It’s almost exactly one year since I moved into my studio at The Art House, Wakefield, and what a year it’s been! I thought I’d show you around a bit, and introduce you to a few people, as this wonderfully creative place has been hugely important in lots of different ways in helping me to put my exhibition together.
We’d better start with my studio.
The Studio Here’s what it looked like on the first day when all I had was a couple of plants and a concrete floor. I worried that the cheese plant and I would need more light!
Then I acquired some furniture – a table for felting, a desk for sewing and some shelves for storage.
12 months on and I seem to be filling the place…despite initial concerns both I and the cheese plant are thriving! Things are likely to get a bit more congested as the exhibition approaches and the sculptures come together…but then they’ll all move to the museum…and there will be space to breathe!
It’s wonderful to be able to leave projects out and come back to them the next day. My exceedingly tolerant family would say I do that at home anyway! But I can’t avoid the feeling that it shouldn’t be that way, that we shouldn’t have to eat our meals sharing the kitchen table with my latest half-finished creation. In the studio, space and function are streamlined.
Having the physical studio space has been very important but so has the headspace. When I come here, my mind is on my work and there is space to experiment. I thought for a long time that I liked running my business from home and that I didn’t want to go ‘out’ to work. But I realized early last year that I wanted to think a bit more about my work and that it was time for a change.
Focus comes more readily here.
It was a good decision.
A creative place Let me show you around a bit. Established in 1994 by a group of disabled and non-disabled artists, the original Art House, right in the heart of Wakefield, was custom built with fully accessible facilities.
Then, when the old Drury Lane library closed next door, the Art House expanded into that building – my studio is in what used to be the basement book store.
Things have continued to develop and over the last couple of years parts of the building have opened to the public much more.
So, we have a reception desk – here’s Lois who is one of the team ready to welcome visitors and the beautiful desk was created by two studio holders, Annie and Chris http://www.artistyoke.com
We have exhibition spaces where visiting residency artists, and sometimes studio-holders have exhibitions. At the moment we have an exhibition by artist Tony Heaton http://www.tonyheaton.co.uk
The exhibitions change regularly as do the residency artists and it’s lovely to meet them, to chat, exchange perspectives, learn from each other. Some are young, some are older, some experienced, some just starting out, some from the UK and some from overseas. They are a great part of the life here.
There’s also a wonderful Italian café – Laura’s at The Art House – delicious coffee and very tempting cakes and savoury bakes all handmade by the lovely Laura. @LaurasatTAHWakefield
And we have The Art Shop where studio holders and members sell their work.
There’s also a print studio with printmaking equipment, presses, and space to get inky, knowing there is expert help on hand.
There is also an amazing programme of courses, mostly for different printmaking techniques but other things too. I’m really excited to have booked onto an etching course in August – love learning new things! If you’d like to know more about courses, check out the website – http://www.the-arthouse.org.uk
Unlike some studio complexes which are artist led, The Art House is managed by the staff team – here they are hard at work in the office! From this room, exhibition programmes are planned, funding sought, residencies organised and supported, events and activities marketed, rooms booked out, finances kept in order, the Wakefield Artwalk is organised from here every other month, Open Studios twice a year, alongside a whole programme of workshops and community activities. The Art House is also the first official UK ‘Studio of Sanctuary’ offering, space, support and a friendly welcome to artists who are refugees or asylum seekers.
The staff have been invaluable to me with the exhibition in so many ways – firstly by giving me the kick up the backside to make an exhibition proposal and then in helping me through the other things you have to think about – funding bids, marketing, blog writing, when to do what, how to find a metalsmith and the myriad technical things which terrify me…how do I download a font/ what’s a png/ is rasterizing bad for my health/ why has my cursor changed into three pointy fingers/ how do I embed stuff/ why doesn’t this work? Where feltmaking is concerned, I’m on terra firma – but 10 minutes of poster design with Photoshop and I’m a gibbering mess. Yet, despite their heavy workload, the staff always treat my questions with patience, respect and good humour. Thanks guys!
The dog- friendly office – there are three dogs currently on the staff – has also been therapeutic for my life-long fear of all things canine. I’m not saying I’m cured…but let’s say the aversion therapy hasn’t been as traumatic as Photoshop!
Also this is Garry, the buildings supervisor, who knows the ins and outs of the Art House’s many nooks and crannies and keeps the idiosyncrasies of this quirky complex in working order. He’s also just cut me a base for my Headstock sculpture out of some unwanted MDF screens which were lurking in a darkened room, so I’m very happy!
Creative People The Art House has nearly 50 studios and houses around 80 artists, makers, and creative businesses.
Just to give you a taste, here are a few people who were in their studios when I went round with my camera earlier this week:
Nick Vaughan is my next door studio neighbour – he is a visual artist currently working in plaster on a piece that will be cast in concrete and on show at the Patchings Festival in Nottingham in May. http://www.nickvaughan.org
One very tasty advantage of meeting Nick is that his wife Alexandra Vaughan runs a micro-bakery near our home http://www.thecrowsrestbakehouse.co.uk. Possibly….no definitely… the best hot cross buns I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tasted quite a few!!!!)
Ellie Way is a freelance printmaker and display artist. As well as having a studio for her own printmaking, she helps other printmakers as a print technician and also runs the Art Shop helping the studio holders to present and sell their work. When I popped in she was making a card display rack for the shop. http://www.way-welivehere.co.uk
Jim Souper is a photographer, who is often off on his travels with his camera and exhibits around the UK – you can see his amazing, atmospheric work on his website. http://www.jimsouper.co.uk
Helen Thomas is a visual artist, working mostly in paint. I love her curiosity for plants which grow in neglected, marginal spaces. At the moment she’s exploring different surfaces for her work and preparing for exhibitions and projects this summer. Helen also teaches workshops and delivers community projects – busy lady! http://www.toastedorange.co.uk
Mo Barrangi is an amazing printmaker and illustrator. He has developed a unique printmaking style and exhibits and wins prizes all over the world. http://www.mobarrangi.com
Mary Duggan is a jeweller who sells her work in galleries all around the country. She’s just back from exhibiting at the British Craft Trade Fair and here she’s busy making a new range of memorial lockets. http://www.contrarymary.co.uk
This is just a little selection – there are other visual and graphic artists, printmakers, a historical costumier, a tailor, a clothes designer and more, young and old, straight from college, too-old-to-remember-college, early career of all ages, more experienced.
The great thing about being here with them is the sharing and the inspiration. Learning from other people, seeing new ways, developing understanding, listening, laughing, supporting, being supported. It’s a great place to be.
Happy 1st anniversary to me and my studio!
I wonder what the future will hold.
But for now, I have an exhibition to prepare!