Dea lived in Nigeria and Zambia before moving to the UK permanently in 1976 for her step father to receive medical treatment in Birmingham for a serious car crash injury.

“I was always interested in art but because my life was so disrupted it was a bit stop start on the education front,” she said.

But when she married seven years ago and moved to Shrewsbury, Dea found herself at a “crossroads” and – to her delight – chose to follow her love of art, enrolling at Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology which led her to Birmingham University.

It was while she worked on building projects with Richard she discovered the beauty of roof slate tiles.

“I loved doing the building work. Of course it’s dangerous and it can be hard, but it was while I was doing roofing work that I noticed the textures of broken and off cut slates and led to my BTech course in emulsion printing.

“It’s been very successful for me because I applied the technique to slate tiles which was fantastic.”

Kevin Lockwood, Manager of the Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside Shopping Centres, said: “Shrewsbury is a town at the heart of a real artistic hub and here at the shopping centres we have been trying to support that network of creative people.

“We currently have two art exhibitions going on in the Darwin  and Pride Hill and we have had a very good reaction from visitors to the Centres.

“It brings an extra dimension to a shopping trip and certainly Dea and her colleagues are bringing something very different to a visit to the town.”

Dea and husband Richard, who is also a musician – and so too are their three sons – are also heavily involved in the Flax Mill Maltings site, in Ditherington, which won £12.8m lottery funding for its regeneration.

About 300 jobs will be created by transforming the Main Mill – the world’s first iron-framed building – into a space for employment and commercial uses. But Dea is more interested in the fact that an initial art exhibition there saw 2,500 visitors.

The bottom of the main building is to be an exhibition space detailing the history of the site and is expected to become a tourist attraction bringing in 100,000 visitors a year.

The site comprises seven listed buildings and was a Flax Mill from 1797 until 1897 and then a Maltings until its closure in 1987.

Dea and Richard joined the Friends of Flaxmill Malting committee and now they have set up an art group – with Richard as co-ordinator –  with its key aim of promoting community engagement, one of the principal desires behind the Lottery funding.

Find out more about Dea’s work on

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