Lily Irwin, Artist

Lily Irwin and Alice met on a bitterly cold February evening, and over a half pint of Guinness - Lily, and a hot chocolate - Alice, they spoke about all things art and illustration.

Lily who grew up just outside a Quaker village in Co. Kildare in Ireland, speaks about her work and life as an illustrator with a sincerity that is both heart-warming and at times disarming.  Slight, with dark shoulder length hair and a soft Irish accent, she strikes me as both kind and thoughtful, with a strong sense of self, and most refreshingly, as someone who takes real delight in her everyday work.Her first memories of learning to draw were in classes given by a local painter in Ireland, focusing on observational work, such as trips to the woods to look closely at plants and trees. Sadly, she says, drawing gradually went 'underground' as she made her way through her teenage years.It was during her final year at Exeter University that her ‘confidence and feeling for drawing began to re-emerge’. On a train journey, between Exeter and London, she was inspired by Dora Carrington's letters ‘there was something about her way of writing and bringing her inner and outer world to life through her ink drawings. I feel they were quite significant in rekindling my love of drawing.’ Lily’s confidence in her own drawing grew, and sketching on wood, scraps of paper and envelopes, in between studying for her English Literature degree she inadvertently formed the foundation of a portfolio. After graduating, she applied to do a part time MA in Children's Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art, with this portfolio, and is currently in her final year.Lily lives in North London in a little house with friends, and refers to herself as a 'domestic hedgehog'.I love her description of her house - ‘As you walk through the doors, the house looks more like a rickety boat, old wooden floors and bumpy white walls, the kitchen is filled with light and all my seedlings – sweet peas, squash and sunflowers sit by the windows, waiting to planted –the mixture of damp and scents coming from the garden conjures up a feeling of childhood smells from the sea in Waterford.’She works from home, and wakes up early, spending the first hours of the morning listening to the radio and having breakfast, ‘calming any chaos in the kitchen and watering plants.’ Edmund, Lily’s boyfriend also works from home. They share a morning ritual ‘of drinking coffee together, plotting the day and hatching plans – then they go their separate ways.’ Her studio comprises of a long desk in one corner of her bedroom, next to a sunny window. On the desk is a large set of drawers of all shapes and sizes, filled with pencils, paints and pastels.I loved Lily's drawings the moment I saw them, so whimsical, wonderfully colourful and full of life.Drawing from every day life, she captures fleeting moments in the world around her - instilling a sense of vitality into an unoccupied room, bringing to life the objects within and hinting at further stories to tell. And she balances the energy in her drawings with a harmony of composition and colour, resulting in an enchanting sense of calm. As the viewer you are invited to step into the world she has created, and once there, you are encouraged to pause and fully enjoy it. For me they evoke a sense of nostalgic innocence, gently recalling a time when life moved at a slower pace. Lily tends to draw from life, as this allows the mind and imagination to capture details that might go unobserved when drawing from a photograph. And it is these details that often come to life and become the focal point of a final image – a trinket on a mantel piece, or a cat snoozing in a chair - and sometimes these become recurring motifs - cropping up in other drawings. Her images also tend to be rendered as though observed from a birds eye view, which adds to the sense that, as the viewer, you have just entered the place in the drawing, rather than merely viewing it.Her drawings move through phases - she enters a world for a period of time, with a strong colour scheme prominent throughout, which is often determined by the season. Her projects have often been family related, drawn at home in Ireland, or evolve from sketches drawn in her house in London, and sometimes they are focused on a novel or a folk tale. She says she would absolutely love to illustrate Thomas Hardy's The Woodlanders, to realise in detail the movement of nature and the rich sense of rural life.Her work is influenced by many different artists, particularly those around the late 19th and early 20th century – Odilon Redon, Henri Matisse, David Jones, Samuel Palmer and Joan Eardley. She feels a strong affinity with Pierre Bonnard, and is very interested in his approaches to drawing and painting, ‘keeping small pocket diaries, jotting down memories through words and drawing, possessing the gift of seeing the wonder in the mundane and working on unstretched canvas – never allowing himself to be confined by scale.’Gwen John is another great influence – ‘the sense of emotion, determination and courage you see in her portraits of women and indeed her self-portraits are profound. There is so much depth, feeling as if you are stepping into her inner world.’She has also been inspired by a number of illustrators - Beatrice Alemagna, who has ‘a real integrity and insight into the imagination of a child’. And Brian Wildsmith, ‘the imaginary worlds he creates, filled with rich colour and a joyful harmony of different materials.’When not in the studio, she spends a great part of her time drawing with two of her closest friends, Agnes and Maude. They try and work together once a month, mostly in London, and are currently preparing work for an exhibition next year at the Art Chapel Gallery in Abergavenny. They will be exhibiting their sketchbooks and work, mostly painting, but also experimenting with textiles, printing and embroidery, as well as working towards another show this year, at the Art Chapel Summer Festival.  I really love the sense of community arising from her group of friends, something that could easily otherwise be lacking in the every day of an artist.Maybe, most importantly, her Lurcher at home in Ireland is named Pip, after Philip Pirrip, of course.I loved speaking with you Lily, and can't wait to see your final graduate show, and group exhibition.

Alice xxx

Exhibitions:

2018, Hidden Hedgerows, Art Chapel Gallery, Abergavenny, Wales

2019, MA Graduate Show, Candid Arts Gallery, Islington, London

Lily Irwin

@lily_irwin

  

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Pia Östlund & London Craft Week

Alice went to hear Printmaker Pia Östlund talk during London Craft Week.

London Craft Week ran from 9th-13th May this year, and there was a plethora of exhibitions, talks and activities taking place all over London. You could design your own loafers with TOD's, make a Turkish Iznik tile at the Yunus Emre Institute, watch a demonstration by the Little Globe Company (they make little globes), and even visit a Georgian-inspired kitchen designed by HOWE and Plain English. There was so much making taking place.A number of events caught my eye, and I was sad to miss out on glassmaker Jochen Holz talking at about his exhibition Superficies at Flow Gallery; and Michael Ruh talking about his collaboration 'Edition' with Another Country - take a look at their beautiful 'Cob Decanter' (I have a thing for hand-blown glass, it is just so incredible).Another event I was intrigued by was Dan Cox and The Room Service, in which he spoke about the ceramics he has made for his new restaurant Crocadon (they are super, Paul Mossman made the ceramics, and Dan Cox created the glaze).  And I am now just so so very excited about the launch of The Room Service - essentially an online platform which sells the beautiful items you often spot in hotels and restaurants - and having gone home and hunted high and low for on the inter web, can never ever find. The Room Service may well have them, go and have a look.One event I really wanted to go to, was a talk and demonstration by printmaker Pia Östlund, all about her journey into the lost art of nature printing. It took place on Friday evening, and I got rather a lot of friendly disbelief (you are going to a nature printing workshop and not straight to the pub with us?!).However I stood firm, and at 6.30pm last Friday, found myself on the top floor of Daylesford on the Pimlico Road, surrounded by a number of ladies of a certain age, who had all been enjoying a day out in London, and who happen to be incredibly keen on printing.And I am just so pleased that I went along.Pia, who is Swedish, was wonderful. She was so warm and friendly, and after everyone had finally got the correct cup of tea, gotten over the confusion of what exactly the talk was to be about (nature printing, not flower pressing) and taken a seat - she began.Pia is a printmaker and graphic designer, and has spent 3 years developing her own version of nature printing. She had discovered a book in the Chelsea Physic Garden library containing prints using a process she did not recognise. Delving deeper, she made her way back to the Victorian era and to Bradbury Wilkinson and Company who had used this specific method of printing (having acquired it from Vienna). At that date it had been used extensively for the printing of plants - the Victorians were super keen on their ferns. However, other than this history and the book she had, there was very little further information on the actual printing process itself.So Pia set out to try and recreate this process. She spent two years working with lead, with numerous visits to lead factories. She even went on a trip with The British Pteridological Society, to collect ferns to work with. Eventually finding lead just too soft a material, she ventured to Vienna, where, amazingly, someone dug up some uncategorised copper plates in the Botanic Library - which turned out to be the very ones used to make the prints in the book from the Chelsea Physic Garden. So she turned to copper, and after a period trying out all sorts of processes using metals, has since been producing incredibly beautiful prints of foliage and flora.I really enjoyed Pia's talk, and fear I haven't really done it justice (she has written a book with Simon Prett if you want more detailed info). It was amazing to hear her talk about her journey into re-discovering this lost art of nature printing, her love for her work, the ups and the downs, and her perseverance with it.After the talk, and another cup of tea, we all had a go at a earlier form of printing, recreating the finest details of leaves in oil paint. It was incredibly satisfying, and so easy to do, once you have the right materials.It was such a fun evening, and I am so happy to have spent my Friday learning all about nature printing.Thank you Pia!Alice xxx

