It might not be polite to tell most artists their work is rubbish. But with Linda Miatt-Wassell, this is just is a simple fact.
She’s the one-time care home manager behind a new Shalesmoor gallery featuring dozens of figurines made from household junk.
“People seem to have taken to them, though,” she tells The Diary during a visit to the shop in The Nichols Building vintage centre.
“They seem surprised when I say a torso is made from an old bottle of Lenor or that a belt is bits of wire.
“Although personally I prefer not to call it rubbish. I call it recycled craft materials.”
Broken lightbulbs, seaside shells, circuit boards, buttons, scraps of cloth and – but of course – old toilet rolls are all heavily (if unrecognisably) used in Linda’s lineup of mad scientists, demonic princesses and steampunk-style explorers.
“When I start making these figures I never know what I’m going to end up with until they’re finished,” she says. “Although most of them tend to end up looking like something from a Tim Burton film. I had a kid in here saying I was a Goth. I said: ‘I’m not a Goth, I’m 53, young man’.”
Now, at that still-young age, she’s hoping those surreal characters will help her prove it’s never too late to start again.
See, until 2008, Linda was the manager of Bethany House in Millhouses, a care home for people with learning disabilities.
She enjoyed it but decided the job left her unfulfilled and so became, instead, a foster mother of two boys. With husband Alan’s support, she also pursued her creative side.
“I had run art and craft courses at every care home I’d ever worked – despite only having an O-level in the subject,” explains the mum-of-two and grandma-of-three of Carr Forge Road, Hackenthorpe. “When we decided to foster children, I decided to pursue that more.”
It hasn’t all run smoothly, though.
Two years ago, Linda was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disorder which can have terminal consequences.
“It means when I get ill, I get very ill,” she explains. “But it inspires me every day to get on making things.”
She thinks a second.
“Sometimes, the inspiration is quite literal. You see that bit of tubing?” she points at another irresistible little character. “That was part of an old breathing apparatus I never ended up using.”