Sally Reid obituary

Other lives: Artist who explored ceramics, needlework and multimedia embroidery

My wife, Sally Reid, who has died aged 73 of brain cancer, was a gifted, prolific and successful artist. She studied ceramics at Horsham School of Art (1976), ceramics and fine art at Chelsea School of Art, London (1977-79), and completed many other courses at West Dean College, West Sussex, between 1980 and 2019.

At first specialising in ceramics, she was also a skilled seamstress and experimented in many other fields including multi-media embroidery. In the 1970s and 80s she sold her wares from her stall in Covent Garden market, London.

Born in Worthing, West Sussex, Sally was educated at the town’s high school for girls. Her father, Tony Linfield, was a Spitfire pilot in the second world war and her mother, Pat (nee Schramm), a Red Cross nurse who gifted her daughter a strong sense of healing.

Deeply affected by the experiences of her younger sister, Tessa, in coping with disabilities (Tessa died as a teenager), Sally developed a parallel career as an NHS occupational therapist, graduating from the University of London school of occupational therapy in 1971, and first worked in St Mary’s hospital, Paddington, under the neurologist Sir Roger Bannister.

She later trained in physical rehabilitation in Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire, helping ex-RAF pilots recover from burns and spinal injuries. Her illustrations were used in guides to rehabilitation.

After moving into mental health care, she used art therapy for severely disturbed children and creating murals with Alzheimer’s patients. As head of occupational therapy at the Maudsley psychiatric hospital, London (1985-92), she championed novel events where staff (without uniforms) would interact with patients in a more informal therapeutic setting.

Chanctonbury Ring by Sally Reid, 2021
Chanctonbury Ring by Sally Reid, 2021 Illustration: Sally Reid

Sally and I met as students in London, married in 1979 and went to Nigeria, where I conducted research and taught zoology at the University of Sokoto, and she worked as an art teacher. Her first lesson was intended to be a “still life” of a basket of fruit but, turning round from the blackboard, she found the bowl empty and all the fruit bulging in children’s mouths.

Our adventures included travelling deep in the Sahara desert in a battered Volkswagen Beetle, sleeping under the stars beside a Tuareg camp. She took photographs and completed many ethnographic sketches. In December 1980 we fled from Nigeria at the height of the Maitatsene Islamic riots.

We arrived back in the UK penniless, but gradually rebuilt our lives, and our son, Alexander, was born in 1985. Eventually we moved to Malpas, Cheshire, and Sally helped me greatly in conservation charity fundraising and in developing a “Dreamnight” at Chester Zoo for terminally ill children and their carers.

Sally was a founder member of a collective of female artists who sold via their shop, Number 8, in Malpas. A 2003 article in Cheshire Life described her style as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and her work was exhibited throughout the UK and Ireland.

Sally is survived by me and Alexander.


Gordon McGregor Reid

The GuardianTramp

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