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(Potato?) Art at Stonehurst Place

Stonehurst Place began for me as an artistic project. While finishing interior and garden design school in London, I found this beautiful historic treasure in my hometown that needed TLC, a keen design eye, and a thoughtfully historic restoration. I became my own first client, and in doing so created a living piece of art. Since Stonehurst Place opened in 2008, it has also became an opportunity to share art from our private collection with guests.

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The elusive potato art, a true Barb Shadomy original, hangs in a secluded corner

Our art is varied and interesting; Stonehurst Place guests are provided with a Guide to Art at Stonehurst Place in the A-Z information book in their rooms and suites. It’s fun to walk through the inn and find people with guide in-hand, carefully scrutinizing art works on the walls. There are original Warhol drawings from his pre-Pop Art period as an illustrator, Picasso etchings, a Jim Dine platinum photographic print, a trio of creative William Wegman pieces and my most beloved piece, Lucia, Knockers V by British artist Nina Mae Fowler. Most of our paintings are identified in the guide and are museum quality works of art, which people admire vocally during their stay. One piece of art, however, hangs unassumingly behind the grand piano. It’s small, unmarked, and isn’t mentioned in the art guide. I have sometimes stood in hallways and listened as people ponder that mysterious unnamed work of art, thoughtfully questioning the prestige it must carry to justify its place among our other pieces. What they are discussing, actually, is a true Barb Shadomy Original – it is a piece of potato art I made when I was a child.

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I love this little inside joke I have with myself; during the renovation of Stonehurst I had found this painting in a file of childhood miscellany that my mom had handed over, and now this painting aspires to greatness, surrounded by the works of masters. I had always thought the idea of potato art was funny, until recently I came across an artist who does this seriously. Christoph Niemann is a German illustrator and graphic designer whose children’s book, The Potato King, features art he creates using potatoes to make stamps (just like I did!). The story is an utterly delightful telling of how Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, introduced the potato to his subjects in the 1700s. All the reviews agree that what the potato stamp graphics lack in detail they make up for with their unique bit of whimsy.

The Potato King reminds me of my little potato painting, as well as my inside joke of hanging it in between a Picasso and a Warho