As a teacher of art in Herefordshire schools, my friend and colleague Sandy Elliott, who has died aged 71, encouraged her pupils to become more than they felt they could be and many owe the development of their careers to this early encouragement.
However, her talent for inspiring the young was not confined to the classroom. She was also a formidable fencing coach as well as an excellent fencer herself, and led teams from school at national and international level.
Born in Braintree, Essex, Sandy was the elder daughter of an Italian mother, Angela (nee Orciuolo), a dressmaker, and an English father, Lionel Elliott, a factor worker at Crittall Windows, and she rejoiced in both cultures. After leaving Alec Hunter secondary school, Braintree, at the age of 19 she moved to Hereford to train as a teacher of art. She fell in love with the county and never left, becoming assistant teacher and then head of department in three consecutive schools, Kingstone high school, Belmont Abbey and Aylestone school.
An artist in her own right, Sandy painted a mural for Our Lady’s church, Hereford, and designed an imaginative mosaic at the west end of Hereford Cathedral, based on the carol Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree (installed when the Cathedral Close was refurbished in 2011). Both of these works are mentioned in Nikolaus Pevsner’s Herefordshire.
She painted a mural in a beauty salon, and drew numerous humorous cartoons. She was a skilled book illustrator, her work most notably seen in Saints and Sinners of the Marches, which I wrote in 2012 and for which she delighted in producing 366 illustrations – one for each day of the year. In addition, she was involved in the design and construction of stage sets for schools and local groups. The sets were frequently given a round of applause of their own.
Sandy enthralled many audiences with her illustrated talks both on her own work and the art world at large, and led a highly successful visit to the art galleries of Paris for the Friends of Hereford Cathedral.
On her retirement from teaching, Sandy was especially pleased to be asked in 2008 to join the chapter of Hereford Cathedral, where she had worshipped ever since coming to the city. As a lay canon she made an invaluable contribution to cathedral life and was honoured with the title canon emeritus when she retired in 2017. She loved life and lived it enthusiastically with a ready smile and plenty of laughter.
Sandy is survived by her sister, Anita.