Meet Andy Garner

Abstract artist, belly board enthusiast
and master crafter:

Many of you will recognise Andy, who works here at our store three days a week. But when he’s not helping customers on the shop floor, he’s often found either at the beach riding the waves or tucked away in his artist studio. Master craftsman, photographer, one-time skater-boy and belly boarder extraordinaire: Andy is a well-travelled Cornishman with many talents, as we discover in the first of our new series “Meet the Team”.

Andy, hand planing

Take a close look at one of Andy’s wonderfully bold, abstract paintings or his handmade belly boards and hand planes, and very quickly you’ll unearth the exquisite detail, hints of emotion and hours of dedication that go into creating each one. Every board and plane is unique, a sleek work of art designed to be used and cherished; every painting conjuring emotions from within.

“All my work is inspired or influenced by what I’ve grown up with and what I see around Cornwall,” says Andy. “Colours, sculpted forms, other artists’ works, things I glimpse in the landscapes. These are reflected in the shapes, lines and colours I use and each painting, board and hand plane has a story behind it.

“The colours and style of my paintings will often take different twists and turns,” he muses. “Most of the time, I love to use high colour, but I am greatly influenced by my surroundings and overwhelming feelings they invoke. When you get older, I think you become more aware of your mortality. When I walk, for example, I think about those I love, as well as the balance and appreciation of life as it changes over time. So my paintings are a journey – aesthetically and emotionally.”

Growing up just outside Truro, Andy was a typical Cornish boy – skateboarding and surfing through his teens. He left school at 16 and went to work for a photographic printing company that specialised in wedding photography. Realising his latent gift for taking a well-framed photo, he headed off to London, via Plymouth Art College where he studied Photography for three years. There, he worked for a number of high-end photographers including Norman Hollis and Alex Wilson on subjects ranging from architecture and inanimate objects to people and portraits.

His big break came at the age of 28, with an offer to go and live in the Middle East and work as a photographer. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands and headed off to pursue his photographic career, supplemented by taking several art commissions for a number of distinguished luminaries and clients in Dubai. “It was an interesting time living in the Middle East – navigating the uneasiness of the hierarchical society, and being an expat, but trying not to live as one! Most of the time it didn’t sit too comfortably with me.”

Personal circumstances saw him return to Cornwall 12 years ago – and back to his first love. Surfing. “These days you’ll find me more often on a belly board or using a hand plane – it’s a real thrill to be so close to the waves and to feel their power,” Andy enthuses. “It’s not like boogie boarding as you have to use your own body for buoyancy so there’s a definite skill to know when and how to catch one.”

And it is his deep connection with Cornwall and the sea, in particular the cut of the waves, combined with this artistry, that has brought Andy full circle, making stunning belly boards and hand planes that double as pieces of art. Made from pressed double or triple marine ply, intersected with carbon fibre to give them a single or double concave flex, then cut to shape and painted or stained to order, Andy’s colourful boards and planes never fail to deliver the wow factor.

They perform magnificently too.  Gwyn Haslock, Britain’s first competitive female surfing champion and world champion belly boarder who is well into her 70s and who continues to surf every day, rides on a board made by Andy. His daughter was thrice crowned World Belly Board Champion on a board made especially for her, while Andy himself took the bronze medal position at last year’s Championships.  Indeed, belly boards made by Andy are never too far from the podium at the annual competition held in Perranporth every September.

And for those of us, like me, who can only dream of catching a wave, let alone having the aptitude to do so on a belly board, there’s always the opportunity to admire a piece of Andy’s work hung on a wall at home. 

Andy’s work is being exhibited in store until the end of August. Come and enjoy his work, and if you feel inspired to buy a piece, please talk to Andy or a member of the store’s team.