A few weeks ago I attended Kit & Caboodles' first ever craft fair. It’s the first time I’ve ever known (in recent times at least) that the weather report was wrong. Checking the night before it confidently declared that it would be a washout. And yet, the next day I awoke to clear blue skies all around.
Now, to be fair, the weather report wasn’t completely off and the rain did eventually come in the afternoon (by which time I’d already made my getaway) but the morning when I arrived at the pre-loved furniture stores base (located next to its partner company Algarve Express in Almancil) a wonderful sight awaited me.
The sun shone down as happy children scooted from one end of the fair to the other zig zagging their way through the crowd of curious people that were slowly but surely making their way around and scoping out the stalls of the many Algarvian artists and artisans that had, despite the weather warnings, bravely come out of the woodwork to display their delightfully diverse talents.
I admit, I was here to do a bit of ‘scoping’ myself, and walked around carefully eyeing up potential future stories. Quite frankly, I was inundated with options. I hope to eventually find some words to say about everybody, but you have to start somewhere, and since I mentioned artists ‘coming out of the woodwork’, nowhere was this more true than with Ray Charsley who was there with his stall called the ‘Woodturners Den’.
Ray caught my attention with his collection of wonderful woody creations ranging from everything from clocks, cats and pens to spinning tops and his recently completed pièce de résistance: a circus chariot - loaded with all kinds of animals and a giraffe poking its head out the back.
Shake Your Tailfeather
With a name like Ray Charsley, I was delighted to find out he is also a musician. He plays trumpet and guitar and his partner Sandie, who was at the stall next door selling colourful handmade natural soaps, also let slip that she, like Ray, had some hidden talents under her sleeve. She sings, dances and I even found evidence (in the form of postcards of quirky emu's hidden amongst the soaps) that she was a painter as well.
From my perspective, this was like having ‘two for the price of one' on artists. I wanted to know more about them and they very kindly invited me round for a cup of tea and to see their workshops at their house in Almádena on the west coast.
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?
Their house was an interesting one as it has to accommodate both of their many interests.
Out on the patio, Ray was busy in his ‘den’ happily shaving down a bit of this and that on his spinning woodturner's lathe. He explained that, although he had dabbled in woodwork many years ago, it was only in lockdown that he took it up again as a way of keeping busy and has been immensely enjoying challenging himself to see what he can make.
He uses locally sourced wood of olive, almond, eucalyptus, carob, pine and chestnut to create, well… as I mentioned earlier, a whole circus of lovely things. He’s also been using some kind of computer laser machine to cut out extremely precise details - like a name (or logo), for example, on one of his many beautiful wooden pens.
Driving the cats up the wall
On the other side of the house is Sandie’s little gallery. With plenty of natural light streaming in through the surrounding glass windows, it's the perfect place for getting creative with colours.
Now, I admit that it was only when I saw the spectacular seascape she’s currently working on, as well as the incredible array of animals, flowers and portraits that she’s has painted over the years that it truly began to dawn on me just how talented a painter Sandie really is.
I was also amused when I noticed a gecko that she had drawn on the wall. Their cats were apparently so convinced by it that Sandie showed me videos of them jumping up to try and catch it.
She also explained (although it was a little beyond me) how she mixes up and makes her soaps using all natural ingredients. They all smell amazing and would make great presents.
Sitting down for tea, I found out more about Sandie and Ray and how they ended up in the Algarve. Caravan in tow, these wandering minstrels left England over 30 years ago. They started off travelling through Spain, singing and dancing to earn their keep, until they eventually arrived in Portugal and fell so in love that they never wanted to leave.
Their duo ‘Sara’ was lucky enough to get regular gigs at a nearby hotel and for many years this is what allowed them to stay.
Where to find them?
Well, this could take a while…
If you want to see Ray toot his trumpet and Sandie sing and dance then you can find them playing with The Sunshine Big Band at the Fortaleza da Luz Restaurant in Praia da Luz on Sundays and Ray also plays with the New Orleans Jazz Band at the Tivoli hotel on Mondays.
If you are interested in ordering any of Ray's woodwork or would like to make a specific request (he’s very open to new challenges) then you can follow him on Facebook @woodturnersden or visit his website www.woodturnersden.com
To find out more about Sandie’s soaps follow The Soapbox on Facebook and if you would like her to paint something for you (or if you would like to sign up to her art classes) follow @Sandiecroftartist or visit her website www.sandiecroftart.com