My first art studio

Studio

Do I don’t I..?

I’ve been mulling over the idea of getting an art studio for a while. But there were always some niggling questions that would keep appearing in my head: ‘Would I use it?’; ‘Do I even need one?’; ‘Would I find something suitable and local?’… and so on.

As I already work from home I’m used to being there and had created a small space (in the corner of a room) where I could set up my art materials and work from without too much distraction. The pros being: it was local, tick; free, tick; and VERY convenient, tick. The cons being: I was still at home; the space needed to stay clean; it wasn’t very big; and distractions did occur.

Home studio space

So, I started to look around the local area, just to see what was out there. But I didn’t have much luck…some spaces were too big; some were too far away; and some were way too expensive for what I wanted. A bit of a Goldilocks story really. And then I heard about availability at some local art studios that were smallish, affordable and only a 15 minute drive away.

Hadleigh Old Firestation – HOFs

Moving in day at the studio

Hadleigh Old Firestation (HOFs) provides studio space for local artists. When I went for a viewing there were two studios available, so it was good to have a choice and a comparison. Both would have been suitable but this one felt right 🙂 With dual-aspect windows it has a view out onto the street and to the local supermarket (always handy). It has plenty of space for me to work and plenty of storage. The art studios, run by the arts organisation ACAVA, have a number of artists working there, so it’s good to have like-minded people around.

Moving in

Once the paperwork had been signed and monies paid, I picked up the keys in September. I was excited to move in and to start making the studio feel like a creative space. I already had furniture at home that I wanted to take (tables, stools, shelves plus books, art materials etc…) I just wanted some essentials like a mini fridge, a plan chest and a wheelie trolley for my art materials.

Window view and tea!

Have I made the right decision?

Well it’s early days yet but so far, I would say a resounding YES! This is how I’ve responded to my initial concerns:

  • Would I use it? I wasn’t sure if I would want to leave the comfort of home to go to a studio, but now I know it’s there I just want to be in it. I’m not there as often as I would like to be, so some changes need to be made.
  • Do I need it? Now I have a dedicated art space, I want to make it pay for itself, which is inspiring me to start work on a new business idea…
  • Would I find something suitable? If you know what you are looking for, it’s so much easier to recognise it when it comes along. I had decided that for my first studio I wanted somewhere low risk and easy to travel to. Moving to HOFs also has the benefit of being part of a ready-made artist community. Win-win 🙂
Working in my studio
Sketchbook work

Leigh Art Trail – finally!

The Leigh Art Trail has been a long time coming, or so it felt. Originally due to be held in May 2020 it was yet another event in an endless list that was postponed due to the pandemic.

I had begun preparing for the Trail, along with the other artists in SEVEN, back in September 2019. We were excited to be exhibiting at a new venue – The Refill Room, which is the first zero-waste shop in Leigh-on-sea. In response to the values of the shop we chose the theme of ‘Reclamation’. Our starting point was to find old, unloved second-hand books that we could turn into altered books.

SEVEN’s venue number

Crewel embroidery

The book I chose was on crewel embroidery. The pages in the book were a mix of photos, text and embroidery stitch diagrams, which gave me plenty of material to work with. The idea of an altered book is that you can respond to the content already there (if you want to) or cover it up (if you don’t) and remove any surplus pages – the choice is yours. In my book I seemed to find a heading on each page that I wanted to respond to, and tried to work with the imagery already on the pages. Plus as the subject was embroidery, so I decided to stitch directly into the pages.

Close up detail of stitching
Working on my sketchbook in the garden

Fast forward to September 2021

The event date suddenly arrived! Having waited so long for it, it seemed to come around in a flash!

SEVEN’s venue number

The event ran over two weeks and three weekends, instead of the usual one week; we were in a different month; and in a new venue, so all in all the September Trail felt a bit odd.

We usually stay in the venue for the duration of the Trail, but two weeks felt a bit too long to do this (plus life got in the way), so we only spent the weekends at the venue. While the number of visitors seemed to be less than usual (perhaps some were still unsure about going out, plus there were so many other events on in September), the visitors we did have were very engaged in our work and an absolute joy to chat with!

The Refill Room – view from outside
LAT sketchbook – crewel embroidery

In addition to our sketchbooks, this year we also decided to create a window display of ‘flags’. The shop already had a branch hanging in the window and we were kindly allowed to use this. We decided to hang a lightweight material that was sustainable; allowed the light to come through; and also revealed the image on the back of the fabric, so it could be seen from both inside and outside the shop. We chose a bamboo fabric, scanned a page from our books, and had the image digitally printed by Textile Town.

