Mrs Woodrow, Art Teacher Remembered

It is with sadness that we learned of the death of Margaret Tielman-Ward (formerly Margaret Woodrow); a popular teacher of Art and Textiles at Woodbridge School between 1975 and 1982.  Former pupils will remember her as ‘Mrs. Woodrow’, working alongside Mr. Purvis in the Art Department.  Her sons, James and Patrick, were pupils at Woodbridge at around the same time.

Margaret trained at Ipswich Art School under lecturer and renowned painter Colin Moss, and graduated in 1953 with a National Diploma in Design (NDD). She was recognised as a talented student, and went on to obtain her Art Teachers Diploma (ATD) in Brighton before embarking upon a career in teaching.

Margaret’s children fondly recall their living room floor being scattered with Woodbridge School pupils’ drawings and paintings, while she engaged in marathon marking sessions.  It was at this time that she organised the creation of a huge classroom patchwork representing the life of St. Francis of Assisi. For this, she embroidered and appliqued a central panel depicting the saint, and her pupils embroidered individual squares decorated with birds, animals and flowers to place around him. The finished piece, in all its glory, was on display at the School for quite some time.

Margaret had a rich and varied life, of which teaching at Woodbridge was only a part.  Married three times, her first husband, artist and lecturer Ian Woodrow, was father to her children, Katherine, James and Patrick.  Marriage number two was to Geert Tielman, a Dutch ex-merchant navy man with whom she moved to Groningen in the north of Holland and lived on a houseboat.  During this period she became a confident Dutch speaker and cook, and came close to living out a girlhood dream to live in a gypsy caravan (the houseboat providing a watery substitute).  Her third marriage was to local stonemason John Green, whom she’d known at Ipswich Art School, though they later divorced.

In the 1990s, Margaret returned to the UK with Geert, and moved into a cottage in Bawdsey. After Geert’s death in 1995, Margaret kept busy teaching overseas students at Bawdsey Manor, and relocated to Alderton, where she created a lovely garden. During this time, she was delighted to welcome two grandchildren, Kathy’s twins Oliver and William.

Margaret was incredibly self-motivated, with a strong creative impetus. She drew, painted and worked with fabrics throughout her life, undeterred by pressures of motherhood or even the squeeze of life on a houseboat.  An extremely gifted and sensitive portrait artist, Margaret also painted landscapes and street scenes depicting, for example, the kerbside encounters of folk in Alderton.

She was certainly enterprising, turning her paintings of ferryboats and crabbing on Bawdsey jetty into postcards, which were sold in the hut there.  In later years, Margaret was also inspired by a vision of secure family and childhood, and this led her to design ‘Caring Cats’, a series of detailed black and white greetings cards which illustrated the warm hurly burly of family life as enacted by clothed cats.

She was undaunted by big brands, and when she created Toly’s Puzzle-Tex Teddy Collection, a series of teddy bear applique kits, for a Dutch manufacturer, she thought nothing of approaching John Lewis’ flagship Oxford Street store, where her handwritten letter, some samples and one interview were sufficient to persuade a lead buyer to stock and sell them. Her sincere belief in the benefits for children of stitching and gluing her applique pictures, and then enjoying stroking the soft, furry, dressed teddy characters, won her this contract over competition from seasoned, professional suppliers.

Margaret moved into Wilding Court in Woodbridge in 2004, where she continued to create and engaged happily in Court life.  In the past year she was also a popular member of Seckford Day Club, which she very much enjoyed attending. 

She died on 22nd April 2020, at the grand old age of 87, with a message, by way of legacy, that you can express your gift at all times and not let life get in the way.

Her loss is deeply felt, while her life is celebrated.