Meet our Designing Artists – Ceri Griffiths
AKA Ceri the Crafter and Designing Artist
A recipe for an interesting life
1 year as a fry cook
1 year as a hotel chef
15 years as a Cake decorator – Designing, Baking & Confectioner
17 years as a professional dancer and entertainer
15 years as a business owner
10 years TV demonstrator for craft shopping channels
A lifetime as a designing creative soul
Bake for 63 years and sprinkle with numerous part-time jobs, awards, and titles.
Yup that just about sums me up
So let’s get down to some nitty-gritty details. I was born in Cardiff, South Wales, Great Britain in January 1960. I surprised my mother by arriving two weeks early, I arrived so quickly that mum had a home birth and nearly didn’t make it to the bedroom. Hanging on the wall above the bed I was born in was a portrait of the laughing cavalier, I should have guessed it wasn’t going to be a normal life.
I was a very sickly child with chronic asthma, eating problems, and constant tonsillitis, the doctors told my parents I’d be lucky to reach five years old. Yeah right, don’t tell me I can’t do something.
Mum was a full-time nurse and dad was in the navy, I guess my family liked uniforms. At the age of three, we emigrated to New Zealand as it looked like the land of milk and honey also there was a chance that a healthier lifestyle would help my fragile health, my sister was born a year later. Dad had a few random jobs but we eventually ended up as caretakers of an island in the Bay of Islands in NZ. The private island was owned by a lord who visited possibly a month out of every year, other than that we were the only people there, two hours boat ride from the mainland and we had to be self-sufficient. Healthy food with no additives, homeschooling, plenty of sunshine, and clean air and I knocked asthma on the head at the age of seven, still, a weedy-looking kid but I was on the road to recovery.
Fast forward six years and the family is back in Britain, an operation had removed the offending tonsils and fingers crossed the health issues had been resolved. Now if you’re nearly ten years old, have a suntan, a funny NZ accent, are not used to wearing shoes, have never been to school, not socialized with other children, the first day of going to British school was a heck of a shock. Yup the bullying started in hour one, day one, but I’m not going into that period of my life because we all understand that trauma, also it’s the past and something I can’t change.
I left school at seventeen and the first job I got was a fry cook in a museum cafeteria, I’d learned to cook when my parents split up and mum had to hold down two jobs, and I suddenly had to help raise my baby sister. I then successfully landed a job as a trainee chef in a five-star hotel and my real training began, a year later I found myself on a three-year bakery and confectionery course at my local college and I loved it. I had a certain artistic flair for cake decorating and won my collage several awards and cups at the competition level, I hated school but I loved collage. When I graduated with distinctions my cake decorating teacher hired me in her family bakery as her own cake decorator, I thought things were set for life. A year later their bakery closed due to a large supermarket chain opening close by and I found myself unemployed, this was the beginning of a life trend. I managed to land a job as a baker in a large supermarket but within a few weeks was suffering from breathing issues, it turns out I’d started to develop Pneumoconiosis of the lungs due to flour dust. Let’s skip the next bit because it’s depressing, but in a nutshell, I had to give up my career and try to regain my lung capacity. Seeing the trend yet.
As part of my climb back to health I had to find some activity that would strengthen my lungs, A local dance center opened a couple of streets away from where I lived and I signed up, (I’d always enjoyed drama classes at school). After six months of dancing, I’d been spotted by a youth group that asked me to join and my career as a dancer was started and I loved it. A couple of shows later and I approached the head of the dance center to ask if there was any chance I could make this a paying career and was told very bluntly, you’re too old and you’ve not got enough talent. A little harsh I felt but once again don’t tell me I can’t do something.
At the ripe old age of twenty-five, I auditioned for the three top dance schools in London and got into two of them. Older than some of the teachers in the dance college and at least ten years older than every other student I worked myself as hard as I could and before my three years of training were up I was on a plane to Tokyo for a three-month dance contract. I’m not going to go into all of the details of fourteen years of continuously performing, but I was in Swan Lake, Carmen, and a few other ballets then transferred to the musical theatre where I did TV specials and was even in a low-budget movie. I got a call from Carnival Cruise lines in Miami to ask if I could be on a flight the next day as they needed a dance/singer to replace an injured cast member, I said yes, packed, and left for America. After a year of Carnival Cruise lines, I went on tour in the UK, and also did pantomime and a few summer season specials with Danny La Rue. I was happy but the sea was calling me and I signed up with Princess Cruises where I performed for fourteen years, almost continually when I wasn’t at sea LA, Chicago, and Sydney were places I called home.
When I retired from dancing at the age of forty-three I returned home to the UK and once again struggled to fit in as I was used to much more than life in Cardiff had to offer, I bounced between several mundane jobs eventually starting my own successful business as a freelance cake decorator /designer, demonstrating, lecturing, judging and teaching around the world. To date I’ve got five published books, I’ve been entered into the ICES hall of fame in America, I’ve won a literary award in New York for one of my books, and won a product design award here in the UK. Not bad for a sickly kid from Cardiff.
Yes, I could name celebrities I’m friends with, stars I’ve worked with shows I’ve been in and yes there are a million stories within my interesting life but fitting 63 years of life onto paper is rather difficult.
Some of you will at this point be asking where’s the art in this journey, I’ve always had creativity in my soul, as a sickly child I was always given coloured pencils and paints to occupy myself in my sick bed, at nine years old I won a TV art competition on Blue Peter gaining me a coveted Blue Peter badge. As a one-parent family we never had money so I think that’s where my ingenuity comes from, if we couldn’t afford it I adapted something to be able to do the same thing. My pallet of visual inspiration comes from travel, theatre, costume, makeup, cultures, and history. I find inspiration in everything I see and I’m blessed with the talent to be able to turn that inspiration into art. My talent is a gift I never take for granted and to be able to share skills and support those who are just starting out on their own artistic journey gives me so much joy. I’m a natural teacher and an eager student, I love to learn new skills and push those skills to their limits. In my opinion, anyone who creates anything is an artist and I feel far too many shy away from that title and its perceived status.
Yes, I’ve had some dark times and I’m sure I’ll have some dark times in the future, like all of us I’ve suffered loss, had to deal with my own inner demons, I’ve had to find strength when there appeared to be none. But if life has taught me nothing else it’s that you’re never truly alone, lift your head up and look around there’s always someone willing to reach out and help you if only you’ll accept it. The support of the artistic community has been so important to me in the development of both my art and my confidence, I couldn’t have done it on my own.
Secrets of my success, keep pushing through if I have to change and adapt then I do so because you can’t change things that have already happened but you can affect the future. If opportunity knocks I normally say yes and then think about how I’ll achieve it afterward.
P.M. Artist Studio asked if would I like to be a designing artist for them, little did they know that it had always been a dream of mine to design my own stencils and masks, so obviously, I said yes. Their trust in my ability to create designs that would inspire others to create art, to give artists tools to spark their own imagination, and to be part of a growing company and a member of a loving caring supporting community are blessings I will never take for granted.
Thank you everyone for the love and support you’ve shown me, I hope when it’s my time to leave this life that I can look back and know I’ve left behind a legacy of inspiration, joy, and art to inspire the next generation of artists.