Talking with Artist Nina Baxter

 

Alice spoke with London based artist Nina Baxter about her current work. Nina creates beautiful geometric paintings, in wonderfully satisfying  colour arrangements. You can see her work in London this week at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead.

What are you currently working on?

I've been working on a very large commission recently, it's a two metre long geometric painting based on the landscape in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. I've also been working on a couple of pieces inspired by my favourite Art Deco buildings in Miami and have a bunch of ideas for new paintings based on studies I've made on 'Natural Abstractions', which I'm excited to execute.

Where do you paint?

My studio is in The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey.

Where can we see your work?

At the moment I have a number of paintings exhibited at the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead Heath with Steidel Fine Art. A couple of pieces are being exhibited in Steidel's Texas Gallery in Wimberley for the Meta-Physical exhibition which opens this weekend; as well as at The Field Art Centre in Beijing for the Sunny Arts Prize Group Exhibition. Later this year I'll be showing some new pieces in a group show at the Ateneo de Madrid in Spain.  

Who is your favourite artist?

I don't know if I can choose just one! At the moment I'm very inspired by Bridget Riley. I saw a brilliant exhibition of her recent works at the David Zwirner Gallery near Green Park which highlighted her perseverance to continue investigating a motif though a process of discovery until you have expended all the possible directions you can take.

Who are you following on Instagram?

There a few artists whose work I follow on Instagram, including Chloe Wise, Inès Longevial, Sarah Bahbah, Ryan Hewett, William LaChance, Kathryn MacNaughton to name a few!

Favourite place in London?

Sitting at the top of Primrose Hill on a sunny day, or anywhere with my friends and family having a good time.

Nina Baxter

@nina_baxter

Nina wears white cotton shirt by Teija Eilola at Young British Designers

Photo by Charlie Knight

Collect 2018, Luxury British Craft

Alice went to Collect, to see all things handmade and collectable at the Saatchi Gallery.

I had a lovely time at Collect again this year. Held at the Saatchi Gallery, and organised by the Crafts Council, it calls itself 'The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects'. 40 galleries from 4 continents display the latest work by their 'makers'.  I really like this fair as there are all sorts of works, ranging from beautiful yet simple ceramics to entirely bizarre metalwork, handmade by contemporary makers.High end craft is quite a thing at the moment, we seem to be hankering after unique (often unattainably expensive) handmade works, in a rejection of the mass produced and machine-made, often cheaper stuff.There is also a very blurry line between what is 'craft' and what is 'art'. Some people define it by the materials used - textiles, ceramics and glass, versus pencil and paint; or the use of the object - craft often has a more practical use, art is to be displayed and admired. Possibly it is the way a maker or artist has learnt their skill, or maybe it is merely their intention when making a work, art is usually obliged to express something, craft is free of this prerequisite.But perhaps the rise of craft to a higher level - no longer is the skilled craftsman just replicating the templates of the designer, the craftsman is now also the designer - means that there does not need to be a distinction.Craft or art, or both, I very much like the objects on display at Collect. This year I went straight upstairs to see the exhibits in Collect Open, 'exploratory and risk' taking work by both established and emerging designers, chosen this year by Jay Osgerby, and was delighted with what I found.I will admit I was on a bit of a ceramics hunt, I have such a love for handmade ceramics, and this year I flitted through the rooms at a quicker pace, recognising some favourites from last year (ceramics by Valeria Nascimento and Domitilla Biondi's bas-reliefs carved into paper).However my absolute favourite display was Jilly Edwards' hand-woven tapestry. In a array of beautiful colours, she had chosen to display it on a plinth rather than the wall, to allow the viewer to engage with and explore the work further. Perhaps it was partly meeting Jilly that made this work even more special, but it really was captivating, I had to come back upstairs a second time to see it again.

Below I are my 5 top works by British makers at Collect, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Alice xxx

Jilly Edwards

It was so lovely to meet Jilly, and speak with her about her work. The way she weaves the different colours to create a painterly effect is absolutely amazing, and I love the arrangement of this work, with bright reds and yellows placed next to creamy whites and strong blacks.  She draws and paints her designs first, and then hand-weaves them. She also keeps every thread she uses, with the off-cuts being turned into incredibly satisfying small scale square tapestries. I loved this piece so much, the detail and the colour combinations, and it made me think about weaving in a completely new light.

 

Amy Douglas

Amy Douglas' works are super fun. She produces and re-configures 19th Century Staffordshire ceramics under the name 'The Art of Salmagundi'. Salmagundi is an old French and middle English word relating to a 'hodgepodge' of things - a mixture or variety of ingredients. Each of the Staffordshire figures she works with has a unique break or loss in the body, and Amy restores them with a twist, often using old folk tales and modern mythologies as inspiration. I love this work, and I love it's Title possibly even more.

Sue Doggett

I love the beautiful colours of this book cover. In Henry Holland's original drawings for the 'Hunting of the Snark', the ocean chart used by the 'sailors' was famously blank. Inspired by this, Sue Doggett has represented each of these 10 'sailors' by a directionless compass. The book is leather bound, using a three part construction. Natural goatskin has been dyed and painted with acrylic, and the boards and spine have been machine embroidered.  The paper doublures are hand-painted, and the end-papers are both painted and machine embroidered.

Lucie Rie

This tea set by Lucy Rie is part of the 'Masters of British Studio Pottery' display - co-created with the Fitzwilliam Museum - the aim of which is to recognise and celebrate the rise of collectable modern and contemporary ceramics.  I absolutely love Lucie Rie's work, she was primarily concerned with producing practical and functional wares, and her works feature 's'graffito' - inlaid lines - and thick textures applied with a course brush, coating very delicate pieces. This tea set is wonderful with it's washed finish in a white glaze and l love the curved shape to each piece and darker coloured edges. So beautiful!

Anna Barlow

I love this so much, a stack of incredibly real looking sweet treats made from earthenware and porcelain - the detail is amazing.  Anna Barlow combines different materials and techniques to create 'visual edibility' - capturing the way certain foods melt and ooze - with high-fired porcelain for the wafers and ice cream cones;  and opaque earthenware glaze for dripping ice cream.

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Talking with Cabinet Maker Tom Zinovieff

 

Cabinet Maker Tom Zinovieff trained in furniture design and making at Lyme Regis Boatbuilding Academy, he favours British woods and sources locally as much as possible.  He shares some of his favourites with us. 

