Coombe Farm Studios is a rural centre dedicated to growing creativity. Supported by a beautiful environment, great food & people who actively enable the creative process, it’s a place for making & showing work, for meaning-making and for learning. When Coombe opened in 1983, it was one of the first small artist-led centres offering week-long creative courses. Since then, over the past thirty years, we have built up an amazing network of people from all over the globe, and all walks of life and many of them come back each year.
Today we continue to run residential courses year-round in both the UK & abroad (painting – watercolours, oils, acrylic & mixed media – printmaking and ceramics). We also showcase work from professional artists & makers at our on-site gallery, run a weekly yoga class, host creative retreats with partners from a variety of sectors and support the professional development of a wide range of artists.
Our small-scale allows us to be attentive to the simple things we believe make a great place to grow creativity – skills-based tuition from passionate professional artists, a relaxed atmosphere, a beautiful environment, a shared experience that can challenge and ignite a sense of wonder, delicious food and great company.
This is the 4th year I’ve been here now but the enjoyment doesn’t diminish, it’s so relaxing & tranquil. I love it!
Lara, Martin, Sasha & Rosa
Coombe Farm Studios is run by Lara Lloyd with her husband Martin. Lara grew up at Coombe – it was started by her parents Paul & Tina Riley – after leaving home Lara spent time living and working in village potteries in Vietnam. On returning to the UK she spent 7 years in London working at Contemporary Applied Arts, the Rebecca Hossack Gallery, the British Council and Visiting Arts. On returning to Devon her arts career continued as she worked for 12 years as a programmer and producer of live performance for the Dartington Hall Trust. Lara took over the day-to-day running of Coombe Farm Studios in 2012 alongside her Dartington work and left Dartington in 2015. She now lives and works at Coombe full time alongside her role as a Trustee of the Devon Guild of Craftsman and a Board Member of Dance in Devon.
Martin is an established carpenter, specialising in bespoke doors & windows with a workshop over the fields from Coombe. Together they live on-site at Coombe Farm Studios with their daughters, Sasha & Rosa.
Paul & Tina
Coombe also continues to be the home of Lara’s parents Paul Riley & Tina Riley. Paul is an internationally renowned artist, author and Coombe’s lead tutor (see tutor profiles for full biog). Tina ran her own fashion company prior to running Coombe for thirty years, she now makes exceptional handmade jewellery, curates exhibitions in the gallery and ensures everyone is well fed by tending to our on-site vegetable garden.
Mickey is our fantastic chef. After spending 10 years travelling around the world cooking for bands on tour including Lou Reed, Joan Armatrading , The Spice Girls and Robbie Williams, in between doing ski seasons in Chamonix, Mickey went to work with Tom Conran and run his Deli in Notting Hill . From there she set up her own catering business and cooked for celebrities in their own homes. On starting a family with two busy boys Devon became home and there’s no looking back! Mickey is a great asset to the Coombe team bringing a wealth of experience and fantastic energy to the team.
Ruth is responsible for looking after the gardens, housekeeping and keeping an eye on the building maintenance at Coombe. She has worked on the land and as a cook in different centres in Europe, England and Scotland, including the busy retreat centres Dhanakosa (Scotland) EcoDharma (Spain) and Buddhafield (Devon) she’s also a maker, focusing her time on beautiful weaving and textiles. Her calm and organised mind is a joy to have at Coombe she loves living in Devon and tries to spend as much time as possible outside wandering about.
Coombe Farm Studios in the beginning
Coombe Farm Studios was founded by Paul & Tina Riley, who had been working in London as an architect and fashion designer respectively, but wanted to move out of London to give more space to their family, and so Paul could concentrate on his chosen career as an artist. In Devon they found a place in which their dreams could be realised. On the plaque outside the entrance to the studios Paul carved the words
“Coombe Farm Studios Built By Her Friends 1983”
These words are in recognition of the enormous contribution made by people – farmers, architects, artists, builders and willing friends – who we met and who helped during the building years. As a result of their input Coombe started to grow organically and Paul & Tina realised that they had moved into an area not only designated as one of outstanding natural beauty but also of huge creative talent. Wanting to ensure that talent surrounded their everyday lives at Coombe, whilst also supporting others, the programme of courses, workshops and exhibitions came into being.
Coombe family history
The history of art practice runs deep in the Coombe family history – Lara’s great-grandfather was the prominent Czech painter Miloš Jiránek. Miloš was an artist whose work was heavily influenced by artistic movements outside of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He was instrumental in developing a new sense of Czech artistic identity that embraced the art movements happening in Paris and the wider European horizons.To this end he and others formed the Manes Society and invited noted European artists to exhibit with them in Prague. Of particular note are Auguste Rodin, Edvard Munch & Alphons Mucha.
The image above shows Auguste Rodin & Alfons Mucha, followed by Miloš Jiránek (Lara Lloyd’s great grandfather), Josef Mařatka, and Joža Uprka