Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 15:29 UK

Laura Ashley sculpture unveiled

Artist Katie Scarlett Howard and sponsor Nigel Petrie with the sculpture
The sculpture of Laura Ashley was unveiled at Glansevern Hall Gardens

A sculpture of the late fabrics and fashion designer Laura Ashley has been unveiled near Welshpool.

The ceramic sculpture in the Glansevern Hall Gardens is the first of six pieces of public art commemorating famous women to be housed in gardens in Wales.

Born in Dowlais, Ms Ashley launched a worldwide chain of stores selling clothes and fabrics made in Powys.

Other women that will be featured include children's author Beatrix Potter and actress Sian Phillips.

The sculptures are the work of artist Katie Scarlett Howard who has a studio near Mold in Flintshire.

Six sculptures on the theme Woman of Substance are being unveiled in Wales over the coming months as part of a project organised by The Gateway Gardens Trust charity.

The artist said Mrs Ashley never forgot her Welsh roots.

She operated her business from a number of locations in mid Wales including the Old Railway House in Carno and eventually a factory in Newtown which opened shortly before her death at the age of 60 in 1985.

Laura Ashley
Laura Ashley - Glansevern Hall, Welshpool
Mary Ashby Lewis - Llanerchaeron Park, near Aberearon
Beatrix Potter - Gwaenynog Hall, Denbigh
Angharad Tomos - Glynllifon Park, Caernarfon
Sian Phillips - Dyffryn Gardens, Vale of Glamorgan
Jemima Nicholas - Stackpole Garden, Haverfordwest

"By any measure Laura Ashley was an inspirational woman, her distinctive designs for clothes and fabrics brought international success and are instantly recognisable to this day," said Ms Howard.

By the mid-1970s Laura Ashley dresses made in Wales were being sold across Europe.

The company's first shop in Wales was in Llanidloes while stores were also opened in London, Paris, Geneva and Brussels.

By 1981 it had expanded into home furnishing and had 5,000 retail outlets throughout the world.

Ms Howard has worked with pupils from Ysgol Maes Y Dre Junior School in Welshpool to create tiles based on Mrs Ashley's textiles that were used in the installation.

"I hope that my sculpture and the work of the students will be a fitting tribute to her and, crucially, help visitors to the Glansevern Hall Gardens - particularly the younger generation - appreciate her achievements," she added.

The project has benefited from sponsorship from a number of companies and Arts and Business Cymru.

Director Rachel Jones said: "We are delighted to support this creative partnership enabling Katie's sculptures and children's artwork to be enjoyed by visitors to gardens across Wales."

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