Where did you study and which was your favourite class?

Sidcot School, a Quaker school under the Mendips in Somerset. In my first year of A levels the school built a recording studio in an old classroom, they ran an A level in Music Production and recording. It was great.

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a cabinet maker? I mucked about with a lot of jobs after an Art Foundation; TV, cooking, music video production and gardening, then I landed on woodworking and it really clicked, this was it. I was able to take on my Dad’s old workshop, dust off the machines and get them working again.What do you enjoy most about working with wood and creating furniture?It’s hands on, you're on your feet all day, and there’s lots of problem solving. Wood is a really special material, each tree, plank, component is unique.What was the first piece you made?I made myself a butchers block, I use it everyday.What are you currently working on? I’m making a Japanese platform bed out of oak.Favourite piece you have made so far?Some clothes shelves that were made in ash. Simple, pure and elegant.Favourite wood to work with?I use a lot of ash and oak, they grow prominently in England so I can source it locally.Do you have a favourite cabinet maker?I love Shaker furniture, their communities were largely self sufficient. They weren't making furniture to sell, they made it for themselves. It's simple, utilitarian and honest.What are you growing? I'm focusing on my herb garden these days; three varieties of sage, thyme and rosemary.What are you reading? A Seabirds Cry by Adam Nicolson. He writes how modern technology allows close monitoring of the behaviour of seabirds, what they’ve found is fascinating.What are you watching?Stranger Things, obviously. It’s got a great theme tune.What are you listening to?Ryan Adams, always.What are you drinking?Ribena. Hot Ribena in the winter.What are you eating?I’m working my way through a new Japanese cook book at the moment.Cat or dog?Dog, I’ve got a whippet.Town or countryside?  Countryside.Online or offline?Offline. But superfast mega fibre optic when I need it.Favourite place in the the UK?West coast of Scotland.Favourite place in the world?Isle of Raasay, on the west coast of Scotland.

Tom Zinovieff

Rebecca Campbell, Artist

Sarah Capes spoke with artist Rebecca Campbell about her work.

Many moons ago, when I was an intern at Dulwich Picture Gallery, the exhibition Ragamala Paintings from India opened.  Since then, I have been fascinated not only by Indian art, but by the way in which it has inspired British artists and collectors since the 18th century. I even had plans to write a PhD on the subject, though that has taken something of a backseat in recent years.I was therefore very excited to meet Rebecca Campbell last week, a British artist whose style and subject matter is heavily influenced by her travels to India. Perusing the works on her website, I was immediately reminded of the Ragamalas. Her paintings possess a charmingly naive quality, focussing largely on animals, birds and plants in landscape settings. And yet, whilst there is this sense of naivety in their format and flatness, the detail in each specific element of her paintings is exquisite. A peacock's feathers, the leaves on a blossoming tree, or an elegantly placed butterfly; her works are characterised by an immensely pleasing harmony where everything seems to have its perfect place.Listening to Rebecca speak about India, it was clear how much of an impact the place has had on her. Having grown up in Ireland, where she was encouraged by her governess to explore the rural surroundings, make sketches and keep a diary of the things she saw, Rebecca’s interest in the natural world started at a young age. She studied History of Art at A-level and recalls particularly enjoying early Italian Renaissance and 17th century Dutch art. All of these early interests are certainly evident in her work. Though perhaps seemingly contradictory, the precision and sharpness of 17th Dutch painting is as present in Rebecca’s work as the primitive simplicity of religious depictions from early 15th century Italy. But it is the addition of her vivid colouring, the exotic landscapes and playful imagery taken from her time in India that makes Rebecca’s works so unique and captivating.Rebecca first travelled to India via Nepal, through to Varanasi and Calcutta, and then explored the south before travelling to New Delhi and Rajasthan. This was in her early twenties, after graduating from City and Guilds with First Class Honours in Illustrative Arts. Rebecca had felt that art school, though enjoyable, had given no indication of just how tough being an artist in London would initially be. She confessed to struggling to define her style at the beginning of her career, which meant that it was difficult for her to gain commissions at first. But she always felt inclined to a more painterly rather than illustrative approach.It was that first visit to India that truly defined Rebecca’s style. The people, the landscape, the architecture, and the array of colours – it is Rebecca’s memories of these things that fill her canvases. She begins by making endless sketches of an idea or a memory until she is ready to turn it into a full-scale painting. I think it is this painting from memory that gives her works an almost surreal quality; they amalgamate various real elements that the artist has experienced and seen, but not necessarily always collectively representing a true scene. Rather, an assortment of animals, birds, buildings and decorations united in a flat, frieze-like vision. Miniature painters in Mughal India would often also do this, particularly in landscapes and architectural paintings, combining real and imaginary elements to make one ideal vision.One of my favourite examples of this in Rebecca’s work is the Charm of Goldfinches. The main focus of the painting is a tree, curiously separated from the rest of the foliage within a fictional garden and enclosed by a decorative wall. There is so much space in the foreground, but somehow it does not feel empty. Looking closer, we can see three goldfinches sitting in the tree, with another flying towards them from the right. The best part of all is the little snail slithering across the foreground; though just one tiny detail, the painting somehow would not be the same without him. As I say, everything has its perfect place. The overall sense is one of a satisfying harmony within an idyllic, dreamlike garden. Another favourite of mine that also achieves this pleasing symmetry is Life at Lodi. The exotic animals, birds and plants are all perfectly situated before a Hindu temple in a surreal, Indian capriccio.Even when Rebecca’s paintings are not directly referencing India in their subject matter, their format often does. This is the case with the Charm of Goldfinches - nothing in the work really specifies a location, but the vibrant colours, the two-dimensional background and the curious addition of the snail in the foreground all recall the somewhat quirky visions of the Moghul painters. The perspective in works such as The Early Bird Catches the Worm is particularly reminiscent of Moghul Miniature paintings and Ragamalas; the curvilinear pathway surrounding the tree that has been pushed to the foreground, for instance, and the disproportionate sizing of the flowers in comparison to the tree, recall the compositional techniques in this type of Indian painting.The impact of that first visit to India for Rebecca cannot be understated and I was fascinated and heartened to hear and see how those influences continue to seep into so much of her work. In no way are her works attempting to recreate or emulate the art of the country, but they capture and offer us a taste of its essence. Their fundamental purpose seems to be to showcase beauty and simplicity in the everyday – to, as Rebecca told me herself, ‘celebrate life and colour and nature’.After her first trip to India, Rebecca had started to paint furniture and murals and was hand-painting items such as trays and waste paper bins for Saks Fifth Avenue. While this was a success, she recalls it being very time-consuming as she was often reluctant to employ help, preferring to work on her own. Rebecca also felt that although these designs were a useful way of showcasing her work and putting her name out there, she had a strong desire to make the painting itself the main focus of her work, not just as a decorative element. Since 2002, Rebecca has been exhibiting at Jonathan Cooper Gallery in Chelsea. It was Cooper who encouraged her to start focusing exclusively on painting in oils; an idea which she welcomed, continuing to work mostly in this medium since then. Rebecca does, however, accept commissions to work on large-scale murals and wall decorations for private clients. Examples of these can be seen on her website and Instagram page, and I highly recommend having a look. The sheer scale and attention to detail in these works is staggering; I was astonished when she told me she had completed one project like this in just three weeks.Rebecca’s most recent trip to India took her to New Delhi, after a couple asked her to make a portrait of their house and gardens there. She has also had similar commissions in France and the UK, producing stunning aerial views of various properties. These images in particular recall 17th century Dutch and English aerial paintings View of Llanerch Park, for instance. Rebecca’s works, however, incorporate the vibrant colouring and compositional devices of the Mughal painters, resulting in much more than a straightforward architectural likeness, but a lively, characterful portrait.Travel remains a hugely important part of Rebecca’s life and artistic practice. Based in South London, Rebecca maintains ties with India, particularly through her work for the charity Elephant Family.  In 2009, she was commissioned by the charity to paint a life-size model of a baby elephant for Elephant Parade, which was among over 200 others placed around London to raise awareness for the charity. The Wildlife Protection Society of India also commissioned another from her, situated in Green Park. They were subsequently sold at auction to raise money for the charities. She also participated in the Fabergé Big Egg Hunt in London, which raised a huge amount of money for Elephant Family. Rebecca painted a beautiful giant egg decorated with flowers and birds, which was situated in St James’s Park.I have always been of the opinion that when it comes to collecting art, you should buy what are drawn to and what you want to live with, not what you think you ought to buy. That is probably why I have a stack of prints piling up at home, all waiting patiently to be framed. For me, the enthrallment of Rebecca's work – that instinctive need to own and be surrounded by such beauty – was a very strong pull indeed. I started imagining every wall at home transformed into a pastoral haven or an exotic garden. Rebecca admitted to living and working in her own little bubble, opposing the lack of beauty in so much of today's art. She said her work makes people smile, which makes her feel lucky to be doing what she is doing.For me, her work is comforting and familiar, in a way that I find difficult to explain. Her work itself is happy, perhaps that is why. It was a pleasure to enter into the little bubble for a while, and to witness the visual manifestations of a mind so full of colourful memories. Rebecca kindly gave me some greeting cards of some of her paintings after our meeting, which, rather selfishly, I shan't be giving away, but which have made their way to the top of my 'to frame' pile.Rebecca’s next solo exhibition will be at Jonathan Cooper Gallery in September 2018.

