Andy Christian obituary

Other Lives: Artist and educator who set up a craft and business course in Cumbria and directed the Guild of Craftsmen in Devon

My father, Andy Christian, who has died from cancer aged 69, was an arts professional, journalist and educator. He was well known in the south-west of England crafts community.

Born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, Andy was the son of Ethel (nee Cooper), known as Mary, and Wallace Christian, a proofreader, and grew up in a Strict Baptist community in Letchworth. He had an older brother, David, and sister, Sheila. At Norton school, Letchworth, his peers knew him as “Onward”, and he was a keen artist and avid reader. His first exhibition of paintings came at David’s Books, a local bookshop, in 1969. At that time, the artist Adrian Campbell (his A-level art teacher) and Peter Scupham (a poet and English teacher) were big influences. Aged 17, he started working at the London Library.

Trees and mountains are painted in pastel colours on a long piece of watercolour paper
Section of ‘Rainbow concertina book’, made at Rowcroft Hospice, 2023, from the collection of Laurel Keeley. Photograph: Pam and Paul Biddle Photograph: Pam and Paul Biddle/family photo

In 1972 Andy went to Goldsmiths’ College (now Goldsmiths, University of London) to study art and education. He was vice-president of the students’ union, encouraging others to join him in protesting against apartheid in South Africa and in support of CND and other political projects on the left. He lived in Lewisham with Susie Honnor, whom he met at Goldsmiths’ and married in 1977. They had two children, but separated in 1993 and later divorced.

In 1976 Andy moved to Cumbria to live and work at Banks Head, home of the artist Winifred Nicholson. He set up the first craft and business course at Cumbria College of Art and Design in Carlisle and supported the dynamic programme (including a children’s art space and community workshops) at the avant-garde LYC museum and art gallery. There he socialised with artists including David Nash, Andy Goldsworthy, Delia Derbyshire and the gallery’s founder, Li Yuan-chia, and wrote about them for the Artists’ Newsletter and the Christian Science Monitor.

During the 1980s and 90s he was the director of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen (now MAKE Southwest), and later managing director of the Cider Press Centre at Dartington, near Totnes. He collaborated widely, most recently with the sculptor Heather Jansch on two books, Heather Jansch’s Diary and Bert Jansch, as well as writing for Ceramic Review and setting up a consultancy firm for artists with his friend Bill Dodd. He was outspoken about living with bipolar disorder and was popular in his town, Ashburton in Devon.

Ceramics from the series Shards, made at Rowcroft Hospice, 2023. Photograph: Pam and Paul Biddle
Ceramics from the series Shards, made at Rowcroft Hospice, 2023. Photograph by Pam and Paul Biddle Photograph: Photograph by Pam and Paul Biddle/family photo

During his short illness he made many paintings and drawings and produced the ceramics series Shards with the ceramicists Blandine Anderson and Laurel Keeley.

He is survived by his children, Robin and me, and siblings, David and Sheila.

Jessie McDonald

The GuardianTramp

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