As part of our Latest Edition project we visited the studios of the three more established artists involved.
The first studio we visited belongs to Alex Sickling, who works from a converted garage in Gateshead. She has been working in this location for about 8 months, and has one big kiln and one little kiln. The space also houses a large table, lots of shelves, pottery in progress as well as some charming finished pieces, and other bits of stock.
I would describe Alex as a ceramicist and illustrator. She sells her work through various stockists and galleries, including The Baltic in Gateshead and The Hepworth in Wakefield, as well as online and at markets. When she finished studying in Leeds, Alex started her own online shop selling t- shirts, and small ceramics based on her Wuthering Heights project work. She happened to meet the buyer for the Salts Mill in Saltaire who wanted to stock her work. Through this opportunity her exposure slowly grew and she went on to stock ceramics with Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and the Shop Floor Project who promoted her work in magazines.
Her DIY process both contributes to and compliments her handmade 'wonky' style. The ceramics are hand built with slabs, and commercial work is marked on the bottom with a bespoke signature stamp, in contrast to her gallery work which is hand signed.
As an artist Alex has gone from strength to strength, and it's easy to see why her work is so appealing to contemporary design stockists and customers alike. Her work, which combines humour and narrative to create recognisable characters in her own naïve style, naturally targets the younger art collector.
Next we visited Theresa Easton's workspace in Ouseburn Warehouse and Studios, known more commonly as 36 Lime Street. The building is an old flax processing warehouse which was designed by architect John Dobson, and was the very first stone built warehouse of it's kind. The studio walls have been erected over time in order to create individual spaces for artists, and the windows provide very good light. Theresa has worked in the space for four years, and says that she moves around the studio to follow the best light at different times of the year.
Theresa, who used to run a print studio, is very organised and uses space efficiently. The materials and equipment which are readily accessible are the ones which are used most frequently, and lesser used things are stored away neatly. She operates a 'two year rule' to prevent hoarding, and anything that hasn't been touched for this period of time is sold on or given away. The space contains one big and one little printing press, some large tables, plan chests, screen printing equipment, a computer desk, shelves, and a huge cutting mat, amongst various pieces of work displayed on the wall and in cabinets.
Theresa completed an MA in Glass Work, where she experimented with fusing, slumping and mould making. I would describe her primarily as a print maker, and the glass artist books she has on display have been printed onto. Her interest lies within 'community art' and she likes to explore new areas and new people. The conversations and interactions that she experiences through social engagement greatly inform her own practice and outcomes.
Her projects are numerous and varied, and include mail art, print exchanges, and creating artist books which are often exhibited at book fares. In addition to creating artwork, Theresa also runs printmaking and book making workshops, and participates in several open studios throughout the year. Her vast experience as an artist has led her to become an advocate for Artist's Union England, which strives to raise standards for working artists to ensure fair payment and good practice in the industry.
The last port of call was Nick Kennedy's studio, who shares a space with another artist called Rachel Clewlow at Cobalt Studios just a short walk away from Lime Street. Nick has worked here for 3 years, and the two artists take turns to use certain parts of the studio based on projects in progress and current needs. They both work as artist assistants, in addition to pursuing their own individual creative practices.
The space itself partly takes on the aesthetic of a gallery, with colourful new work displayed on clean white walls, some of which have been built especially to create extra wall space. There are also plenty of plan chests, 2 big work benches, a practical sink with an industrial style tap in the kitchen area, more big drawers, pots of paint in every colour going, a heavy wooden easel and a massive cutting mat (possibly bigger than Theresa's).
Nick's work is very cerebral, abstract, and inspired by quite scientific and mathematical processes, but often resulting in less predictable outcomes. He has created several different types of drawing machines within his practice, some of which are 'human' drawing machines following specific instructions to create work. He is extremely patient, and he describes his work as 'Slow Art' in which he just likes to see what happens during these time based concepts. His mechanical drawing machines are fascinating, and since they are often stored in boxes the work is mostly created anonymously, and progress is revealed periodically when the machines are taken out of storage.
Nick uses the wall space in the studio almost like a sketchbook, with photographs, scans, research and type neatly pinned up to demonstrate thought processes, ideas generation and the development of his work.
It's always really interesting to see what happens behind the scenes, and to see how artists create their work. The artists we visited today all had completely different processes and ways of working. You can see how each space is a visual representation of their individual creative practice, whether that be whimsical, experimental or conceptual. It's not hard to see why Open Studios events have become so popular in recent history, for both the general public and other artists visiting. For me personally these visits highlight just how different each creative thinker can be, and that art has no right or wrong in regards to spaces, ideas, and ways of working.