Rebecca Campbell

Sarah Capes graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2011, where she completed her MA in the History of Art. She went on to The Courtauld to pursue a Masters in Curating that same year. Since then, she has worked in the London art world in various capacities, from museums and auction houses to conservation. For the last three years she has been working for a renowned Mayfair art dealer. Sarah was born in Vienna, grew up in New Zealand, the Caribbean, and the U.K. and now lives in Fulham.

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Alicia Gradon, Artist

Sarah Capes spoke with artist Alicia Gradon about her recent residency at Kingsbrae Gardens in Canada.

Last week I met with artist and writer Alicia Gradon. Alicia and her work have featured on the blog in the past, but I wanted to focus specifically on her experiences during her recent residency in July at Kingsbrae Garden, St Andrews by-the-sea, New Brunswick in Canada. Hearing Alicia speak about Kingsbrae was like listening to someone describing a botanical oasis; an expanse of perfectly manicured flora designed specifically to inspire and encourage artists, sculptors and all crafts. It conjured the idea of a horticultural Gesamtkunstwerk, where everything in the garden is itself a work of art and in turn compels artists to create, resulting in one enormous and constantly evolving artwork.This seems to have provided the ideal environment for Alicia, whose hyper-realistic drawings are a result of her observations of nature in an attempt to engage the viewer with the world around them. Interestingly, however, Alicia’s work prior to the residency focused largely on taking these observations and making them fantastical, with the aim of intermingling the real and the imaginary. Alicia’s work often evolves from her writings, which themselves centre on imaginary creatures, plants, and far-off lands. During the residency, however, Alicia began to recognise that elements of fantasy can exist in the real. The garden exuded to her a magical quality in its variety of flowers, trees and birds; but everything contained within it was, of course, real and tangible.After discussing her work with other artists carrying out their residencies there, Alicia decided to strip back the fantasy and use her surroundings as they are, to create visual manifestations of nature, that would in turn, force the viewer to reconnect and examine in detail elements from nature that they might be taking for granted. As a lover of early botanical illustrations and 17th century Dutch still lifes, I often question what it is that makes these sorts of observations so alluring. Why not go outside and look at the real thing? Talking with Alicia and looking at her drawings made me realise that the translation of the natural world into a two-dimensional image somehow offers more than doing that; it offers the chance to admire both the artist’s skill and the beauty of the object itself. What is impressive about Alicia’s work is that she renders this beauty entirely without colour. Her drawings are always in black and white. Alicia reflected that although beautiful and ethereal, colour can be a distraction and that by stripping it away, the viewer is able to focus purely on the form and structure of the subject.The birds that she draws are vividly coloured in reality – bright red cardinals and ‘electric’ blue blue jays – yet what Alicia presents us with are the intricacies of those creatures laid bare; their purest, most fundamental structures. This monochromatic approach is certainly effective. Alicia recalls a fellow artist during the residency observing her drawings of a cardinal and thanking Alicia for reminding her of a beauty that she had forgotten.Given the fickle and competitive nature of the contemporary art world, where many seek to achieve new heights by aiming to shock, it was refreshing to learn that there are still artists and initiatives that strongly centre on the idea of going ‘back to nature’. Hearing about Kingsbrae reminded me of the artists’ colonies that began appearing across Europe in the late 19th century. As urbanisation took hold of many cities and their surroundings during this time, artists began to seek inspiration from areas relatively untouched by modern culture. They were attracted to certain areas because of the specific light, the slower pace of the local life and the beauty of the landscape. Equally as important as the surroundings, however, was the intermingling of artists sharing their thoughts, theories and views on aesthetics. Van Gogh famously dreamt of starting his own colony in Arles, where this sort of philosophising and creativity could take place to create what he imagined would be ground breaking works of art. Though his dream was never realised, famous examples of such circles include the Barbizon School in France, where Rousseau and Millet featured; St Ives in Cornwall, where Hepworth worked; and Kirkudbright in Dumfires – a longstanding centre for the Glasgow school. Part of the reason that Van Gogh’s idea failed was because he was working with artists like Gauguin, who did not appreciate criticism and strove for autonomy rather than mutual creativity. But the opportunity to share thoughts, advise and inspire other artists is what is often so crucial in the development of an artist’s oeuvre.Alicia shared Kingsbrae with four other artists – out of over 100 applicants from across the globe – each working in different media, from rug hooking to photography. They were all older than her and further along in their careers, but through her conversations with them she learned that even though she was abandoning the fantastical element that has always defined her work, the drawings she produced during the residency still very much had her own ‘filter’ applied. Each angle, each line, each shade; the way in which an object is observed, is still so reminiscent of her typical work. Alicia’s work is, essentially, always ‘real’; even when she sets her drawings in fictional scenes or creates hybrid plants and creatures, each element of those inventions and amalgamations come from nature. Yet by deciding to return to the pure, fundamental root from which her creations grow, Alicia’s observations acquire a certain rawness, offering a completely organic result.Each weekend at Kingsbrae, the artists opened their studios to the public for five hours. This offered the opportunity for tourists, locals and other artists to visit and see a working artist’s studio. Although the area is certainly a tourist destination, Alicia describes it primarily as a hub for arts and crafts and mentioned the feel of an artists’ colony about it. She met an extraordinary variety of people, including local permanent artist in residence Geoff Slater, known for his large-scale paintings made with one continuous line. Geoff was also one of the ten panel members that decided on the final five artists for the residency, which, incidentally, was in its inaugural summer. Alicia told me that the attitude of everyone she encountered, particularly the locals, had an extremely positive and encouraging outlook regarding her work and her development as an artist, and that of other young artists working in the area. This sort of attitude was understandably refreshing, coming from London, where it can be incredibly difficult to get a foot in the door for aspiring young artists. The residency presented a variety of opportunities to Alicia; partly due to the people she encountered being so willing to want to help propel her art into the wider world. The residency has compelled her to apply for other residencies in Canada, the USA and Japan. Alicia also met other artists and writers in St Andrews keen to collaborate with her.Kingsbrae Gardens was opened in 1998, having been founded by local couple John and Lucinda Flemer. The garden is based around the family’s old estate, where Mrs Flemer still lives. Set in 27 acres, Mrs Flemer’s creation has become both a tourist highlight and a treasured sanctuary for locals. Most importantly, perhaps, is the array of career and training opportunities that the garden offers. When the garden opened, St Andrews was an area hit by the falling employment rates that plagued the nineties. But with the garden came work possibilities for artists, sculptors, gardeners, chefs, and many more. Alicia described Mrs Flemer as an extremely enthusiastic lover of art, keen to bring in artists from all over the world to share in the experience of Kingsbrae. I imagine her as an almost matriarchal figure, encouraging, supporting and caring for all those that enter the garden walls.Alicia hopes that Kingsbrae will continue to offer residencies after the success of her time there. The impact the experience had on her work and writing has been significant; something that would not necessarily have occurred otherwise. She spoke of having an enormous sense of how precious her time was there that month; she would begin working at 10am and continue into the early hours of the next morning – something she is not able to do in London due to a variety of distractions and obligations. Being surrounded by other artists and people with a similar mind-set was also unique to the experience and certainly affected her practice, causing her to reflect on and revaluate how her work is perceived.Meeting with Alicia and talking with her was like engaging with a stream of consciousness; everything she said about art and our perception of it flicked a little switch in my mind that got me thinking about a whole array of other theories and questions. What was perhaps most clear throughout, however, was how inseparable Alicia’s art is from her very being. She carries it around with her at all times – metaphorically speaking – and talks about art as if it is something she has never and could never be without. She is not compelled by the commercial potentials that being an artist might glean; she went to Kingsbrae to explore her own practice, to be inspired and challenged by her surroundings, and to produce, as I hope you will agree below, some truly magnificent works of art.Sarah Capes graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2011, where she completed her MA in the History of Art. She went on to The Courtauld to pursue a Masters in Curating that same year. Since then, she has worked in the London art world in various capacities, from museums and auction houses to conservation. For the last three years she has been working for a renowned Mayfair art dealer. Sarah was born in Vienna, grew up in New Zealand, the Caribbean, and the U.K. and now lives in Fulham.

