Meet Susan Mathews
“Susan Mathews has been Curator of The Stained Glass Museum since 1999 and was awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her contribution to the Visual Arts in 2009.
In the twenty years since she has been Curator, the Museum has grown and expanded to achieve a national reputation for it's excellence as a centre of stained glass…”
That was Susan professionally.
I met her through our shared membership in an organization know as AVF: Accueil des Villes Françaises. It is a national organization with local chapters which acts as a meeting place, activity centre and information exchange for new arrivals in French towns. We are both members of the Uzes chapter. With AVF, we attend the same French language class, and through her encouragement, we also assist in the delivery of an English conversation class she used to run, and play petanque, well or badly, depending on the day. Amongst many other things; wine often included.
Two years ago, in her 70th year, looking for something to occupy the little bit of her time not taken up by myriad other activities, she bought a house in St Quentin La Poterie, about 5 kilometres from Uzes. She has since completed a top to bottom renovation. She has also been transforming her large country garden, an effort now into its third season - just to fill in the gaps in her otherwise full social calendar. She is full of energy, as is her garden.
For reasons I don’t understand, she has agreed to allow me to follow her progress over the course of a year, watching, camera in hand, as she works and her garden flourishes.
It is a large plot on designated agricultural land at the edge of the village, flanked by an orchard on one side and an olive grove on the other, both producing commercially. There are fruit trees and oak trees and roses and wild flowers and ornamental trees and a potager and soon to be a small swimming pool and roses and citrus trees in pots and out buildings and a ride ‘em mower and parties and barbeques and all the things you expect in the garden of an active gardener. Oh, and in her mazet a table for the creation of stained glass works including the requisite kiln.
This is Susan as she pursues her passions today.
This project, then, will tell the story of her efforts over the course of the gardener’s year, from March 2019 when it begins to wake up from its winter rest until, 365 days later, the last of the winter vegetables are dug up to make way for the new season’s rejuvenation.
You can follow the story here, as it evolves in a series of episodes and diversions, leading from one thing to another , not randomly in a fight for survival as nature would intend, but in a series of interventions that the gardener undertakes to gently bring order to what would otherwise seem like chaos. Or at least give that impression.