I’ve discovered a talent I didn’t know I had’

Deirdre Foster was ready for a  change, but she has been delighted by the way God has answered her prayers for a new direction in life

For 15 years I taught an air cabin crew qualification at our local college and loved it. As ex-British Airways crew, I relished and enthusiastically delivered a subject that I enjoyed and that would help my students attain the career of their dreams.

Sadly, though, my enthusiasm had begun to wane. I found myself having chats with God in the car on the way into college as to how he could help me change my life and move to something closer to home, and closer to my heart. I had absolutely no plan in my head, not a clue, but I knew I wanted a change of direction and I put myself into God’s hands, and waited to see what might evolve.

Well, ‘closer to home’ was it, literally. In 2010, my siblings and I had to take on the responsibility of being carers for my 95-year-old father. So, I left my teaching role and took on a more rewarding role as a carer, shopper, cook and cleaner. Happily, I relished this new daily routine which, although hard work at times, is really very easy as I do love my dad!

However, I quickly realised that the intensity of looking after an elderly parent, coupled with a 70-mile round trip on a daily basis was taking its toll. I needed some sort of sideline, somewhere else to focus, to de-stress.

Just three years earlier, I had walked the local beach at Alnmouth, on the beautiful coastline of Northumberland, only a few miles south of Bamburgh Castle. Always by my side was my much-loved dog Phil, a bearded collie. When he died, due to old age, I found my grief would not allow me to re-visit the area, even though it is a stunning beach and estuary; it was too sad a paradise and just too full of memories.

Then, one day, I took my little granddaughter down there. I took a deep breath and told her we were going to collect shells but, by the time we returned to the car, our bucket was not only overflowing with the usual limpet shells, but also a handful of beautiful driftwood that would normally have been used in the much-loved ‘you chuck it and I will fetch it and chew in into little pieces’ game that Phil adored!

I really love the style of driftwood, either on its own or when crafted into pieces and displayed in the home or garden. I had seen it used creatively to decorate mirrors and picture frames and, using the pieces we had collected, I began to create my own.

I started with wooden picture frames, placing dark driftwood round antique frames and pale smooth shapes round pine. I gave them as gifts to friends and family, and they loved them. Encouraged by their comments, I put my work on display and soon tourists were buying the photo frames. It was an amazing feeling of achievement to realise someone liked my beach art enough to buy it.

College life was good, but now I am so much happier. I am free to care for dad and regularly visit my favourite beach to enjoy a session of beachcombing. When the weather is set fair, there is nowhere else I would rather be. I look out for rope knots that have been made by fishermen, cut and cast overboard, and sea glass, as well as the natural driftwood shapes that are thrown to the shore. I piece them together and create hearts, crosses, lamp stands and kitchen wreaths. I continue to decorate mirrors and photo frames, and also take commissions for bespoke pieces.

I always take a separate bag with me and clear the beach as I go of plastic bags, bottles, cans, babies’ dummies and plastic cigarette lighters. Litter spoils the beach as well as being a danger to our wild life, so I feel I am actively giving something back.

I’ve always loved interiors and putting a style together, but God has led me to discover a talent I never knew I had. Recently, a close friend, also a reader of Woman Alive, commissioned me to make a Celtic cross because she was finding it difficult to source one. It was a real joy and pleasure to work on this piece and a lovely way to show my thanks to God for his guidance.

* To find out more about Deirdre’s work e-mail ?