Alicia Gradon

 

Talking with Alex McNamee

Alex McNamee is an Artist, and the Director and Curator of Muddy Yard, an artist-led project space in Brixton, London. Below she shares some favourite things with us :-) 

Where did you study and which was your favourite class?

I went to a secondary school called Wheatley Park, I failed everything except art and photography. I slipped through the net and went on to study sculpture at the Slade in London, which changed my life – such a dramatic statement but true.

What was the first piece of art you made?

My dad and I were talking about this the other day. When I was at nursery I did a painting that was painted bright red with one purple brush stroke in the corner. My dad LOVED it and stuck it up in the dining room: it was on the wall my whole childhood until we moved house. He thought it was so sassy for a 4-year-old.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working towards a solo show at my project space called Muddy Yard which is based in Brixton. My show will be on 28th September, I’m pushing myself so I’m currently making loads of sculptures, working on a photograph and potentially a video.

What do you love most about running Muddy Yard?

The gallery space of Muddy Yard is actually my bedroom / studio and in the beginning, I was making work by myself which was good but it was lonely. The thing that I love now about Muddy Yard is being able to have discussions with the artists that take part and being able to better each other. I’ve made some beaut friendships!

What is most important to you as an artist?

Being able to change my mind with regard to materials I use and the reasons why I make art.

Who is your current favourite artist?

He’s not contemporary but Bonnard gets me so emotional.

What is your favourite work of art?

Degas’ La Coiffure. I love the colour, love the movement. My friend and I brush each others hair and chat; it’s such an intimate activity. I go and see it at The National Gallery when I feel blue.

What is your favourite colour?

Love this question, makes me think of school. When I got asked at school I used to say black but now I think it’s green.

What are you reading?

I’m mad dyslexic and so have a really short attention span when it comes to reading, so almost always have a couple on the go. At the moment it’s Essays on Love by Alain De Botton, Some Thoughts on the Common Toad by George Orwell and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

 What are you watching?

We don’t have internet which is really sad - our building can’t technically have it for some reason? I don’t know … but luckily Brixton has a massive CeX shop. You can buy DVD’s for 50p: sure it’s mostly The Mummy returns etc. but you can find some gems, I watched The Mask the other day.

What are you listening / dancing to?

I live with a band so by default I listen to them everyday. They’re called Wooze, BUT DISCO SOUL DISCO Gladys Knight, Shirley & Co, Esther Williams, Aretha Franklin forever and always.

What are you drinking / eating?

Fizzy water and my everyday staple – rice, tinned mackerel and whatever vegetables are ready from my garden.

What are you growing?

Courgettes, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots and herbs (so cheap so delish).

Town or countryside?

A bit of both is good for me.

 Cat or dog?

I love cats! But I do have a plan to one day live in a van then I would need a dog to look after me and keep me warm but for now … a goat for the free milk and cheese?

Tea or Coffee?

With my eggs, tea; but with my toast, coffee. Do you like how I can’t stick to one thing?

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

Don’t hurt me but I never read Harry Potter. I had a nap to the 4th film the other day which was perfect. But Lord of the Rings I guess.

If you could have 3 people to dinner dead or alive who would they be and why?

  1. James Stewart – He’s so kind, so talented. I’d love to hear his stories about the golden age of Hollywood.
  2. Susan Sontag – So intelligent and to hear her opinions on culture now would be amazing, although I would find her terrifying.
  3. My grandma – I never had the chance to meet her in person. She was a tough Italian mama from another world.

Favourite place in the world?

At the moment Muddy Yard. I never leave! I have no bedroom and no internet but I’ve got my vegetable garden, my studio space, board games, and I live with my best friends:

PERFECT.

Ode to Something Nice, Alex McNameeRelics of Looking, Alex McNameeMolten and Inconsistency - preserved waves, Alex McnameeEyelid Reports, Alex McnameeA Collection of Smiling Rocks, Alex McNameeAlex McNamee's most recent project Relics of Looking was part of Anthony Gormley's High House Residency; her next solo show will be at Muddy Yard in Brixton on 28th September 2017.The next Muddy Yard event is Dissolutions on 30th September, a cross-city collaboration with The Icing Room. They will take over the final carriage on the Victoria Line for a nighttime journey from Brixton to Walthamstow and back, with many 'happenings, interventions and playful interruptions' find out more here.  