Bamboo fabric flags, digitally printed

We’re now starting to plan ideas for LAT 2022, which will be the 25th anniversary of the Art Trail. Bring it on!

The Water Replies – Estuary Festival 2021

Back in March 2020 I signed up to ‘The Water Replies’ journal project, led by Metal Southend and Cement Fields, as part of the second Estuary Festival. The festival takes place along 107 miles of the South Essex and Kent coastline with artists, events and workshops responding to contemporary issues surrounding the estuary.

The project began just before the pandemic hit and the UK was put into lockdown. During lockdown, when everyone was confined to their homes, we were allowed to go outside once a day for solitary exercise. For me this meant a long walk along the seafront. I’m so thankfully to have the estuary and beach a few minutes walk away from my home.

As contact with the outside world was reduced, I found that during my daily walks or runs along the estuary, I became more focused and mindful on what I saw and what captured my attention. The tidal times change daily. The mud flats appear and disappear. Sunlight glistens on the water. Big skies. Bold silhouettes of the pier and groynes…etc

For my journal I wanted to record my impressions of the coastline beginning at Southend Pier and travelling along the coast towards the QE2 bridge. I chose landmarks and areas of interest along the way: the pier, Gypsy bridge, incoming tide patterns, barnacles, silhouettes, sea birds, beach textures, seaweed, shells, Two Tree Island, views across to Kent, Coryton oil refinery, QE2 bridge…

This is a selection of pages from my journal:

Journal cover – The Water Replies
Silhouette of the groynes
Abstract map of the estuary
Gypsy bridge
Beach textures
Vintage postcard of Southend-on-sea

You can view a short turn-the-page video of all the journals entered into the exhibition at: www.estuaryfestival.com/water-replies-films.html

If you are in the area, find out more about the Estuary Festival, which runs from 22 May – 13 June 2021. Enjoy!

#the100dayproject completed

I started the 100 day project on 31 January 2021 and completed it on 10 May 2021. Wow 100 days! It sounded like a long time when I started, and May seemed like such a long way off. And yet, here I am, and the project is finished. In reality the time flew by and I had a lot of fun along the way.

At the start of the project I made the decision to break down the 100 days into 10 mini-projects. And having decided I would print something everyday, I chose a different print method to explore every 10 days. I think this really helped to keep me motivated and to keep the project interesting.

Here is a selection of the prints I made:

Days 1-10: Lino printing
Days 11-20: Drypoint etching on a mini 3d-printed printing press
Days 21-30: Monoprinting
Days 31-40: Collagraph printed with a gelli plate
Days 41-50: Gelli printing
Days 51-60: Printing with found objects
Days 61-70: Screen-printing
Days 71-80: Cyanotype
Days 81-90: Image transfer
Days 91-100: Xcut Xpress printing press

You can view the full project on Instagram at #100daysofmarkmakingwithprint and read more about the 100 day project in my earlier blog post.

I really enjoyed something about each printing process and would find it difficult to choose a favourite. I plan to take some time to reflect on what I have learned in this process and to notice what I enjoyed the most (or didn’t enjoy!) as I decide the next steps in my printmaking journey. Do you have a favourite printing method?

#52weeksartjournal

Another online creative challenge that I have taken up this year is the 52 Weeks Art Journal, hosted by Raspberry Blue Sky. Throughout 2021, she will be providing a weekly word prompt that I will use to inspire a page in my journal. The work is intended to go into an altered book or a handmade book.

Which book am I using?

I am also using the British Library Desk Diary from 2019. 

Does the diary format work?

The format is perfect as there is a double page spread for each week, with the number of the week at the top. The theme of the diary is maps. I decided to use the purpose of maps (i.e. to plan routes and stay on course) as a way of giving myself creative direction, guided by the weekly prompts. The paper is also a good weight and is really suitable for collaging onto.

How have I found the prompts?

I was initially unsure that word prompts would inspire me. However, I have been pleasantly surprised. The prompt comes out on Monday, I usually take a few days to mull it over, then spend a couple of days playing with ideas before there is a ta dah! moment at the end of the week.

Here are a few journal pages I’ve completed so far:

Prompt: New beginnings
Prompt: First signs of spring
Prompt: My art journal is…

I’ve really been enjoying the art challenges I’m working on this year. You can read about #the100dayproject in a previous post.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve found any inspiring creative challenges that you’ve enjoyed…