A fundraising exhibition will showcase the paintings of a Wrexham pensioner who rediscovered her artistic talent while living with dementia.
Pat Rayfield did not take up watercolour painting until she was aged 85, after she was diagnosed with dementia. She went on to produce 150 artworks.
Now following her death a year ago, aged 93, Pat’s family is to stage a one day exhibition of the extraordinary collection and is offering the paintings for sale in aid of the charity Dementia Friendly Wrexham.
As a token of support one of Wales’ top artists, Snowdonia-based Ann Fellows has donated two original ink drawings for the family to auction at the event.
Sheila Austin, one of Pat’s five children, will be coming up from her home in Cardiff especially for the exhibition at Regent Street Methodist Church, Wrexham, on April 14.
The family hopes it will promote awareness about the creative potential of people living with dementia.
Sheila said: “What started as a vague idea when we discovered all Mum’s paintings has snowballed into an exciting event and wonderful tribute to Mum.”
Ann Fellows taught an art course which Pat and daughter Sheila attended in 2008. Another of Pat’s art tutors, Margaret Roberts, of Wrexham, will also be at the exhibition to talk about her memories of working with Pat and the benefits of art for people living with dementia.
Sheila said: “We’re so grateful to Ann and everyone who’s helped.
“Mum did show some interest in art many years ago and created a small number of oil paintings, but then she became busy with other things and didn’t take up painting again until she was 85. That was the first time she tried watercolours which she’d never used before.
“When she eventually went to live at Emral House residential home in Wrexham, Margaret was wonderful with her. She would visit regularly to tutor her.”
Sheila also credited her late father, John Rayfield, with helping her mum rediscover her natural talent.
She said: “From the moment mum was diagnosed Dad refused to let dementia define her. He sought out activities she could enjoy unrestricted by the perceived barriers which many falsely believe dementia can impose.”
Dementia Friendly Wrexham chair Norah Lucas, wife of Wrexham MP Ian Lucas, said John was a true pioneer of Dementia Friendly philosophies, someone who realised that dementia does not automatically mean the end of a person’s accomplishments.
She said: “Pat’s paintings are positive proof of that.
“John realised before many of us that we must not let misconceptions about dementia deny people an opportunity to explore new outlets. His approach to the condition was to work with it rather than let it overwhelm you. He realised this instinctively even before groups like ours were established.”
Norah and Ian became involved with Dementia Friendly Wrexham after Ian’s mother, Alice Lucas, was diagnosed with dementia.
They are working to overcome discrimination which can leave people with dementia feeling segregated from society and also to raise awareness of how people who deal with members of the public can help, by doing a few small things that can make a big difference to someone living with dementia.
Most of the works are copies of photographs or pictures from books and magazines, and are unframed. They encompass diverse themes including landscapes, birds, insects, flowers, wildlife and a handful of abstract paintings. There is one of fireworks going off on bonfire night and one of a meerkat.
Pat completed her last painting in November 2016, a fiery orange and amber scene of glowing autumnal trees.
She and John were both dedicated members of Regent Street Methodist Church, where John was once a lay preacher. As well as Sheila, they have two other daughters, Ann Edwards-Smith and Alison Maze, and two sons, Paul and Mark Rayfield.
Their granddaughter Jo Edwards, of Bradley, near Wrexham, said: “The family is pretty spread out all around the UK, from London and Cardiff to Anglesey. But we’re all planning to make it here for the big day and we invite as many people as possible to come along and support the exhibition. Everyone is very welcome.”
Jo herself has followed in her grandmother’s creative footsteps, but using another medium – chocolate. She runs her own chocolatier company Aballu which exhibits at Llangollen Food Festival.
She said: “Nanan was naturally arty. My memories of her always involve her doing something crafty like knitting or cooking. She had real talent and her natural flare really shines through.”
* The Pat Rayfield paintings exhibition in aid of Dementia Friendly Wrexham will be at Regent Street Methodist Church, Wrexham, on April 14, from 10.30am.