Alex McNamee

Maude Made

I recently spent an evening with Maude Smith in her beautiful home.  We sat and spoke about all manner of things 'handmade', whilst Maude created cards and envelopes out of a stash of wallpaper cut-offs from work.  She is an Interior Stylist for World of Interiors magazine, and the coveted confectionary of wall paper from a photo shoot was being transformed into charming elephant shaped stationery.Maude makes and designs an array of beautiful everyday clothes and homeware, and ever since she can remember has always made things.  She traces it back to her grandmother who had a 'make do and mend' approach to life, never throwing anything away, making her own children's clothes and toys.Most recently Maude has designed a collection of whimsical 'old fashioned style' floaty dresses out of stunning, richly coloured block printed fabrics from India.  She designs other clothes too, all carefully crafted on her sewing machine, and also has a collection of painted tiles and doors, printed wallpaper and stationery.Maude uses every spare moment designing and creating, and says she is most happiest when she is making.  She feels that 'making' reinforces who one is, it gives an identity to who you are, and allows you to put your own stamp on the world.She studied textiles at Edinburgh, and since then has worked for an number of creative companies including a textiles studio in Brighton, a cloth house in Soho, an antiques shop, as an art therapist, and most recently for World of Interiors for whom she is styling wonderful photo stories.Maude's style is traditional, her everyday clothes and homeware are inspired by folk art and traditions, and she is always looking to reintroduce old fashioned styles into her work.  We discussed a lot about how 'everyday things' are often not thought of as special, and how a lovingly made ceramic mug or hand printed card should be appreciated as an object of beauty in it's own right. And I love that at the root of all of Maude's work is her aim to produce unique and useful pieces, created over time with care, turning her back on mass production.Laura Ashley is her absolute hero, and she has been greatly inspired by the works of Emily Sutton, Enid Marx, Vanessa Bell, the Bloomsbury Group and the Omega Workshops.  William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement are also a huge influence.Artists she admires are Whistler, Klimt, William Waterhouse, Edward Bawden and Ravilious, Mark Hearld and Anna Wright, and she loves the works of Beatrix Potter.  We bonded over children's illustration, Maude has a wonderful collection of children's books including the works of Laura Carlin and Beatrice Alamanga.Maude is also collector of beautiful things, her kitchen was hung with the most amazing dried hops, and her cupboards covered in shells and corks (many of which I discovered had been acquired via ebay.)  She also has a wonderful array of scrapbooks with all her influences and inspirations in, which she very kindly showed me.  I love scrapbooks, other peoples are even better, and I loved browsing through Maude's fascinating collection.A recent project has involved painting the illustrations for a book on 'Saints and their Flowers', together with a retired bishop; and next she is hoping to design her own prints, to be made into into dresses.It was a truly wonderful evening, and thank you for having me Maude, I can't wait to see the prints for your new dresses.

Alice xxx

www.maudemade.com

@maude_made

Photos taken by Hermione McCosh Photography

The clothes in the photos are designed by Maude and are for sale.

Photos by Hermione McCosh Photography.

Art Exhibitions, May & June

There is lots of exciting art on show in London at the moment, and I thought I would share four exhibitions featuring British artists I will be visiting during May and June.Alice xxx

Christopher Brown

Michal Parkin Fine Art at the Art Workers' Guild

6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London

24th - 27th May 2017

I am a big fan of Christopher Brown's linocuts, and an archive of his work is currently being exhibited at the Art Workers' Guild.  Christopher studied at the Royal College of Art, where he met and later assisted Edward Bawden.  I love his fun, often quirky , and always amusing images in sharp black and white linocut.  There is so much to see in this exhibition and original prints to buy - and the Art Workers' Guild is a really fascinating place to visit.  Definitely pop in!

Jo Vollers

54 The Gallery

54 Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London

22nd - 27th May

Jo paints beautifully vibrant works in acrylic and oil, her paintings sit between figurative and abstraction - I absolutely love her use of colour.  She is exhibiting at 54 the Gallery until Saturday 27th May.

Nina Baxter

Royal Arts Prize at La Galleria Pall Mall

 5b Pall Mall Street, Royal Opera Arcade

30th May - 10th June

Nina Baxter paints the most incredible large scale, painstakingly detailed geometric abstract works in harmonious colours.  Nina's work will be on the show at La Galleria Pall Mall as part of the Royal Arts Prize, her works draw inspiration from landscape, architecture, photography and music.  Pop along to see her new works and get lost in these amazing interactions of shape and colour.

Minty Sainsbury

Minty Sainsbury will also be exhibiting as part of the Royal Arts Prize - her architectural drawings are really splendid 😍 🙏.

Jill Barklem

The Illustration Cupboard

 22 Bury Street, St James's, London

10th May - 3rd June

A little trip down memory lane, The Illustration Cupboard are currently displaying the original artwork by Jill Barklem for the Brambley Hedge books.  There are also many many beautiful illustrations in the this jam packed gallery, many from favourite childrens books, absolutely worth a visit.

SAKE, Art Show by Muddy Yard

Yesterday I had a sneak preview of Muddy Yard's new show SAKE.  Muddy Yard is an artist-led project space in south London - and their second group show includes new and very exciting works centred on the theme of 'purpose'.The main ideas behind the show are, 'What is the point to our every day existence without a purpose?'  And 'Is making art a self-prescribed purpose pill?'  Purpose is very important, it gives life meaning, and apparently it has been scientifically proven that you live longer if you have a purpose. So purpose is good, but behind the optimism of living a fulfilling purposeful life as an artist, there are darker questions - it is becoming increasingly harder to make art whilst living in London.  Many of these artists are at the beginning of their careers, forging a path for themselves, whilst also trying to sustain life in London.  Others are well-known in their field, but feeling the pressures of 'producing' a certain type of art to pay the bills.On show are some really fascinating works, each with it's own little story, I am particularly intrigued by Isabelle Southwood's piece, a planter containing the soil she wants to be buried in, Alex McNamee's video of unpurposeful work, and Holly Hendry's beautiful sculpture.  The making process that has gone into each is fascinating and there is a wide variety of mediums.  The band Pleasure Complex will also be playing a rolling set for part of the night.  There is lots of see, and lots to learn, and it is such a fun interesting space.This evening Muddy Yard, is opening it's doors to display these new artworks, and giving us a glimpse into how each of the artists understands their art to be the purpose of their life.The private view is being held this evening, 6pm til late. RSVP: alex@muddypr.com if you would like to attend.Alice xxx

Jamie Stiby Harris

Holly Hendry

Chris Alton

Mike Ditchburn

Isabelle Southwood

Lily Hawkes

Leah Clements

Alex McNamee

 

The Other Art Fair London

I went to The Other Art Fair last week for the first time.  It was greatly enjoyable and there were lots of very affordable works of art by artists in all sorts of mediums.  I picked up a number of artist's business cards, my eyes always seem to wander to the brightly coloured ones, and decided that they were so pretty and fun, they deserved some hanging time of their own.  So I made a collage and stuck them onto the wall 😍.  Below you can see the names of the artists and what I thought about some of them (Sorry for the slightly erratic numbering!!)Alice xxx

1.

1. Michael Wallner, 2. Robynne Limoges, 3. Vicky Barranguet, 4. Emma Rose, 12. Rennie Pilgrem, 14. Lucia Moran Giracca

13. Sandy Dooley

Sandy paints with acrylic on canvas and I really love her use of colour - her studio is based in her garden in Kent, and the colours and themes of her paintings tend to follow the seasons, and she paints outdoors as much as she can which I think is wonderful 😃.

2.

5. Joanne Hummel-Newall, 6. Cecile Van Hanja, 7. Marit Geraldine Bostad, 8. Joanne Hummel-Newall, 9. Gillian Hyland, 20. Tammy Mackay

11. John Hainsworth

I really like John Hainsworth's very small scale paintings of unusual architectural forms in abstract landscapes all in muted tones.  They were all hung closely together and looked superb, he does large paintings too.

 

3.

15. Gillian Hyland, 16. Aliette Bretal, 17. Bridget Davies, 28. Cecile Van Hanja, 29. Minty Sainsbury, 30. Louise Fairchild, 31. Victoria Topping, 32. Geraldine Swayne

27. Fei Alexeli

I am a big fan of Fei Alexeli's work - both her collages, in which palm trees have made it into outer space, and her slightly otherworldly photography.

