AN AMBULANCE worker has unveiled a cooperative which gives local artists and craftspeople a platform for their work.

Tony Ayling will officially open Woodland Interiors in a unit at Congburn Garden Centre, Edmondsley, near Chester-le-Street, on Saturday, at 10am.

Mr Ayling, a clinical care assistant, with the North East Ambulance Service, who has also been a police officer and an airline cabin crew member, said: “Upholstery is something I have always done. I became a master tailor while I was in the army, so I have sewn my entire life.”

“I also do decoupage, on pots and candles.”

He added: “Everyone has kept saying to me I should open a shop. Then this unit came up two months ago.

“Things have snowballed and I have invited several other local artists, who create paintings and all kinds of unique pieces, to display and sell their work here, as part of a co-operative."

Joanne Rowland, a pets, portrait and wildlife artist, of Consett, who makes fine art cards and prints her work on cushions, said: “When I was invited to come here I felt the place was just right.

“It has such a lovely feel about it. Tony is really interested and excited by the people he has invited to be part of it. It’s such a nice feeling to be part of the it."

Among the other artists featured are Carla Wood, of Chester-le-Street, who makes a range of toys, papercutting artist Keely Pearce, of Hartlepool, who creates art inspired by nature and the seasons and Molly Rose, of Consett, who handpaints gift plaques and baubles.

Johnny Savage, forages wood and crafts and repurposes it into stools and plant pots, while Tony Keegan uses a laser to make kits of regional landmarks. Mr Ayling’s daughter, Lucy, produces a range of artificial flowers.

The unit is open from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.