Artist Eleanor Brooks hired the frail Mrs Spinks as her cleaner in 1966. It was clear from the start that cleaning was not her strength; washed up dishes would be stacked in cupboards, poised ready to eject on the door being opened; the iron would burn through clothes etc. By way of damage limitation Eleanor switched her duties from cleaning to posing as her model.
As a model Mrs Spinks was like having a cast of thousands. Fidgeting, talking, always changing - her personality altered by some item or trinket picked up in a charity shop.
After her death in 1975 Eleanor Brooks mounted an exhibition of paintings showing the many faces of Mrs Spinks as well as sculptures and a mock up of the bedsit room in which she lived. A trunk filled with her souvenirs, a cardboard wardrobe with clothes, a lifesize but tiny Mrs Spinks sat in a cardboard armchair, clutching a packet of Players No. 6 and watching a cardboard TV.
Twice a year for 10 years the exhibition was displayed across Britain before being packed away and stored.
Many years on Eleanor Brooks no longer lives in London but Llanfrothen (near Porthmadog) and the exhibition has been resurrected. In its latest incarnation it can be enjoyed in the upstairs gallery of the beautiful Caffi in Croseor, a tiny village beneath the mountain of Cnicht (the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’) at the end of a narrow lane. Just over the mountains from the Vale of Ffestiniog.
It will be open every weekend between 10:30 and 4:30, from 29th January until closing on 10th April 2011. To bring it to life Eleanor Brooks will be there each Sunday afternoon to show people around and talk about Mrs Spinks.
To get a flavour of the exhibition have a look at this film of Eleanor and Mrs Spinks