4.

18. Hermione Carline, 19. Valentina Loffredo, 20. Tim Fowler, 22. Stephen Anthony Davids, 23a. Nadia Attura, 23b. Augusti Viladesau, 24. Etienne Clement, 25. Tim Fowler

26. Minty Sainsbury

Minty's drawings were some of my favourite in the show.  She initially trained as an architect, and l absolutely love her detailed drawings of buildings and monuments.

Artists altogether 😊

And some photos from the show with Graeme Messer's works ✌️

Collect 2017, Luxury British Craft

This week, I went along to see Collect 2017 at the Saatchi Gallery.  Collect describes itself as 'The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects', and I like objects, particularly beautiful handmade ones very much.  So off I went to the Saatchi Gallery and spent the afternoon perusing all these weird and wonderful things.37 galleries, selected by a panel of experts, were touting their wares - beautiful things, ceramics, jewellery, wood, metal and textiles, all made by established artists and makers.They also had a section entitled Collect Open, which features more conceptual craft, from up-and-coming makers.My most exciting finds were:Vicki Amberley-Smith at Contemporary Applied Arts who creates the most amazing metal work jewellery and boxes.  I particularly like her rings with tiny towns on them 😍.img_4696Shoko Koike at the Dukto Gallery who creates flower-like large scale stoneware sculptures.  The 'petals' on  White Form II look amazingly like hugely exaggerated real Magnolia petals.img_4669Hugh Miller's 'The Coffee Cermony' - a long low table made from British elm, dedicated to drinking coffee.  It has small brass rods protruding at one end specially designed to hold a hot kettle, and carved trays that hang beneath for storing all your coffee apparatus.  Influenced by Japanese design and Western cabinetry techniques.img_4759Domitilla Biondi's 'Paper Poetry' - at first I thought these white discs with exquisite bas-relief patterns, were carved in porcelain.  On closer inspection, they are actually carved pieces of paper or 'sculpted paper'.  Biondi carves smooth white cardboard with a surgical knife, creating intricate patterns and images.  And, most incredibly, the card always remains as a whole, she never removes even a tiny piece when carving her creations.img_4751I did get a little snap happy in general, there were so many beautiful objects and I hope you enjoy the photos, and keep scrolling ☺️.Alice xxx

Galerie Rosemarie Jager

img_4611img_4617Francesco PavanJuliane Schölß 

Petronilla Silver

Bowl by Janice Tachenko 

Thalen & Thalen

Silver bowl by Thalen & Thalen Thalen & Thalen

jaggedart

Ceramics by Valeria Nascimento Ceramics by Valeria Nascimento

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Flow Gallery

img_4655Sue LawtyAkiko Hirai

Dukto Gallery

Ceramics by Shoko Koike

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Sarah Myerscough Gallery

Olive ash shelf by Joseph Walsh

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Joanna Bird Contemporary Ceramics

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Contemporary Applied Arts

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Made in Britaly

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The Scottish Gallery

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Maison Parisienne

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Officine Saffi

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In the Auction

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Widell Projects

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Collect Open 2017

Hugh Miller

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Domitilla Biondi

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Limehouse Ceramics

Elizabeth Macneal of Limehouse Ceramics makes by hand a variety of mugs, vases, little dishes, teacups and tumblers in pale clays, painted in blue green glazes in elegant geometric patterns.  Her pieces are simple with a quiet beauty, and do exactly what a good ceramic should do: they are both pleasing to look at and invite you to use them.  And so I went to find out more about her work.From the moment I stepped into Elizabeth's house, I was completely captivated.  Tea was made and drunk out of her beautiful Zigzag Mugs.  And she spoke about her ceramic business with the kind of enthusiasm that leaves you feeling invigorated, and with the certainty that she truly loves what she does.  She says she loves the notion of taking a piece of earth and making it into something which you can use, and I completely agree with her.  Picking up and using any one of her pieces fills me with a sense of accomplishment; this is something that has been created by hand, lovingly crafted and cared for, and made to be used.Elizabeth is relatively new to pottery, and I loved speaking to her about jumping into the very exciting and slightly daunting world of becoming self-employed and starting up her own business.After graduating, Elizabeth worked in management consultancy for five years, and 18 months ago, she decided it was time to pick up a creative hobby.  She took a pottery class for two hours a week, for ten weeks and in these classes learned the very basics of pottery.  She says she always looked forward to these classes immensely, and each class was a great contrast with her day job in project management.  After, she joined Turning Earth studio for a month and as her making improved, she decided to take the leap and set up her own studio at home.  In June this year she made her first sale, and since then her business has been going from strength to strength.  She currently sells at fairs and from her website and also takes commissions.Elizabeth showed me her studio where she makes her pottery, and it really is a place of daydreams.  Her studio sits at the end of her garden, a single room with pull back french windows along the front, and in pride of place sits her potters wheel.  Her kiln (which often reaches 1240 degrees) is, quite amazingly, plugged into the mains at the wall.  Shelves on one wall hold clay, glazes and ceramics waiting to move onto the next phase of their journey.When I visited, the floor was covered with identical bowls drying out (they need to be 'leather hard' before they can be trimmed, this take about a day), other bowls waiting to become 'bone dry' (this takes around two weeks) before they can be biscuit fired for 24 hours, and others ceramics waiting to be glazed.Elizabeth really enjoys the making process and is often up and in her studio throwing clay (I love this expression) by 6am.  Her favourite part is the trimming, which is when a piece really starts to come together and attains its individual 'look'.  She is not as keen on glazing, and her husband often ends up doing this part!  It can be solitary work and she tends to listen to either audiobooks  (nothing too heavy, it's hard to concentrate fully on both, Ian Rankin is in favour at the moment) or 70s music.  And she does wear a face mask as too much clay dust is not so good for the lungs over a long period of time - she says she sometimes wonders what the neighbours must think!For me it is perhaps one of the most rewarding sights, observing the work of a maker in progress, beginning to understand the different stages of the making process and the dedication and skill that goes into hand-crafting each and every one of these beautiful creations.Her designs are very organic - so far she has been experimenting and often just thinking 'why don't I try that', and seeing how things look as she goes. Often mishaps in design occur, a mug which ended up as a vase, a glaze that pooled in an unexpected way.  There are designs that she has personally loved, which have not sold and others which were unexpectedly popular - she is completely sold out of her teacups and is currently in the process of making many more.  She keeps all her the pieces that have 'gone wrong' and has an assortment of playful pieces which have ended up as vases, or other fun decorative items, although these mishaps are now occurring less and less.At the moment she is mainly using two clays, a white clay and a speckled clay.  She also uses liquid black clay as a 'slip' - masking tape and wax are both used to create her geometric designs, keeping slip or glaze in the correct place, so that it does not run.Each piece has the subtle Limehouse Ceramics stamp on the bottom, and she can also add 'bespoke' stamps - perhaps a name or a message, which I think are really great as I like the idea of a message on the base of a mug or bowl - it's there for those in the know.Her favourite pieces are her Bee Dishes - the bee is made from gold leaf, and her mugs - particularly as she gets to use these every day.  She is also making a unicorn Christmas decoration, for the Atheist.Elizabeth really enjoys the sales and marketing side of her work, meeting and speaking with and getting to know her customers.  At first she had the feeling of 'do they really want my ceramics' but now, and perhaps with confidence grown from the wonderful reaction she has had, she loves selling her ceramics at fairs.  And they really are special.  I think in Elizabeth's case she has the perfect combination of a beautiful product and a genuine passion for her art which she enjoys talking about.Elizabeth also writes. Having studied English at Oxford, she is currently taking an MA in Creative Writing at UEA and spends half the week in Norwich where she is renting a tiny 18th Century cottage with a log fire (I am only a tiny bit jealous).  She signed with a literary agency 3 years ago, and used to get up at 5am before work to write - and now she has more time is using it to pursue both her passion for writing and her budding ceramics business.I have to admit I am a little in awe (she hopes people don't think of her as a mad artisan), I think she is completely marvellous.  The energy and enthusiasm with which she speaks and the obvious time and effort she is putting into her work really show that moving away from a desk job can be a reality, not just a distant dream.  It was a real treat spending time with Elizabeth talking about her work and seeing her pieces, and definitely do go along and see her at a fair soon - the next ones she is showing at are the Crafty Fox Market in Brixton on December 4th, Independent Ceramics Market in Dalston on December 4th and Crafty Fox Market in Museum of London Docklands on December 8th.Alice xxxHave a look at Elizabeth's work here Limehouse Ceramicsimg_1631img_1629img_1602img_1610img_1605img_1606img_1614img_1615img_1623img_1651img_1653img_1644img_1641img_1643img_2686img_2685img_2687img_2684img_1669

