Ian Stewart’s Amazing Animals
My name is Ian. I’ve been involved with St Anne’s for about eighteen years now. I used to have a casual cleaning post at Heatherstones but that stopped about two years ago. I still attend all their parties and events and have developed friendships with the people who live and work there.
For the last twenty years I’ve been making ceramics. I’ve had exhibitions at Dean Clough Gallery in Halifax and Northlight in Hebden Bridge. Recently I had an exhibition of my work at Heatherstones. My ceramics are very colourful, which I feel is part of who I am. My favourite colour is pink and I love dressing up. I work in a charity shop on Sundays and often buy clothes there. For my fortieth birthday party I had a Disney Princess theme and dressed as Snow White – an artist friend painted me. My upcoming 50th will have a Halloween theme.
My ceramics are usually based on animals, through them I can express some of my own feelings. Being myself is important to me but it’s also been challenging at times. When I was younger, wearing skirts and colourful tights and leggings could get an unwanted reaction from people. But I always tried not to let that get in the way of being myself, even though it was difficult at times and sometimes I felt unsafe. I try to celebrate the importance of being my true self through my ceramics, some of my pieces may seem vulnerable, sometimes I try to show how an animal like a gorilla or tiger that might seem scary to us can be kind on the inside and protect a smaller animal like a piglet or mouse. I like my animals to be bright and wear vibrant spots, stripes, and other designs. Why shouldn’t a penguin be orange if it wants to be, or a rhino have a pink horn?
I also like to travel. With some of my friends from my ceramics class I’ve visited Venice, Amsterdam, Paris, and Berlin to see the artworks in the galleries and museums there and to find out how other people live. I’m a keen runner and a member of the Harriers running club. I’m also part of Luv 2 Meet U, a friendship group for people with learning disabilities, and an LGBTQ+ group.
Sometimes people think that if someone has a learning disability, they can’t achieve things. Sometimes they think we must behave or dress in a certain way. I hope I can help show others that they can do the things they really want to do. They can have talents and gifts and they don’t have be what other people want them to be. It’s important to me that I live my own life as I want to live it and I hope that I can help set an example for other people to find their own way.