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The art of hospitality

Words by Samantha Kirton

Turning heads with an impressive collection of original Cornish artworks.

The five-star Una St Ives at Carbis Bay has a well-won reputation for its spa and leisure facilities, relaxed Una Kitchen restaurant and eco self-catering Lodges. However, when branding consultancy Heavenly was called upon to develop a fresh look, feel and marketing campaign for Una St Ives resort at Carbis Bay, it didn’t take the team long to come up with the inspiration they needed. ‘The Art of Hospitality’ was the idea that summed up what the resort is all about.

While this can be taken to refer to the world-class travel standards that owners Kingfisher Resorts – who enjoy a track record of running high-end hotels and resorts across the UK and beyond – and the whole Una St Ives team adhere to, scratch a little deeper and the smart mantra encapsulates so much more. From its setting on the fringes of the renowned artistic hub of St Ives to the original paintings on the walls and the design, build and fit-out of its stunning new luxury villas that are available to purchase on a ‘live and let’ basis, art is integral to the Una St Ives experience.

This connection to the arts came to the fore this summer with the luxury self-catering resort’s inaugural Artist in Residence Exhibition, showcasing the work of Falmouth University alumna Jordan Amy Lee. The London-based illustrator has been collaborating with Una St Ives to create an original body of work since 2019. Her pieces caught the attention of the team when they first started looking at Falmouth graduates for contemporary art to feature across the resort’s marketing materials as well as adorning its walls.

Portraying the beauty to be found in everyday life, Jordan’s ‘digital collages’ incorporate ink drawing, painting, printmaking and collage work. Playing with composition and proportions, her work is bold and minimal with a graphic feel. As a graduate of Falmouth University, Cornwall holds a special place in Jordan’s heart, with her relationship with Una offering inspiration for her work whilst sustaining her affinity with the Cornish creative scene. Her specially commissioned illustrations for Una depict the quality of life across the St Ives areas and includes her unique interpretations of Carbis Bay, Porthmeor Beach and St Ives harbour. She was also commissioned to create a few dedicated pieces as part of the rebrand, and guests can see her distinctive illustrations on the menus at Una Kitchen.

“Discovering Jordan’s work was a wonderful find for Una St Ives. We immediately identified that her perspective and style was in perfect synergy with our ethos and branding,” says James Hemming, Resort Director, Una St Ives. This is not simply paying lip-service, Una St Ives is committed to supporting and engaging with creative communities. A factor that was a “key driver in our decision to announce an exhibition of Jordan’s work,” says James. “We had all this artwork that had been commissioned and no-one was really aware that it was here, or why, or of its provenance.”

The Artist in Residence exhibition also offered the opportunity to shine a light on the other artists in Una’s established collection, which includes Judy Willoughby, Christine Bowen and Nina Brooke. “Much of the art at Una St Ives has been created by artists with whom we have very long-standing working relationships,” explains Nigel Chapman, Executive Chairman of Kingfisher Resorts.Judy Willoughby documented the conversion of Woolley Grange Hotel (part of the Luxury Family Hotels stable, which Chapman founded in 1989) and has continued to paint for the hotel over the years. “It seems that wherever we have developed hotels and resorts, Judy has been with us to help bring these places to life,” says Nigel. “This relationship continues at Una.” Her series of Una artworks were born from St Ives fairy tales and stories. With a narrative feel, these fantastical Cornish scenes feature animals, sea creatures and colourful characters.

“Christine Bowen is an Irish artist who we met while we were reviving Sheen Falls Lodge Hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry,” Nigel continues. “Christine painted many works for the hotel including a St Finian’s Holy Well inspired mural.” For Una, she took inspiration during her time spent in Carbis Bay and St Ives. Most notably, her series ‘The St Ives thieves’ depicts the cheeky local seagulls stealing ice cream from tourists. Meanwhile, Nina Brooke’s abstract seascapes capture a distinctive bird’s eye perspective. Vivid, colourful and energetic, her work experiments with perspective, colour and texture; creating a unique alternative to the classic seascape. “We were lucky enough to discover Nina when she had just left Falmouth Art College and was an emerging artist,” says Nigel. “Nina’s paintings are inspired by her life by the sea, particularly in Cornwall, which fits perfectly with the outlook of Una St Ives.”

As part of the first Artist in Residence Exhibition, Jordan was invited to stay at Una St Ives and delve more into the local art community. This included a visit to the Tate St Ives, Barbara Hepworth Museum and trying her hand at throwing a pot at the Leach Pottery. “Jordan is always seeking inspiration for her future works, so we organised for her to explore the rich and wide-ranging art heritage of St Ives,” says Nigel. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to have this on our doorstep and are constantly looking for ways to develop our relationship with the arts.” The culmination of the first exhibition at Una St Ives doesn’t spell the end of this relationship, but rather a beginning. “This was really a first step or a springboard for us. We will continue to develop our collaboration with Jordan,” says Nigel. “We’re in discussion about a Falmouth University undergraduate art exhibition that Jordan would curate with the art purchasing team at Una. We will also continue to work with our long-standing artist partners, who now include Helston-based Nicola Bealing, to help bring to life the next phase of developments at the resort.”

There are also plans to retain a permanent display of Jordan’s original artwork in the reception area of Una St Ives. Additionally, limited edition prints will appear in the new villas that are currently under construction. These will be bookable for guest stays from early 2023 and are also available to buy. “Owners enjoy up to six weeks usage a year, as well as a guaranteed return on their investment from lettings managed by the resort, making sure that Una is a vibrant place to be all-year round,” says Nigel.

And there’s more to come, with an outdoor Lido swimming pool and adjacent kitchen, bar and restaurant, Padel tennis, 55 apartments, a total of 93 holiday villas and a central Piazza with a bar, restaurant and further leisure facilities. Speaking to Jordan following the culmination of the exhibition, she admits to finding the whole experience very special:“I feel that the connection I have with Una St Ives and the surrounding area is well established at this point, and that being able to visit Cornwall each year has enabled me to continue and even strengthen the relationship I have with the county, and certainly St Ives,” she says.

“I did a lot of sketching when I was out and about, capturing people drinking and chatting in pubs, seagulls stealing people’s food, whatever food I was eating (some of which was stolen by seagulls) and of course the landscapes. I don’t often illustrate landscapes, but Cornish landscapes have my heart and it’s difficult to not want to at least try. The artwork I made as part of my Una residency included the local landscapes and beaches which gave me that chance to try something new and branch out my style and subject matter, and I’m very keen to continue developing more work of the sort.

She finishes by saying: “The Artist in Residence exhibition itself meant a lot to me. I’ve been part of exhibitions before, but this was the first made up solely of my own work. Everyone I spoke to agreed that St Ives was a very special place, especially for an artist. I must admit that having an exhibition in Cornwall, the home of so much important art and where my career as an illustrator began, did feel very special indeed.”


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