Nina Baxter Art at Peckham Festival Open Studios

img_0117This week I had a sneak preview of Nina Baxter's latest artworks, which she will be showing at Peckham Festival's Open Studios this weekend 9th - 11th Sept in the Bussey Buildng. 😍🎨.Nina paints landscapes in vibrant colours and her latest pair of square paintings 'You're in Control' are her most abstract landscapes to date.  Each square has been painted individually on a grid, painstakingly drawn out by Nina, and the effect is captivating.  The perfect symmetry of these two large scale works is incredibly pleasing with the colours on each canvas matching as opposites.  The precision, concentration needed and time taken, to create these incredibly detailed works makes them really quite extraordinary.Nina also creates collages, a more recent venture, and one which I just love.  The use of collage gave Nina the chance to experiment with surreal ideas that she wanted to execute as an art form.  She started experimenting from a stack of magazines she had in her room, and has since created all sorts of fantastical images.  Many of her collages are about communication, and the lack thereof in her own generation, mixed signals and miscommunication often heightened by technology.  The collages all have curious names such as  'Honey we all know what happens when you assume...' and 'Make Your Move' which adds to the intrigue.  She started to add images of friends to the collages, and was then approached by the band Flyte, and has since created collage artwork for two of their single covers, as well as art directing a music video Please Eloise.The show is a really fun combination of her landscape paintings and collages, scattered with mood boards and inspiration.  Do definitely go have a look this weekend!! Studio A4 E & F on the 4th floor of the Bussey Building.Alice xxxwww.ninabaxterart.comOpen Studios at Peckham Festivalimg_0119img_0061img_0063img_0065img_0070img_0086img_0084img_0100img_0111img_0115img_0082img_0112img_0113img_0103And some favourites of the moment from Nina:Looking at:  Drop of Water on the Rose-Coloured Snow, Joan Miro, 1968Listening to: Wide Open Spaces, Dixie ChicksReading: If the Impressionists had been Dentists, Woody AllenDrinking: Beton Becherovka with tonic and lemon juiceDancing to: The Nod, Fat Freddy's DropDancing where: In my kitchen and friends kitchensHappy Place in London: The Hippodrome - because time doesn't exist and you can be a tourist in your own cityParallel universe career path: Currently on the Birds of a Feather (aka BOAF) intergalactic tourimg_0053img_0054

Alicia Gradon, Artist and Writer

-ONBryROI have been so looking forward to writing this piece about Alicia Gradon whose drawings I greatly admire.  I went one Saturday to visit Alicia in Hove and we sat and chatted about her work, and went for a wander along the sea front.Alicia draws in pencil and the detail of her drawings is exquisite.  On first viewing, many seem to be details from nature, birds on a branch, or a beetle, but when you look closer there is something otherworldly about them.  The drawings cross over into the realm of the fantastical, a bird whose head is a rose, a slug whose body is made from agate.  I absolutely love this, the combining of different elements from the natural world, so nothing is quite what it seems.Alicia is initially self-taught and she always draws in pencil, layering to create tones and using an eraser to bring out different textures.  Her drawings are often a mesh of history, science, culture and civilisations.  She has spent a lot of time in the Natural History Museum, studying the details of the natural world, and drawing organic matter.  And she wants her drawings to help people see that our own reality is amazing and to open our minds, an underlying concept to her work is the idea that when new things are discovered they can seem almost fantastical.What I found most exciting is that Alicia's drawings actually started as writings, not only are they visually intriguingly fantastical, there is actually a story behind each one. Since the age of 12 she has created an entire world called Perpetuia, it is currently made up of 6 connecting worlds, and her pencil drawings have evolved from her writings about this world.  She is currently pulling all this material together to form a novel,  going right back to the beginning, re-reading her own writings, fitting together the pieces and creating the story as a whole.  She feels the drawings make her writing more accessible to an external audience, they make it easier for people to visualise her imagined world.  And she hopes her work will help people engage with their own imaginations.  Everyone has their own imaginary world, and she wants to remind people about that place, reigniting their imagination and self-expression and extending their sense of childhood.She first started writing when she was 12, first stories and poetry, creating characters from her day-dreams, putting pen to paper, and then started to add sketches to her short stories.  She has always loved to write by hand, for her it is an organic and emotive experience, allowing for a stream of consciousness.  She studied Fine Art at Kingston, but it wasn't until her second year that she showed her pencil drawings of Perpetuia.  At the end of that year she displayed as her final project, drawings of Gorgoria, one region of her imagined world, along with writings on the history of the lizard creatures who inhabit Gorgoria, and how they had come to be.Last year she had her first solo exhibition 'Small Beginnings' at Gallery Different and in this she had to divise a way of displaying her writings and drawings together.  She curated the space in a minimalistic way, every drawing was carefully framed and hung in a defined space, each a window into her world.  She created a book of short stories, linking the drawings with the world of Perpetuia, but she also left gaps for the spectator, an open invitation for them to fill them in.  Perpetuia is Alicia's creation, but everyone has their own world, and the exhibition was to remind people about that place.She does sell her drawings, but sometimes feels uncomfortable pricing her works, and says when she does sell one it feels like she is giving away a child.  And she also works to commission.Alicia also speaks incredibly beautifully, her spoken thoughts echo her writing, she conjures up images in your mind, you want to find out more about her world and way of thinking.  She is softly spoken, and a thinker, incredibly self-depracating and in some ways ethereal.  One thing she said that really resonated with me was 'there is so much pleasure to be found in the world', to me it seems that drawing and writing is her way of capturing the beauty and details in the world, and at the same time giving something back by encouraging us to take a closer look at the details in the world around us.It was so enjoyable speaking about engaging with our imaginations, something we so often forget or even repress, and I am so excited for your novel Alicia 😊  I have included some of my most favourite of Alicia's drawings below.Alice xxxwww.aliciagradon.comAlicia birds to flowers136804-7417373-DSC_3395CHtu8SRWgAEIQ98Insects of the Garden of Cursed OpalsKey To the Four MurrsLady_theareas_heart_final_lxj104alicia-gradon-soapbox-press-feature136804-7292217-la09142f4e8-the-last-ship-for-the-eternal-dawn136804-7292145-la088Alicia art gallery