Keen to make a contribution to an ABC Open project focused on seniors, we had the exquisite good fortune of being introduced to Pat Rhodes.
At 85, Pat’s an artist and a support worker for a person with disability. That’s a stellar combination for an Art Partners feature story.
Meeting Pat was thoughtfully organised by Coordinator Kelli Carlisle of disability support agency Enable Southwest. Kelli kindly drove us – including photographer Rob Cox of oxy images – to Pat’s rural property near Harvey.
We arrived in the pouring rain, and Pat along with house guest and relative Rhea, were at the front door to greet us.
We were ushered inside a home that was thoughtfully curated with Pat’s art and craft – paintings, pots and prints featured prominently. And there was a riot of colour provided by crocheted spreads.
We were invited to the dining table to partake in a lunchtime feast of beautifully prepared sandwiches and meat pies. There was an atmosphere of abundance given the food, the company and the remarkable stories that Pat had to tell.
An Absorbing Story
Pat’s life story was amazing: she spent nine years raising three children on her own; married a second time and welcomed a loving husband into her life as well as four stepsons; and, eventually attended art school full time with the support and encouragement of her family.
A Project Person
Pat described herself as a ‘project person,’ and someone who is focused on getting things done. This was evident in the beautifully executed and abundant body of work on display.
Pat’s an accomplished potter who’d developed glazes and taught at Rockingham Technical College. She told us that “if you can make a teapot that doesn’t dribble down the front, you’ve arrived.”
Pat’s been knitting since she was a child. Her interest grew from there and she now spins wool from fleece.
She also dyes the wool using spices including turmeric. The wool is all meticulously catalogued as captured below.
Pat’s art school education included, of course, the art of painting. A number of large canvasses occupy pride of place in her home.
Major in Sculpture
In art school, Pat majored in sculpture. Here she holds a beautiful maquette (stone ware with iron oxide wash).
Inspired by Beauty
When Pat showed us her vistas, she said “her property is as close to heaven as she’s going to get.” In this photo, Pat’s juxtaposes a view from her home with a painting in progress.
Three Top Tips
We were curious how someone could be 85 and appear to be remarkably young in physical presence, energy and intellect. When asked for her three top tips, Pat’s answers were almost instantaneous. First, she said “look after your body as it has to last a long time.” Her next tip was “be respectful of other people.” And, third “education is critical so learn as much as you can.”
Staying Socially Connected
The presence of social contact for Pat appeared to be woven throughout the fabric of her life. She told us that “there’s nothing quite like a cup of tea, a bit of company and a jolly good laugh.”
She had relative Rhea as a house guest. She welcomed Keith – a person with disability – to her home once a week. And, she also had a mutually supportive relationship with a rural neighbor.
Final Bits of Wisdom
Following our afternoon in the country, Pat made telephone contact to share a few other thoughts and insights. “Plan ahead,” she urged “but at the same time be adaptable to change, and deal with whatever the day throws at you.”
Do you have any helpful hints that might lead others down the path to an abundant and productive life? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
For a personal reflection on this meeting with Pat Rhodes, visit ABC Open right here.
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