Trading Tales – The Art Boat

Welcome to the second in our series of ‘Trading Tales’. Every Friday at 12 midday UK time, for as long as we have stories to share, we’ll be posting them here.

I’m sure you’ll find it  fascinating to learn more about so many colourful, courageous people who, like us, have left ‘The Rat Race’ and chosen to live an alternative lifestyle on their boats – and aiming to sustain themselves at the same time.

Last we featured Heidi and The Pirate Boat, trading for her first season.

Introducing Jan Vallance

Jan Vallance, The Art Boat

A stunning shot of Jan by Kevin Maslin

What do you sell from your boat and why?

I am Jan, the resident captain and artist on Tonka aka The Art Boat, which I run as a trading boat alongside my partner Barry, woodblock, shelf and awning maker, mender of all things and giver of moral support … he prefers the term Technical Assistant.

I sell paintings, prints and cards from The Art Boat, all of which I paint or make myself.  Barry (the Technical Assistant) provides the means to display my work with a purpose-built awning and display shelves.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?

I have lived several lives.  I originally trained and worked as a dancer, in Spain, Malta, Finland, Germany and other places. I can’t remember them all at the moment. Following that I set up with a friend making hand-framed knitwear from a studio in Chester.

A short spell as a primary school teacher was followed by the hardest career choice I made to date … bringing up my four children.

I have always painted, and the fact that this is what I do now for a living makes me one of the luckiest people I know.

Barry has also lived several lives. He started in the merchant Navy (useful as he is also my Chief Engineer), followed by many years as a Firefighter (also useful as he has just dismantled my scarily rusty stove … the best kind of fire fighting!).  He is now ‘Riko’ the dogs’ main carer (and my Technical Assistant/Chief Engineer).

I bought Tonka 6-7 years ago, and lived on it at the bottom of my Mum’s garden with my two youngest boys, until they decided as older teenagers that they could get a better internet signal at the house and migrated across the garden.

Give us a glimpse into the how and why you decided to become a Floating Trader?

… and so the boys migrated across the garden, then they got older, and I was not so needed.  All of a sudden Tonka was all mine! I was already painting and doing exhibitions and craft fairs so the step to Floating Trader seemed an easy and logical one.  The timing was right and I had already filled the boys space with a Technical Assistant and ship’s dog.

The Art Boat is now my home, studio and floating gallery. I travel the canal system, popping up at floating markets, festivals, and sometimes just on my own.

One of Jan's art works - 'Lockgates'

One of Jan’s art works – ‘Lockgates’

Describe the joys and drawbacks you’ve experienced to date as a Floating Trader …

Joys …

Taking part in the ‘Artist on the Canals’ tour last year.  Three ‘Art Boats’ travelling together, and ‘popping up’ along the canals, with exhibitions at various places running in conjunction.

Also leading a perfectly wonderful life making a living from what I love best, meeting other traders, and just chatting about art, life and stuff, and the stuff of life with people on the towpath.

Drawbacks …

The weather (I am sure this will be mentioned many times by various traders), in particular wind and rain, as even my wonderful awning can only stand up to so much.

Also why aren’t all my favourite festivals within a 15 mile stretch of canal?

The Art Boat

The Technical Assistant/Chief Engineer

Is there any sage wisdom you could share with anyone reading who may be contemplating venturing into this watery ‘working’ world?

Research and storage … unrelated but equally important.  Work out what you want to do/sell and then research whether there is a market, and if other people are already doing it.  If so, is there room for one more? Where are you going to store your goods if you decide to sell stuff?

Have a long hard think about these things … and then do it anyway.  I did and I have never been happier.


Anything else you would like to add?

I also have a studio in Vernon Mill in Stockport which I use in the winter to paint larger works, although, as my cruising time gets longer (7 months this year) I don’t get to visit it as often as I would like.

Connect with Jan

Visit my website
Visit (and like!) The Art Boat on Facebook

Where can you find The Art Boat

You can find The Art Boat at Rickmansworth Canal Festival this weekend 21st 22nd May, and at Middlewich Folk and Boat festival 18th 19th June. We would love to see you there … come and say hello!

8 thoughts on “Trading Tales – The Art Boat

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  7. Trading Tales, nice theme. I look forward to the next feature. Good luck at Mercia Marina, I’m very fond of that place. Cheers,

    • Thanks Phil, lots of lovely tales to tell over the coming weeks.
      Mercia Marina is as windy as ever, but such a delightful place.
      I hear winter’s arrived on the sunny east coast? Keep warm and well 😉

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