Sally Mitchell Photography
Creative & Commercial Photography

The 100 Journal

Aza Adlam - 100 Journal

 Aza in her studio, 2nd June 2018

Aza in her studio, 2nd June 2018

I don’t remember meeting Aza Adlam for the first time. It was more of a gradual process of bumping into each other around town, eventually saying hello and then even more eventually, thanks to a mutual friend, sitting down to have a coffee and a more in-depth conversation. 

Aza is an intensely creative person, her work is uplifting, beautiful and celebrates the natural world. Everything from beetles and snails to goldfinches and the open ocean are illustrated and documented in her exquisite handmade journals and often in stained glass. 

I thought it was time I caught up with her for the 100 Journal to find out more about her work and creative processes.

“I was a legal secretary for years and suddenly decided to leave that. A friend and I set up a picture framing business which worked really well and I did this for around 22 years. Then I realised that I didn’t want to do that forever. So I did a year-long china restoration course and from that, by chance, I was offered a job to teach it and I was petrified. I literally walked out of the college and into a teaching job. 

Through my secretarial work I moved around a lot, spending several years in Hong Kong but I never did anything remotely art related. I was always made to paint big at school and I was always encouraged to fill the page so I just didn’t enjoy it at all, it wasn’t my style. But I was always making things at home and my mum encouraged me to carry on with this. After the picture framing business ended I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I thought that teaching was something I could do now and then. I was already doing miniature painting and I was asked to teach that so I thought, oh ok! As long you’re one step ahead of your students you can teach anything really! From there I taught picture framing, stained glass… mosaics, all these things that were hobbies have since turned into subjects that I taught.”

It’s funny where life takes you…

“It’s opportunities and I’ve always grabbed them, people are often too worried to take opportunities. There are paths you’ve got to find and I’ve been so lucky to find mine. I never ever thought I’d have the confidence to teach, it terrified me. I couldn’t stand up and talk in front of people, but I can teach.”

When did you move to Cornwall?

“I came here about 3 years ago. I’d been on holiday here a long time ago and it just so happened that I bumped into somebody in Portmellon and this house was just about to go on the market and everything just worked out so well…. I’m a great believer in fate and of taking the opportunities when they come.

I started teaching stained glass as soon as I arrived, I was offered a room at the Social Club and through doing this I’ve met so many people in the community who I wouldn’t necessarily have ever met. It’s been an absolute delight. I started teaching journal-making last year which people have loved but not as many people can commit as much time to doing it.”

Do you make your own paper?

“I don’t, it’s just very cheap wallpaper lining paper but we learn how to dye the pages, stitch together and make covers. Then they fill with whatever they like, memorabilia, holidays, their life journals really. It suits so many different people who don’t think that it will, people who say they can’t draw or paint, it doesn’t matter as there’s so many different aspects to making a book and I love making my own and I think that enthusiasm comes across. 

Do you always have a book on the go?

“I haven’t at the moment. But I read a poem yesterday that I thought would make a lovely book, it would be nice to run the poem through the pages of a book with illustrations.”

Sally Mitchell